Scientists discover a potent molecule in Cannabis to help control anxiety.
Stress and anxiety play an important part in mental health. There are about 284 million people who suffer from anxiety disorder daily. People with anxiety and stress tend to seek effective treatment to feel better. That’s why many are now turning to medical marijuana as an effective treatment.
Many people smoke cannabis for anxiety and stress, but the reasons behind this mechanism are yet to be understood. Meanwhile, a group of researchers may have discovered the answer, which explains the exact mechanism relating to how cannabis decreases feelings of stress and anxiety.
According to a study published in the journal Neuron, the researchers from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center have unlocked the secret, which explains why some people use cannabis or marijuana due to stress and anxiety. There is a brain molecule called 2-AG, which could regulate anxiety and depressive symptoms in people.
Stress-anxiety pathway in the brain
The researchers knew about the stress-anxiety path in the brain, and this made it easier to test whether cannabis can alter these connections.
The stress and anxiety superhighway connect two brain parts– the prefrontal cortex, responsible for decision-making, and the amygdala, which controls our emotions. When you feel stress, the two brain parts come to fusion and generate excitatory neurochemicals, which boosts anxiety levels.
People who have anxiety disorders often experience a stronger link between the amygdala and the frontal cortex. The endocannabinoid system of the body can easily interact with cannabis. It is a comprehensive neuromodulatory system that is influential in the development of the central nervous system (CNS), reaction to endogenous factors.
Understanding how 2-AG functions
2-AG is a molecule that can regulate the interaction between the two regions of the brain, including the amygdala and the frontal cortex. To test this, scientists studied laboratory mice under stress. When these mice became stressed, the two brain regions fuse. Nonetheless, when the scientists boosted the level of 2-AG, they successfully reduced the link and therefore decreased the anxiety levels of the mice.
The mice were exposed to an acute stress for 24 hours before going through a maze. During the process, the scientists calculated the mice’ anxiety levels and examined how their brains reacted to high levels of stress.
Researchers also discovered that stress of trauma could easily break the molecule 2-AG and the endocannabinoid system, increasing anxiety-related feelings and behaviors.
According to Dr. Sachin Patel, study author and the director of the Division of General Psychiatry at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, there is no explanation on how or why this cannabinoid signaling system disappears or disintegrates in response to stress. However, it strengthens the connection between these two regions and boosts anxiety levels in mice.
The researchers can now use this knowledge to develop new treatments and therapies aimed to help people with anxiety disorders. Also, there is a need for more research on how the system reacts to chronic stress and anxiety.