7/28/2011 – Time magazine made a flawed, sensationalistic attempt at covering cannibinoid research in a recent article. The piece details the effects of a synthetic cannabinoid (called JWH-133) and its ability to deter cocaine addiction in an animal model by activating the CB2 receptor in the brain. The implications of this study imply that cannabinoids could be potentially used as an “exit” drug for cocaine users. But Time confused the synthetic drug used in the study with a natural substance called cannabidiol or CBD.
Unfortunately, the seemingly good news about CB2 receptors and the treatment of cocaine addiction was over-shadowed by a plethora of inaccurate scientific information.
Here are the three main points that Time forgot:
- CBD does not activate CB2 receptors at a reasonable concentration. This crucial information was published in 1996. In test tube experiments, CBD can only activate the CB2 receptor at a concentration unachievable through any known or conventional route of administration. If, for instance, a patient had an IV hooked up to a vat of nearly pure CBD, then there might be enough CBD to affect receptor dynamics and thus lead to the activation of CB2 receptors. In short, CBD may be able to treat cocaine addiction, but not by acting through cannabinoid receptors.
- Dr. Gardner and his team (referred to in the Time article) looked at the effects of a synthetic cannabinoid, not actual CBD, in relation to cocaine addiction. To be clear: JWH-133 activates CB2 receptors while CBD does not. (It’s essential to note that more JWH compounds are becoming illegal each day. In the last few months, several JWH compounds have been listed as either Schedule 1 of the federal Controlled Substances Act, placed on the DEA watch list or banned by new state laws.)
- Time magazine glaringly overlooked the most relevant research done on the effects of actual CBD (not a synthetic cannibinoid like JWH-133) and cocaine addiction by Raphael Mechoulam, one of the most noted Cannabis researchers in history. Dr. Mechoulam is credited as the first scientist to isolate THC as the primary ingredient in Cannabis back in 1964 and he continues to produce groundbreaking cannabis research. His important 2004 study looked at CBD and cocaine addiction but the research cited by Time never even mentions CBD.
One of the most basic concepts in cannabinoid science is that THC activates CB1 and CB2 receptors, but CBD does not activate CB1 and CB2 receptors. To refute this fundamental understanding of cannabinoid receptors is an insult to the scientific community and ultimately does more harm than good. As a scientist, this type of research is extremely complex and all news organizations will need to do a better job when conveying information to the public.
Jahan Marcu is currently investigating the pharmacology of cannabinoid receptors. He was working at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute when exciting discoveries were made showing enhanced anti-cancer effects with THC and CBD from the Cannabis plant. The findings were published in the Journal of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics. In 2009 he received the Billy Martin Award from the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS). Jahan is currently the vice-chair the Medical and Scientific Advisory Board at Americans for Safe Access (ASA). Questions? Contact [email protected]
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent any University, business or affiliates. While the information provided in this blog is from published scientific studies it is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease.