According to anecdotal evidence, medical marijuana can be potentially helpful to children with autism. As Pennsylvania is issuing its first permits for medical cannabis cultivation, Lehigh University is planning to cooperate with one of the growers in Lehigh Valley to investigate the impact of the herb on autistic patients.
Lehigh University of Pennsylvania is going to conduct a groundbreaking study with the help of BioGreen Farms, a company that has applied for a license to cultivate cannabis in Williams Township.
According to the university's Dean of Education Gary Sasso, they are going to collect the first quantitative data on the influence of marijuana on children with autism.
Pennsylvania is one of a few states in the U.S. that allow using medical marijuana for treating autistic children. Other states, like Oregon, California, Massachusetts, and Washington D.C., permit recommending cannabis as a treatment option only in case a patient experiences a debilitating condition. Children in Delaware can use medical marijuana if they are prone to aggressive behavior or causing self-injury.
Sasso confirms that there is a great amount of anecdotal evidence but, at the same time, points at the importance of profound research, as the effects of cannabis are largely unstudied. Marijuana treatment has great potential for children with autism as it may help reduce the symptoms of the disease without causing the side effects typical for the conventional psychotropic drugs.
In their study, the researchers at Lehigh University want to investigate whether marijuana can safely reduce language difficulties, social reluctance, and other symptoms of autism.
Professors at Lehigh University have vast experience in working with autistic children. In the Center for Promoting Research to Practice created on the basis of the university, experts have been examining the behavior of patients with autism for many years. The center also arranges annual symposiums and workshops on this issue.
BioGreen Farms employs Dr. Sue Sisley as a medical director who has agreements with other applicants for research. Sisley has already participated in a marijuana-related study on veterans and people with post-traumatic stress disorder and drew national attention to the low quality of federally cultivated marijuana.
According to Sisley, many parents purchase marijuana for their autistic children on the black market, but if Lehigh conducts profound studies using lab-tested marijuana, it will shed light on the issue.