HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html U Of S Pot Study Stirs Int'l Media
Pubdate: Thu, 27 Oct 2005
Source: Sheaf, The (CN SN Edu)
Copyright: 2005 Sheaf Publishing Society, Inc.,
Author: Charles Hamition
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Test Shows Improved Memory And Learning In Doped Up

This past week, a U of S research team garnered international
attention after publishing a study suggesting that marijuana related
substances might reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

The study was published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation
before it made headlines in Canada and the United States.

The study involved a synthesized substance, HU210, which imitates
major ingredients found in marijuana.

Dr. Xia Zhang, an associate professor of psychiatry at the U of S, and
his team found that high doses of HU210 increased neurological cell
development in the hippocampus, the region of the brain is associated
with learning and memory, as well as anxiety and depression.. This
development has led speculation that the drug may in fact reduce or
even eliminate symptoms of depression and anxiety in the animals.

The story caught the attention of media outlets from home and abroad
including the Globe and Mail, CNN, FOX News, and newspapers across
Europe. Most, if not all stories focused on the improved memory and
brainpower with high HU210 doses and the possibility of the synthetic
drug as a anti-depressant.

Dr. Zhang says drug companies have already expressed interest in his
study although he insists nothing is certain as of yet. "This could be
a major market for drug companies. I have definitely had some interest
expressed in my research."

In the experiments, the rats were injected with high doses of HU210
and placed a variety of controlled situations designed to test their
depression and anxiety levels. The rats injected with HU210 displayed
symptoms that Dr. Zhang and his team describe as being evidence the
animals were in fact happy or less depressed. For example, the rats
showed more reluctance to submit when put in life threatening
situations. When placed in a pool of water, the rats .high' on HU210
did not give up and accept drowning as quickly as those .sober' rats.

The researchers see this as evidence that the drug gave the rats more
motivation or will to live; this of course indicating that they were
in fact less depressed.

However, Dr. Zhang cautions that this neurological cell development,
and the resulting evidence that it the drug fights depression, may be
exclusive to rats and therefore may not have the same effect on
humans. "There is a huge difference between rats and humans. We may
not have the same results if we choose to test humans."

He also insists that although HU210 may mimic ingredients found in
marijuana, marijuana itself contains a plethora of other substances
that are sure to alter the effects on the brain. "HU210 is very pure,
unlike marijuana. The other ingredients in marijuana may act on
different receptors and therefore may produce different results."

Despite these cautions, marijuana activists and endorsers across the
province are celebrating the Saskatchewan born discovery. "This is
definitely a very positive study and I'm glad that it came out of
Saskatchewan," says marijuana activist Nathan Holloway. "Hopefully,
this will open peoples minds towards the drug and perhaps stretch open
the possibility of legalization or decriminalization in the future."

Decriminalization and legalization may seem a far-fetched, but the
possibilities marketing marijuana or marijuana related substances as
anti-depressants may not be too far off. "The results are very
promising," says Dr. Zhang, "This could be a new treatment for anxiety
and depression".

The majority of non-smokers have traditionally dismissed claims that
the drug has calming and relaxing effects, denying has any positive
impact on the brain. This study, however, may support the
pro-marijuana claim that 'weed makes you happy'. Drug companies are
undoubtedly looking to cash in on exactly this phenomenon.

With a surfacing skepticism about traditional anti-depressants such as
Prozac, Zhang and other are expressing optimism that marijuana may be
the next blockbuster anti-depressant. "Prozac and other
anti-depressants work for some and don't for others=85we are hoping
marijuana or some kind marijuana related substance can improve these
conditions," says Zhang.

Holloway too is optimistic about the drugs future: "We now have
science on our side and I think this will help legitimize the drug."
He says, "weed makes you happy, and we've been saying that all along."
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin