Scientists have found a way to separate the medical benefits of cannabis from its negative effects. A new marijuana study has identified the pathway used by cannabis’ main psychoactive ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
The study published in the PLOS Biology journal Thursday stated how the cognitive effects of THC such as memory loss and anxiety are caused by a pathway, which is different from its beneficial effects such as pain relief. The findings showed that the pathway involved cannabinoid and serotonin receptors.
Researchers at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, England, along with the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain, conducted the study on mice. When they blocked the pathway in mice, the THC still showed medical benefits like pain relief and reduced nausea, the researchers said in a statement. The study team noted that it also decreased the chances of memory impairment, which is a common side effect of cannabis.
"Our previous research has also found that THC could reduce tumor size in cancer patients. … This new research demonstrates how some of the drug's beneficial effects can be separated from its unwanted side effects,” Peter McCormick, lecturer in cell biology at University of East Anglia’s school of pharmacy and the study's author, said in the statement.
According to McCormick, the research was important as it found a way to reduce the unwanted side effects of THC while keeping several important benefits, including pain reduction.
The researchers stated that although the study was conducted on mice, they hoped that it is a "breakthrough" that will lead to safer medical use of marijuana.