THC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, and has been shown effective in treating several medical conditions such as MS, chronic pain, and Alzheimer’s disease. However, it also causes cognitive side effects such as impaired working memory, lethargy, and paranoia. Especially for long-term treatment, these side effects might be detrimental for some patients. Thus there is a concerted effort to understand how THC’s cognitive side effects work and how to inhibit them.
A recent paper by researchers at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center shows that THC causes increased production of an enzyme COX-2. Ironically COX-2 is associated with inflammation and pain because it produces the chemical agents that cause them. Certain classes of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) work by inhibiting COX-2.
The researchers found that mice given THC with COX-2 inhibitors did not exhibit the characteristic memory loss and “fear conditioning” of mice given THC alone. Importantly, the anti-Alzheimer’s benefit was also retained. This could be a major finding for medical marijuana.
For a long time, there was a dearth of research into THC. Perhaps the current climate of reform has emboldened researchers.