Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cannabis use avoids hard drug addiction in orphans

New findings hint that the active ingredient of cannabis could have beneficial effects for opiate addicts

By Leila Sattary

Separating rats from their mothers at an early age specifically leads to an addiction to opiate substances like heroin and morphine. A new study by researchers in Paris shows that injections of THC, the active principle of cannabis, eliminate dependence on opiates in rats deprived of their mothers at birth. These findings could lead to therapeutic alternatives for human drug addicts.

The study was carried out by Valérie Daugé and her team at the Laboratory for Physiopathology of Diseases of the Central Nervous System. By depriving baby rats of their mothers for several hours a day they caused early stress and often the rats suffered lasting brain dysfunction.

Previously, Daugé and her team showed that rats deprived of their mothers became quickly dependent on opiates if they were exposed to them. The new study shows that if tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is also introduced then the rats no longer developed typical morphine-dependent behaviour. The stressed rats received increasing high doses of THC (5 or 10mg/kg) during their equivalent adolescence (between 35 and 48 days after birth). In the striatum, a region of the brain involved in drug dependence, the production of endogenous enkephalins was returned to normal under THC, whereas it diminished for deprived rats which had not received THC.

These findings may be used to develop new treatments to suppress drug dependence in humans.


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