As re-legalization approaches real science, applied to the cannabis plant, has re-begun. Sometime in the future, someone will write the story of the Reefer Madness era, but today I chose the image of a spiral galaxy to represent the cannabis-plant-universe of which we know next to nothing. We are finally able to study, learn and understand this plant. We will learn how to use and benefit from mankind’s old friend and helper, cannabis. A fundamental place to start this learning would be with exactly what, and how, pot does what it does, to us.
According to the experts, and to people who use it, pot can have widely disparate effects on people’s behavior, depending on…well, that part is still a bit unclear. Marijuana has been shown to have both anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects and to induce anxiety and psychosis in certain people. A new study shows that the two active ingredients in pot, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) may have quite opposite effects on the brain – and behavior – and could explain why pot’s effects can be unpredictable.
The men [in the study] who had taken THC had more psychotic symptoms like altered thinking (paranoid and delusional thoughts) than men who’d taken either CBD or placebo. The THC also had a greater effect on reaction time to the standard, rather than the oddball, conditions [of the test]. This suggests that THC could change what people see as important environmental stimuli. Men who had taken the THC also had less activation in the caudate nucleus: and the less activity in the area, the more marked the men’s psychotic symptoms and affected their reaction times. Alterations in the activity in the striatum and prefrontal cortex also suggested a possible mechanism for the increase of psychotic symptoms.
Taking CBD, however, had the opposite effect of THC. It tended to speed up response time to the oddball stimuli, compared to the standard ones, which suggests that it works with our natural tendency to react to unexpected stimuli, rather than against it. And the brain regions that were activated after CBD ingestion were largely counter to those activated with THC. Previous research has suggested that CBD has antipsychotic effects, and this seems to be supported by the current study.
On the other hand, CBD seems to counter the effect of THC, and could (possibly) be used as an antipsychotic. The team’s earlier work actually showed that pretreatment with CBD can block the psychotic effects of THC administration. The problem is that most people don’t ingest CBD or THC capsules in real life. They smoke pot, which includes both chemicals. Therefore, the study doesn’t quite explain why taking in both chemicals in at the same time would have different effects in different people (or different effects in the same person on different occasions). For example, why some people are more susceptible to the negative effects of the drug than others is still unclear, but it may be due to the patterns of the different cannabidiol receptors in the brain or other differences that have yet to be determined.
The study does help explain why synthetic marijuana has been linked to more adverse effects than natural cannabis. Synthetic forms of the drug, like K2, which have been associated with more hallucinations, agitation, and ER visits, are made largely of chemicals that are thought to mimic THC.
Think what it will mean when we understand, at least better if not fully, how to use the healing herb. Re-legalization will be an exciting time, yes?
Our original story is in Forbes.
[image: NASA images]
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