Of the most notable mental disorders, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and eating disorders have been examined with relation to endocannabinoid therapies. The main theme behind endocannabinoids is that there is a direct link between decrease in them and an increase in observed anxieties and depression in tested mice. There was even a proposed method for treating eating disorders with this same assessment. As well, an increase from substances such as medical marijuana that contain and boost endocannabinoid levels in the body would counteract these disorders; the main problem with this method of treatment lays in the correlation, not causation, between marijuana usage and schizophrenia. The pharmaceuticals available to those who seek treatment will be dependent on further mice studies as well as the possible legalization of medical marijuana.
The two types of endocannabinoid receptors, those that bind to the incoming endocannabinoids in the cell membranes of the brain’s neuronal cells, are CB1 and CB2 alpha G proteins. What occurred most frequently in testing mice with the blockage of CB1 receptors was that they were necessary for the management of anxiety symptoms. The parts of the brain that handle stress symptoms were the areas of the brain where endocannabinoids were produced and CB1 receptors were expressed the most there. Additionally, deleting the CB1 receptor gene from mice enhanced depression-like symptoms and the ability to accept rewards. This also targets the feelings of pleasure/reward similar to those that humans experience when achieving a goal or eating a pleasurable food. CB2 receptors, when increased in expression, led mice to show less stress in response to stressful situations or stimuli. Cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive component of medical marijuana, has been shown to stimulate and increase amounts of CB1 receptor binding and counteract depression and anxiety. A future hope in research is that this same cannabidiol will allow for an increase in the pleasurable response from eating such that those with anorexia or bulimia will have proper treatment for once aspect of their disorder.
The overhanging problem with these treatment methods is that the current options are to either create THC or cannabidiol synthetically to produce pharmaceutically, or to use the naturally occurring forms in marijuana plants. The latter, of course, is illegal for medical therapeutic use in the majority of the United States. The draw towards a synthetic cannabidiol is the increase in the ratio of it in comparison to THC, which, in low ratio amounts, has a growing correlation with schizophrenia symptoms in marijuana users. The more THC there is in comparison to cannabidiol in marijuana or other compounds, the higher the likelihood of patients exhibiting schizophrenia-like symptoms. This is partially due to the prolonged activation of these endocannabinoid receptors in marijuana users, demonstrating an increase in likelihood of schizophrenia development in those patients who are already at risk. While this rate of risk is extremely low, it is still a prevalent concern in further developments of therapeutic drugs and legalization of medical marijuana. It seems impractical to produce a drug or legalize one that can result in a side effect as drastic as schizophrenia, but at the expense of treating depression, anxiety, and eating disorders, further research must be carried out to determine the best therapeutic method.
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