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An Alternative to Medicinal Marijuana
Date:4/27/2008

Nerve agents stimulated cannabinoid receptors in mice, offering pain relief without side effects

SUNDAY, April 27 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists think they may have found a way to harness marijuana's medicinal powers without unleashing the plant's memory-robbing properties.

But a new and improved dope-based medication is unlikely to hit doctors' offices near you soon.

"This has great potential but it's years away from human application," said one expert, Dr. Dennis J. Patin, associate professor of clinical anesthesiology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. "I expect that some drug company will research further," he said.

And John Casida, senior author of the paper in the April 27 issue of Nature Chemical Biology, stressed that his team "report new fundamental mechanistic discoveries on the cannabinoid system, rather than proposing a medicine or treatment."

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, can relieve both pain and anxiety but, unfortunately, also results in cognitive problems such as memory loss.

In fact, one recent study found that multiple sclerosis patients who smoke marijuana in search of symptom relief are more likely to suffer cognitive shortfalls and mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety.

Casida and his colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., found that organophosphorus (OP) nerve agents blocked the breakdown of certain enzymes, which has the end result of stimulating the cannabinoid receptors in the brain.

OP nerve agents work like OP pesticides, leading to an excess of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the central and peripheral nervous system.

In this experiment, using mice, the OP compounds had the therapeutic effects of THC (pain relief, lower body temperatures) without the cognitive drawbacks.

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