A Dublin head shop has been giving unfounded medical advice about a medicinal marijuana product to parents of children with autism.
Staff at The Hemp Company on Capel Street gave advice to an undercover Times reporter last month about Cannabidiol oil, a derivative of the marijuana plant, saying that it would “instantly” calm an autistic three-year-old and make her more vocal.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, oil can only be sold in Ireland as a food supplement and it is illegal to make any medical claims about it. There is no medical evidence to support the use of cannabis oil as a treatment for autism, and experts have expressed concern at the long-term effects of administering CBD oil to young children, citing substantial research on the negative effects of marijuana on the developing brain.
Products, including oils, that contain CBD are not approved as medicines and they cannot be promoted for medicinal uses, the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) has said.
The oil is made from one of the primary chemical compounds produced by the marijuana plant and does not contain any THC, the psychoactive compound in the plant.
A staff member of The Hemp Company made medical claims and gave dosage advice to a Times reporter who said they had an autistic daughter.
“There are loads of benefits and you might notice a few as well as a bit more confidence in their personality. You might see attributes to her personality that you have never seen before, and that might come in all forms,” the shop worker said.
When asked whether there were any side-effects, he said they were “not negative, per se” but that she might start showing more personality, which could be perceived as being “naughty”.
“If she likes something, she will tell you now. It could bring out other parts of her personality that you might deem as her being naughty, but she is only actually discovering more of herself.”
He said the strength and dosage depended on the severity of the autism, and that one customer whose daughter was “banging her head off things” went with the strongest version of the oil.
The assistant also said the oil could treat pain, anxiety and depression. He advised that it was best not to try the strongest form of the oil until lower dosages had been used. Depending on strength, CBD products range in price from €44 to €165 for a 30ml bottle.
“Now I don’t know how severe the autism is, some kids have come and they go with the advanced [oil], but you know how they can be. They are very loud, I had a kid the other day and he was like ‘agghh’ and that was obviously for him, and they went with the advanced. Another one came in earlier, her daughter was head-banging off things, and she went with the advanced as well. I would test it first and see how it goes, a lower dose at first would be more advisable,” he said.
When questioned, James McDonald, the owner of The Hemp Company, accepted there was no medical evidence to support the benefits of cannabis products as a treatment for autism.
“The Hemp Company’s policy is to educate our customers as far as possible about our products, and then refer them to other sources and other research should they wish to find out more,” he said. “We advise all staff to never make claims for our products that are not supported by medical evidence . . . In this case, our employee could have been interpreted as giving advice that was outside this policy.” Staff would be retrained, he added.
Michael Fitzgerald, a psychiatric consultant specializing in autism, said that unapproved alternative treatments were a problem. “Every six months or a year, like clockwork, a new treatment for autism catches fire in America and then comes to Europe,” he said. “They are usually expensive, have no scientific evidence and fade away soon.”
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Full Article: Dublin hemp shop says cannabis oil helps autistic children | Ireland | The Times & The Sunday Times
Author: Catherine Sanz
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