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Anandamide, and Other Brain Chemicals

2015-03-09

As we already know, there are brain receptors that match numerous drugs which are used and abused by humans.  For example, there are GABA receptors that respond to Valium, nicotinic receptors that accept nicotine, and mu receptors that are activated by morphine.

There is also a brain chemical called anandamide, which activates circuits that relieve anxiety.  This chemical and its receptor are a close match for the active ingredient in marijuana.  People vary in how much of these receptors they produce in their brains, and it turns out that about 20 percent of Americans (and 45 percent of certain Nigerians) have a mutation that decreases the destruction of anandamide, resulting in a “naturally” less anxious condition.   Those who do not possess a double complement of this mutation are “naturally” more anxious and have difficulty extinguishing a fear reaction like the pairing of an electric shock with an audible tone.

Some of the people who are “naturally” anxious indulge in the use of marijuana to relieve their anxiety.  The concern is that these people may have problems with their memory and concentration because of the marijuana.  The whole story, more or less, is told in a New York Times Op-Ed which is found at: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/08/opinion/sunday/the-feel-good-gene.html

I hope to expound on this subject further at a later date, since the subject interests me particularly.

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