Lower endocannabinoid levels tied to autism spectrum disorder in children

Published Apr 20, 2019 11:28 a.m. ET
AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit

Now that marijuana is legal in many regions of the world, there is a lot of cannabis research being published every single day that look at various angles of consuming cannabinoids derived from either marijuana or hemp plants. The goal is to find to medicinal benefits and to measure them which will eventually provide doctors with a more precise guideline to go from when recommending these alternative methods of treatment including CBD, THC or a combination of both to treat uncomfortable symptoms in their patients. Since cannabis researchers have already done more basic experiments on dosing cannabinoids, it became essential to understand how they work in conjunction with the human bodies natural systems to result in such an effective medicine.

The endocannabinoid system

What they found is that every human being is equippedwith an endocannabinoid system that consists of thousands of biological lipid-based transmitters that can bind with cannabinoids like THC and CBD. Our endocannabinoid systems are responsible for controlling many different essential bodily processes including the regulation of pain, mood, memory (both short and long term), cognitive processes, appetite, and fertility. Two primary receptors make up the majority which are called CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are found in high concentrations within the brain, peripheral organs, tissues, and nervous system. They will interact most with the introduction of THC from the consumption of marijuana. CB2 receptors are found mostly in the stomach and liver and bind best with the cannabinoid CBD.

Why are optimal levels of endocannabinoids critical to a person’s overall physical and mental health?

Cannabis researchers had discovered the endocannabinoid system and its purpose for several years now. The reason our bodies react so well to the introduction of cannabinoids is mainly due to our endocannabinoid systems. This is because our bodies naturally release a similar element to cannabinoids that are meant to trigger the release of chemicals like hormones, dopamine, and other essential chemicals that help to regulate our daily mood, stress levels, motivation, pain levels, and more. When a person has a lower than average amount of endocannabinoids, their body will have more difficulty in regulating those critical processes on its own leading to an increase in depression, insomnia, pain, and other often debilitating symptoms that might lower an individual's overall quality of life.

Why low levels of endocannabinoids have now been tiedto a higher risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder

The most recent study focusing on the endocannabinoid system’s role in children with Autism was released by the which was published by the National Institute of Health. The goal was to search for a link between dysregulations of endocannabinoids and low levels of CB1 and CB receptors inside of children with an autism spectrum disorder. The gauged participants included 99 children who displayed symptoms of autism spectrum disorder, as well as 93 others who were a-typical with a close number of both boys and girls in both groups. Cannabis researchers than measured the levels of the two main cannabinoids that were present in the children over one year.

The results

Three endogenous compounds that are released by the endocannabinoid system are believed to have a positive effect when they are released within children that suffer from autism spectrum disorder. They consist of AA, PEO, and OEA, 2AG, and AEA which were all serums that were monitoredduring the 12 month period.  

- Children with autism spectrum disorder had significantly lower levels of AEA, OEA, and PEA serums, then the children from the a-typical control group.

- Cannabis researchers and scientists included in this study deemed circulatory endocannabinoid levels as a reliable biological marker in children who have autism spectrum disorder.

Though more thorough cannabis research is needed to be certain that these biological markers are reliable enough to be implemented in our current healthcare system as a way of screen children who are too young to officially diagnose, it is critical that early intervention takes place to give the child the best opportunity to function in a manageable way that can provide a much better quality of life long term. Since technological advancements have yet to provide any biological form of testing, many kids don’t get help until later which results in less stellar treatment success long term.

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