Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety and some types of inflammation
may be alleviated by cannabis-like drugs, according to researchers.
The research presented at the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS), held in Berlin,
research teams from Italy and Canada described related findings on the effects of cannabis-like
compounds, artificial compounds that work on natural cannabinoids, on PTSD and colitis.
Using rat models of PTSD, Patrizia Campolongo at the Sapienza University of Rome has found that synthetic
drugs that augment brain levels of natural cannabinoids can reduce symptoms of trauma while also
treating the cognitive dysfunction, and, moreover, these effects are long-term.
“These drugs work in much more targeted brain areas than street cannabis, and, as long as three months
after treatment, they stop relapse of anxiety symptoms. PTSD patients often relapse some time after
the end of treatment,” Campolongo said.
She believes that synthetic drugs influencing levels of natural cannabinoids may act both to reduce the
symptoms of anxiety and also break the cycle of relapses.
Campolongo ensured these artificial cannabis compounds have reduced the risk of side effects, adding they now
need clinical trials to test efficacy on man.
Her work is supported by the studies of Matthew Hill from the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary
in Canada, who presented research into links between inflammatory diseases and stress-associated disorders,
which often occur together.
His work has shown that levels of the brain’s natural cannabis-like molecules are reduced in an animal
model of colitis, suggesting that an artificial boost may be necessary and sufficient to alleviate the
anxiety associated with this inflammation.
They have found, in a rat model of colitis, that levels of a naturally-occurring cannabis, anandamide,
were reduced in several areas of the brain, which resulted in anxiety.
Together, the work of Campolongo and Hill suggest there would be value in well-controlled human studies to
assess the medical benefits of cannabis in a range of linked conditions.