Anandamide

Up to this point, we haven’t spoken much of the body’s own endocannabinoids. As a quick refresher, the endocannabinoid system consists of receptors and enzymes that metabolize any cannabinoids bonding to those receptors. However, our cannabinoid receptors do not exist for the purpose of consuming externally produced cannabinoids like those found in cannabis. These receptors exist because our bodies produce their own cannabinoids (endocannabinoids), which are used to signal and control various functions. Of all our naturally produced cannabinoids, one of the most important is anandamide (AN). Anandamide, like our other endocannabinoids, is produced on the spot, where needed. It primarily bonds to CB1 receptors, giving it an effect profile similar to THC, the well-known psychoactive ingredient of cannabis. FAAH (fatty acid amide hydrolase) then metabolizes the anandamide, clearing the receptor for re-activation. Because anandamide is produced locally where needed, while external cannabinoids, like THC, are supplied to any tissue, comparing effect differences may be comparing apples to oranges. However, an oversimplification would be that ananadmide is the body’s own THC with a shorter effect endurance. In fact, the name “anadamide” is actually based on the Sanskrit word “ananda”, meaning “joy” or “bliss”. Rimonabant, the failed weight-loss drug we often reference on the blog, blocked CB1 receptors from being activated by anandamide. From known research, we can now safely guess that many of the negative psychological effects of Rimonabant resulted from preventing the body from using its own anandamide. In other words, anandamide seems to hold at least one key…

Inhibiting Re-Uptake To Enable Treatment: The Endocannabinoid System and New Medicines

In popular culture, we like to think of an inventor as someone who notices a problem, thinks really hard about a solution, and solves that problem with a novel device or approach. Oftentimes however, discovery proceeds in reverse: first a solution is found and then a clever inventor looks for a problem that the solution might apply to. For instance, the invention of the Post-it Note® occurred when a scientist attempting to develop a better superglue accidentally developed a glue with low adhesion but high re-usability. Although that scientist attempted to promote the glue, the company that had financed the research tossed it to the side, chalking it up as a failure. After all it was not the superglue they wanted. Six years later a colleague managed to develop a use outside of the company; he noticed he could apply it to the back of a bookmark to keep it from falling out without developing a permanent bond that would tear the page. Thus the Post-it Note® was born and subsequently became one of 3M’s most successful products. Drug development, as Christopher Fowler argues, might also proceed more effectively this way. Fowler, a clinical neuroscience researcher at Umea Unversity of Sweden, recently reviewed studies involving inhibitors of cannabinoid metabolism. Metabolism, whether specific to nutrients or in this case chemicals in general, simply means how something is broken back down to be disposed of or recycled by the body. The idea is that rather than supplying the brain with more cannabinoids,…

Getting to Sleep with Cannabis, Part I

I’ll declare bias early: I use cannabis to help me sleep. There is nothing more relaxing to me than medicating with a strong indica before bed, winding down, and feeling content over a hard day’s work. Many readers will be able to identify with that experience. In fact, trouble getting to sleep may be what led many of you to cannabis in the first place. Insomnia is listed as a qualifying pre-condition for prescription in many medical cannabis states. Cornerstone patients often specifically request strains that will help with this condition. So how, why, and what is cannabis doing? Why is this a phenomenon? The short answer is… there is no short answer. Insomnia can be caused by a lot of different factors. In some cases it can be genetic, with patients that are simply pre-disposed to more waking hours. In other cases, it can be environmental. As numerous blogs and movies seem to be pointing out, we live in a fast-paced, high stress society where one can’t truly “clock out” from work anymore. You might be reading emails and thinking about work literally right up until bedtime. In this case, insomnia is being caused by the inability to disengage with the struggles or challenges you are currently facing. On the other hand, insomnia may also be caused by chronic pain, whether from disease or injury. Patients may be woken up by sharp pains and may be unable to fall back to sleep. Likewise, PTSD patients may not be able…

Endocannabinoids and Traumatic Brain Injuries

Have you ever had a bad situation made worse by your own reaction? Have you ever wished you had been slower to react or had reacted with less intensity and more deliberation? This also often occurs on a cellular level. What happens during brain trauma is a great example of the body’s reaction causing more problems than the injury itself. Brain trauma is the leading cause of death in young people. Whether from injuries during rigorous or extreme activities such as sports, or from less avoidable car or workplace accidents, brain trauma can leave individuals with physical disability or worse, comatose. Researchers have also observed that beyond the acute (short-term) effects of brain trauma, individuals with previous brain injuries are at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative conditions. Countless studies have shown that one of the most critical factors in determining the long-term health consequences of head injury is the type and quality of treatment immediately surrounding the injury. In other words, the potential to change the outcome of the accident is greatest immediately after it has occurred, where small differences in timing and medical reaction can mean the difference between a healthy recovery or prolonged damage. When such an injury occurs, the alarm bells of the brain start going off, launching the brain into an instinctually protective mode. The flow-chart found at the end of the article outlines the specific sequence of that process. During this protective behavior mode, the brain accomplishes several important physiological changes. These…