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Despite its legal status, the use of marijuana is not uncommon. In fact, it is the most commonly used illegal drug in our society. In addition to its recreational use, marijuana has been used medically for hundreds of years. Although the use of marijuana might not be new, finding out how it works has just begun. This week in neurochem we discussed the article “Endogenous cannabinoids revisited: A biochemistry perspective.” As we discussed the intricacies of marijuana, THC, endocannabinoids and their receptors, it became apparent that THC and its natural analogues may be more beneficial than they are harmful.

The first step to understanding the benefits that cannabinoids can have comes through understanding how they work. The cannabinoid receptors were first discovered when researchers started looking into how THC and marijuana work in the body. They discovered certain receptors on cell membranes that specifically bind THC. As research continued, scientists discovered molecules that are naturally produced in your body that also bind these receptors. The most common of these molecules are known as 2-AG and AEA. The receptors are known as the CB-1 and CB-2 receptors. As research continues, more endogenous cannabinoids have been suggested as well as at least one more receptor type.

So what are the benefits that can be caused by cannabinoids? Medical marijuana has been used for Cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, anorexia, anxiety, depression, and numerous other illnesses and conditions. In addition, it has been shown to have anti-proliferative and analgesic effects. In addition to the use of medical marijuana, researchers have been studying analogues of THC, the primary active compound found in marijuana. One of the most promising compounds is known as cannabidiol. Cannabidiol is second only to THC in the marijuana plant in terms of presence. It has been shown to have less psychoactive effects and may have more medical benefits than THC. Currently, a large amount of research is focused on cannabidiol in order to better understand how it works and the benefits it may have.

With the noted benefits of cannabinoids, the question then arises of how we should approach this knowledge. Although the use of marijuana is largely prohibited, its use may be beneficial in the treatment of a variety of neurodegenerative diseases. In addition, cannabinoids seem to alleviate a wide variety of problems without the side-effects of many pharmaceuticals. Cannabinoids might just be the answer to improvement of treatment for a variety of diseases; the knowledge we do have points to the positive effects that cannabinoids can have. So should we just take this knowledge and run with it? Although I can see and understand the benefits that cannabinoids can have, I think it is important that more research is done prior to widespread use. In addition, if marijuana or other cannabinoids are used for treatment, it is important that they are properly monitored by a physician as with any other medication. With proper research and monitoring, cannabinoids seem to be a promising treatment for a variety of disorders and diseases.

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