Two paediatricians have called for “urgent” Australian trials of medical marijuana to treat children with conditions including autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Photo: istock
Two paediatricians have called for “urgent” Australian trials of medical marijuana to treat children with conditions including autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Photo: istock

Experts want to trial medicinal cannabis for autism, ADHD

TWO paediatricians have called for "urgent" Australian trials of medical marijuana to treat children with conditions including autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

They say parents are asking doctors for medical cannabis (MC) but face the choice of convincing a doctor there is enough evidence to prescribe it, or obtaining it illegally.

Dr Daryl Efron and Dr Jeremy Freeman called for the trials in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health.

"There is an urgent need to conduct well‐designed trials of pharmaceutical‐grade MC products in children with behavioural and psychiatric disorders," the Melbourne doctors wrote.

They noted autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, anxiety and intellectual disability were the largest group of diagnoses managed by Australian paediatricians.

Two paediatricians have called for “urgent” Australian trials of medical marijuana to treat children with conditions including autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Photo: istock
Two paediatricians have called for “urgent” Australian trials of medical marijuana to treat children with conditions including autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Photo: istock

While psychotropic medications were the drugs most frequently prescribed, they carried a risk of serious adverse effects.

"There has been little drug discovery work in the field of child and adolescent mental health for many years, and there is an urgent need to develop safe and effective therapeutics for this vulnerable patient group," they said.

"Medical cannabis may be one such treatment."

Australian company Zelda Therapeutics is funding a study at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia of the use of MC in children with autism.

Company chairman Harry Karelis said: "There is growing evidence that it has benefits, we are trying to prove it."

In SA there is no minimum age for prescribing MC but a doctor must consider evidence showing its proven benefits.

The Australian Medical Association backs local trials to establish an evidence base for medical marijuana.