When we are depressed our brains undergo many different biochemical changes; no one is quite certain which of these actually cause the typical feelings of sadness or hopelessness.
One important depression-related change is a dramatic decline in the birth of immature neurons, known as neurogenesis, in a brain region called the hippocampus.
Drugs that treat depression, such as Prozac and Zoloft, all induce a recovery in the rate of neurogenesis in the hippocampus.
So what’s the connection with marijuana and the munchies?
The drug, rimonabant, that was so successful in reducing food cravings as it induced depression and thoughts of suicide, has been recently shown (by Beyer and colleagues at Pfizer) to significantly reduce neurogenesis.
Let’s flip this idea on its side and ask, “What would happen to neurogenesis if we exposed the brain to marijuana?”
My lab investigated this idea and discovered that a small dose of marijuana, about only one puff, taken every day can reverse the age-related decline in neurogenesis that might underlie depression.
Whether this approach might also work in young people remains to be determined.
What these studies teach us is that our brain’s own marijuana neurotransmitter system is necessary for us to feel hungry, to experience happiness and to maintain the brain normal processes, such as neurogenesis, that prevent age-associated depression and cognitive decline.
We’ve learned from our experience with rimonabant that it is dangerous to constantly antagonize this neurotransmitter system.
What we do not know is whether it is dangerous to constantly stimulate it.
Elena Ravalli was a seemingly healthy 37-year-old when she began to experience strange attacks of vertigo, numbness, temporary vision loss and crushing fatigue. They were classic signs of multiple sclerosis, a potentially debilitating neurological disease.
It was 1995 and her husband, Paolo Zamboni, a professor of medicine at the University of Ferrara in Italy, set out to help. He was determined to solve the mystery of MS – an illness that strikes people in the prime of their lives but whose causes are unknown and whose effective treatments are few.
What he learned in his medical detective work, scouring dusty old books and using ultra-modern imaging techniques, could well turn what we know about MS on its head: Dr. Zamboni’s research suggests that MS is not, as widely believed, an autoimmune condition, but a vascular disease.
From: Angela M. Baxley
Date: May 18, 2011 1:19:46 AM EDT
Talked to a doctor today (see below). We talked for a little more than an hour, over the phone. He ruled out epilepsy (if a concern, past as childhood) and manic/bipolar, depression.
He said there isn’t much a treatment. Continue Serofin, likely that can reduce “need” for effects of MJ. Should know in about 1 month.
Half-life for Clonazepam is extremely long and he was not at all surprised by any of my experiences.
Apparently I’ll just live with hypothymic [sic] temperament the same way Micheal just lives with dysphoria. I’m the euphoria to his dysphoria. No wonder I was so attracted to him. I always felt he gave me that other half of life perspective.
Begin forwarded message:
From: “Vishaal Mehra”
Date: May 16, 2011 3:56:03 PM PDT
To: “‘Angela M. Baxley'”
Subject: RE: Request
Clonazepam (and other benzodiazepine medication) can have an atypical response in some individuals, such as disinhibition, mood changes, and activation—rather than the expected calming/sedation often seen with these types of meds.
Would you like to talk over the phone to discuss your symptoms further?
I have some availability this week
Let me know
Vishaal Mehra MD, CPI
CEO and Medical Director
Artemis Institute for Clinical Research
8787 Complex Dr, Ste 100
San Diego, CA 92123
Office: (858) ARTEMIS (278-3647)
From: Angela M. Baxley
Sent: Monday, May 16, 2011 3:35 PM
To: Vishaal Mehra
Subject: Re: Request
Thank you for helping. Matt is a great guy, and I appreciate all his help as well.
I have had unusual symptoms from what I can recall around 15 or so up to today. I would like to see who might be able to professionally guide my search for understanding.
Please let me know what you need from me.
And once again,