Researchers have identified the molecular pathways that are responsible for marijuana-induced learning and memory problems which could mean that the side effects caused by taking marijuana can be avoided by simply taking an over-the-counter painkiller, a new study published in the journal Cell reveals.
"Our studies have solved the longtime mystery of how marijuana causes neuronal and memory impairments," says senior study author Chu Chen of Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center. "The results suggest that the use of medical marijuana could be broadened if patients concurrently take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen."
The main active ingredient in marijuana is Δ 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), and drugs based on this compound have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients. But these drugs have not been approved for a wider range of conditions, in part because of Δ9-THC-induced side effects. Moreover, there are no effective FDA-approved treatments for these side effects because, until now, little was known about the molecular pathways underlying these impairments.
The researchers also discovered that Δ9-THC treatment reduced neuronal damage in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease, and this beneficial effect persisted when the animals were simultaneously treated with a COX-2 inhibitor. "There are no effective medications currently available for preventing and treating Alzheimer's disease or halting disease progression," Chen says. "Our results suggest that the unwanted side effects of cannabis could be eliminated or reduced, while retaining its beneficial effects, by administering a COX-2 inhibitor along with Δ9-THC for the treatment of intractable medical conditions such as Alzheimer's disease."