Can Cannabis Help Fight Bad Memories?

The process by which the brain removes bad memories is not well understood. Certainly, it would be convenient to remove bad memories, especially those evoking fear. Studies have shown that naturally occurring chemicals in our body help fight bad memories and are similar to the active ingredient in cannabis. The body produces cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids, which bind to receptors throughout the nervous system to execute various effects associated with memory, stress, and appetite.

Scientists suggest that the body’s natural cannabinoids flood the amygdala, a structure of the brain involved with the experiencing of emotions. Developing drugs to target the cannabinoids, particularly in the amygdala, may be a potential therapy for recurring bad memories.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry studied mice trained to associate a shock with a specific tone. After providing the tone without the actual shock, normal mice were able to remove their fear of the sound, thus showing that they were able to fight the bad memory. On the contrary, genetically-engineered mice that lacked receptors for cannabinoid brain chemicals were not able to disassociate their fear of the tone. The researchers further studied this theory by blocking cannabinoid receptors in the brains of the normal mice through a specific drug. They discovered that the normal mice treated with the drug behaved similarly to the genetically engineered mice in that they were unable to forget the bad memory.

Scientists at the Leiden University in the Netherlands have shown that anandamide, an endocannabinoid, may help fight bad memories. Scientists targeted a protein called NAPE-PLD, which produces anandamide in the brain. After inhibiting NAPE-PLD through a compound called LEI-40 in animal models, they concurred that anandamide is involved in reducing bad memories.

Cannabis to help cope with bad memories – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Cannabinoid receptors are linked to emotional and cognitive regulation, which are significantly affected functions in neuropsychiatric disorders. As the endocannabinoid system is essential for emotional homeostasis and cognitive function, it may be exploited to treat mental health problems. Case studies suggest that CBD may be beneficial for treating a range of psychiatric disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive. Clinical studies have cautioned the use of high-THC products for patients with anxiety or psychotic disorders due to the cannabinoid’s psychoactive effects. However, a hybrid of CBD and THC has been studied as the CBD may modulate the psychoactive effects of THC. Although the recent evidence demonstrates anti-psychotic effects, strong clinical research is required to conclude CBD as an effective treatment and a long-term assessment of potential risks.

A pre-clinical research study conducted in 2014 showed that CBD oil has anxiolytic-like effects on animal models. This study involved a range of CBD oil doses on animal models performing stress-inducing tests such as a forced swimming test (FST) and an elevated plus maze (EPM). A 2016 research study showed that CBD could significantly aid in stress-induced sleep issues, specifically on patients with post-traumatic stress disorder induced anxiety.

Pre-clinical and limited clinical evidence supports CBD as a potential treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. However, strong clinical research is required to conclude CBD as an effective treatment. Long-term studies are also required to evaluate the benefits and risks.

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