The Medical Minute: Alcoholism, Cancer, and Stress ToleranceBailey RahnJuly 22, 2014
This month has brought several new cannabis studies that fill us with optimism and excitement. We love all this great news, but it can be easy to overextend positive findings and think that simply smoking cannabis will yield all of the results uncovered by empirical research. It’s a frustrating reality, but a lot of research must be conducted on animal models and with alternative formulations of cannabis, such as synthetic cannabinoids. These may have very different effects from full-plant therapy in humans, so we remind you to read every study critically with these considerations in mind.
That being said, here is your bi-weekly dose of knowledge!
1. Could Cannabinoids Relieve Alcohol Dependence?
This month, a study published in the journal Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior claimed that some cannabinoids show potential in the treatment of alcoholism. By injecting a cannabis-like compound called BCP into animal models, researchers found that activating CB2 receptors resulted in decreased ethanol consumption and preference.
While these results prompted scientists to conclude that the endocannabinoid system may be an effective target for future treatments, there are a few caveats to consider before deeming cannabis the alcoholic’s cure-all. Most cannabis strains are high in THC, which has an affinity for a different set of receptors (called CB1). Other cannabinoids like CBD may hold more promise, since this compound more often binds to the CB2 system. Again, the fact that mice models were used with a synthetic compound may yield different results than human trials with natural cannabinoids.
However, it is still important to note that cannabis has helped many consumers reduce alcohol habits through substitution.
2. More Evidence of Marijuana’s Anti-Cancer Properties
Thanks to researchers in the UK and Spain, a new study has added substantial evidence to previous claims that THC could reverse tumor growth in cancer patients. Using cancerous human cells, the scientists induced tumors in mice models, which were then targeted with marijuana’s psychoactive constituent, THC. After administering a very specific concentration of isolated THC, researchers observed reductions in tumor cells. So far, this discovery has been largely supported only by anecdotal evidence, so the validation offered by these findings is unspeakably important.
3. Marijuana-like Endocannabinoid Associated with Higher Stress Tolerance
Anandamide is an endocannabinoid produced naturally in our bodies. Structurally and functionally, it is similar to THC and the extent to which anadamide deficiencies can be treated with marijuana compounds is currently in the works. Researchers at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee, found that central levels of anandamide in the brain could predict acute stress-induced anxiety, meaning higher levels of this endocannabinoid correlate with higher stress tolerance. One way to augment the endocannabinoid system and reverse anandamide deficiencies may lie in marijuana’s cannabinoids, so keep those fingers crossed as scientists continue to explore cannabinoid-based medicines for stress.