Marijuana is the most common used illicit drug in the United States and the use by teenagers and young adults are on the rise in recent years. Many opt to use marijuana to treat anxiety and other mental disorders. However, a new study published in the journal Cell Reports, researchers say that they may have discovered a new way to help people to stop using marijuana.
According to the study, by restocking leves of a molecule that activated cannabinoid receptors in the brain, they can treat several disorders like mood and anxiety conditions. They can help reduce the use or self-medication of marijuana to treat such disorders.
Endocannabinoids are the ones that activate cannabinoid receptors who are responsible in the regulation of appetite, feeling of pain, memory, mood and other physiological processes. Yet, past studies have indicated that people with mood and anxiety disorders have lowered levels of endocannabinoids.
The active ingredient in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) activated the cannabinoid receptors. That is why many people are using marijuana to relieve their symptoms.
The research team was led by Dr. Sachin Patel, professor of psychiatry and molecular physiology and biophysics at Vanderbilt University in Nashville say that the discovered a way on how to maintain the levels of endocannabinoid called 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) in the brain, which may reduce the dependence of people on marijuana.
According to their animal studies, they were able to replenish 2-AG levels in mice and hence, it reduced anxiety and depressive-like behaviors. They revealed that all mice have depressive behaviors. "We were expecting that endocannabinoid deficiency would produce anxiety and depressive-like behaviors, but the female-specific depressive behavior took us by surprise," Dr. Patel told Medical News Today.
Also, the team discovered that if they replenish 2-AG levels in the brains of the mice appeared to reverse anxiety and depressive behaviors. Hence, they concluded that they have found a way to treat anxiety disorders among humans. However, they have not tested it on humans.
"It is very possible that a subset of heavy marijuana users are actually self-medicating symptoms of anxiety or mood disorders.We think that manipulating the naturally produced cannabinoids, like 2-AG, is likely to have the same anxiety-reducing, mood-elevating capacity without producing as many side effects as synthetic cannabinoids, like marijuana. This approach, then, would eliminate the drive to self-medicate with marijuana," Dr. Patel added.