- Published: October 31, 2012
With neuroscience’s growing capacity to inform and advise legal matters, the question of cannabis use to promote mental health may be worth revisiting. An October 29th Time Magazine article titled “How Cannabinoids May Slow Brain Aging” discusses scientific studies that have indicated substantial neurocognitive effects of cannabinoid derivatives. The article cites recent scientific reviews that discusses how “activating the brain’s cannabinoid system may trigger a sort of anti-oxidant cleanse, removing damaged cells and improving the efficiency of the mitochondria, the energy source that powers cells, ultimately leading to a more robustly functioning brain.” The article also mentions studies that indicate that legal medical marijuana “doesn’t encourage kids to smoke more pot.” With these notions in mind, can neuroscience advocate a responsible usage of cannabinoid substances?
Such an approach, if rooted in professional empiricism, would seem rather feasible. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that long standing social and political challenges to even conducting research on this topic have and will continue to pose a barrier that often restricts funding and academic pursuit. One such researcher, Gary Wenk of Ohio State University, expressed his history of research, stating, “I’ve been trying to find a drug that will reduce brain inflammation and restore cognitive function in rats for over 25 years; cannabinoids are the first and only class of drugs that have ever been effective. I think that the perception about this drug is changing and in the future people will be less fearful.”
Granted, scientific approaches to permitting cannabinoid usage, even if unrestricted by social and political challenges, will need refinement. A January 2012 Forbes magazine article details how the effects of various cannabinoids ranges from promoting everything from “serenity to psychosis.” The author, Alice Walton, mentioned studies that suggest that Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), as opposed to cannabidiol (CBD), has marked links to developing psychotic systems after continued use. CBD, on the other hand, has received scientific attention that describes it as an antipsychotic. All in all, it seems that it is time to actively reconsider policies that restrict cannabinoid research and adopt a scientifically driven, clinical approach to determining whether cannabinoid usage should be expanded within the realm of medicine. Perhaps, with a growing literature base, neuroscience can be at the forefront of such policy-making.
Szalavitz, Maia. "How Cannabinoids May Slow Brain Aging | TIME.com." Time. Time, 29 Oct. 2012. Web. 31 Oct. 2012. <http://healthland.time.com/2012/10/29/how-cannabinoids-may-slow-brain-aging/>.
Walton, Alice G. "The Neuroscience of Pot: Researchers Explain Why Marijuana May Bring Serenity Or Psychosis." Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 11 Jan. 2012. Web. 31 Oct. 2012. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2012/01/11/the-neuroscience-of-pot-researchers-explain-why-marijuana-may-bring-serenity-or-psychosis/>.
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