OCT 12, 2020 8:00 AM PDT

Can Cannabis Relieve Symptoms of Down Syndrome?

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Increasing anecdotal and academic evidence has been emerging in recent years about the plethora of health benefits behind cannabis. Now, some studies allude to the possibility of cannabis being able to relieve symptoms of Down syndrome. 

Currently, there have been no animal or human studies specifically looking at how cannabis interacts with Down Syndrome. However, evidence exists both showing that the endocannabinoid system likely plays a role in Down Syndrome and that the usage of cannabinoids may be able to reduce symptoms of the disorder. 

study conducted in 2008, for example, found that people with Down syndrome tend to have increased activity among their Cannabinoid Type 2 (CB2) receptors and the enzyme DAAH (which breaks down the endocannabinoid, anandamide) in their beta-amyloid plaques.

Meanwhile, a study conducted in 2019 found that mice with Down syndrome tended to have more Cannabinoid Type 1 (CB1) receptors in their hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for memory, than mice without the condition. The researchers then found that blocking these CB1 receptors with medication or gene therapy restored deficits in their memory, synaptic plasticity, and adult neurogenesis (the growth of new brain cells in the adult brain). 

While these findings alone do not confirm whether the endocannabinoid system is actually dysfunctional in those with Down syndrome, they do suggest that cannabinoid-based therapies targeting the system may improve symptoms. 

Already, there have been several studies showing that cannabis-derived products may be able to improve various symptoms common to Down syndrome and other conditions. A review from 2018, for example, found that cannabinoids CBD and THC were able to reduce the presence of amyloid plaques and damaged neurons in humans and animals with multiple conditions.

Meanwhile, cannabinoids have been found to protect against plethra of other Down syndrome symptoms- from impulsivity and difficulty maintaining attention to gastrointestinal issues, sleeping issues, and seizures. Anecdotal evidence from parents of children with Down syndrome further confirms this. 

To conclude, existing evidence may leave some optimistic about the potential benefits of cannabis for relieving symptoms from Down syndrome. However, until human studies have been carried out, no conclusions can be drawn.

 

Sources: CannigmaNIH

About the Author
  • Science writer with keen interests in technology and behavioral biology. Her current focus is on the interplay between these fields to create meaningful interactions, applications and environments.
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