Autism | cannabisMD


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is characterized by cognitive deficits. The most typical features are impairments of communication and social skills and repetitive behaviors. New research into postmortem brains has shown neuroinflammation is more commonplace in ASD patients.

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) has been recently shown to affect social behaviors associated with ASD. The ECS is a “neuromodulatory” system. It regulates emotional responses, behavioral reactions and how they relate to context, and social interaction. The ECS has also been shown to play a role in specific conditions that are often comorbid with ASD. These include seizures, anxiety, intellectual disabilities, and sleep pattern disturbances.

Only a few novel studies have explored the relationship between the ECS and ASD. Many of these studies have been preclinical in nature, meaning they were pharmacological modifications in animal models. They look at ASD-like behaviors in animal models to assess the viability of moving forward to clinical tests. Given the promising results from preclinical studies, clinical trials are now ongoing.

The ECS is modulated through cannabinoids. Cannabinoids come in three types: phytocannabinoids, endocannabinoids, and synthetic cannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids are chemical compounds extracted from the cannabis plant. Endocannabinoids are naturally produced in our body and vary in agonist and antagonist properties. Synthetic cannabinoids are chemically engineered to mimic the effects of phyto- and endocannabinoids.

The primary endocannabinoids are Anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). Cannabinoids, including these, act on the ECS through G protein-coupled receptors. The primary cannabinoid receptors are CB1 and CB2. However, perhaps the most critical discovery in relation to ASD is of the transient receptor potential vanilloid type 2 (TRVP2).

This receptor is known for increasing chemicals like oxytocin and vasopressin. A plethora of new evidence shows vasopressin and oxytocin act on similar substates of the central nervous system (CNS). CB1 is located throughout the CNS. Vasopressin and oxytocin are different in how they affect hormonal activity in the body. These compounds act on four G-protein coupled receptors, including 1 oxytocin receptor and 3 vasopressin receptors (V1a, V2, V1b).

Giving oxytocin to patients with ASD alleviates key symptoms. Cognitive function improves in processing social information, recognizing others’ emotions, understanding social interactions, increasing eye contact, and reducing repetitive patterns. There is general effect of cannabinoids on subsets of neuroendocrine cells, including neurons that secrete oxytocin and vasopressin.

cannabisMD gathers a range of scientific data to best inform our readers on conventional and alternative therapies to conditions like ASD. We explore not only cannabis as a treatment, but explore the viability of other new trends and traditional therapies. ASD remains largely untreated. cannabisMD explores solutions with a critical eye so that you can address your health concerns from an educated position.