Yesterday scientists announced that they'd discovered a way to harness the painkilling powers of the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, while eliminating the high. What this means is that a special, non-hallucinatory version of THC could become the new aspirin.
Physiologist Li Zhang and colleagues discovered that THC targets several parts of the nervous system, some of which are called inhibitory glycine receptors (GlyRs). These receptors, according to Zhang, help regulate "neuromotor activity, pain sensation, muscle relaxation and anxiety." He and his fellow researchers speculate that a synthetic THC could be made that targets just GlyRs - hence, a form of cannabis that works as a painkiller but doesn't get you high.
Write the researchers in an article published yesterday in Nature Chemical Biology:
Cannabis is composed of more than 400 chemical components. A number of these components are found to provide therapeutic relief in alleviating chronic pain, seizure, depression and muscle spasms resulting from multiple sclerosis, but the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, THC, produces some unwanted effects on human health, such as motor impairment . . .
Zhang and colleagues want to eliminate these "unwanted effects" so that they can create new kinds of pain medication. Soon, people whose stomachs are too tender for aspirin or ibuprofin may be swallowing THC pills to get rid of headaches.
"Non-psychotropic cannabinoids" is the technical term for the drug Zhang and colleagues are seeking. This is great news for people who want to use medical marijuana. But it leaves the recreational users asking just one question: Is there a way to create a synthetic form of THC that does nothing but get you high, without all those pesky "medicinal" side-effects?
Read the full scientific paper in Nature Chemical Biology
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