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UCSD Receives Nearly $5 Million to Study Cannabis and Autism

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University of California, San Diego has announced that it will use a nearly $5 million grant to study cannabis and autism.

Touted as the largest private medicinal cannabis research donation in U.S history, the $4.7 million donation will be used to fund research on the potential of cannabidiol (CBD) as a severe autism treatment. The donation comes from The Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation, in partnership with the Wholistic Research & Education Foundation.

The clinical trial is expected to involve 30 children between the ages of eight and 12, each diagnosed with autism and severe symptoms, such as severe anxiety, seizures, and self-harming behavior. The study will be based out of UCSD’s School of Medicine’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research and aims to help better understand how CBD interacts with or alters brain activity. The study also will measure if CBD safely and effectively alleviates the more problematic symptoms.

Although there are many stories from parents of children with autism praising the effects of cannabis, there isn’t much scientific evidence to back up the claims.

“It is becoming more apparent that CBD has a number of effects on the central nervous system that may be relevant to autism and there are anecdotal reports suggesting CBD treatments may improve functioning in an ASD child,” said Igor Grant, director and chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the UC San Diego School of Medicine.

The exact causes of autism are still not understood, but some symptoms include lower levels of serotonin, an imbalance between neurotransmitters and irregular organization of the patient’s brain networks. Studies have found that CBD can correct and enhance the activity of certain neurotransmitters.