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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Natural ‘High’ Could Avoid Chronic Marijuana Use

Marijuana is used more in America than any other drug. While the reasons for marijuana use are vast, many report using marijuana chronically as a means of treating depression and anxiety. New research conducted at Vanderbilt University suggests that replenishing the supply of a molecule that normally activates cannabinoid receptors in the brain could relieve mood and anxiety disorders, enabling some people to quit using marijuana, Science Daily reports.

Cannabinoid receptors are normally activated by compounds in the brain called endocannabinoids, the most abundant of which is 2-AG. They also are “turned on” by the active ingredient in marijuana.

Study leader, Sachin Patel, M.D., Ph.D., and his colleagues genetically modified mice to have impaired ability to produce 2-AG in the brain. The researchers observed that the mice showed anxiety-like behaviors, and female mice also displayed behaviors resembling depression. Researchers then blocked the enzyme that normally breaks down 2-AG and restored the supply of the endocannabinoid to normal levels. After doing this the researchers observed that the symptoms of anxiety and depression were reversed.

While there is no 2-AG research that has been conducted on humans to date, the researchers concluded that if further findings confirm that some people who are anxious and depressed have low levels of 2-AG, "normalizing 2-AG deficiency could represent a viable ... therapeutic strategy for the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders."

Paradoxically, the researchers point out that chronic use of marijuana down-regulates cannabinoid receptors, increasing anxiety and marijuana use. This is a "vicious cycle" that can lead to addiction. Many people use drugs to cope with moods disorders, they are often unaware that the drug that they use to treat the problem is actually making the problem worse. Without realizing it, people use more and more of the drug when they should actually be using less. The perceived cure is only amplifying the problem.

 The research was reported in the journal Cell Reports.

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