This post is part of the series Examining the Use of Medical Marijuana for ASD Treatment.
The cannabinoids are the active compounds in marijuana. They take their name from the scientific names of the plants used to make marijuana, usually Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. There are many cannabinoid compounds that are found in plants of the genus Cannabis but delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the one that receives the most attention because of its known psychoactive effects. The following have been reported among the short term effects of THC: euphoria, disinhibition, cognitive deficits, increased hunger, and alteration of sensory perception. Withdrawal of THC after short term use leads to: irritability, restlessness, sleep disturbance, and nausea. Long term use leads to the accumulation of THC in the tissues of the body. Since the brain has no mechanism for breaking down THC, or any of the other cannabinoids, they tend to persist in the brain.
Like many other psychoactive drugs THC induces the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that plays a major role in the reward, motivation, and decision making processes in the brain. Continued exposure to the cannabinoids leads to a lasting decrease in the strength of the connections between neurons having a depressive effect on their functioning.
There is a limited amount of formal research available on the effects of other cannabinoids as well as the potential therapeutic uses of THC.
Next up, ASD and the Endocannabinoid System.
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