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Medical marijuana has become one the most controversial debates. You’re either for it or against it, with very few people falling somewhere in the middle. But why exactly has this drug caught researchers, as well as health professionals’ interest? It all starts with the many therapeutic effects that is has the body, especially in the brain. Medical marijuana has shown to be effective in treating disorders such as anxiety and epilepsy. It also promotes apoptosis (cell death) in tumor cells, making it a promising treatment for cancers.
How does it work?
Our bodies have a system known as the endocannabinoid system, which upon activation, is associated with many of the therapeutic effects seen with marijuana usage. In the brain, this system occurs between two neurons that are connected. One neuron will send out signals to the other to produce and release molecules, known as endocannabinoids. When these molecules are released, they can go and bind to a receptor that is located on the first neuron. This will ultimately lead to the first neuron being shut down. Many of the disorders that marijuana is being used to treat, have overactive neurons and so they need to be shut off, essentially. Marijuana contains its own cannabinoids, such as THC, that can bind to the same receptor that the endocannabinoids bind to. Thus, it can shut off those over active neurons, just like the endocannabinoids that our bodies naturally produce.
What’s The Problem?
Even though medical marijuana can produce therapeutic effects, there are still some kinks that need to be worked out. The main one is THC, which is the most common cannabinoid in the drug. This molecule is not only responsible for the therapeutic effects, but also the high marijuana gives. However, there are other cannabinoids in the marijuana plant that can produce the same effects as THC, but without the high. These may be the most promising and may be what allows for medical marijuana to move forward.