Western University researchers show how CBD blocks side-effects of THC in cannabis

Research out of Western University is showing for the first time how cannabidiol (CBD) helps to lessen negative psychiatric side effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in cannabis.

A new study involving rats, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, found that THC stimulates extracellular-signal regulated kinase (ERK), a molecule in the brain’s hippocampus, which triggers side-effects like paranoia, anxiety and addictive behaviours.

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Rats given both CBD and THC, meanwhile, had normal levels of activated ERK and less anxiety behaviours.

“Our findings identify for the first time the molecular mechanisms by which CBD may actually block these THC-related side-effects,” said researcher and professor Steven Laviolette, PhD.

“Our findings have important implications for prescribing cannabis and long-term cannabis use. For example, for individuals more prone to cannabis-related side-effects, it is critical to limit use to strains with high CBD and low THC content.”

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The study’s lead author Roger Hudson, PhD candidate and Vanier Scholar, noted that the data suggested no impact on the ERK pathway when CBD was administered on its own.

“However, by co-administering CBD and THC, we completely reversed the direction of the change on a molecular level. CBD was also able to reverse the anxiety-like behaviour and addictive-like behaviour caused by the THC,” Hudson said.

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The research team is hoping to examine ways to formulate THC with fewer side effects and improve the effectiveness of CBD in therapeutic settings.

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