How Chronic Stress Impairs the Endocannabioid System

In general, research into the body’s endocannabinoid system proceeds via administering a substance like a cannabinoid or another drug, and recording the impact of that administration on a specific behavior or physiological process. However, few experiments consider the reverse question: how do our behaviors and environments affect the endocannabinoid system? This system, like most other neurological systems, is not made up of a rigidly fixed number of receptors or ligands. Instead, it constantly changes and adapts to best serve the body, ramping up and down receptor density and receptor affinity as the body deems appropriate. Stress is now understood to be one of the factors that can impact the endocannabinoid system. In general, exposure to stressful events can easily cause a diverse and lasting set of consequences in both humans and animals. In what is most likely the body’s attempt to overcome and live with chronic stress or the possibility of another stressful event, synapses, which are the paths of communication between individual neurons, re-wire themselves. One extreme example is the maladaptive change that can occur in soldiers put in life or death situations. Soldiers may, for instance, learn to associate sounds heard during such a stressful event with the occurrence of the event itself. Later, in non-hostile environments, these same sounds can then trigger the body and brain to re-live the event, with intense physiological changes, such as the release of adrenaline and increased aggression. This is a classic example of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). However, stress can…

Facts and Myths of Schizophrenia and Cannabis

Critics of medical cannabis use often bring up the association between cannabis use and mental illness. In this context, the implication is almost always that cannabis use is unsafe and can exacerbate or initiate psychotic symptoms in both healthy and afflicted individuals. Yikes. While some of these claims are accurate, they are also incredibly misleading to the discussion about medical cannabis’ relationship with psychotic disorders. For example, it would be entirely factual to say that automobiles are involved in thousands of deaths each year. It would also be entirely factual to say that without automobile usage, vehicular death would not occur! This is clearly a very silly way to look at the situation: Automobiles transport food and medicines, and some automobiles like ambulances, literally save lives by allowing people to be rushed to proper medical facilities. The safety of a vehicle inevitably depends on who is driving it and what rules and road systems they are subject to. In this case it would be difficult to successfully argue that refusing to ride in an automobile is a healthy decision in modern society. Stating the facts without stating the whole context can be completely misleading. Likewise, the relationship between cannabis and schizophrenia cannot be stated in one sentence. Both chemical and natural psychedelic substances, like cannabis, are well documented to trigger cases of mental illness. By transporting users to different mental states, these drugs can set off acute and long-term psychotic episodes, so any responsible medical doctor should advise patients with…

Alzheimer’s Revisited: How Cannabis is Changing the State of Alzheimer’s Medication

Late Onset Alzheimer’s Disease (LOAD) is what most people think of when they think of Alzheimer’s. Accounting for roughly 70% of dementia cases, it’s characterized by a progressive decline in cognitive ability in individuals over the age of 65. This decline affects memory, language, motor skills, and general ability to live and take care of oneself. However, while these symptoms are troubling enough, LOAD also frequently includes behavior and personality changes. Coordinating healthcare is already difficult enough for a relative with a myriad of age-related health issues, but when that relative is unable to remember basic instructions or able to have a coherent conversation, the situation is exponentially more difficult. Taken together, all of these changes put significant stress on the individuals suffering from the disease as well as the family members and healthcare workers taking care of those individuals. Unfortunately, not much is understood about the cause of Alzheimer’s. Instead, we have a fragmented understanding of processes that seem to be related. For instance, research currently indicates that neuroinflammation and oxidative stress play a vital role in the development of the disease. Specifically, the build up of cell waste related to aging can turn toxic, forcing the brain to initiate a sequence of processes, known as a “cascade”, in an attempt to surround and isolate the toxicity. Unfortunately, this process alone can release even more cytokines, chemokines, and proteins, which eventually leads to more inflammation, resulting in neuron death. As with many diseases, treating LOAD means preventing the body…