New Research Reveals How Marijuana Relieves Anxiety

First Posted: Mar 06, 2014 04:34 PM EST

Last month, ESPN reported that Ryan Clark, the safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers, said that his teammates used marijuana as a means to relieve pain and manage stress. Now, a new study shows sheds light on marijuana use for managing stress.

Vanderbilt University and other researchers worldwide have made a groundbreaking cannabis discovery and published their findings in the journal Neuron. Led by Sachin Patel, MD, PhD, the researchers noted previous findings that were crucial to their breakthrough.

There were two studies that Patel found to be particularly significant; those that either revealed specific information or lacked certain information. The first study he acknowledged found that "the natural endocannabinoid system regulates anxiety and the response to stress by dampening excitatory signals that involve the neurotransmitter glutamate," as stated in a news release.

The other finding suggested that, "While marijuana's exogenous cannabinoids also can reduce anxiety, chronic use of the drug down-regulates the receptors, paradoxically increasing anxiety. This can trigger a vicious cycle of increasing marijuana use that in some cases leads to addiction."

Patel and his team found cannabinoid receptors in a key emotional hub in the brain that is crucial to the regulation of anxiety as well as the flight-or-fight response. It was the first time these receptors have been found in the central nucleus of the amygdala in a mouse model. The researchers sought to show how nerve cells in this region of the brain release their own natural endocannabinoids. They believe marijuana use can affect the brain's release of its own endocannabinoids.

With marijuana legalization efforts spreading across the United States for both medical and recreational use, the findings of this study could be important for future use among doctors and distributors.

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