Newsbrief: Study Finds THC-like Chemicals Useful for Certain Disorders 8/9/02

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A new study has found that THC-like chemicals known as endocannabinoids, naturally produced by the brain, may play a role in combating anxiety and panic attacks and phobias, according to the British journal Nature. The study showed that rodents without the capacity to utilize these natural analogues of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, had trouble getting over bad memories.

The mice were subjected to electric shock while a tone was sounded. The tone was repeated without the shock over the next few days. The normal mice quickly learned that the shock would no longer accompany the tone. Those mice who could not properly use their endocannabinoids would still become paralyzed with fear when the tone sounded. These results led researchers to suggest that THC-like chemicals help to erase particular memories of terror.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorder in the United States and cost $46 billion a year in medical expenses. New drugs based on these findings could be useful in treating anxiety disorders such as phobias, panic attacks, social anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, perhaps replacing such drugs like Paxil and Valium. Researchers also suggested that these chemicals would be useful in fighting some types of chronic pain.

A United Press International (UPI) article quoted researcher Pankaj Sah as saying that "it's worth considering that people (who) constantly use cannabis may be doing it for other reasons than just to 'get high' -- perhaps they are experiencing some emotional problems which taking cannabis alleviates... This, I suppose, fits with the very long history of cannabis in human society."

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