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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Using Cannabinoids to Treat Pain

Using medical marijuana to treat chronic pain has been both hailed and condemned, the latter mostly due to the psychoactive properties that come along with the drug and the potential for addiction. While many in the field of science argue over the range of side-effects that accompany the drug, most would agree that recent research into synthesizing cannabinoid drugs, which lack the typical side-effects of smoking or ingesting cannabis, show promise.

Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), more commonly known as just THC, is the main psychoactive ingredient in Marijuana. According to scientists, THC's side effects are produced through interaction with cannabinoid CB1 receptors in the brain, which prompted the theory that an agent with similar mechanistic actions but activate CB2 receptors instead, could reduce pain and do away with the side-effects, ScienceDaily reports.

The theory was tested at Indiana University by Dr. Andrea Hohmann and colleagues. The researchers found that, unlike Δ9-THC, using cannabinoid CB2 agonist AM1710 on mice who were experiencing chemotherapy-induced pain did not produce the typical side-effects, such as tolerance, physical withdrawal, motor dysfunction, or hypothermia.

"Our study is important because it demonstrates beyond doubt that activation of cannabinoid CB2 receptors suppresses neuropathic pain without producing signs of physical dependence (i.e., a withdrawal syndrome) or other unwanted side effects associated with activation of CB1 receptors in the brain," said Hohmann. "We think our data suggests that CB2 receptors are an important target for suppressing chronic pain without unwanted side effects (e.g. psychoactivity, addiction)."

"It is important to know whether the benefits of cannabis ingestion for pain could be attributed in large part to the stimulation of CB2 receptors," commented Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry. "CB2 agonists, in theory, would present less risk regarding addiction and intoxication than the ingestion of cannabis or THC."

Their findings were reported in Biological Psychiatry.

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