A molecular study of cannabis reveals how CBD compensates for the adverse side effects of THC
A team of researchers from the University of Western Ontario (Canada) has discovered the molecular mechanisms that cause CBD to block the adverse side effects caused by THC in some people.
Previously there was already scientific evidence that cannabis varieties with very high levels of THC and low levels of CBD are more likely to produce mental problems such as paranoia, anxiety and some addictive behaviors. This was already known, but the problem is that it was not known why.
The research has been carried out by Steven Laviolette, PhD, and his team, who investigated with rats to discover the role of a molecule located in the brain’s hippocampus called the kinase and that is regulated by extracellular signal. This molecule, known as ERK is behind the neuropsychiatric outbreaks that some people suffer after consuming THC.
Laviolette, a professor at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry of Western Ontario, says that it has always been known that cannabis varieties with very high THC levels and low CBD contents are more likely to produce adverse side effects on the person who consumes them. Laviolette says that they have finally discovered the molecular mechanisms by which CBD blocks the adverse effects that are related to excessive THC use and that affect some cannabis users.
The research has been published in “The Journal of Neuroscience” and shows that rats that received THC had higher levels of activated ERK and showed more anxiety and fear behaviors. Rats that received CBD and THC had normal levels of activated ERK and less anxiety behaviors.
Based on these results, the research team concludes that CBD blocks the ability of THC to overstimulate the ERK pathway in the hippocampus and, therefore, prevent its negative side effects. Taking into account the results of this research, Laviolette concludes that CBD largely prevents THC from over stimulating the ERK pathway in the hippocampus, which could serve to prevent adverse psychiatric effects.
This discovery can be very useful in the medical field to prescribe cannabis and to better understand the effects of long-term cannabis use. According to this research, people most likely to experience the adverse side effects related to cannabis should only consume cannabis strains that are high in CBD and low in THC. Laviolette says the discovery opens a new molecular frontier to develop more effective and safe THC formulations.
For his part, Roger Hudson, co-author of the study, says that another interesting finding was that CBD alone had no effect on ERK, but that by co-administering CBD and THC, they managed to completely reverse the direction of change at the molecular level. CBD was also able to reverse the anxiety and paranoia behaviors caused by THC. Laviolette says he and his team will continue to investigate to identify the specific characteristics of this molecular mechanism. The team will also focus on finding ways to formulate THC with less adverse side effects and at the same time improve CBD-derived therapies.