MEDICINE MAN

CANNABINOIDS
The munchie effect brings new light to obesity research
harmaceutical companies have long sought to harvest the medicinal qualities from plants around the world, and marijuana is no exception. It’s a plant that has been praised by Cheech and Chong, Ron Paul and your college roommate – and now researchers are looking to manipulate some of the effects of getting stoned. Everyone knows about the infamous marijuana munchies. Smoke a joint and suddenly waffles doused in chocolate syrup and a stack of Oreos is an acceptable midday snack. That’s because the hypothalamus, the part of your brain that helps regulate your appetite, is loaded with cannabinoid receptors. These receptors seem

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PHOTO COURTESY OF GETTY IMAGES: 200136140-001/JANA LEON/ STONE/GETTY IMAGES

to be an integral part of controlling our hunger and food intake, and also influence our perception of being “full.” So when you light up a joint, the cannabinoid THC, the primary psychoactive component of marijuana, latches on to these receptors and the munchies ensue. Some pharmaceutical companies are developing drugs to block cannabinoid receptors in non-stoned patients to diminish their desire to eat. So far they’ve had little luck. Last October the European Medicines Agency suspended the use of Acomplia, a drug that blocks the CB1 cannabinoid receptor, due to psychiatric side effects and five cases of suicide. It was also rejected by the FDA because it triggered depression, sleep disorders and aggression. Just weeks before Acomplia got axed, U.S.-based Merck & Co., Inc. pulled the plug on Taranabant, another drug aimed at blocking our cannabinoid receptors. Merck backed out of submitting the drug to the FDA for approval when they found nearly 30 percent of users experienced depression, anxiety and irritability. Cannabinoid receptors: 2. Big pharma: 0.
 ELIZABETH RILEY

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