Brain Bong? VCU Studies Weedless High 

click to enlarge street22_medical_marijuana_300.jpg

Move over California: Virginia's making waves in the world of weed. A team of researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University's School of Pharmacy and Toxicology is leading research in how cannabis affects the brain — more specifically, how pot mimics a naturally occurring, potlike chemical in the brain — with implications for alleviating political squabbles over medical marijuana.

Aron Lichtman, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the university, has studied cannabinoids since 1989, on the heels of the Reagan administration's “Just Say No” campaign and during a time when he says scientists “knew very little about how marijuana produces its effects in the brain.”

Since then, marijuana has been proven as a pain reliever with other therapeutic benefits. But it's also been discovered that naturally occurring brain chemicals called endocannabinoids produce effects similar to pot — and that the brain has a whole system for regulating them. Endocannabinoids are released in the brain as a response to stress and other environmental stimuli and have been shown to have a calming effect — decreasing anxiety and relieving pain. But they're only released in short bursts, quickly broken down by special enzymes, so the therapeutic benefit doesn't last.

Lichtman and other VCU researchers have conducted experiments with mice that artificially block the enzymes that break down endocannabinoids using either drugs or genetic manipulation. With the enzymes blocked, calming endocannabinoids flush the brain, increasing resistance to pain without the chemical dependence or adversely affecting learning and memory — some of the potential setbacks of pot.

Finding alternatives to weed is Lichtman's ultimate goal. Advocates of medical marijuana argue that smoking is the best way to ingest — when patients feel nauseated, they don't want to wait to digest pills. Lichtman and his colleagues Joanne Peart, Peter Byron and the late Billy R. Martin, a pioneer in marijuana research, tried to solve this problem when they invented an inhaler that would vaporize liquid THC, the main active ingredient in pot.

The inhaler was under development with two pharmaceutical companies. But when the economy tanked, the invention was dropped.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

  • Re: Capping Carbon: What Does Dominion Think?

    • Thanks to ZEUSHACKERS01 At OUTLOOK dot COM . My lawyer and I knew nothing about…

    • on May 25, 2017
  • Re: Capping Carbon: What Does Dominion Think?

    • Hello!! Im indeed very happy for the great help that Dr. okorom rendered to me,…

    • on May 24, 2017
  • Re: Capping Carbon: What Does Dominion Think?

    • Yeah pack, god forbid everyone who studies the subject is wrong and we're left with…

    • on May 23, 2017
  • More »
  • Latest in News and Features

    More by Sara Dabney Tisdale

    Copyright © 2017 Style Weekly
    Richmond's alternative for news, arts, culture and opinion
    All rights reserved
    Powered by Foundation