A new study shows the effect of cannabis on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Study: Marijuana May Benefit People with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

A new study sheds light on the effects of marijuana use in people with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), known as fetal alcohol syndrome. 

FASD is prevalent in about 5% of children in the US and is characterized by symptoms derived from disruptive behavior like “agitation, aggression, restlessness, impulsivity and related symptoms” study researchers say. 

Disruptive behavior interrupts and directly affects the lives of about 6.1% of Americans. This number doesn’t account for caregivers, or other people in the lives of those affected by disruptive behavior disorders. 

This study also raises questions about the effectiveness of risperidone, a common treatment option for those with fetal alcohol syndrome. Risperidone is a medication taken orally or by injection. It is mainly used to treat schizophrenia but can be used to treat other disorders like FASD. 

The study shows while risperidone is effective in reducing symptoms of disruptive behavior, it also has many adverse side effects:

“These cases are sedation, apathy, and loss of cognitive ability, among other adverse behavioral reactions,” the study says.  

One case in the study involving a 12-year-old boy with fetal alcohol syndrome found his severe restlessness, aggressive behavior, and impulsivity were not alleviated despite treatment with risperidone and methylphenidate, (a synthetic central nervous system stimulant used to treat narcolepsy, attention deficit disorder (ADD), and other neurological/brain disorders). 

However, since beginning his treatment with CBD oil derived from the cannabis plant, there has been a significant reduction in disruptive behavior. So much, in fact, a plan to increase his dosage of risperidone has been cancelled. 

A similar story plays out for the other four cases of fetal alcohol syndrome patients in the study. For all, the two years brought about an improvement in disruptive behavior symptoms, some of which have completely disappeared. 

To put this into numbers: “There was a highly statistical decrease in the disruptive behavior score from (mean±SD) 18±1.0 before cannabis use to 6±2.1 after introduction of cannabis (p=0.0002),” the study reports. 

Although recent studies have shown recreational use of cannabis can cause adverse effects on the brain functions of adolescents, of the five cases involved in this study none reported serious adverse reactions. 

While it is clear there is more research and data to be collected on the efficacy of cannabis use in people with fetal alcohol syndrome, this study provides some clarity and hope for many. 

April Howard is a senior Broadcast Journalism major at the University of Maryland. Her full bio is here.

April Howard is a senior Broadcast Journalism major at the University of Maryland. Her full bio is here.

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