Trials are reportedly underway in Israel on autistic children to determine the effectiveness of medical marijuana, an area of growing research in the Jewish state — with encouraging signs.
According to Haaretz, Israel has been positioning itself as a leader in the field of medical marijuana research, bolstered by a Health Ministry that encourages research — and an increase in the number of growers.
Unlike the United States, Israeli researchers are not constrained by the drug’s designation as dangerous, and has been drawing the international investors looking to get potential treatments to market, Haaretz reported.
In trials of marijuana oil underway at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, children are given a strain of medical marijuana developed by the Israeli company Breath of Life Pharma, also known as Bol Pharma.
Dr. Adi Aran, who heads the neuropediatric unit, is working on a double-blind, placebo-controlled study on 120 autistic children with the results expected next year.
“This is the only research of its kind in the world, though lots of others are beginning to try,” Aran told the outlet. “We are lucky to have access to medical-grade marijuana and a regulatory system that enables and allows for its study.”
Parallel research is also underway — an “open label” clinical study of 60 children and young adults – where all the patients have been given the oil. This type of trial is considered less scientifically rigorous since both the researchers and patients know what they are receiving, Haaretz reported.
“Autism is still there, it’s part of him,” the mother of one of the doctor’s patients told Haaretz. “But there’s no doubt: the marijuana saved us.”
Haaretz reported the strain used in the trials is made up mostly of cannabidiol, known as CBD, and a small amount of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the main compound in cannabis). Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive, Haaretz reported.
The trials grew out of research that found medical marijuana was helpful for treating children with epilepsy, Haaretz reported.