Study reveals connection between cannabinoids and autism

If the details of this Neuron study are correct, autistic individuals could soon be benefiting from cannabis as a treatment

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

A paper that was published earlier this year in the journal Neuron has honed in on the thesis of using cannabis to treat the symptoms of autism. What the team discovered was rather astonishing – endocannabinoid signaling deficits were noticeable in mice with two different autism-associated mutations in a synapse-adhesion protein. The study’s findings tell us that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and autism could be connected in some way.

If the details of this Neuron study are correct, individuals who exhibit the common symptoms of autism such as aggression, social anxiety, and self-harm may benefit from using cannabis as a treatment in the very near future.

What is autism?

Autism is one of the most prevalent medical conditions affecting young children in the United States, not to mention the rest of the world. Estimated to affect one percent of the global population, this brain development disorder may inflict an individual’s ability to conduct day-to-day duties that require communication and social interaction.

Repetitive and restrictive behaviors commonly associated with autism can have a detrimental effect on an autistic individual’s life, not to mention the life of his or her primary caregiver/guardian. On the plus side, the results of the Neuron study suggest that cannabis could help.

Cannabis and hemp-derived CBD oils can be used to relieve the symptoms of widespread mental conditions, such as autism, anxiety, and depression. CBD oil may also help relieve physical ailments, such as chronic pain and epileptic seizures.

Researchers studied two mutations associated with autism in humans

Mutations in a synaptic protein called neuroligin-3 (NL3) have been commonly associated with autism and Asperger syndrome. Over 30 mutations have actually been associated with autism, but for this particular study, just two were focused on.

One of those mutations eliminates the neuroligin-3 gene itself. The other is known as R451C, which causes “local misfolding of its extracellular domain, causing partial retention in the ER (endoplasmic reticulum) of expressing cells,” according to a separate study.

The reason why NL3 causes deficits in endocannabinoid signaling is yet been determined. However, what we do know is that endocannabinoid signaling is responsible for influencing numerous important processes, including pain, memory, and concentration.

“Both mutations dramatically impaired tonic but not phasic endocannabinoid signaling,” said the researchers, who added that their data suggests “neuroligin-3 is specifically required for tonic endocannabinoid signaling, raising the possibility that alterations in endocannabinoid signaling may contribute to autism pathophysiology.”

Autism impacts the lives of one in 59 school children

According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), autism affects the lives of one in 59 children. This is based on autism spectrum disorder (ASD) data accumulated by the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network.

The CDC claims that ASD is often diagnosed in addition to another diagnosis, such as a chromosomal, developmental, genetic, neurologic or psychiatric disorder. With more young children being diagnosed with ASD all of the time, demand for alternative treatments is rapidly rising. However, ongoing research is necessary to fully ascertain the efficacy of CBD oil as a treatment for autism.

Back in April, autism was added to Colorado’s list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis, making it the ninth U.S. State to do so. Colorado follows in the footsteps of Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Utah, according to parent advocacy group Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism (MAMMA). New Mexico also added Autism to its list of qualifying conditions this month.