CBD, Fear And Memory

In previous entries, we’ve covered how cannabis might affect memory and memory consolidation. The basic idea has been that cannabis might prevent the formation of traumatic memory. However, until now, we haven’t seen any research dealing specifically with fear. The connection between memory and fear may not be immediately obvious to readers; however, as it turns out, they’re very much related. A state of fear engages previous memories of threat as well as requires recall of escape/defense strategy. Given cannabidiol’s (CBD’s) success in early studies as an anti-psychotic, researchers might hypothesize a beneficial effect of CBD administration on fear response. However, only recently have Brazilian researchers carried out such an experiment, using rodents and varying doses of CBD. In most animal models of fear, researchers apply a threatening environmental stimulus. Of course, none of these might be more threatening than the mice’ natural predator, a boa constrictor snake! Researchers therefore forced confrontations between mice and snakes using an “arena” or plastic container, where they could record movement information. In one corner of the container, researchers placed a protective burrow. This burrow has two sides and a small opening on either, allowing mice to run in one side to escape the snake, and run out the other side once the snake begins to enter the burrow. Because this is an effective escape, a pro-survival strategy of mice would be to run away from the snake, toward the burrow. This is called “oriented escape”. However, in some cases, the mice become too…

Debunking Previous CBD -> THC Conversion Research

Earlier in the year, we published an article about CBD converting to small amounts of THC in the stomach, based on a 2016 study lead by John Merrick, “Identification of Psychoactive Degradants of Cannabidiol in Simulated Gastric and Physiological Fluid”. This study found that cannabidiol, when immersed in a bath of acid similar to stomach acid, produces a significant amount of THC in the same acid bath. Researchers hypothesized that this was because THC and CBD, despite having wildly different effects, actually start as the same pre-cursor chemical (cannabigerolic acid). Different enzymes then convert this chemical to destination chemicals THC or CBD, depending on plant genetics and environmental factors. However, strangely enough, in the year following the study, we have not seen the results confirmed. Were this a less significant finding, we might expect such delay. However, the finding is especially relevant to cannabis/cannabinoid research because it undermines CBD as a therapeutic drug. If part of the drug is converting to THC in stomach acid, this effect might preclude its use in situations where THC must be avoided. However, despite the lack of confirmation, outstanding questions loom, such as, if edible CBD converts to THC, why are CBD users not noticing psychedelic effects? How did such a large, obvious conclusion fly below the radar? Apparently because it’s false. As far as we can determine at this point in time, there is no reason to believe CBD converts to THC in the human stomach. Spearheading the commentary refuting this article, Franjo…

Cannabis and the Elderly

When you picture the average cannabis user, what do you imagine? Chances are you’re not imagining a senior citizen. Due to cannabis’ reputation as a counter-culture recreational drug, many people assume the average cannabis user to be young and liberal. While this seems like a reasonable assumption, the truth is that a large portion of medicinal cannabis patients are elderly. In fact, a recent Israeli study found that “of 279 cancer patients receiving medical cannabis, 50% were aged 60 or older”! In other words, perhaps the largest group of medicinal cannabis users is the senior citizen population. Why? Surely this percentage reflects the basic fact that older individuals are more likely to develop cancer and other diseases that may be treated by cannabinoids. Additionally, elderly populations are more likely to seek cannabis legally, while younger medical cannabis users are more likely to have other avenues of procurement. Moreover, perhaps the specific suite of ailments faced by the elderly fits the target profile of cannabis treatment. Regardless of the reason, however, the population of elderly medicinal users is far from negligible; at Cornerstone it makes up one of our major patient groups! In response to this high concentration of elderly medicinal cannabis use, one research group, led by Itay Katz from the Sheba Medical Center in Israel, has conducted a review of cannabis research relating to elderly populations. This review, published February 2017 in the Israel Medical Association Journal, highlights several common areas of use, as well as Western medicine’s current…

Anti-Viral Activity in CBD?

Chances are every person reading this has some connection to hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver, which can lead to liver failure and death. Unfortunately, there are many potential causes of hepatitis. Excessive alcohol consumption can cause inflammation, as well as autoimmune disease, in which the body mistakenly attacks its own liver cells. Currently five major viruses (which happen to be unrelated) have been identified to cause liver failure, referred to as Hepatitis A through Hepatitis E. Due to the contagious and dangerous nature of these diseases, US schools often require Hepatitis A and B vaccinations. Hepatitis A can spread easily through contaminated food and Hepatitis B (HBV) through blood and other bodily fluids. These vaccinations are simple, cheap, and life saving. Unfortunately, Hepatitis C (HCV) lacks a vaccine. Despite a common prevalence and upwards of 200,000 known cases in the US a year, the disease is difficult to ward off. We use the word “known” specifically because thousands of other people may also be infected but show no symptoms while spreading the disease. There is, fortunately, finally a cure to Hepatitis C. A once-a-day pill taken for several months can eradicate Hepatitis C from a sick patient’s body. Sadly, the cost for that treatment ranges from $55,000 to $150,000! As a result, government health care providers can’t shoulder the burden and only tend to allow coverage for end-stage liver failure. In other words, after all the damage is done, and the patient is dying, they are finally eligible for…

Genetics Modify Response to Cannabis: A Look at the COMT Gene

Last week we talked about the need for genetic testing of both the cannabis plant itself and of patients. Speaking in broad terms, we noted that slight alterations in human DNA can lead to noticeable differences in reactions to cannabis. This is something medical cannabis patients can attest to when comparing strains with other medical users. A strain that makes one person feel tired may have little impact on the energy level of another. Today we can introduce one specific mechanism that seems to influence genetic variation in response to cannabis. Interestingly enough, researchers at Warneford Hospital in the UK actually approached this discovery while searching for causes of psychosis (when thought and emotions are so impaired, patients suffer a disconnect from reality). One of the most debated questions in the scientific community is whether cannabis contributes to the development of psychosis. Believers cite that while many people consume cannabis with no lingering health issue, some develop psychotic symptoms immediately after first exposure. Critics do not necessarily disagree with this observation but believe that many different substances and environmental factors can trigger psychotic illness. Regardless, the data would suggest that if only some patients develop symptoms, the cause might be genetic. What gene is causing this? Researchers have identified catechol-o-methyltransferase (COMT) as a gene that regulates dopamine in the cortex of the brain. Studies show that cognitive function is improved in animals “with reduced COMT activity”. This pattern implies that the gene is some sort of limiter, perhaps designed to…

Cannabigerol, Making Food Appetizing for Cancer Patients

For all of the states that initially passed medical cannabis legislation, cancer was not only an approved condition but also a major data point supporting such legislation. Specifically, cancer patients, forced to undergo exhausting chemotherapy treatments, lose appetite. This drastic, prolonged loss of appetite, similar to anorexia, decreases body weight and in turn, decreases overall health. Cannabis has long been observed to increase appetite in humans (we’ve written several Cornerstone blog posts on the “munchies”), with the most active ingredient identified as THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis. Unfortunately, not all patients enjoy or can tolerate this psychoactivity. Originally, this posed a serious downside to treatment with cannabis. However, with the discovery of the endocannabinoid system, researchers realized that the effects of THC might be achieved, without psychoactivity, via other cannabinoids. Additionally, research has confirmed that cannabis containing no THC can still restore appetite. In line with this thinking, one paper, published last month in the medical research journal, Psychopharmacology, tested a molecule known as cannabigerol (CBG) on rodents to observe changes in feeding patterns. Readers may be surprised to learn that cannabigerol, unlike many other cannabinoids, found mostly in the resin of medicinal plants, exists in higher concentrations in plain hemp. Most medicinal strains, in fact, have concentrations lower than 1%. CBG also binds to the CB1 receptor at a much lower rate than THC and may even serve to temporarily disable the receptor. However, CBG has also been shown to be a 5-HT1A receptor agonist and an alpha2-adrenergic…

Soothing the Stomach: Controlling Intestinal Inflammation with Cannabis

As readers know, we’ve written about IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) multiple times, specifically in response to its high prevalence. IBS occurs more than 200,000 times in the US each year. Partially spurred by processed foods, IBS is naturally more common in developed nations and as readers can guess, continues to grow in incidence. By the numbers, many of our readers will identify with the intestinal pain, gas, diarrhea, and constipation brought on by IBS. Unfortunately, the cause of IBS is not well understood, and likewise, no single cure exists; treatment can sometimes ease symptoms. As we’ve reported previously, cannabidiol (CBD), one of the most discussed molecules produced by the cannabis plant, has shown promise at healing inflammation and restoring normal intestinal motility, which is the ability of the intestine to move along/process food. Most studies have utilized rodents with CBD administered via body cavity injections. Currently researchers are seeking to establish whether these results can be duplicated in human subjects, as supported by anecdotal evidence. However, duplication poses an obvious practical issue in humans due to method of administration. Injecting CBD into the stomach each day? Yikes. Toward the goal of transitioning studies to humans, the next logical step is to test oral CBD on mice. Should this method prove to be as effective as injection, researchers will possess a stronger indication of oral CBD as a plausible treatment of IBS in humans. One research group, from Naples, Italy, set out to conduct such research. However, rather than only test…

Cannabis Use and Executive Function

In pop culture, perhaps because cannabis is often placed in the same group as other recreational substances, stoners get a bad rap for being slow, under-performers. In the now-famous film Fast Times at Ridgemont High, one of the main characters, Jeff Spicoli, typifies the surfer/stoner as perceived by a large swath of society; he’s essentially an airhead. This type of media portrayal has given the population at large the idea that cannabis is not beneficial for long term mental health. To this degree, almost every medical cannabis user may experience the concern of a well-meaning friend who asks, “That can’t be good for you over time, right?” This is a good question for someone first exposed to any new medicine. Patients should be aware that even the most documented pharmaceutical medicines can be dangerous and misprescribed. As a result, everyone should be vigilant about the effect of taking a new medicine. However, as we’ve covered in previous articles, we’re seeing no long-term irreversible effects statistically. The idea that cannabis is somehow destroying the machinery of the brain long-term is patently false. A more plausible argument might be that cannabis re-directs mental traffic. Sadly, anti-cannabis proponents have latched onto studies that give incomplete results. For instance, it may be true in one test that cannabis users on average perform more slowly. Researchers may then go on to find that when the same test population is weeded of heroin users, the negative effects disappear and all groups perform equally. In other words,…

Update on MS Treatment: The P13K Pathway

We’re living in exciting times; human knowledge of cannabis, cannabinoids, and the endocannabinoid system is surging. If the sheer number of medical journal papers related to cannabis/cannabinoids is any indication, more researchers than ever are choosing to invest their lives and energy in exploring the subject. This, in turn, has allowed individual threads of research to unfold much more rapidly. As would be expected, the findings of one seemingly unrelated study often inform and develop the findings and questions of another. One such thread is that of MS (multiple sclerosis) treatment. We’ve written previously about the concept of using cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system to treat MS (multiple sclerosis). For readers seeking a full recap, check out the links below: https://cornerstonecollective.com/real-life-cannabinoid-treatment-multiple-sclerosis/ https://cornerstonecollective.com/how-cannabinoids-can-beneficially-interact-with-neurodegenerative-disorder-treatment/ For readers that would rather a digested version, the basic idea is that the endocannabinoid system can control and alleviate inflammation by reducing the number of inflammatory molecules produced by the body. MS, in particular, is a disease in which the body’s immune system becomes confused and starts destroying healthy cells in the brain. If the brain can be pictured as a giant mass of neurons wired together in a network, MS destroys the outer lining of those wires, causing electrical signals to be released improperly or not at all. This process, at the time being, is not reversible or curable but is capable of being slowed. Patients with MS can live long lives, albeit with increasing disability and discomfort. Previous studies have shown that cannabinoids, in particular…

How Adolescent Social Experiences Affect The Endcocannabinoid System

Lately movies like The Wolf of Wall Street and TV shows like Narcos have managed a difficult task: making villains likable. In some cases, despite all morality, we find ourselves rooting against the clear “good guys” and hoping the “bad guys” will continue to cleverly outfox all authority. How can the writers create such a shift in audience support? Back-story. By taking us along the personal development of the character, we understand what the character dreams for himself/herself and what the character is running from. We see fear and hope in the same troubled character, and this gives us a foothold into understanding his/her decision-making. In absolute contrast, in most Disney movies, villains seem to spontaneously show up bad. We have no mixed feelings, because we have nothing to feel that is good. Likewise until recent advances in neuroscience and psychology, we’ve had little explanation for a variety of illnesses and shifts in behavior. Most scientists of the early 1900’s would not have believed that a poor social interaction during adolescence could physically affect brain development. In fact, to suggest that anything non-physical could have a physical consequence years later would have seemed far-fetched. However, as we now know, the brain is very plastic and responds to environmental challenges. In childhood and adolescence, the brain is creating a structure in response to the environment in an attempt to best prepare itself for future needs. However, as we’ve seen in other illnesses, the brain does not always develop ideally. Harmful socialization…