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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Florida International: Researchers Evaluate Current State of Evidence of Cannabis Use for Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders

At the Florida International University Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work, researchers have been interested in understanding if cannabis, also known as marijuana, can be used for the autism spectrum disorders (ASD) population. “We had heard many anecdotal reports from parents, family members, and people with ASD that cannabis use had led to significant and at times, life-altering, positive change in symptoms. After hearing and reading these reports, we were inspired to investigate the studies that have been conducted and those that are currently in the process examining cannabis use among for ASD symptoms,” said Dr. Shanna Burke, principal investigator (PI) on the study and assistant professor in the School of Social Work.

While the use of cannabis for medical purposes is growing throughout the country to treat conditions or symptoms associated with cancer, epilepsy, and anxiety, its use is still criminalized in many states and it is still classified as an illegal substance under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970.

By analyzing recent peer-reviewed literature to identify the current state of evidence regarding cannabis use for the ASD population, the researchers found that “cannabis has the potential to be a recommended treatment for ASD, but clinical recommendations can and should only be supported with evidence of its efficacy from large clinical trials, such as those which are currently being undertaken. We need to remember that the ultimate goal of research is to improve health and prevent harm,” said Rumi Agarwal, first author of the study and a doctoral student in the department of health promotion and disease prevention.

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