Autism/Asperger Syndrome

Autism is thought to exist on a spectrum to some extent, although all types of autism, whether “low” or “high” functioning, seem to have one particular symptom in common: extreme sensitivity to external stimuli. Some find ways to manage this, whilst others sadly do not. Autism can cause sensory processing difficulties as it alters how nerve cells and synapses connect and organize. There is some evidence to suggest that those with autism are more likely to experience synesthesia, suggesting that there is definitely both an extreme sensitivity to light, taste, touch and sound and a “crossing” or “joining” of the senses to some degree. However, autism is also characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, as well as restricted and repetitive behavior. Extreme anxiety and an inability to easily understand others is also a symptom of autism.

Cannabis may help for autism in several regards. One, cannabis could help regulate synapse signalling in those with autism. There are mutations of the protein neuroligin-3 found in those with autism, which can interfere with endocannabinoid signalling in the brain. Two, CBD could possibly help modulate the immune system, which is found to be dysregulated in those with autism. Those with autism also seem shifts in their gut microbiota, and are prone to IBS. Again, cannabis could help treat these symptoms. Three, those with autism are often prescribed a mixture of antidepressants, antipsychotics (e.g. risperidone, aripiprazole) and stimulants. These all have a significant number of side-effects when compared to cannabinoid-based medications, and could be reduced or replaced. Four, cannabinoids may help improve the mood and reduce anxiety. So there are several ways in which cannabis can help with autism – more research is needed to see how and in what way, precisely.

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