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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 23rd February 2018 > Green Lantern

Green Lantern

Marijuana MAY BE THE WORLD’S MOST EFFECTIVE TREATMENT FOR Autism —IF ONLY IT COULD REACH THE Children WHO NEED IT
INTO THE WEEDS a cannabis plant at Tikun Olam, a growing facility in Israel. Charlotte Figi, shown here at age 7, suffered seizures due to epilepsy until CBD helped stop them. Because of her profound response, doctors are now studying this approach for severe autism.
URIEL SINAI/GETTY
PLANT MATTER Aran is witnessing transformations among children with severe autism who are taking CBD, such as Benjamin
MATT NAGER

MARIJUANA

IT’S MORNING IN NAHARIYA, A TINY ISRAELI town near the Lebanese border, and 4-yearold Benjamin is smashing his head against the wall. He spins wildly in circles, screeching at full volume. As his mother tries to calm him, he pulls down his pants and defecates on the Floor.

When they leave their apartment, Benjamin wrestles free of her hand and runs toward oncoming traffic. Sharon attempts a trip to the supermarket but leaves midway through because her son is screaming while he picks up items and throws them to the floor.

That was in October 2016, and typical of most days at the time. Sharon, a single mother who moved to Israel from the United States one year earlier, was alone and losing control. Benjamin was taking Ritalin, a drug usually associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which he did not have. He’d also tried the antipsychotic ziprasidone and a mix of antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs. None of them helped, and he often became more hyperactive as they wore off.

All that changed a year ago, when Benjamin started taking marijuana. In the little apartment he shares with his mother, mornings are now relaxed and orderly. His transformation may signal the arrival of a long-awaited and desperately needed healing for the many others just like him: children living with severe autism.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects about 1 percent of children around the world, with disproportionately high rates in developed countries. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 68 children has been identified as having ASD, a wide-cast net of a diagnosis that encompasses several complex brain disorders that make communication and other interactions difficult. Children with milder “highfunctioning” autism are often uninterested in making friends, feel uncomfortable when touched and have a hard time making eye contact or reading social cues. These individuals face challenges but can usually navigate building a life within their society.

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THE BLUNT TRUTH ABOUT WEED AND AUTISM Marijuana may be the world’s most effective treatment for autism, if only it could reach the children who need it.