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Marijuana as a Treatment for Depression

Published by Jan

Medical Marijuana as a Treatment for Depression
Published by Jan
There is evidence that marijuana works for some psychiatric disorders. Principally depression and bipolar disorder. Among some people, marijuana is jokingly referred to as "green Prozac”.
"I think cannabis has a lot of potential in the treatment of mental illness," says Lester Grinspoon, emeritus professor of psychiatry at the Harvard School of Medicine. He says that it can be an effective treatment for bipolar disorder and depression. Like any medicine, he cautions, " it will not work for everyone. " Grinspoon has, over the last three decades, been one of the few psychiatrists willing to speak publicly on " mental marijuana."

Two weeks ago, the Israeli army said it would provide, on an experimental basis, medical marijuana to troops suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, another mental illness. Good enough for an army, good enough for me.

The Washington Medical Quality Assurance Commission was petitioned to add mental illness to its list of approved uses of medical marijuana. The commission denied the request. It argued that there was no rock-solid scientific evidence that weed worked for mental illness. The odd thing is that it had approved pot for treatment of Alzheimer's, Crohn's disease, chronic pain, and wasting syndrome based upon –– anecdotal evidence.

Reporting by Maggie Fox; editing by Julie Steenhuysen. Reuters, Mon Nov 5, 2007


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A drug that boosts levels of the brain's own "bliss" chemical can help reverse symptoms of depression in rats, U.S. and Italian researchers reported on Monday.

The drug helps maintain high levels of a compound called anandamide, named after the Sanskrit word for "bliss," which is chemically similar to the active ingredient in marijuana.

"These findings raise the hope that the mood-elevating properties of marijuana can be harnessed to treat depression," said Daniele Piomelli, director of the Center for Drug Discovery at the University of California, Irvine, who led the study.

"Marijuana itself has shown little clinical use for depression. However, specific drugs that amplify the actions of natural marijuana-like transmitters in the brain are showing great promise," he added in a statement.

Piomelli's team used a drug patented this year, called URB597. It interferes with another compound called fatty acid amide hydrolase or FAAH, which in turn breaks down anandamide.

Dialing back FAAH makes more anandamide available in the brain, Piomelli said.

Writing in the journal Biological Psychiatry, Piomelli and colleagues said they gave URB597 to chronically stressed rats, which act in a way similar to depressed people.

After five weeks of treatment, treated rats acted more like unstressed rats, Piomelli's team said.

Piomelli, who patented URB597 with colleagues at the Universities of Urbino and Parma in Italy, licensed the drug to European drugmaker Organon BioSciences. He said Organon will begin clinical studies on the drug in 2008.

Organon is a unit of Dutch chemical group Akzo Nobel, which is in the process of selling it to Schering-Plough Corp.


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