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  Study: Marijuana Eases Traumatic Memories
Posted by CN Staff on August 01, 2002 at 08:11:55 PT
By Faye Flam, Knight Ridder Newspapers  
Source: Seattle Times 

medical Scientists have known for years that the brain makes substances almost identical to the active ingredient in marijuana, but the function of these "cannabinoids" remained mysterious. Researchers now say they help to extinguish traumatic memories.

"In certain situations, being able to forget is very important for emotional survival," said George Kunos, a neurobiologist at the National Institutes of Health.

The research, published today in the journal Nature, is not an endorsement for pot smoking, scientists said. Instead, the findings may help scientists develop new drugs to treat anxiety, post-traumatic-stress disorder and phobias.

"This paper is not saying you should go ahead and smoke marijuana," said Pankaj Sah, a neuroscientist at the Australian National University in Canberra who wrote an accompanying editorial in the journal. "It's saying that it's worth thinking about these specific actions of these compounds."

In the 1980s, scientists were surprised to find the brain has special receptors for the psychoactive elements in cannabis, Kunos said. An Israeli scientist named Rafael Mechoulam then found that the brain made its own versions of these cannabinoids.

To figure out why, authors of this latest study, from the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, Germany, decided to examine mice that had been engineered genetically so that they lacked cannabinoid receptors.

Neuroscientist Beat Lutz said he and his colleagues conditioned the mice to associate a mild shock with the sound of a bell. Normal mice eventually lost the association between the bell and the shock. "They figure out that the tone is not dangerous anymore and say, 'I don't have to freeze,' " Lutz said.

But the mice lacking the cannabinoid system never readjust, always freezing in terror at the sound.

Researchers also found that normal mice produce the natural cannabinoids when they are extinguishing their traumatic association with the bell.

It's not clear whether the cannabinoid system helps the mice to forget the traumatic association of the bell and the shock, or just gives them enough mental flexibility to adjust to a new situation, Lutz said. It's possible that the cannabinoids are important for the ability to relearn and readjust in a number of situations.

Kunos, from the National Institutes of Health, said that the cannabinoids probably play other roles. Using similar methods to Lutz, he found that they help regulate appetite.

Sah, of the Australian National University, said the latest findings may explain why some people with psychiatric problems try to find relief with marijuana. Although experts often have labeled marijuana use as a contributor to these people's mental illness, he suggested that people with certain psychiatric problems perhaps are self-medicating in an attempt to help their brains extinguish some painful or traumatic memory or thought.

Lester Grinspoon, a pro-marijuana psychiatrist at Harvard University and author of the 1971 book "Marijuana Reconsidered," said he would like to see cannabis made into pills that could be prescribed, but said the drug is not patentable and therefore would be unattractive for drug companies to manufacture and market.

Lutz suggested that, instead of supplying extra cannabinoids, a drug might enhance the effects of natural ones.

He also suggested such a drug might need to be taken in conjunction with psychotherapy, during which patients would work on getting rid of fearful associations.

"Just smoking marijuana all day won't help," he said.

Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Author: Faye Flam, Knight Ridder Newspapers
Published: Thursday, August 01, 2002
Copyright: 2002 The Seattle Times Company
Contact: opinion@seatimes.com
Website: http://www.seattletimes.com/

Related Articles & Web Site:

Nature
http://www.nature.com/

Pot Blocks Painful Memories, Study Says
http://cannabisnews.com/news/thread13600.shtml

'Natural' Cannabis Manages Memory
http://cannabisnews.com/news/thread13598.shtml

Pot-Like Chemical Helps Beat Fear
http://cannabisnews.com/news/thread13596.shtml

Natural High Extinguishes Bad Memories in Brain
http://cannabisnews.com/news/thread13593.shtml


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Comment #15 posted by Ethan Russo MD on August 03, 2002 at 04:33:55 PT:

A Pig's Ear from a Silk Purse
Kap, I share your enthusiasm for the latest news, but suspect that a different spin is evident in the abstract:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=12130702&dopt=Abstract

Instead of emphasizing that THC helps kill cancer cells, they seem to note that immunosuppression is possible in the living state.

We have addressed this before. Actual immunosuppression by THC requires doses 50-100 times that which produces psychoactivity.

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Comment #14 posted by kaptinemo on August 02, 2002 at 16:58:55 PT:

Some more news about medical efficacy...
JUst when the antis were shaking like a dog passing peach pits from their latest a-whupping on TV, here comes some more news to ruin their day...and considerably brighten ours:

Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists May Be Novel Class of Anti-Lymphoma Agents http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/439267

The article is behind their login, so to read it, you'll have to register. But the crux of the article is that:

A Dr. Mitzi Nagarkatti of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond has discoverd that Delta-9-tetrahydrocannibinol and other cannabinoids induce apoptosis in murine tumors of immune origin.

Compounds that bind CB2 receptors selectively induce apoptosis in these cancer cells, she said. Moreover, "compounds that interact with CB2 will not exhibit psychotropic effects."

Friends, this is another bombshell. First, the revelations that the the Spaniard to found that THC shrank brain tumors learns the US government beat him to the punch...over twenty five years ago...and buried the information.

Now we learn (surprise, surprise!) that cannabis is good for PTSD.

And now this.

If another anti says that marijuana is not medicine, slap 'em in the face with this. Then ask if his family history includes cancer...then ask him if he's had a physical lately; the odds of getting cancer in your lifetime is slowly edging up to 50%.

On second thought, why bother? The less of them around, the better. If ignorance is bliss, they must be the happiest people on Earth; why ruin that?

Is it just me, or does it seem that we are in the beginning of a 'dam-burst' of information about the beneficial effects of medicinal cannabis? And at just the right time it's needed?



[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #13 posted by FoM on August 01, 2002 at 21:59:41 PT
Dr. Russo
You said: Imagine a life in which your brain was flooded with memories, good, bad, pleasant, or grotesque, over which you have no control whatsoever. Your life was a pit of inescapable anxiety, terror and pain. How would you function? How could you remember to pick up the kids at school, or manage that project your boss wanted by 9 AM? That would be what happened if your endocannabinoid system did not function properly.

I've had nightmares in years past that were horrible. I can relate.

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Comment #12 posted by Phasetheory on August 01, 2002 at 21:54:12 PT
This might do it...
This might be the discovery that makes at least medical use of marijuana legal in the US. Because now marijuana doesn't only have benefits for people with physical ailments, but also for people with mental ones as well. Now Psychiatrists will be joining the fight.

Peace

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Comment #11 posted by E_Johnson on August 01, 2002 at 15:38:01 PT
Dr. Ethan keep it up
There is more. In the past few years, I have attempted to introduce the concept of "clinical endocannabinoid deficiency," that is, that certain diseases are accounted for by a condition in which levels of these innate compounds are too low, producing pain (migraine, phantom limb), gut spasms (idiopathic bowel syndrome), or PTSD, as just a few possible examples. Science will demonstrate the veracity or folly of this construct, but I predict the former formulation will prevail.

How about a related idea, that chronic PTSD involves damage to the CB1 system?

There's also something called interstitial cystitis, a bladder condition that involves chronic inflammation and muscle spasm and intense referred pain.

Eating pot works pretty well for that.

So maybe that is caused by cannabinoid deficiency as well.

This sounds like the revolution in cannabinoid science is past the point where it can be impeded by narco warriors like Leshner.

This is a sad day for American science, however, because this was a discovery that should have rightly been made in America. America is where PTSD was named and first studied, American military doctors first observed the link between cannabinoids and PTSD recovery.

But this was not discovered in America, because of the cowardice and complacency of the American science and medical establishment and the complicity of a whole generation of PTSD treatment specialists working for the federal government.



[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #10 posted by E_Johnson on August 01, 2002 at 15:27:26 PT
THC makes morphine less necessary
It was a good idea to combine marijuana with morphine. History will vindicate that medic's choice as good medicine.

I took some Marinol with me to the hospital when I had surgery and I hardly had to hit the morphine drip at all, the nurse was amazed at how little I used. My bowels moved sooner and they let me out a day earlier than they thought.

Morphine lengthens recovery time from surgery because it stops up your bowels. Having a normal bowel movement is what they look for after abdominal surgery to tell whether your surgery is healing properly inside.

Hospital bean counters would be happy if Marinol were combined with morphine for post surgery pain relief because people would be ready to leave the hospital sooner.



[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #9 posted by John Tyler on August 01, 2002 at 14:24:12 PT
Another thought
Decades ago a friend of mine was in Viet Nam and was wounded. He said it was so weird because the medic who treated him stuck a morphine IV in his arm and lighted joint in his mouth before he was evacuated.

[ Post Comment ]
 
Comment #8 posted by E_Johnson on August 01, 2002 at 13:48:29 PT
Police get PTSD too, that's the tragic irony
That's one of the rich ironies of this story. Law enforcement people have big problems with PTSD, they are at very high risk of developing chronic PTSD because of the nature of the profession of guarding public safety.

So the narco terrorists who like to rip up pot plantations are ripping up their own medicine, not just ours.



[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #7 posted by E_Johnson on August 01, 2002 at 13:45:03 PT
The Trojan War really happened
Homer's account was probably historical oral tradition. kaptinemo you are on to something.



[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #6 posted by E_Johnson on August 01, 2002 at 13:39:49 PT
VA shrinks have known this for years!!!!!
Yes Vietnam figures in here in a VERY large way.

Think of the number of Vietnam veterans who were subjected to organized legal narco terror because they were trying to legitimately medicate injuries sustained fighting for this country.

But their shrinks at the VA knew that marijuana was their medication. In fact, doctors DURING the Vietnam War knew that soldiers who smoked marijuana regularly suffered far less from "combat fatigue" which was what PTSD was called during Vietnam. YOu can find that research if you search Medline back to the seventies.

The name PTSD did not arise until the problems of Vietnam veterans were studied and given a name.

Read Trauma and Recovery by Judith Hermann, and think about marijuana prohibition in the context of her groundbreaking work on the social political and medical contexts of traumatization and healing.

Yes this has a lot to do with Vietnam.

A lot more than is being appreciated right now.



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Comment #5 posted by John Tyler on August 01, 2002 at 10:23:35 PT
Just a thought...
Maybe this was why weed was so popular with the troops in during the Viet Nam war. I never went but I understand that there were a lot of painful memories to deal with.

[ Post Comment ]
 
Comment #4 posted by kaptinemo on August 01, 2002 at 10:04:40 PT:

History repeating itself...maybe
Doc, believe it or not, a little classical mythology might be in order:

When Telemachos went looking for his lost father Odysseus, he wound up at the home of Helen of Troy. Helen, seeing how distraught he was at his fruitless search and severely depressed demeanor, gave him what the Greeks referred to as lethe. It supposedly banished sadness and melancholy. Telemachos was able to leave Helen's house in good spirits and resume the search for his wayward father.

Yes, the Odyssey was a myth, a highly embellished 'fireside tale'. But given that most myths had a kernel of truth embedded in them. I think it is fair to say that the classical interpretation has always been that lethe was a tinture of opium suspended in wine...a form of laudanum.

But now, given these latest findings, might not the Greeks of antiquity been referring to cannabis? After all, nearly all of the modern pharmacopeia came from herbal medicine. The Greeks had plenty of experience with psychotropics; the Eleusinian Mysteries immediately come to mind.

Perhaps this, like so many other of the revelations concerning cannabis's medical efficacy, is akin to so many folk remedies long dismissed as nonsense - until Science sticks it's lab-coated self into the picture and conducts some tests, and voila! a 'new' drug is 'discovered'.

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #3 posted by Ethan Russo MD on August 01, 2002 at 08:43:23 PT:

Repeating
Imagine a life in which your brain was flooded with memories, good, bad, pleasant, or grotesque, over which you have no control whatsoever. Your life was a pit of inescapable anxiety, terror and pain. How would you function? How could you remember to pick up the kids at school, or manage that project your boss wanted by 9 AM? That would be what happened if your endocannabinoid system did not function properly.

The research of Lutz et al. demonstrates the integral role that the endocannabinoid system plays in our normal everyday neurophysiology. "Endocannabinoids," or endogenous cannabinoids are the natural substances (anandamide, 2-arachidonylglycerol, noladine ether) that act on the same receptors as THC. They are proving to have essential roles in modulation of pain, memory, movement, and immunomodulation. Without them, we'd be in a proverbial world of hurt.

Somewhere in the course of evolution, a marvelous plant emerged in Central Asia that contained phytocannabinoids, plant chemicals that mimicked the effects of these endogenous compounds. (Wo)Man tried it, and (s)he liked it. It relieved pain, eased grief, and spurred imagination and creativity. The plant was selectively cultivated and co-evolved with humans, and spread around the globe.

Some oligarchic few in power over other humans (read: moralistic micro-managers and politicians) have tried to persecute the plant and prevent its use, but in each historical instance they have failed utterly. Denying this plant called cannabis as having a therapeutic role in human medicine is the same as denying our own physiology.

I predict that cannabis and cannabinoids will have a key future role in the treatment of anxiety and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). They might be combined with other techniques, such as EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) to produce synergistic benefits on a condition that has been recalcitrant to standard medical approaches.

There is more. In the past few years, I have attempted to introduce the concept of "clinical endocannabinoid deficiency," that is, that certain diseases are accounted for by a condition in which levels of these innate compounds are too low, producing pain (migraine, phantom limb), gut spasms (idiopathic bowel syndrome), or PTSD, as just a few possible examples. Science will demonstrate the veracity or folly of this construct, but I predict the former formulation will prevail.

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #2 posted by Dan B on August 01, 2002 at 08:32:35 PT
An Excellent Beginning
Of course, many of us have known the therapeutic effects of cannabis for a long time, but it is nice to see a study that confirms what we have known. I would say that this study is a huge step toward proving Dennis Peron's assertion that cannabis helps to reduce stress, thus is a valid medicine for those who suffer from stress and stress-related illnesses.

The reporting is not the best, perhaps (what evidence is out there that suggests we should warn against the use of cannabis for healthy adults?), but at least this study has made it to print in a major newspaper (look for similar articles in the San Jose Mercury News and other Knight-Ridder publications soon, I would surmise).

Dan B

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #1 posted by trainwreck on August 01, 2002 at 08:31:22 PT
My best friend's therapist
recommended he smoke marijuana for his depression, as the other drug cocktails he had taken for years didn't seem to relieve the anguish. Any way he could not use MJ because he was a paramedic and had to take pee tests, and it wasn't legal in his state. He chose to leave us, and this article just makes me wonder "What if?"

************************ "Sah, of the Australian National University, said the latest findings may explain why some people with psychiatric problems try to find relief with marijuana. Although experts often have labeled marijuana use as a contributor to these people's mental illness, he suggested that people with certain psychiatric problems perhaps are self-medicating in an attempt to help their brains extinguish some painful or traumatic memory or thought."



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