To many, marijuana is seen as a horrible narcotic that causes many physical and social problems. To others, it's a harmless drug that gives the body a relaxing sensation. Marijuana can be found on many college campuses and high schools. It is estimated that at least 70 million Americans have tried it, and of those people, 10-14% become dependent of the drug (1). Marijuana is often referred to as the "gateway" drug, leading the user to more serious narcotics. Marijuana users experience different sensations, from excessive mellowness, fuzzy memory, to the munchies. Some of the typical effects are impairment of memory, alteration of memory, motor coordination, posture, cognitive ability, and sensory perception. So what is it in marijuana that keeps users wanting more?
The active ingredient in marijuana is delta-9-trans-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. The structure of THC is very similar to the endogenous cannabinoids, or endocannabinoids for short, which are naturally occurring chemicals in the body (1).The THC binds to the receptors of the endocannabinoids, and activates the neurons, causing the different sensations experienced during a high. These receptors are spread throughout the brain. THC affects the central nervous system, as well as the peripheral tissue systems. THC can reduce pain, lower body temperature, and enhance appetite. It can also be used for anti-inflammatory, bronchodilatory, and anti-convulsant, which is why THC is used for medicinal purposes. THC is used as a popular treatment for glaucoma by reducing ocular pressure, and for neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis, Huntington's Disease, and spinal cord injury (4).
The THC acts on the receptors of the endocannabinoids. Two known endocannabinoid receptors are CB1 and CB2, which are found in the nervous system and the periphery nervous system, respectively. The receptors are coupled with G-proteins and mediate the inhibition of adenylyl cyclase activity, which in turn reduce the production of cyclic AMP, cAMP. The reduction of cAMP formation blocks calcium ion flow into the cells, which would disrupt the formation of action potentials. This may attribute to some of the side effects to marijuana use (4). Cyclic AMP and calcium ions regulate several neurotransmitters, including acetylcholine and dopamine (1). This may account for the nice and mellow feeling people experience when smoking pot.
The precise physiopathological responses between the stimulation and inactivation of endocannabinoid receptors are still unclear, however, it is known that the performance of the nervous system and the peripheral processes, such as modulation of neurotransmitters, control of immune, gastrointestinal, reproductive, and cardiovascular systems are impacted. By observing the actions of the CB1 receptor, researchers are able to determine different response pathways. The actions of the CB1 receptors interact with thermoregulatory systems in the body. CB1 receptors also...