Could some people actually ‘need marijuana’ to feel normal?
This might not be such a far-fetched notion after all. A 2003 and 2014 scientific review of the medical literature on marijuana suggests that for at least some marijuana users, a clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD) might exist – a condition where the body does not maintain sufficient levels of endocannabinoids to function properly (or feel normal).
To better understand this, let’s take a moment to explore why endocannabinoids, phytocannabinoids and the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) are so important to your health and well-being.
Endocannabinoids | Phytocannabinoids and the ECS
Endocannabinoids are signaling molecules naturally produced within the human body. They are ligands that bind to receptors within the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) and regulate its behavior. These ECS receptors are located within your brain, throughout your central and peripheral nervous system and beyond. The two primary receptors within the ECS have been identified as CB1 and CB2. Your body produces endocannabinoids to regulate important biological functions, including your immune system, your appetite, mood, memory and your ability to manage pain – via these two receptors.
Phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids that occur naturally in certain plants – principally the cannabis plant. The two main phytocannabinoids, THC and CBD, are mimetic to the two principle endocannabinoids produced by the human body, anandamide and 2-AG. Anandamide, and its mimetic phytocannabinoid THC, influences both CB1 and CB2 receptors and are psychoactive. 2-AG, and its mimetic phytocannabinoid CBD is non-psychoactive, and exerts primary influence over CB1 receptors – which are key to regulating your immune system, appetite and ability to modulate pain.
CECD | Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency
CECD is a potential explanation as to why medical marijuana has been found so effective in treating migraines, fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowl Syndrome (IBS) and a growing list of treatment-resistant disorders including Autism Spectrum Disorder. Dr. Ethan Russo and Dr. Steele Smith propose that an underlying cannabinoid deficiency (CECD) might contribute to or perhaps cause the underlying pathophysiology that results in these and other serious medical disorders.
Addiction versus Deficiency
We have been told, and rightly so, that a big warning flag to possible drug / alcohol abuse and addiction is the intense feeling that you need IT. Whether IT is alcohol, a prescription from your doc or an illicit drug – if you feel you NEED IT to feel like yourself, you may very well have a problem and should seek medical advice.
While this is still sage advice, researchers and medical professionals are now beginning to recognize the evidence indicating a potential EXCEPTION to this rule-of-thumb. It is quite possible that some medical users who just ‘don’t feel themselves’ without their daily dose of marijuana, quite possibly have CECD. And for those with CECD, not ‘feeling normal’ or yourself without supplementing your endocannabinoid levels with daily marijuana – is starting to make medical sense.
CECD and Neurological Disorders
Back in 2003, Dr. Ethan Russo surmised that if a neurotransmitter deficiency could be the cause of Alzheimer’s dementia (acetylcholine deficiency), Parkinson’s disease (dopamine deficiency) and depression (lowered serotonin), then a deficiency in an endocannabinoid could explain the pathophysiology of disorders such as migraines, fibromyalgia, and IBS.
CECD and Autism Spectrum Disorder
Did you know that the interaction of gastric and environmental factors, inflammation and immune system dysfunction – all play important roles in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?
A brief history of ASD discovery…
- In 2006, Ashwood and Molly, separately demonstrated mitochondrial and immune system dysfunction in children with ASD.
- In 2008, Agudelo and Newton discovered an immune system dysfunction in autistic children that led to an immune response altering peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs)
- In 2012, Siniscalo demonstrated that PBMCs in ASD children show disrupted inflammatory signaling pathways and invoke alterations to enzymes that modulate cell proliferation and differentiation.
- In 2013, Siniscalo and associates discovered that CB2 receptors were substantially increased in PBMCs of autistic children.
As I mentioned earlier, phytocannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD) – directly modulate the activity of CB2 receptors. And CB2 receptors appear to be involved in ASD and the associated immune system dysfunction observed in the disorder.
All of these discoveries have led to a focus on the role of the ECS in ASD, and whether CECD might be the key to understanding the underlying pathophysiology of ASD and other ECS related disorders.
What does the Future Hold?
Evidence continues to grow that connects the Endocannabinoid System with immune based disorders such as IBS, psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia, neurodegenerative disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis and Alzheimer’s, as well as developmental disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder.
The future of phytocannabinoid research is bright! Every day, science inches closer to understanding the complex array of physiological processes impacted and modulated by the complex phytochemistry found within the cannabis plant.
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