medical marijuana

A review of mechanisms in medical marijuana: the endocannabinoid pathway, receptors, tetrahydrocannabinol, and cannabidiol 

Virginia Thornley, M.D., Neurologist, Epileptologist

@VThornleyMD

April 28, 2018

Introduction

The Cannabis sativa plant has been known since the beginning of time. It can be traced back 5000 years ago when it was first known to man to alleviate common complaints. It came into the American pharmacopeia in the 19th century then abolished in the 1930’s, likely not coincidentally as the era of prohibition was lifted. It is known to treat ailments such as chronic pain and migraine. In the middle ages, it was used to treat headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, bacterial infections and pain from rheumatological conditions. It was previously known for its psychoactive properties.  It is recently making a resurgence in popularity regarding its medical value. The issue is a topic of hot debate as state laws are at odds with federal laws. Currently, as of April 2018, it is still recognized as a category 1 drug, meaning it is not officially proclaimed to have any medical value despite the long rich history of treating medical symptoms. It is lumped in with other drugs of abuse such as heroin and cocaine.

Background on the Cannabis sativa plant and their metabolites

The Cannabis sativa plant is abundantly rich in phytocannabinoids, the most commonly known and used for its therapeutic value are cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol. The endocannabinoid pathway is comprised of receptors that are coupled with G proteins and cannabinoids (1). In the Cannabis sativa plant, there are 80 phytocannabinoids that can bind to a cannabinoid receptor.

There are 8 major cannabinoids including cannabigerolic acid, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabolinic acid A, cannabidiolic acid A, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabigerol, cannabidiol, cannabichromene, and tetrahydrocannabivarin in the different strains of Cannabis sativa (1).

Ehlsoly, et al, classified it into 11 categories: cannabigerol, cannabichromene, cannabidiol, ∆9-trans-tetrahydrocannabinol, ∆8-trans-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabicyclol, cannabielsoin, cannabinol, cannabinodiol, cannabitriol, and miscellaneous. ∆9 -trans-tetrahydrocannabinol , cannabinol, and cannabidiol are the most well-studied and well-known.

Cannabidiol is extracted from the hemp portion of the plant considered a male part of the plant, there are no psychoactive properties in cannabidiol. Psychoactivity is defined as anything above 0.3% of THC. Tetrahydrocannabinol is derived from the female portion of the plant, particularly the flowers. Conditions are such that in nurseries only a certain amount of sunlight is given to the plants so that specific strains can be grown. Some plants will be richer in cannabidiol, others will be more THC pure and other swill have an equal amount of CBD and THC but it depends on how the plants are grown and under what conditions.

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Endocannabinoid pathway

It is through the endocannabinoid pathway that one gets the sense of well being after exercise or eating chocolate. It is not through endorphins, serotonin or noradrenergic neurotransmitters as they are too large to cross the blood-brain barrier. Tetrahydrocannabinol acts as a mimetic of Anandamide while cannabidiol acts as a mimetic of 2-Arachidinoylglyerol (or 2-AG). The endocannabinoid system works through cannabinoids, the receptors, transporters, and enzymes.

Receptors

The phytocannabinoids work on cannabinoid receptors. The endocannabinoid system is mediated by 3 parts: the cannabinoids, the cannabinoid receptors, and the enzymes. The receptors are of 2 types, CB1 which is found primarily in the nervous system especially in the areas that subserve pain modulation, memory and movement. The CB2 receptor is more peripherally found specifically in the immune system. The CB2 receptor is found to a lesser extent in other organs including tissues of reproduction, pituitary, heart, lungs, adrenal and gastrointestinal systems.  Cannabinoids also react with the TRPV receptor or the transient receptor cation channel subfamily V. They can also act on G receptors including GPR55 thought to be significant in controlling seizures. Other receptors include GPR12, GPR18, and GPR119 (2).

Tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol and their effect on receptors

THC and CBD are the most well-known and well-studied. THC has psychoactive properties and works as a partial agonist on the CB1 receptor and the CB2 receptor. Cannabidiol which has no psychoactive properties works as an antagonist on CB1/CB2 receptor and an agonist on the CB1 and CB2 receptor. Rather than decreasing the effects of THC, it works in a synergistic manner in combination with THC. It potentiates the THC effects by increasing the CB1 densities. CBD increases vanilloid pain receptors, reduces metabolism and reduces re-uptake of anandamide, THC’s mimetic component. Other studies suggest CBD acts as an indirect agonist by interacting with the CB1 receptor so there are less psychoactive symptoms from THC when the two are combined.

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Pharmacokinetics of tetrahydrocannabinol

Regardless of the way of taking it, the protein binding and the and volume of distribution are not affected by the route of taking it. Pharmacokinetics of creams and vaporizers are unclear. Smoking THC appears to exert an effect within minutes of intake and bioavailability is variable depending upon the extent of inhalation ranging between 2-69%. The effect is within minutes. Half-life increases with each inhalation at 2 puffs inhaled for THC it is 1.9 hours and 5.3 hours in CBD at 8 inhalations it is 5.2 hours in THC and 9.4 hours in CBD at a dosage of 5.4mgTHC/5.0mg CBD and 21.5mg THC/20 mg CBD respectively.

Oral routes may seem to be safer but have more adverse effects including GI symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Oral mucosal absorption is rapid within 15 minutes to 60 minutes. Oral tablets are lower in the rate of absorption at about 0.6 to 2.5 hours. The rate of elimination, when taken orally, is biphasic, initially occurring at 4 hours then 24-38 hours after ingestion.

In summary

There is much research ongoing on the mechanisms underlying the medical value of medical marijuana. It is now thought that cannabigerolic acid may have medicinal properties as well. So far, the most well-known and well studied are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol. Most likely as research continues, greater value will likely be attributed towards the phytocannabinoids.

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References

  1. Wang, et al, “Quantitative Determination of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol, CBG, CBD, their acid precursors and five other neutral cannabinoids by UHPLC-UV-MS,” Planta. Med, 2019, mar., 84 (4):260-266.
  2.  Landa, et al, “Medical cannabis in the treatment of cancer pain and spastic conditions and options of drug delivery in clinical practice,”Biomed. Pap. Med. Fac. Univ. Palacky Olomouc Czech Repub., 2018, Mar; 162(1):18-25.
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Epilepsy, pain

Cannabidiol: Is there any scientific evidence? Review of some of the novel mechanisms of action in analgesic, anti-epileptic, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumorigenic and anxiolytic effects 

Virginia Thornley, M.D., General Neurologist and Epileptologist

February 16, 2018

Introduction

Cannabidiol (CBD) is the little known medical component without the euphoria used for medical indications such as analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-epileptic and anxiolytic effects. In the pathway for endocannabinoids, cannabinoid exerts its therapeutic effects by binding to the CBD1 receptor found in the brains and the nerves exerting their analgesic effects. CBD does not have the same euphoriant effect as THC its counterpart which is better known to the public with much stigma. CBD will need to be 100 times more potent to have the same euphoria as THC making it relatively safe to give without the intoxicating effects. THC or delta-tetrahydrocannabidiol is the main psychoactive component in the marijuana plant, the one finds in the street drugs which has caused such a stigma shadowing the beneficial effects of the plant. Cannabidiol is also thought to work on the 5HT1 receptor giving its anxiolytic properties. This review seeks to understand some of the laboratory research that study the underlying mechanisms for its beneficial actions.

Cannabidiol works on CBD1 receptor and is thought to have an analgesic and anti-inflammatory role in diseases. In many states, it still outlawed to have in possession but growing clinical evidence shows that it can be used in pain syndromes. In the state of Florida there are 10 conditions recognized that can be treated with CBD. It is most commonly used in pain from stage IV metastatic cancer. Cannabidiol has been found to have anti-inflammatory, anti-tumorigenic, analgesic, anti-epileptic and anxiolytic properties.

Analgesic effects

CB1 receptors are found to be expressed in anterior horn cells. The CB2 receptors possibly reduce pain by acting on the neutrophil accumulation and mast cell degranulation which can reduce pain both of these processes increase inflammatory algesia(1).Analgesia has been demonstrated with cannabinoids in visceral inflammation and pain due to peripheral neuropathies, important areas of therapeutic considerations.

Anti-seizure effects

Some of the vast scientific research for cannabinoid is found in the animal models for epilepsy. Cannabinoids exert effects on CB1 and CB2 receptors in the hippocampus where it has a weak affinity(5). CBD1 receptors affect transmission in the synapses through the voltage-gated calcium and potassium channels. There are studies on the effects of CBD in refractory types of epilepsy such as Dravet’s syndrome one of the SCN1a genetic disorders affecting the sodium channel manifesting as severe myoclonic epilepsy. Mechanisms of CBD include increasing excitation of the inhibitory effect of the hippocampus where seizures are propagated.  At low doses, it helps with autism and impaired cognition.  It may exert its effect by working against GPR55(7), TRPV1 in addition to voltage-gated voltage-gated potassium and sodium channels. Another study supports the role that cannabinoids may play in shifting the inhibition of glutamatergic effects and GABAergic effects in the hippocampus mediated by CB1 receptors. In the rat model, it was suggested that seizures can upset the balance of these glutamate and GABA systems (4). 15 minutes after an induced seizure, there is increased 2-arachidonylycerol which is a CB1 agonist suggesting cannabinoids act as a negative feedback loop for seizures(4). In addition, it was found there are more CB1 receptors in the hippocampi with induced seizures compared to control suggesting plasticity of the brain with a compensatory increase in CB1 receptors in response to increased seizures(4). CB2 receptors are related to the immune system and are limited in the CNS. Cannabinoids affect calcium homeostasis and may provide its neuroprotective effects. Growing evidence shows case series, case reports and anecdotal reports on patients having fewer seizures on cannabidiol. Large case-controlled clinical randomized trials are needed.

Anti-tumor effects

There appears to be increased cancel cell death, reduced viability and reduced numbers of metastatic cells. In one study, it is found to reduce epidermal growth factor-induced multiplication and chemotaxis of cells in breast cancer. In mouse models, it inhibits macrophage recruitment in tumor-related cells.n It can potentially inhibit metastasis and proliferation and may provide a novel therapeutic option in breast cancer(2).

Anxiolytic effects

It works on the 5HT1 receptor by altering effects on this receptor the exact mechanism is unknown accounting for anxiolytic properties(6).

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Anti-psychotic effects

CBD may alter the effects of THC and reduce its psychoactive properties (6).

 

Alternative treatment in opioid use

CBD might also work in place of opioids with the growing epidemic of chronic pain and overuse of opioids, CBD may be an alternative analgesic for chronic pain without the effect of tolerance or sedating properties. CBD was found to reduce the reward effects of morphine and does not have the same properties of tolerance. CBD does not have the same euphoria and THC and works on pain(6).

In summary, it is an exciting time for research in the use of cannabinoids. There are innumerable basic science research studies demonstrating the therapeutic effects at the cellular level. Large randomized clinical trials are still needed to gain information in using cannabinoids in humans.

Introduction/Disclaimer

About

https://neurologybuzz.com/

References

1. Rice, AS, et al, “Endocannabinoids and pain: peripheral and spinal analgesia in inflammation and neuropathy, ” Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, 2002, Feb., 66(2-3)246-256.

2. Elbaz, E. et al, ” Modulation of tumor microenvironment and inhibition of EGF/EGFR pathway: novel mechanisms of Cannabidiol on breast cancer,”Molecular Oncology, 2015, Apr., 9(4):906-919.

3. Welty, W.E., et al, “Cannabinoids: the promises and pitfalls,” Epilepsy Currents, 2014, Sep.-Oct., 14(5):250-252.

4. Wallace, MJ, et al, ” The endogenous Cannabinoid system regulates seizure frequency and duration in a model of temporal lobe epilepsy, ” The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, 2003, Oct., 307(1):129-137.

5. Gaston, T. et. al, “Pharmacology of cannabinoids in the treatment of epilepsy, ” Epilepsy Behavior, 2017, May, 70:313-318.

6. Volkow, Nora, “The biology and potential therapeutic effects of cannabidiol,” National Institute on Drug Abuse Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, 2015, June.

7. Kaplan, et.al, “Cannabidiol attenuates seizures and social deficits in a mouse model in Dravet syndrome, “Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 2017, Oct.

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