Marijuana and Autism: Ultimate Guide

One of the most debated topics is whether marijuana can cause autism. In this guide, we will explore the relationship between weed and autism to help you understand the facts.

reuben kesherim
Ruben Kesherim
April 9, 2023

What is Autism?

Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects how a person communicates, interacts with others, and behaves. It is a spectrum disorder, meaning it affects individuals differently, with varying degrees of severity.

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The exact causes of autism are not yet known, but researchers believe it is a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Autism is typically diagnosed in early childhood, and symptoms can include difficulty with social interaction, repetitive behaviors, and communication challenges.

What is Marijuana?

Marijuana, also known as cannabis, is a plant that contains over 100 chemical compounds called cannabinoids. The two main cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the psychoactive compound responsible for the “high” associated with marijuana, while CBD has minimal psychoactive effects.

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Marijuana is a plant that has been in use for centuries for its medicinal and recreational properties. However, its use has been surrounded by controversy due to its potential side effects.

Marijuana is commonly used for medicinal and recreational purposes. Its medicinal properties can help manage symptoms of various conditions such as chronic pain, anxiety, and nausea.

Can Marijuana Cause Autism?

There is no evidence to suggest that marijuana use causes autism. However, some studies have shown that prenatal exposure to marijuana may increase the risk of autism. A study published in Nature in 2019 found that exposure to THC during pregnancy in mice led to abnormal behaviors in the offspring, similar to those seen in autism.

Another study published in JAMA Pediatrics in 2018 found that prenatal exposure to marijuana was associated with an increased risk of autism spectrum disorder in offspring. However, it is important to note that this study was based on self-reported data, which may not be accurate.

It is important to remember that correlation does not equal causation. These studies do not prove that marijuana causes autism, but rather suggest a potential link that requires further investigation.

Marijuana and Autism Treatment

While marijuana may not cause autism, some studies suggest that it may have therapeutic effects for individuals with autism. A study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology in 2019 found that CBD may help reduce anxiety and improve behavior in children with autism.

Another study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders in 2019 found that medical cannabis treatment improved symptoms of autism in some patients, including hyperactivity, irritability, and sleep problems.

However, it is important to note that these studies are limited and more research is needed to fully understand the potential benefits and risks of using marijuana for autism treatment.

Potential Risks of Marijuana Use for Individuals with Autism

While some studies suggest that marijuana may have therapeutic effects for individuals with autism, it is important to be aware of potential risks associated with its use.

One concern is that marijuana use can lead to increased anxiety and paranoia, which can be particularly problematic for individuals with autism who may already struggle with anxiety. Additionally, the psychoactive effects of THC can cause changes in mood and behavior that could exacerbate existing behavioral challenges.

Furthermore, individuals with autism may be more sensitive to the effects of marijuana due to differences in brain chemistry. This means that they may experience stronger side effects or adverse reactions than neurotypical individuals.

It is also important to consider that marijuana smoke can irritate the lungs and respiratory system, which can be especially problematic for individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions.

Overall, while marijuana may have potential benefits for individuals with autism, it is important to carefully weigh the potential risks before considering its use. It is recommended to consult with a medical professional before using marijuana as a treatment option.

The Impact of Marijuana Use on the Developing Brain

Marijuana use can have a significant impact on the developing brain, particularly when used during adolescence. This is because the brain continues to develop well into young adulthood, and marijuana use during this time can interfere with this process.

Studies have shown that regular marijuana use during adolescence may lead to structural and functional changes in the brain, particularly in areas related to memory, attention, and decision-making. These changes may result in long-term cognitive deficits and an increased risk of mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Additionally, marijuana use during adolescence may increase the risk of addiction later in life. This is because the adolescent brain is more susceptible to addiction than the adult brain due to differences in brain chemistry.

It is important for parents and caregivers to educate adolescents about the potential risks associated with marijuana use and discourage its use until more research is conducted on its effects on the developing brain.


In conclusion, there is currently no evidence to suggest that marijuana causes autism. While some studies have shown a potential link between prenatal marijuana exposure and autism, more research is needed to fully understand this relationship.

Marijuana may have therapeutic effects for individuals with autism, but more research is needed to fully understand the benefits and risks of its use. If you are considering using marijuana for autism treatment, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine if it is safe and appropriate for you or your loved one.


steven zauderer

CEO of CrossRiverTherapy - a national ABA therapy company based in the USA.

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