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THC for Autism

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Courtesy of Paul Kennedy

The rise of children diagnosed with autism in recent years has brought Orange County to the forefront on treatment of this developmental disorder with a wide range of symptoms based on its classification as a spectrum disorder. Through partnerships with programs within the Orange County community — including UC Irvine — has made great strides in the field of autism research. The traditional research that the school has performed with projects like Lou Anne Boyde’s Social Compass involves direct intervention through the use of technology to find new methods of teaching and treating children with autism.

UCI Medical Center has now entered a new venture to tackle existing problems. UCI has recently set its sights in a new direction of research after joining forces with the UF4A (Unconventional Foundation for Autism), through their exploration in uses of medicinal cannabis for treatment of autistic children.

The UF4A was established several years ago by Mieko Hester-Perez shortly after her son Joey was diagnosed with autism. Although not known to be deadly, this disorder caused Joey (only 10 years old at the time) to become drastically underweight, only weighing 46 pounds and on the verge of death. Scared for her child’s life, Hester-Perez did some research, and found a doctor who actually had a protocol for medical marijuana in children diagnosed with autism. Once she found the possible benefits to the controversial treatment, she began supplying her son with brownies that were infused with marijuana.

“My son had self-injurious behaviors. He was extremely aggressive … he was a danger to himself and others,” Hester-Perez said of her son’s mental and emotional condition before he ingested the marijuana-laced brownies.

Soon after eating the brownies, Joey had a notable change in his appetite and behavior.

“The marijuana balanced my son,” Hester-Perez said.

Once the marijuana had taken effect, not only was Joey’s appetite restored but he was also less aggressive and much less high-strung.

Although a nonverbal autistic child, Joey showed significant signs of improvement, fueling not only his mother’s drive to create a foundation solely aimed towards raising awareness and funds for cannabis-based medical research for children with autism but also creating widespread attention on the issues at hand for cannabis-based research and medicinal marijuana.

The UF4A recently joined forces with Cannabis Science, which specializes in phytocannabinoid science (aka cannabis biogenetical engineering) to try and establish an effective cannabinoid treatment for autistic children. Also, the group effort will try and pass legislation that would change existing laws regarding not only the use and availability of medicinal marijuana but also to try to make medicinal marijuana a valid treatment for autism. The UCI Medical Center will be overseeing the Hester-Perez inspired cannabis-based autism research.

“The successful results from the autism patients treated as documented by UF4A are very encouraging, and we’re excited to tap into UF4A’s proven track record, providing our scientific expertise to help develop more refined treatment plans with Cannabis Science’s formulations and extracts to achieve scientifically accepted patient outcomes,” said Dr. Bob Melamede, CEO of Cannabis Science.

With such a controversial approach to treatment of the disorder, it is thought that the research will face a lot of scrutiny. In the near future, the data that UCI collects from Joey and 10 other patients like himself will need to convince critics that it is a valid alternative to the widely accepted cocktails and holistic approaches currently available.