A Review of the Relationship between the Endocannabinoid System and the Reduction of Depression and Anxiety

Issue: 
2019
Institution: 
Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60201

The growing acceptance of cannabis use for medical and recreational purposes across the world has sparked interest in evaluation of the therapeutic potential of the drug. While the beneficial effects of cannabis use to treat physical pain are well-known, its efficacy as a treatment for mental health disorders has not been as extensively investigated. As the most prominent and widespread of these disorders, depression and anxiety have been diagnosed in individuals across the world. Despite the wide range of severity for these disorders, tricyclic antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are predominately prescribed to treat any case. However, these compounds are not always effective treatments, which leaves a need to investigate alternative treatment options for depression and anxiety. This review article aims to identify prominent research studies focused on evaluating the potential of the human endocannabinoid system, which consists of two main cannabinoid receptor subtypes (CB1 and CB2). Prior studies have focused on the use of exogenous cannabinoids such as oleamide or phytocannabinoids such as delta-9- THC, but this review gives more consideration to endocannabinoids that are produced by the human body. In addition to experiments testing the independent capacity of endocannabinoid receptor ligands as antidepressants, the additive and synergistic potentials of these ligands have been examined in conjunction with cholinergic receptor ligands through the use of mice FST. Recent studies have also indicated that certain genetic variants within the endocannabinoid system such as the CB1 rs1049353 G allele have been linked to increased prevalence of mental health disorders and provide a rationale for gender discrepancies in disorder incidence. Although current research into the prospective use of endocannabinoids as antidepressants is limited, this review details the field’s most salient advancements toward potential clinical applications.

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