Cannabis-Like Drugs that Help With Pain and Don’t Harm the Brain

Medicinal cannabis is becoming an increasingly accepted form of pain treatment, but the side effects are somewhat troubling. One of the main issues is that cannabis effects cognitive function. A new drug has been developed that resembles the pain alleviating effects of cannabis, while not adversely effecting the brain.

Pain relief due to cannabis is initiated through the activation of CB1, a “cannabinoid receptor” found in the brain. Though CB1 is thought to be a leading receptor for pain relief, due to its position in the brain, activation can also lead to psychological issues, fatigue, and a recreational mental addiction to the drug.

The current novel research has shown that certain drugs are capable of triggering a different cannabanoid receptor, CB2, which is not present within the brain, but within the peripheral nervous system. The effect of pain blocking is similar to that of CB1 though, without the cognitive side effects. “Our new study is very promising because it suggests that we could alleviate pain by targeting the cannabinoid receptor CB2 without causing the kinds of side-effects we associate with people using cannabis itself,” states lead researcher Dr. Praveen Anand.

Cannabis is used as a pain relieving treatment for a variety of ailments, such as arthritis, diabetes, AIDS, and cancer that requires chemotherapy treatment. The new cannabis-like drugs, while targeting a different receptor, should still be an appropriate pain-relieving treatment for these same conditions. It’s also possible, that because of the limited side effects of the new drugs, they could be more readily used for mild pain relief as well, though these abilities are not well known at present.

Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Anand, Praveen. Gallagher, Laura. Pain news release. September 2008.