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Marijuana Affects Autism, But Not How You’d Think [Study]

A new study on how marijuana affects autism will undoubtedly fuel the flames of the debate over medical cannabis, particularly given its implications on the uncharted use of pot in kids for medical conditions.

The study on how marijuana affects autism is not the first to suggest cannabinoids can be helpful not only to older people with conditions like cancer, glaucoma, and even AIDS, but younger people who we’ve spent decades trying to “protect” from the supposed deleterious effects of weed.

That marijuana affects autism in a possibly therapeutic way adds to the chorus of parents of children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) who have suggested the mild sedative can supplement or even negate the need for stimulant and speed-like drugs commonly used to treat the condition. (Such as Ritalin, Adderall, or any of its high-potency brethren.)

The study, published in the journal Neuron, examines how marijuana affects autism in children and the possible therapeutic applications of the drug in such a context.

Researchers have examined the effect of marijuana on mice in similar fashions, and The Joint Blog quotes earlier research:

“Danielle Piomelli of UC Irvine and Olivier Manzoni of INSERM, the French national research agency, treated mice exhibiting symptoms of Fragile-X Syndrome, a disorder that causes autistic symptoms, with novel compounds that correct the signaling of endocannibinoid transmitters in the brain [which cannabinoids can do]. The mice showed dramatic behavioral improvements in maze tests measuring anxiety and open-space acceptance.”

University of Maryland neuroscientist Bradley Alger did not participate in the most recent research on marijuana’s autism effects, but says that the study opens more doors in drilling down the mysteries of autism:

“It’s a very stimulating finding which could be a real turning point in understanding tonic endocannabinoids and how this otherwise mysterious lipid signaling really works.”

Researchers say much more study on how marijuana affects autism is needed before considering the therapy a practical application for the condition, particularly in children.