Preprint Review Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Cannabinoids for People with ASD: A Systematic Review of Published and Ongoing Studies

Version 1 : Received: 15 July 2020 / Approved: 17 July 2020 / Online: 17 July 2020 (09:19:13 CEST)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.

Fusar-Poli, L.; Cavone, V.; Tinacci, S.; Concas, I.; Petralia, A.; Signorelli, M.S.; Díaz-Caneja, C.M.; Aguglia, E. Cannabinoids for People with ASD: A Systematic Review of Published and Ongoing Studies. Brain Sci. 2020, 10, 572. Fusar-Poli, L.; Cavone, V.; Tinacci, S.; Concas, I.; Petralia, A.; Signorelli, M.S.; Díaz-Caneja, C.M.; Aguglia, E. Cannabinoids for People with ASD: A Systematic Review of Published and Ongoing Studies. Brain Sci. 2020, 10, 572.

Journal reference: Brain Sci. 2020, 10, 572
DOI: 10.3390/brainsci10090572

Abstract

The etiopathogenesis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) remains largely unclear. Among other biological hypotheses, researchers have evidenced an imbalance in the endocannabinoid (eCB) system, which regulates some functions typically impaired in ASD, such as emotional responses and social interaction. Also, cannabidiol (CBD), the non-intoxicating component of Cannabis sativa, has been recently approved for treatment-resistant epilepsy. Seizures represent frequent medical comorbidities of ASD and could be responsible for the onset or worsening of behavioral problems. Thus, it has been hypothesized that cannabinoids could be useful in improving some ASD symptoms. Our systematic review was conducted according to the PRISMA guidelines and aimed to summarize the literature regarding the use of cannabinoids in ASD. After searching in Web of KnowledgeTM, PsycINFO, and Embase, we included ten studies (eight papers and two abstracts). Four ongoing trials were retrieved in ClinicalTrials.gov. Findings are promising, as cannabinoids appeared to improve problem behaviors, sleep, hyperactivity, and communication deficits, with limited cardiac and metabolic side effects. Interestingly, they generally allowed to reduce the number of prescribed medications and decreased the frequency of seizures in epileptic patients. Mechanisms of action could be linked to the excitatory/inhibitory imbalance found in people with ASD. However, further trials need to be implemented with better characterization and homogenization of samples, and well-defined outcomes.

Subject Areas

autism spectrum disorder; cannabinoids; cannabidiol; cannabidivarin; THC; problem behaviors; sleep; epilepsy; side effects.

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