by Iswarya on  June 25, 2020 at 2:24 PM Child Health News
Medicinal Cannabis may Decrease Behavioral Problems in Kids with Intellectual Disabilities
Consuming cannabidiol, a type of medicinal cannabis may effectively manage severe behavior problems in kids and teens with an intellectual disability, reveals a new study. The findings of the study are published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

The pilot study, led by the Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI), recorded a clinically significant change in participants' irritability, aggression, self-injury, and yelling. The intervention was also found to be safe and well-tolerated by most study participants.

The randomized controlled trial involved eight participants, aged 8-16, years who took either cannabidiol or a placebo over eight weeks. Participants were recruited from pediatric clinics from both hospital and private pediatric practices.

Although the pilot study was not large enough to make definitive statements, the early findings strongly support a larger follow-up trial. Only a large scale randomized controlled trial can produce the definitive results necessary to drive changes in prescribing and clinical care guidelines. The researchers are planning a large study to definitively test the findings.

The researchers are also seeking funding for further research into the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis in children with developmental disorders such as autism and Tourette syndrome.

Associate Professor Daryl Efron, a clinician-scientist at MCRI who led the study, said this was the first investigation of cannabidiol to manage severe behavioral problems in children and adolescents with an intellectual disability. Most of the participants also had autism.

The study found the medication was generally well-tolerated, and there were no serious side effects reported. All parents reported they would recommend the study to families with children with similar problems.

Associate Professor Efron said severe behavioral problems such as irritability, aggression, and self-injury in children and adolescents with an intellectual disability were a major contributor to functional impairments, missed learning opportunities and reduced quality of life.

He said conventional psychotropic medications, including antipsychotics and anti-depressants, were prescribed by Australian pediatricians for almost half of young people with an intellectual disability, despite limited evidence of their effectiveness. Given how extremely difficult behavioral problems were to treat in these patients, new, safer interventions were needed to treat this highly vulnerable patient group, he said.

"Current medications carry a high risk of side-effects, with vulnerable people with intellectual disability being less able to report side-effects," he said. "Common side-effects of antipsychotics, such as weight gain and metabolic syndrome, have huge health effects for a patient group already at increased risk of chronic illness."

Cannabidiol is already being used increasingly to manage a range of medical and psychiatric conditions in adults and epilepsy in children.

Associate Professor Efron said there was intense interest from parents and physicians in medicinal cannabis as a treatment for severe behavioral problems in youth with an intellectual disability.

"Parents of children with an intellectual disability and severe behavioral problems are increasingly asking pediatricians whether they can access medicinal cannabis for their child and some parents have reported giving unregulated cannabis products to their children," he said.

"We are also finding many physicians feel unprepared to have these conversations with their patients." Researchers from The Royal Children's Hospital, the University of Melbourne and Monash University also contributed to the study.

Source: Eurekalert

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