Yuval Dal, an Israeli teenager, is luckier than most even though he suffers from Autism. He lives in a country that is quickly becoming the epicenter of cutting-edge research on medical cannabis: Israel. And the most trailblazing scientist conducting this research is also an Israeli, Raphael Mechoulam. In fact, Israel’s Department of Health has its own Medical Cannabis Unit. This Unit issues permits to patients with qualifying diseases that allow them to obtain medical cannabis.
However, the problem is that autism is currently not one of those qualifying diseases. And so far, doctors have been slow to prescribe cannabis. That’s when Abigail Dar, Yuval’s mother, decided to take things into her own hands. And her story shows how cannabis transformed this teen’s severe autism.
A Dramatic Transformation
“It was like magic,” Abigail Dar said. “My son became a calm person, more concentrated, having a smile on his face. And over a year, he didn’t show any self-injurious behavior or any outbursts, which for him and for me is a miracle. It was life changing.”
Autism is a condition that exists on a spectrum. That spectrum can range from minimal to severe regarding the symptoms, skills, and disabilities of people with autism. For people with severe autism like Yuval, life’s hard. Both them and their loved one’s struggle every day.
Before turning to medical cannabis, doctors had given the Dars anti-psychotic medication to treat their son Yuval’s worsening symptoms. His parents and caretakers described terrifying scenes of epileptic seizures and violent outbursts. His family began suspecting that the pills doctors prescribed to Yuval were actually making his condition worse, not better.
After reading stories about other families across the world who saw positive results treating autism with cannabis, the Dars were able to get medical cannabis treatments for their teenage son through appeal. And it wasn’t easy. Yuval had to apply for “mercy treatments” in order to receive a medical cannabis card. “They had no mercy giving him all these anti-psychotic drugs, but in order to get the cannabis he had to qualify for mercy treatment,” Abigail Dar explained.
Making Progress on Cannabis and Autism
After witnessing her son’s dramatic transformation, Abigail made a decision shared by many other parents in the same situation. She started campaigning actively to make autism a qualifying illness for medical cannabis in her country. Put simply; Abigail was motivated to take action so that other children like Yuval could benefit from medical cannabis treatments.
Those efforts ultimately led her to meet researcher Adi Aran. Aran, a researcher for Shaare Zedek Medical Center, received permission from the Israel’s government to conduct the first ever clinical study on treating autism with cannabis. The Dars and Aran quickly began working together. Additionally, Abigail’s experiences with her son’s autism gave her a powerful insight into how cannabis affects the symptoms of autism.
So far, medical cannabis research has focused on isolated cannabinoids like CBD. This leaves much of the cannabis sativa plant out of the equation. But Abigail noticed something interesting. It was only when her son used the whole cannabis flower with all the active compounds that his symptoms improved. That insight could change the course of cannabis research in meaningful ways.