October 18, 2018, Rhode Island
Here in Rhode Island, the Department of Health has approved the use of medical cannabis as a treatment for autism. According to the press release issued by the department, the decision will be put into effect immediately. This expansion of MMJ use, however, has come with several caveats.
To begin with, physicians are required to mull over pharmaceutical grade forms of cannabidiol before making any MMJ recommendation to autistic patients. Moreover, they are also required to put together the rationale for prescribing medical cannabis instead of traditional treatments. In case of child patients, physicians are also bound to consult with pediatric specialists (neurology, psychiatry, and developmental pediatrics) three months after the commencement of the treatment. Lastly, the doctor must stop medical marijuana treatment if they do not witness any improvement in the condition of the subject.
Public information officer of the state’s department of health says that these extensive requirements are put into place so that physicians must carefully evaluate the risk and benefits of MMJ administration and take the treatment forward accordingly.
Fight for child autistic patients led to this approval
Parents of autistic children petitioned the health department in April to allow cannabis-derived therapies to treat autism. The focal point of their argument was to include autism in the list of qualifying MMJ conditions because of its debilitating symptoms.
The petition was taken up for hearing during which parents testified how CBD products had helped in improving the condition of their autistic children. For instance, one mother shared how his child had injured his forehead by constantly banging it on hard surfaces and how after the commencement of CBD treatment, his condition got significantly improved. In the words of this autistic child’s mother, the treatment improved his focus and he stopped banging his head.
Dr. Randal Rockney, a physician working in Providence’s Hasbro Children Hospital, also testified at that hearing. He maintained that the administration of MMJ therapies could be helpful in managing the behavioral symptoms of the disorder.
On the other hand, some physicians are doubtful about MMJ treatments for autism. For instance, Dr. Henry Sachs, the medical director at Bradley Hospital in Riverside, Rhode Island, said in a statement that wide-ranging research work is a prerequisite to formally approve any medical treatment and he thinks that the current body of research on MMJ treatment for autism is not sufficient.
Amid the reservations from certain quarters of the medical fraternity, Rhode Island administration has acknowledged MMJ administration as a standard treatment for autism with certain terms and conditions. It is important to mention that physicians will primarily recommend CBD-based products to treat the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder.
CBD is a non-psychoactive part of cannabis used to treat various medical conditions where conventional treatment methods tend to fail. Besides that, consumption of CBD is not known for inflicting any detrimental side effects. This means even an unsuccessful CBD treatment course doesn’t end up aggravating the health condition of patients.
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