Monday, December 14, 2009

As if we needed more evidence demonstrating how pot is not the devil

| »
Marijuana leaf

It must be hard, being an anti-pot activist. You go around, spouting false and continually debunked fear-mongering claims how smoking weed will give you brain damage, or heighten your risks of cancer (over other drugs such as tobacco, that is), turn you into the hormonal equivalent of an old lady, and the likes; and yet, the public keeps ignoring you and toking in your angry, self-serving face nonetheless, perhaps taking the time to point out that not only is marijuana the least dangerous street drug there is, but that it can actually improve your health in some cases (something that cannot truthfully be said for any other street drug). And now, things are getting even worse: new research has arrived that suggests how smoking pot can create new favorable cell growth in your brain and reduce anxiety and depression. (But, wait – these experiments were performed on mice, so you can always use that to deride this research as being fraudulent hippie crap.)

A synthetic chemical similar to the active ingredient in marijuana makes new cells grow in rat brains. What is more, in rats this cell growth appears to be linked with reducing anxiety and depression. The results suggest that marijuana, or its derivatives, could actually be good for the brain.

In mammals, new nerve cells are constantly being produced in a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is associated with learning, memory, anxiety and depression. Other recreational drugs, such as alcohol, nicotine and cocaine, have been shown to suppress this new growth. Xia Zhang of the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, and colleagues decided to see what effects a synthetic cannabinoid called HU210 had on rats' brains.

They found that giving rats high doses of HU210 twice a day for 10 days increased the rate of nerve cell formation, or neurogenesis, in the hippocampus by about 40%.

Just like Prozac?

A previous study showed that the antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac) also increases new cell growth, and the results indicated that it was this cell growth that caused Prozac's anti-anxiety effect. Zhang wondered whether this was also the case for the cannabinoid, and so he tested the rats for behavioural changes.

When the rats who had received the cannabinoid were placed under stress, they showed fewer signs of anxiety and depression than rats who had not had the treatment. When neurogenesis was halted in these rats using X-rays, this effect disappeared, indicating that the new cell growth might be responsible for the behavioural changes.

Dr. Zhang is hoping that cannabis may one day be used to treat clinical depression and anxiety in humans. No need to hope for the future; millions of teens and young adults can already swear by pot’s mellowing goodness.

(via The Daily Grail