Marijuana megadose may build better brains, curb depression and anxiety, study suggests

Study turns pot wisdom on head

Lab rats given drug 100 times as strong as pot

by Dawn Walton, The Globe & Mail [Toronto]

Calgary, Canada -- Forget the stereotype about dopey potheads. It seems marijuana could be good for your brain.

While other studies have shown that periodic use of marijuana can cause memory loss and impair learning and a host of other health problems down the road, new research suggests the drug could have some benefits when administered regularly in a highly potent form... researchers found that cannabinoids promoted generation of new neurons in rats' hippocampuses..

"This is quite a surprise," said Xia Zhang, an associate professor with the Neuropsychiatry Research Unit at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

"Chronic use of marijuana may actually improve learning memory when the new neurons in the hippocampus can mature in two or three months," he added.

Stoned today -- Nobel Laureate next year?

The research by Dr. Zhang and a team of international researchers is to be published in the November issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, but their findings are on-line now.

The scientists also noticed that cannabinoids curbed depression and anxiety, which Dr. Zhang says, suggests a correlation between neurogenesis and mood swings. (Or, it at least partly explains the feelings of relaxation and euphoria of a pot-induced high.)

Other scientists have suggested that depression is triggered when too few new brain cells are created in the hippocampus. One researcher of neuropharmacology said he was "puzzled" by the findings.

Maybe he just hadn't smoked enough dope.

As enthusiastic as Dr. Zhang is about the potential health benefits, he warns against running out for a toke in a bid to beef up brain power or calm nerves.

The team injected laboratory rats with a synthetic substance called HU-210, which is similar, but 100 times as potent as THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the compound responsible for giving marijuana users a high.

They found that the rats treated regularly with a high dose of HU-210 -- twice a day for 10 days -- showed growth of neurons in the hippocampus. The researchers don't know if pot, which isn't as pure as the lab-produced version, would have the same effect.

"There's a big gap between rats and humans," Dr. Zhang points out.

But there is a lot of interest -- and controversy -- around the use of cannabinoids to improve human health.

Cannabinoids, such as marijuana and hashish, have been used to address pain, nausea, vomiting, seizures caused by epilepsy, ischemic stroke, cerebral trauma, tumours, multiple sclerosis and a host of other maladies.

Hey -- it cures what ails you. And what it doesn't cure, you forget you have it.

-------the rest of the article is here


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