A new 3-D image may be giving scientists clues about how marijuana effects the brain. The image illustrates a receptor in the brain that’s linked to the high feeling people tend to experience after smoking weed. Researchers from ShanghaiTech University in China, who discovered the receptor, are hoping the photo will help them narrow down why people may experience side effects from medical marijuana that doesn’t contain THC – the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.
The image – featured in the medical journal Cell on Wednesday — gives scientist a better look at how TCH molecules connect to a cannabinoid receptor called CB1, which researchers found located on the surface of nerve cells in the brain, LiveScience reported.
Since marijuana contains compounds that could be dangerous, analyzing how the CB1 receptor works under the influence of cannabis could lead to more knowledge on how synthetic compounds affect the body. There have been synthetic drugs prescribed to medical marijuana patients that have caused a wave of side effects, like one drug called rimonabant that was banned in Europe after people reported side effects of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. In the U.S., rimonabant never received Food and Drug Administration approval.
Researchers from the study believe the new 3-D receptor image could lead to more insight on how recreational synthetic cannabinoids like K2 and Spice effect the body. Synthetic marijuana use claimed the lives of 15 people in the U.S. in the first five months of 2015, which was three times more than what was reported in the first five months of 2014, a report by the Center for Disease Control said.