Medical Marijuana and Asperger Syndrome

Asperger syndrome, or Asperger’s, is a neurobiological and developmental disorder on the higher-functioning end of the autism spectrum categorized by significant difficulties in nonverbal communication, restrictive and repetitive patterns of behavior and interest, and social interaction. Although the term “Asperger syndrome” is not a separate entry in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V), some people still use the name for this autism spectrum.

Children with Asperger are usually diagnosed after 3 years old. A person with Asperger’s can have mild to severe symptoms and each individual will experience and have different behaviors, showing sometimes all or just some characteristic behaviors of the disorder. The behaviors include:

  • Superior rote memory
  • Fascination with globes, maps, and routes
  • Motor clumsiness
  • Sensitivity to the environment, loud noises, clothing and food textures, odors
  • Lack of social awareness
  • Gazing too intently or avoiding eye contact
  • Failure in respecting personal boundaries
  • Repetitive motor patterns like hand flapping
  • Inappropriate socially and emotionally answers
  • Lack or exaggerated use of facial expressions
  • Difficulties in sustaining or lack of interest in making friends
  • Extensive vocabulary, pedantic and speaks formally
  • Problems in making age-appropriate relationships
  • Inflexible or dependent of routines
  • Little comprehension about others’ feelings
  • Problems with “give and take” conversations

In case you don’t know, what differentiates Asperger’s from autism is the severity of the symptoms and the delay in the diagnosis. Usually, children with autism are diagnosed earlier than children with Asperger syndrome. To an outsider observing, a child with Asperger looks just like a regular child with a different behavior. Children with this syndrome usually try to fit in social situations and have interactions with people. However, they find trouble when trying to do it, despite wanting this social interaction, people with Asperger are often socially awkward.

People with Asperger syndrome usually have a standard or higher IQ than ordinary people, and not all of them require special education services. Because of their socially “awkward” behavior, children with Asperger are frequent targets of bullies and teasers. It is quite common that adolescents with Asperger develop some mood disorder like depression and anxiety. The diagnosis of spectrum disorders should be made by a medical expert to discard another possible diagnosis.

In 2013 May’s issue of Neuron reported in a study that in mouse models of autism-associated Neuroligin-3 mutations, endocannabinoid-mediated signaling at synapses is dysregulated and these discoveries carry implications concerning the pathophysiology of autism spectrum disorders such as Asperger ’s and the making of new treatment strategies with cannabis. There is still more to come, but the results already show a promising treatment alternative.

Depending on each individual and how AS affects each one of them, cannabis can help managing the symptoms or secondary problems like depression or anxiety. Medical marijuana is already used by people who have autism from managing the symptoms to controlling children’s outbursts and convulsions. However, these behaviors are characteristics of autism and not Asperger’s syndrome.