Can medicinal cannabis help intellectually disabled children with behavioral problems?

A pilot study is currently underway in Australia investigating the efficacy of medicinal cannabis as a treatment for severe behavioral problems in intellectually disabled children. It’s hoped the research will eventually move into larger clinical trials following anecdotal reports that medicinal cannabis can reduce incidents of aggression and self-harm in children.

The study is being led by Daryl Efron, from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, and is initially just working with 10 children aged between eight and 16. This preliminary study is designed to first evaluate the practicalities and feasibility of the treatment ahead of a larger-scale trial.

“The medications most often prescribed for these children are stimulants, antidepressants and anti-psychotics, which all carry a risk of serious side-effects,” says Efron. “There is little research into new drugs to help these children, but medicinal cannabis has been shown to be effective to treat other medical conditions, including some severe epilepsies in children, and chemotherapy side effects and multiple sclerosis in adults.”

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