Just days after Colorado became the first US state to allow recreational marijuana use, French researchers have reportedly discovered a way to reduce the negative effects of the marijuana “buzz.”
On Thursday, French scientists said their work had found that a naturally occurring hormone acts as spontaneous defense in the brain against the “high” caused by marijuana.
Studying lab rats, the researchers found that the steroid hormone pregnenolone reduced the activity of a particular brain molecule called the type-1 cannabinoid receptor (CB1).
The hormone, which was not previously believed to have any biological effect of its own, actually cancels out the mild euphoria induced by THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, according to lead author Pier Vincenzo Piazza of the French Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM).
“These researchers weren’t trying to be buzzkills,” said the journal Science, in which the study appears. “Their discovery could lead to new approaches to treating marijuana intoxication and addiction — and it may allow researchers to isolate the medicinal properties of cannabis while blocking its behavioral and somatic effects.”
Clinical trials in humans upcoming
About 147 million people globally (roughly 2.5 percent of the population) use cannabis, according to the World Health Organization.
While marijuana is known to relieve symptoms of depression, glaucoma, spasms and the nausea associated with cancer and AIDS treatment, they can also impair brain development, memory and lung function, and some specialists can lead to addiction.
Researchers discovered the previously unknown role of pregnenolone when they gave high doses of cannabis to lab rats – roughly three to 10 times more than the typical human marijuana smoker might be exposed to, Piazza told Agence France-Presse.
The high doses of cannabis raised the brain’s level of pregnenolone, which, in turn, blocked the harmful effects of THC on the brain.
Piazza told AFP that the researchers were aiming to launch clinical trials in people within a year and a half.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., legal recreational use of marijuana may hit more states in the coming months. The state of Washington is set to follow in Colorado’s footsteps later this year, with similar efforts being planned in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada and Oregon.
Under federal law, however, cannabis — like heroin, LSD and ecstasy — is considered illegal.
[Image: Man smoking marijuana with gun in DARE T-shirt via Shutterstock]