A compound found in marijuana may help reduce symptoms of stress-related depression, according to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
The researchers found that animals with chronic stress had a reduced production of endocannabinoids that resulted in symptoms of depression. Endocannabinoids are naturally produced by the brain and affect motor control, cognition, emotions, and behavior. They are similar to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient found in marijuana, suggesting that medical marijuana could be a potential treatment.
The next step for the researchers is to use cannabidiol (CBD), a marijuana extract, to see if it can restore normal endocannabinoid function in these animal models. If the treatment works, it could stabilize mood and reduce symptoms of stress-induced depression. However, the researchers have to ensure that the treatment can be effective without resulting in dependency.
The current findings are still preliminary, and the researchers note they need to perform more research before they can test this method in human subjects.
Medical marijuana is currently legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia for the treatment of health problems like glaucoma, nerve pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and chemotherapy-induced nausea. However, some experts are concerned that as medical marijuana becomes an accepted treatment options, it could lead people to believe that marijuana is entirely safe.
Scientists at the University at Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) are studying chronic stress and depression, with a focus on endocannabinoids, which are brain chemicals similar to substances in marijuana.
The findings raise the possibility that components of marijuana may be useful in reducing depression that results from chronic stress.
Endocannabinoids are naturally produced chemical compounds in the brain that affect motor control, cognition, emotions and behavior. As the name suggests, they are similar to the chemicals found in marijuana (Cannabissativa) and its active ingredient, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).