On a November afternoon at a Rhode Island ranch, Kristal and 13-year-old Chris's son just returned home from school.
"How is school?" Chris says.
"Bad!" Says Dylan. He's a skinny boy with glasses – still so small that his mother can wrap him in a bear hug when he gets out of hand.
He had many bad days. Dylan's parents review the daily reports his school sends home.
"There were 27 cases of property destruction on this particular day," says Kristal. "He had 25 cases of aggression, he only had self-injurious behavior, so that's pretty low."
Her son Dylan has an autism spectrum disorder. And his symptoms seem to defy treatment with traditional medicine. (To protect her son's privacy, we do not use the surname of the family.)
"You would think that many of the medicines he used would calm a horse," says Kristal, listing 16 different medications He tried, including Ritalin, Klonopin and Abilify.
They also tried special diets: gluten free and dairy free.
Last winter, Dylan's behavior got so out of control that he spent nearly five weeks in the hospital. One week before Thanksgiving – with the permission of Rhode Island health officials and the help of Dylan's psychiatrist – Kristal and Chris began experimenting with Dylan's medical marijuana.
Rhode Island is one of a small but growing number of states that allow medical marijuana to treat severe forms of autism.
The decision raises hopes for some parents of autistic children. However, there is little scientific evidence of the benefits and risks of marijuana use in these children.
"The research base for many hopes for the use of medical marijuana for autism – it's really minimal," says David G. Amaral. a psychologist and research director of the MIND Institute at the University of California, Davis. (M.I.N.D. stands for Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders.) "I mean, there is very little clinical evidence for efficacy."
Lean proof that no major clinical studies have been conducted to determine if marijuana or its compounds are effective or safe in the treatment of children with autism.
"Unless there was a clinical trial conducted in the correct manner and with safety # 1 of the drug," says Amaral, "and then the benefit of it … it could be that families have their Waste time – and possibly expose your family members to a potential dangerous situation. "
That does not mean that marijuana does not promise to treat autism. The first large-scale clinical trial in the US to test the idea is currently underway at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York.
The study is funded by a US $ 1.3 million grant from the US Department of Defense on the efficacy of a CBDV (cannabidivarin) based drug on irritability and repetitive behavior in children with autism spectrum disorders.
The lead researcher of the study, dr. Eric Hollander, leads the Autism and Obsessive Compulsive Spectrum program at the Montefiore Medical Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. It is expected that the study will enroll approximately 100 patients and will be completed in 2021.
But parents like Kristal and Chris do not wait.
They searched online for other parents of autistic children for their experiences with the subject medical marijuana Kristal read aloud from the post of another mother:
"Had to share this behavioral style … The best scores are from Last summer – crazy, terrible behavior – it always rhymes again in the summer The circled area highlights the sharp decline in behavior The difference between then and every summer in the past and today: medical marijuana. "
" In a way I think about how cancer treatment works, "says Dr. Todd Levine, a psychiatrist specializing in working with children, has autism at the Rhode Island Women's and Toddler Hospital in Providence. "If your child has cancer and you have no chemo and someone at the NIH says we have an experimental drug, then you will go."
Levine, who handles Dylan, supports his parents' decision as to whether medical marijuana can do this Help her son.
In her kitchen, Kristal shakes a medicine bottle filled with homemade marijuana oil.
"Do you really make your medicine fast?" she says to Dylan.
He yells, "No!" and swears.
His parents have learned to ignore these outbreaks. Dylan leaves and then sits down.
Kristal pulls out 25 milligrams of homemade cannabis-infused olive oil with a plastic syringe and injects it into Dylan's open mouth.
And already Chris says it feels
"I notice in the morning that it was a bit easier to get along with him," says Chris. He does not wake up angry, he does not wake up angry, he wakes up and, and you know, get ready and do his thing and ask you to get dressed and ask for breakfast. "
These reports from parents, along with input from local doctors and a review of medical literature, have helped Rhode Island's health officials contribute to adding autism as a prerequisite for medical marijuana.
"In particular, severe autism is not a curable disease and there are few treatment options," says Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, Director of the Health Department of Rhode Island. "So there is a compassionate care element."
Under Rhode Island's new regulations, physicians must first try medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration – and consult with a child psychiatrist or neurologist before approving children for medical marijuana
Next to Rhode Island At least six other states have added autism to list weakening conditions that can qualify patients – including children – for medical marijuana.