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Marijuana Research Paves Way For New Anti-Anxiety Drug

By on August 6, 2013
Scientists have developed a new treatment for anxiety that acts on the same parts of the brain as marijuana.

Scientists have developed a new drug that fights anxiety via the same pathways in the brain as marijuana. They hope to begin clinical trials within the next few years. – Marijuana and anxiety have a complicated relationship. While anxiety can sometimes be a side effect of using the substance – especially in new users – others find marijuana helpful for relieving anxiety.

But researchers at Vanderbilt University seem to not only think marijuana can help with anxiety, they’ve even developed a drug that acts on the same pathways of the brain. Clinical trials of the new treatment could begin in the next few years, co-author Lawrence Marnett, Ph.D, said in a press release on Monday.

The drug is a type of COX-2 inhibitor that increases levels of naturally occurring cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) in the brain. Like THC, endocannabinoids bind to cannabinoid receptors to regulate many of the brain’s functions, including feelings of anxiety.

Dr Marnett (left) and Dr. Patel (right)

Dr Marnett (left) and Dr. Patel (right)

Their findings, published online in the journal Nature Neuroscience, confirm the drug’s ability to increase endocannabinoid levels and reduce symptoms of anxiety in mice. The authors concluded that “these studies provide a proof-of-concept validation” for the new treatment.

But anxiety may not be its only application. Marijuana is known to have a wide range of effects in the body, which the researchers say could also apply to their drug. Sachin Patel, MD, Ph.D, who co-wrote the study, believes more is still to come.

“The door is really wide open. We’ve just scratched the surface.”

Although COX-2 inhibitors are known to cause gastrointestinal side effects, the new drug didn’t seem to have this problem. The team plans to investigate its potential in relieving pain, treating movement disorders and possibly preventing colon cancer in the future.

The study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

  • Nanci Loveless Burns

    Legalize marijuana instead of creating chemicals that mimic its effects.