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The endogenous cannabinoid system and the treatment of marijuana dependence


The active principle of marijuana, Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta9-THC), exerts its pharmacological effects by binding to selective receptors present on the membranes of neurons and other cells. These cannabinoid receptors are normally engaged by a family of lipid mediators, called endocannabinoids, which are thought to participate in the regulation of a diversity of brain functions, including pain, mood, appetite and memory. Marijuana use may lead to adaptive changes in endocannabinoid signaling, and these changes might contribute to effects of marijuana as well as to the establishment of marijuana dependence. In the present article, I outline current views on how endocannabinoid substances are produced, released, and deactivated in the brain. In addition, I review recent progress on the development of pharmacological agents that interfere with endocannabinoid deactivation and discuss their potential utility in the treatment of marijuana dependence and other aspects of drug abuse.

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