Researchers will soon be able to develop a pill to ward off harmful effects of cannabis.
This hope was triggered after two teams of scientists discovered that pregnenolone, a molecule produced by the brain, acts as a natural defence mechanism against the harmful effects of cannabis in animals.
Pregnenolone prevents THC, the main active principle in cannabis, from fully activating its brain receptor, the CB1 receptor, that when overstimulated by THC causes the intoxicating effects of cannabis.
By identifying this mechanism, the two INSERM teams led by Pier Vincenzo Piazza and Giovanni Marsicano are already developing new approaches for the treatment of cannabis addiction.
The main active ingredient in cannabis, THC, acts on the brain through CB1 cannabinoid receptors located in the neurons. THC binds to these receptors diverting them from their physiological roles, such as regulating food intake, metabolism, cognitive processes and pleasure.
When THC overstimulates CB1 receptors, it triggers a reduction in memory abilities, motivation and gradually leads to dependence.
At the neurobiological level, pregnenolone greatly reduces the release of dopamine triggered by THC. This is an important effect, since the addictive effects of drugs involve an excessive release of dopamine.
The study was published in journal Science.