Medical marijuana helps treat disorders such as chronic pain, nausea and seizures. Unfortunately, it can also...um...oh yeah, it can also impair memory and learning. But a new study suggests we can prevent this side effect with easily available medication.
The problem stems from the hippocampus, the brain region responsible for memory formation. So scientists exposed mice to THC, the psychoactive chemical in cannabis, and then looked at their brains. They noticed that the hippocampi of the treated mice produced higher levels of an enzyme called COX-2. When the researchers administered drugs that reduced levels of COX-2, the memory problems disappeared as well. As did some neuron damage.
But protecting the brain against memory loss did not seem to stop the positive effects of marijuana.
The scientists used cannabis to treat a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease. Whether or not they inhibited COX-2, pot appeared to be beneficial. The work is in the journal Cell. [Chen et al., Δ9-THC-caused synaptic and memory impairments are mediated through COX-2 signaling]
Drugs that block COX-2 include anti-inflammatories, such as over-the-counter painkiller ibuprofen. But before you start self-medicating, you might want to wait for confirmation in people.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]