Study demonstrates success in using CBD for behavioral problems in children


Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

A study that was recently published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology has confirmed the benefits of using medical cannabis for behavioral problems in children. The pilot study, which was led by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), discovered a “clinically significant change” in aggression, irritability, self-injury and yelling among young study subjects.

Researchers from Monash University, The Royal Children’s Hospital and the University of Melbourne pulled together to conduct this study on cannabis for behavioral problems. The findings tell us that the green plant could prove useful in children and adolescents who suffer from an intellectual disability. 

A total of eight young people participated in the randomized controlled trial, all of whom were aged between eight and 16. Either cannabis or a placebo was administered to the study subjects over an eight-week period; with positive results consistent across the cannabis-consuming group.

No serious side effects reported when using cannabis for behavioral problems in children 

Cannabidiol (CBD) was the cannabis-derived compound of choice for the experiment, which found that the vast majority of study subjects were able to tolerate this cannabinoid reasonably well. Thanks to the outcome, a larger grant will be awarded to researchers for similar studies to take place in the near future.

According to the lead researcher, Associate Professor Daryl Efron, no other study has delved into the cannabis plant’s therapeutic potential for easing behavioral problems in both children and adults with intellectual disabilities. The study could even hold promise for children with autism, since a number of participants suffered from this developmental disorder.

No side effects of a serious nature were reported by study subjects, suggesting that CBD for behavioral disorders could be a useful medication. Typical medications used to treat these types of disorders include antidepressants and antipsychotics. However, these over-the-counter (OTC) medications can be addictive, cause dependency and, in many cases, trigger unwanted side effects. Furthermore, there is a lack of evidence to prove the effectiveness of OTC meds for behavioral problems.

“Current medications carry a high risk of side-effects, with vulnerable people with intellectual disability being less able to report side-effects,” explained Efron. “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.”

Efron went on to say that physicians and the parents of children who partook in the study on cannabis for behavioral problems signified “intense interest” in CBD as a treatment option. With such promising results, the study has spurred on both groups of people to seek out further information into cannabis-related remedies.

“Parents of children with an intellectual disability and severe behavioural problems are increasingly asking paediatricians whether they can access medicinal cannabis for their child and some parents have reported giving unregulated cannabis products to their children,” continued Efron.

Follow-up trial into medical cannabis for behavioral problems expected 

A larger follow-up trial is likely to ensue, say the researchers, who published their discoveries amid a declaration from Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt regarding the $883,484 Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) grant that will be bestowed upon the MCRI. With this money, a large-scale randomised placebo-controlled trial will be able to deliver “the definitive results necessary to drive changes in prescribing and clinical care guidelines”.

However, it’s important to note that the evidence cannot be considered bonafide proof that doctors should prescribe CBD for patients with an intellectual disability. CBD is already being used as a pharmaceutical aid among patients who are diagnosed with a wide range of medical conditions, such as epilepsy, mental health disorders and even psychosis. 

With this fresh research into CBD for behavioral problems, the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector could flourish better than ever before. The disability, educational, care and outside school hours care (OSHC) settings are also likely to prosper if CBD therapies are offered to people with intellectual disabilities.