Scientists Separate Medical Benefits of Cannabis from Negative Side Effects

There’s some good news on the weed front.

Scientists have found a way to separate medical benefits of cannabis from its unwanted side effects.

As great as marijuana is to treat certain medical conditions – like cancer and chronic pain – potential candidates have been turned off by the negative side effects that can come with cannabis use. You know, things like mood alterations, perception, anxiety, and memory.

The thing is, of course, that THC – the major active component of marijuana – has broad medical use when it comes to things like pain relief, nausea, and anxiety.

Scientists at the University of East Anglia in collaboration with the University Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona carried out behavioural studies in mice, investigating how pathways in their brains operate under THC. They found that the absence of a particular serotonin receptor (5HT2AR) reduced some of the effects of THC – including its amnesic effect – based on a standard memory test. But treatment to reduce 5HT2AR did not change other effects of THC, including pain relief.

The findings, published yesterday in the journal PLOS Biology, reveal how the cognitive effects of THC are triggered by a pathway that’s separate from some of its other effects. When it is blocked, THC can still deliver a number of beneficial effects, while avoiding impairment of memory.

This news comes in the wake of last year’s discovery by the same team that the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, THC, reduces tumor growth in cancer patients. The breakthrough is hoped to inspire cannabis-based therapies sans the negative side effects.

Though the research was restricted to trials with mice, it’s hoped that the breakthrough will mean good things when it comes to the use of medical marijuana.