Study: Self-Made Human Cannabinoids May Be Key To Treating Stress-Related Disorders

We already know that humans have our own endocannabinoid systems, made to regulate a number of bodily functions with a number of cannabinoid receptors that interact with compounds like THC and CBD in cannabis. 

Brain activity patterns and neural circuits regulated by these cannabinoids derived in the brain were not well known, but new research has revealed our bodies may actually release their own cannabinoid molecules in specific circumstances, independent of external cannabinoid use.

According to a new mice study from Northwestern Medicine published in the journal Cell Reports, the brain’s key emotional center, the amygdala, releases its own cannabinoid molecules under stress. When released, these molecules work to decrease incoming stress alarms from the hippocampus, which controls memory and emotions in the brain.

The study results add further evidence to the assertion that the brain contains innate cannabinoid molecules, key to our body’s natural coping response to stress. Further, the study may indicate that impairments to this endogenous (the body’s own) cannabinoid signaling system in the brain could result in higher susceptibility to developing psychiatric disorders related to stress, like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Still, further research is needed to determine exactly how these mechanisms work in the human brain, said corresponding study author Dr. Sachin Patel.

The Human Body’s Self-Made Cannabinoids and Understanding Stress

“Stress exposure confers risk for the development or exacerbation of psychiatric disorders: from generalized anxiety and major depression to post-traumatic stress disorder,” authors state in the introduction. “Understanding stress-induced molecular-, cellular-, and circuit-level adaptations could provide critical insight into how stress is translated into affective pathology and may reveal novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of stress-related disorders.”

Scientists at Northwestern Medicine used a new protein sensor that can detect the presence of these cannabinoid molecules in real time at specific brain synapses, which show that specific high-frequency patterns of amygdala activity can generate the molecules. Additionally, the sensor showed that mice brains released these molecules in response to several different types of stress.

Scientists also removed the target of these cannabinoids, the cannabinoid receptor type 1, which resulted in a worsened ability to cope with stress and motivational deficits in mice. After scientists removed the receptor target of the endogenous cannabinoids at hippocampal-amygdala synapses, mice adopted more passive and immobile responses to stress. They also had a lower preference to drink sweetened sucrose water after stress exposure.

“Understanding how the brain adapts to stress at the molecular, cellular and circuit level could provide critical insight into how stress is translated into mood disorders and may reveal novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of stress-related disorders,” according to Patel and Lizzie Gilman, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and a Northwestern Medicine psychiatrist. 

The endocannabinoid system is one of the leading signaling systems identified as a prominent drug-development candidate for stress-related psychiatric disorders, Patel said. This system is an active, complex cell signaling network, involving a combination of endocannabinoids, enzymes and cannabinoid receptors helping to regulate a number of biological functions — like eating, anxiety, learning, memory, reproduction, metabolism, growth and development — through an array of actions across the nervous system.

This hypothesis is crucial in determining where future research guides this continued conversation, Patel said.

“Determining whether increasing levels of endogenous cannabinoids can be used as potential therapeutics for stress-related disorders is a next logical step from this study and our previous work,” Patel said. “There are ongoing clinical trials in this area that may be able to answer this question in the near future.”

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Can Cannabis Treat Hemorrhoids?

This is a disgusting story, so if you get queasy easily, I’d recommend reading one of the news articles that went up today. It’s also slightly embarrassing, but seeing as how, while writing, it’s only my computer and I, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about; the fact that potentially millions of people will be reading about my butthole is a non-issue since it hasn’t happened yet and even if/when when does, so be it—my butthole is a part of me, and I am a part of my butthole.

Hemorrhoids. If you’ve never had them, let me try to explain as best as I possibly can (for those who have had them, there’s no reason to read this paragraph, as you already know the immeasurable pain and mental anguish that they inflict): The easiest comparison is shitting hot shards of glass. The blood part of it sucks, but women deal with that all the time, so who am I to complain? The worst part is knowing that you have to go to the bathroom, but deciding not to because if you do, you’ll be bedridden all day (although of course laying in bed doing nothing besides thinking about how much it hurts only makes matters worse!). Then, by not going to the bathroom, your stomach gets all fucked up, so on and so forth.

Physical pain is a strange thing because it seems made-up. By “made-up” I mean both psychosomatic and like a lie. There’s no way, unless you’re clearly missing an arm or what have you, for someone to know that you’re in pain. Pain requires trust. Trust in yourself to know that you’re not crazy—that you actually are hurt—and trust from other human beings, because otherwise you’re moaning and groaning to gain attention, but I’m getting off-topic. We’re here to talk about the medical effects of cannabis in relation to these little devilish, oozing, swollen veins.

According to the first website that popped up when I googled “hemorrhoids cannabis,” Hemorrhoid Treatment Center of Florida: “Medical marijuana has anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-relieving) effects. This can help hemorrhoid patients feel less discomfort from hemorrhoids. Additionally, since cannabis is known to naturally relieve stress, anxiety, and insomnia, it can be used to fend off many of the ramifications of hemorrhoidal disease.” Eh.

One time in the shower, while showering, I took a shit standing up because the idea of sitting on the toilet seemed like a worse option. The second google result, Healthline, discusses CBD. They ask the question, “Can CBD Help Hemorrhoids?” and answer by saying, “Right now, there doesn’t seem to be research based specifically on CBD’s effectiveness on hemorrhoids.” Among other things that are equally unhelpful. That’s not to say that this article is any more helpful. Perhaps I’m just contributing to the confusion… Also according to Healthline, “The World Health Organization says CBD is largely considered safe. However, if you’re applying CBD topically to hemorrhoids, it’s best to keep some safety information in mind: Avoid applying CBD to broken skin.” This is essentially impossible, as every time one passes a stool, the skin breaks.

I tried stool softeners, probiotics, and sitz baths. I tried using Preparation H (ointment, wipes, and suppositories!), which worked fine for a while, until it didn’t. I tried edibles, but they kind of made the pain worse because I started to focus on it even more. I’m sure for other people, that wouldn’t be the case. I saw two doctors, one for abdominal pain and the other specifically for hemorrhoids; both were very nice, but at the end of the day, nothing came from either visit. The first one asked if I drank; I told him that I was taking the year off and his advice was, “Well, maybe you should start drinking again.” He had a quirky tie on, so I would imagine that was his version of humor. They both said it was probably stress-related, and that if matters worsened, there was always surgery.

Well, in my mind, matters were already as bad as they could be, but I wasn’t—and unfortunately still am not—made of money, nor did I really want someone rubberbanding or stapling my asshole, so during one particularly nasty flare-up, I decided to smoke a joint instead. It wasn’t a matter of pain management, because like I said, cannabis didn’t really help in that department, but I needed a new way to think about this thing that I was dealing with. And that’s exactly what I received. I thought about how pain was an extremely physical force, but a force that the mind controlled, so all of a sudden, this ailment became somewhat of a gift, a test of my endurance, not only to pain but all other forms of torment. I was reading a book at the time, I forget which, but it was a rather dull book and I decided that I was going to stand still and finish it, all while barely being able to stand; I wouldn’t eat, I wouldn’t drink water, I’d stand there and read. It took several hours, but when it was all over, the pain had subsided, and it was as if I had broken whatever spiritual chain was trying so hard to break me.

I don’t know if “spiritual” is the right word, but that’s the one I chose. I’ve had some light bleeding here and there. I still have to push on my rectum after taking a shit to make the external hemorrhoids internal, which I’m not entirely sure I should be doing, but they seem safer there, away from this cold, cold world. All that to say, I’m pretty sure I still have them, but no burning (unless I eat spicy food, which I think is a normal reaction—or at least that’s what I tell myself), no calling off work to roll around in bed, and most importantly, no pus that smells like sulfur and asshole. All of the above could come back, but here’s to optimism!

It’s a bummer that I felt obligated to preface this by saying “This is a disgusting story.” It’s not. What’s disgusting is our inability to share truths without being judged or feeling as if that’s the case. But I don’t know how to fix that. What I do know is that hemorrhoids are no laughing matter, unless you’ve hit rock-bottom and there’s nothing else to do butt laugh (haha). Hopefully you don’t, but if you do find yourself in that predicament, here are some things that made the pain more manageable for me: 

  • A sitz bath will help for as long as you’re in it, but seeing as how you can’t sit in a tub soaking your bum all day…
  • Masturbate!
  • (Unrelated to the above) Don’t just lay in bed. Get some fresh air, take a walk around the block.
  • Lastly, as cheesy as it sounds, just know that you’re not alone (hemorrhoids affect approximately 1 in 20 Americans) and although it might not seem like it, there will come a time when you won’t want to commit suicide. And I’m not using this term lightly.

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Study Finds Psilocybin Eases the Stress of MRIs

Researchers in Australia are studying how psilocybin, the primary psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms, affects healthy subjects undergoing an MRI. The ongoing study is finding that psilocybin can make the MRI process less stressful or even enjoyable, with at least one of the participants describing the experience as “magical.”

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a process that uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to create noninvasive images of the body, its organs, and biological functions. Images created through MRI can provide healthcare professionals with a wealth of data about their patients, but the confining space and loud noises of an MRI machine can cause discomfort and anxiety for many people who undergo the procedure. MRI manufacturers have responded by making more patient-friendly machines, but being subjected to an MRI scan can still be an unwelcome and stressful experience for many patients.

To address the issue, researchers at the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health at Monash University in Australia are conducting a study to investigate how psilocybin affects participants during an MRI scan of 60 healthy participants. Dubbed PsiConnect, the research is the first of its kind in Australia and is one of the world’s largest psychedelic trials to use brain imaging technology, according to the researchers. In 2021, the Australian government announced it would provide $15 million in funding to investigate the potential use of psychedelics to augment psychotherapy.

“Finding people was hard because we wanted people who had never taken this drug before and don’t have any mental health history, even in their first-degree relatives,” Adeel Razi, a neuroscientist from the Monash Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health and the lead researcher for the study, told the Sydney Morning Herald

Study participant Michael Taylor fit the bill perfectly. In his late 40s, he was healthy and had never used drugs recreationally.

“I hadn’t been that kind of person, you know,” said Taylor. “I’ve never even smoked a cigarette in my life.”

Study Participants Receive Small Dose Of Psilocybin

To conduct the study, the participants will undergo an MRI examination both before and after taking a small, sub-therapeutic dose (19 milligrams) of synthetic psilocybin. Researchers will then use the images produced during the MRI to assess any potential changes in activity after the administration of the psychedelic drug. The researchers hope that the information gleaned from the imaging combined with data from other evaluations will provide information that can be used to develop new drugs and therapies to more effectively treat mental illnesses. 

“I can look at how the brain is reacting to these compounds, and that gives me a window into understanding consciousness,” said Razi. “We need to have the evidence base of how it actually works in a brain without depression, and then the insights that we get, we can translate into use in a clinical setting.”

After he had been administered psilocybin and was put in the MRI machine, Taylor said that the loud, clanking noises created by the imaging were anything but distressing.

“It was the most magical music that I have ever heard,” said Taylor.

Taylor remembers the music rising to a crescendo like a wave, which eventually broke over him and flooded him with joy.

“I felt myself smiling, laughing; I’m sure I giggled at one point,” he said. “I was thinking: ‘I can’t believe this is happening. Why don’t more people get to experience this?’”

As the imaging process progressed, Taylor says that he lost all sense of self.

“I actually felt myself melding with the MRI machine and becoming one with it,” Taylor remembers. “Which is crazy – but that’s what it was like, I was just part of everything else around me. I was everything. And everything was me.”

About 60% of the participants said that the experience with psilocybin was one of the most meaningful and spiritually significant experiences of their lives. Among those who did not find the experience spiritually significant or meaningful, slightly less than half still said it was one of the most interesting or amazing experiences of their lives. About 10% of the participants said that they did not experience much of an effect from the psilocybin and about 5% said that they experienced unpleasant effects. Razi said that the initial findings of the research will be published in about six months.

“We will make all the imaging data and behavioral data open access,” he said. “It is one of the largest studies in the world, and anyone will be able to analyze the data, so it will have a long-lasting legacy.”

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10 Effective Tips to Manage Anxiety and Stress

In your everyday life, it’s normal to experience anxiety and stress. It means that you are being human and have your struggles to deal with, especially if you face several responsibilities. You will lose hope and motivation every time you encounter hurdles and challenges, but as you know that managing these issues could free you […]

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Five Ways On How CBD Can Help You Survive Another Lockdown

As the second wave of coronavirus is spreading across the whole globe, people have gone into another lockdown to help slow the extension of the virus. Faced with an invisible but looming threat and this ‘new normal’, most individuals are struggling to cope with the enormous uncertainty of the current situation, which in turn is […]

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Does Weed Make You Live Longer?

websiteIn many ways, the world of cannabis continues to operate in the realms of rumor and hearsay. This is especially true when it comes to the possible medical and health benefits of the plant. And this shouldn’t be surprising. Cannabis prohibition laws have made it very hard to conduct and compile sustained scientific research. The idea that cannabis can extend your life expectancy is one of those topics that could be legend just as easily as it could be fact. So what’s really going on? Does weed make you live longer? Here’s what research shows so far.

Cannabis and Life Expectancy

The most obvious way to tackle the question at hand—does weed make you live longer—is to go at it head-on. Interestingly, there was reportedly a study of THC completed in the late 1990s that apparently never made it into the public eye.

According to sources, the study was eventually leaked although it was never formally published. The leaked study highlighted the results of a test in which rats were given various doses of THC. At the end of the experiment, “those given THC had a clear survival advantage over the untreated controls.”

While this definitely seems like an intriguing conclusion, researchers have cautioned against reading too much into this. In particular, they said that the increased life expectancy among rats given THC could arise from a number of other factors, not just the THC in and of itself.

For example, those factors could include variables like body weight, appetite, stress or anxiety levels, and more. But one way or another, the fact remains that in this study the rats that were given steady doses of THC lived longer on average than rats that didn’t have THC.

Does Weed Make You Live Longer? The Ancillary Benefits Could Help

The real take away from this study seems to be that cannabis could have its biggest impact on life expectancy through all the ancillary benefits it produces.

To put it differently, it’s still unclear if cannabis does anything to your body to directly make you live longer. But what is more clear is that the plant could do a bunch of other stuff for you that could lead to better overall health, thereby increasing the chance that you’ll live longer.

For example, weed reduces stress and anxiety for many people. And this could help these people live longer. Studies have found that extreme stress has detrimental effects on health and life expectancy. So by decreasing that stress, you could set yourself up for a longer life.

Similarly, cannabis has shown promise in treating or decreasing numerous illnesses and other negative health conditions. For example, it’s shown promise at helping people deal with side effects of cancer and more aggressive forms of cancer treatment.

Additionally, cannabis helps a lot of people who have epilepsy. This also extends to other conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, insomnia, and more.

Assuming that each of these conditions negatively impacts a person’s life expectancy, it’s safe to say that cannabis can extend a person’s life by treating these other conditions.

Cannabis and Your Brain

Neurological health is another area where cannabis has shown promise. In particular, researchers have suggested that the plant could help reverse negative effects of aging on your brain.

That’s exactly what researchers concluded last year. In a 2017 study, researchers compared the brain activity of mice that were given daily doses of THC to mice that were not. They found that THC helped keep the mice’s brain’s active.

Ultimately, researchers concluded that THC and other cannabinoids can help encourage brain activity. This, they said, could help fend off the mental slowness that sometimes comes with old age.

Further, researchers have suggested that cannabis could help treat other brain disorders as well. For example, many researchers believe that cannabis can help reduce or avoid buildups of the plaque from brain cells that are linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

As with physical disorders, these neurological disorders can contribute to shorter life spans. By mitigating the harm caused by these problems, cannabis could theoretically extend a person’s life expectancy.

Does Weed Make You Live Longer?

This brings us back to the original question: Does weed make you live longer? The answer appears to be, not directly. So far, there doesn’t seem to be much evidence that cannabis directly makes you live longer.

But there is a lot of evidence suggesting that weed produces other health benefits. It can help treat a number of physical illnesses and disorders. Similarly, cannabis can help many people decrease stress and anxiety. And it can help fend off or slow the onset of neurological disorders. By helping you avoid all these health problems, weed can tangentially help you live a little bit longer.

Either way, if you’re looking to get the maximal health benefits from cannabis, you should probably pay attention to how you consume it. Research suggests that inhaling smoke of any kind could have negative side effects. So to play it safe, it’s a good idea to try consuming weed in some other way.

Another Perspective: Cannabis Use Linked to Health Problems

Research shows that cannabis can produce a number of health-promoting effects. But at the samet time, there are also studies suggesting that heavy and prolonged cannabis consumption might be linked to certain indicators of poor health.

Most notable is a 2018 report conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan and published on the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) website. This study looked at data from the Monitoring the Future survey. In this survey, almost 10,000 participants self-reported on various aspects of personal drug use and health.

After analyzing survey data related to cannabis consumption, researchers identified a number of trends. In particular, they reported that people who consume cannabis regularly and for a long time tended to report more health problems at age 50. This includes psychiatric issues, physical conditions, and potentially harmful drug and alcohol use.

“Compared with people who never used marijuana, those who used marijuana for shorter or longer periods of time had higher odds of various health problems at age 50,” the NIDA’s summary of the study said. “Those who used marijuana longer were significantly more likely to experience certain health problems than were those who only used marijuana for a short time.”

At the same time, researchers warned against drawing firm conclusions from this. In fact, researchers said that these trends might not have anything to do with causality. Instead, it could simply highlight other demographic variables.

For example, a person who already has a serious health condition might regularly consume medical marijuana. In this case, that person would show up on the survey as a heavy marijuana user and as a person with health problems. But this person’s health condition is not caused by marijuana. Instead, the marijuana use could actually be helping them manage their health condition.

Ultimately, more research is needed to fully understand the various ways cannabis interacts with and affects the human body. And that includes questions of overall health and life expectancy.

(Updated from a previous post.)

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How to Use Cannabis to Help with Holiday Stress

People talk about the holidays as a happy and carefree time, but the reality is, for many of us, they’re a recipe for stress. 

Thirty-eight percent of people in one Greenberg Quinlan Rosner survey said their stress increases around the holidays, citing lack of time and money, the pressure of gift exchanges, and family gatherings among the top stressors. Another survey by Healthline found that 62% of people consider the holidays stressful, with money being the biggest source of anxiety. 

“The holiday season is notorious for being a stressful time as consumers decorate their homes, shop for gifts, and plan travel accommodation while also handling the usual day-to-day rituals of work, family, and home management,” said Nimesh Patel, MD, co-founder and Vice Chairman of the Board of Redbird Bioscience. “Even though it all pays off in the end, seeing family and enjoying their company, the stress buildup can be extremely unhealthy.”

We may not be able to make our families easier to deal with or avoid all the costs of the season, but cannabis can be one means to alleviate holiday-induced stress. There’s a reason, after all, for the stereotype of the chill stoner. One study in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that, on average, medical cannabis users experienced a 58% reduction in anxiety and stress shortly after smoking.

“The pressure to perform over the holidays is enough to take anyone over the edge. Cannabis can be a great medication to use to alleviate your symptoms,” said Jarret Patton, MD, who runs a cannabis-based practice in Pennsylvania.

Cannabis can help manage stress and anxiety.  

If there’s an upcoming event that you know will be stressful, like a family meal or a shopping trip, Patton suggests using cannabis beforehand to take the edge off. However, there are disadvantages to smoking during the day, since being intoxicated can mess with your performance at work and other responsibilities, said Jordan Tishler, MD, President of the Association of Cannabis Specialists and CEO of InhaleMD. If you can, it’s best to stick to a low dose before bed. This will actually help you throughout the next day.

(Gina Coleman/Weedmaps)
The holiday season is known to be a stressful time for many concerned with finances, travel, and family relationships. Cannabis is one tool people can use to help manage stress and anxiety.

While some say the stress reduction they get from weed depends on whether they’re using an indica or sativa, the strain isn’t really important, said Tishler. “There are thousands of strains, but frankly, any will do,” he said. “For the most part, the chemical composition of strains overlaps to the point of no clear difference when assessing medical outcomes.” The thing to pay attention to instead is the CBD:THC ratio. 

If you don’t have much experience using cannabis for stress relief, it’s best to start with a CBD-dominant strain, because these generally have the most relaxing effects, said Patton. Plain CBD is a good bet if your main goal is stress relief. 

“CBD interacts directly with your endocannabinoid system to regulate important chemical messengers that are responsible for mood,” Patton explains. “This is the best alternative to pharmaceuticals such as prescription anxiety medication, which can often come with a slew of unwanted side effects.” 

However, some people find that strains with more THC work better for them, so you may need to do some experimenting. Tishler usually recommends 15% to 20% THC to provide an “entourage effect” — that is, to take advantage of the synergistic actions of different cannabis compounds. The research on CBD’s use for anxiety is still inconclusive, as the animal studies done so far use very high doses, he said. Plus, CBD is especially prone to interactions with other substances, so you should talk to your doctor before using it. 

(Gina Coleman/Weedmaps)
People new to cannabis may want to opt for high-CBD strains. CBD is known to help regulate important chemical messengers that are responsible for mood.

At the same time, it’s not a case of “the more THC, the better.” THC alone isn’t usually a good bet because CBD and, possibly, other cannabinoids modulate the effects of THC, which can decrease the likelihood of the weed actually increasing your anxiety, Tishler explains. “It has been shown, for example, that CBD binds to the CB1 receptor that is stimulated by THC and decreases the responsiveness of that receptor to THC.” Cannabis users with higher THC content in their bodies are more likely to experience anxiety than those with more CBD, according to a study in Psychological Medicine.

If you’re caught up in holiday drama and need immediate relief, vaping is the fastest way to get it, said Patton. If you’re planning ahead of time, you can use edibles, since they set in the slowest. Other than the timing, it doesn’t make too much of a difference. “Delivery method is less important for anxiety than for many other illnesses,” said Tishler. “A few puffs on a flower vaporizer (not oil) or a few milligrams of a small edible will be effective.” 

All that said, the best way to use weed for holiday anxiety or stress depends a lot on your specific needs as an individual, so seek medical advice whenever you can. “Overall, while cannabis can be effective for anxiety, no patient should have to go it alone or get advice from unqualified sources,” says Tishler. “Seek a medical cannabis specialist or endocannabinologist.”

Feature image from Shutterstock

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