AsianScientist (Sep. 26, 2017) – The dangers of cannabinoid abuse have been exposed by researchers in Japan who identified compounds in natural and synthetic marijuana that cause life-threatening seizures. The researchers report their findings in the journal Scientific Reports.
Marijuana is the most commonly abused drug in the world, and the advent of synthetic cannabinoids creates additional challenges to society because of their higher potency and ability to escape drug detection screenings. There is currently minimal information on the pharmacology and potential harm of synthetic cannabinoids. As several governments proceed with legalization of cannabinoids for both medical and recreational use, studies on the adverse side-effects of canniboids are warranted.
In this study, a team of researchers led by Professors Olga Malyshevskaya and Yoshihiro Urade of the International Institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine at the University of Tsukuba discovered that seizures, a life-threatening condition, can be induced by natural Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC, main constituent of marijuana) or the synthetic cannabinoid JWH-018 (main component of synthetic blend “Spice”) in mice.
This was demonstrated by video monitoring and movement activity tracking of mice, alongside continuous recording of the animals’ electrical brain activity when exposed to the compounds. Based on their data, the researchers proposed a potential preventive measure against cannabinoid overdose. The pretreatment of mice with a cannabinoid-1-receptor specific antagonist, AM-251, prevented cannabinoid-induced seizures.
“Our study is quite important because people see marijuana as a soft drug and are unaware of the particularly severe effects caused by those cannabinoids,” said Malyshevskaya.
Considering the recent irreversible spread of synthetic cannabinoids and their impact on human health, this data should serve as a public health alert, informing the decision-making of healthcare professionals and policy makers. Clinicians in the emergency departments of hospitals should therefore suspect seizure activity in patients who have a history of cannabinoid intoxication.
The article can be found at: Malyshevskaya et al. (2017) Natural (∆ 9 -THC) and Synthetic (JWH-018) Cannabinoids Induce Seizures by Acting Through the Cannabinoid CB1 Receptor.
Source: University of Tsukuba; Photo: Pixabay.
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Marijuana and ‘spice’ could trigger seizures, study says
While a number of studies have suggested that marijuana may be effective for reducing seizures, new research cautions that potent and synthetic forms of the drug have the opposite effect.
Share on Pinterest Researchers suggest that the use of potent cannabinoids have the potential to trigger seizures.
Researchers from the University of Tsukuba in Japan found that natural tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the psychoactive chemical in marijuana – and the synthetic cannabinoid JWH-018 caused seizures in mice.
Study leader Olga Malyshevskaya and colleagues say that their findings – which are published in the journal Scientific Reports – should serve as a “public alert” to the potential harms caused by high-potency and synthetic marijuana.
While marijuana remains that “most commonly used illicit drug” in the United States, it is becoming increasingly legalized in individual states for medicinal purposes, recreational purposes, or both.
There has been increasing research for the use of marijuana – particularly a cannabinoid in the drug called cannabidiol (CBD) – in the treatment of seizures in patients with epilepsy, though a debate surrounding its efficacy continues.
The new study from Malyshevskaya and team suggests that general use of high-potency marijuana – that is, marijuana that contains high amounts of THC – may actually trigger seizures.
The research also found that seizures could be prompted by JWH-018, which is a manmade cannabinoid that is the primary component of the synthetic marijuana known as “spice.”
The researchers came to their findings by analyzing the brain activity of male mice after they received THC or JWH-018.
THC was given to the rodents in doses of 10 milligrams per kilogram (the equivalent to around 0.8 milligrams per kilogram in humans) and JWH-018 was administered in doses of 2.5 milligrams per kilogram (the equivalent to around 0.2 milligrams per kilograms in humans).
The team implanted electroencephalography (EEG) and electromyogram electrodes into the brains of the mice, which allowed them to monitor any seizure-related electrical activity in response to the drug compounds.
The movement and behavior of the rodents was also monitored through video recording.
The study revealed that the mice experienced seizures shortly after administration with both THC and JWH-018, though seizure frequency was significantly higher with JWH-018.
Seizure-related brain activity persisted for 4 hours after the administration of each drug, the team reports, but brain activity had returned to normal by the next day.
Interestingly, the researchers found that pre-treating the mice with AM-251 – which is a compound that binds to the cannabinoid-1-receptor – prevented seizures in response to THC and JWH-018.
As such, the team suggests that cannabinoid receptor antagonists could be useful for preventing seizures in the case of marijuana overdose.
According to the researchers, their results “provide strong evidence” that both plant-derived and synthetic cannabinoids have the potential to trigger seizures.
“On the other hand,” the authors note, “a substantial body of literature on cannabinoids in animal models shows mostly anticonvulsive effects.”
“However,” they add, “few of these used EEG recordings to assess epileptic events and many of them induced seizures either electrically or pharmacologically, changing signaling pathways and brain states prior to cannabinoid application.”
The team cautions that the doses of THC and JWH-018 used in their study were high and may not represent the doses normally seen with medicinal or recreational use in humans.
“It would be interesting in the future to also test lower doses, typically used medicinally or recreationally to determine whether the effect is lost or diminished,” they add.
Still, they believe that their findings should be viewed as a warning of the potential dangers of cannabinoids, particularly synthetic marijuana.
“ Our study is quite important because unaware of the particularly severe effect by those cannabinoids, people see marijuana as a soft drug, without dangerous health effects.”
High-potency natural and synthetic cannabinoids were found to trigger seizures in mice, say researchers, with the latter posing the strongest effects.