Cannabis, SSRI's and Depression
Contact: Ian Poppleian.firstname.lastname@example.org 514-843-1560 McGill University
New antidepressant drug increases 'brain's own cannabis'
Researchers have discovered a new drug that raises the level of endocannabinoids--the 'brain's own cannabis'--providing anti-depressant effects. The new research published in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), suggests the new drug, called URB597, could represent a safer alternative to cannabis for the treatment of pain and depression, and open the door to new and improved treatments for clinical depression--a condition that affects around 20% of Canadians.
In preclinical laboratory tests researchers found that URB597 increased the production of endocannabinoids by blocking their degradation, resulting in measurable antidepressant effects. "This is the first time it has been shown that a drug that increases endocannabinoids in the brain can improve your mood," says the lead investigator Dr. Gabriella Gobbi, an MUHC and Université de Montréal researcher.
Endocannabinoids are chemicals released by the brain under certain conditions, like exercise; they stimulate specific brain receptors that can trigger feelings of well-being. The researchers, which included scientists from the University of California at Irvine, were able to measure serotonin and noradrenaline activity as a result of the increased endocannabinoids, and also conducted standard experiments to gauge the 'mood' of their subjects and confirm their findings.
"The results were similar to the effect we might expect from the use of commonly prescribed antidepressants, which are effective on only around 30% of the population," explains Dr. Gobbi. "Our discovery strengthens the case for URB597 as a safer, non-addictive, non-psychotropic alternative to cannabis for the treatment of pain and depression and provides hope for the development of an alternate line of antidepressants, with a wider range of effectiveness."
Cannabis has been known for its anti-depressant and pain-relief effects for many years, but the addictive nature and general health concerns of cannabis use make this drug far from ideal as a medical treatment. The active ingredient in cannabis--THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol)--stimulates cannabinoid receptors.
Funding for this study was provided by the Fonds de la Recherche en Santé du Québec (FRSQ), the Canadian Psychiatric Research Foundation (CPRF), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and an MUHC fellowship.
A drug that boosts levels of the brain's own "bliss" chemical can help reverse symptoms of depression in rats, US and Italian researchers reported yesterday.
The drug helps maintain high levels of a compound called anandamide, named after the Sanskrit word for "bliss", which is chemically similar to the active ingredient in marijuana.
Opinion feedback to NZH:
WHEREAS SSRI's have been responsible for grotesque anti-social behaviours through to suicides attributable to the drug in question. (some 28 deaths in one month)
Prof Nutt (addictions researcher, SSRI specialist speaking at CHCH School of medicine. Feb 2008 ) linked cannabinoid receptors 'all through the brain' and how little we know of its actions. Yet debate surrounding the required research and that we dont have an adequate 'radio label' to track cannabis actions at receptor level constrains what we could know.
All indications from both anecdote and research are that cannabis puts a smile on your face, but more importantly provides 'a sense of wellness' and without with the contraindications of SSRI's. I will have more on my blog at http://mildgreens.blogspot.com later today including to links to the research that both validates NZH earlier published matter and demonstrates the imbalance give to big pharma in its defence of its selective published research. /Blair
Patients themselves are often the best judges of whether or not cannabis helps relieve the symptoms of depression. A poorly educated or narrow-minded physician may think any use of cannabis to be a substance abuse related aspect of depression. More enlightened psychiatrists (i.e. Lester Grinspoon of Harvard Medical School) appreciate the often beneficial aspects of cannabis therapy. [Cannabis and Depression. Jay R. Cavanaugh, Ph.D.]