New York: Scientists have found that boosting levels of a naturally occurring compound in the brain could help treat marijuana addiction.
Researchers have found that a substance called kynurenic acid can blunt the rewarding effects of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana.
Kynurenic acid works by blocking the receptors that increase the flood of good feelings brought on by the brain chemical dopamine.
Boosting levels of kynurenic acid in brain could prevent people who abuse marijuana but are trying to quit from relapsing.
"Any drug of abuse has to do with dopamine. We found out few years ago that kynurenic acid controls dopamine. All we had to do was put those things together," said study researcher Robert Schwarcz, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland, in College Park.
To find out whether kynurenic acid could treat marijuana dependence, researchers gave rats and squirrel monkeys a drug that boosted their levels of kynurenic acid, while the animals were self-administering THC or a similar synthetic drug by pushing a lever.
They found the rodents and monkeys were less likely to administer the THC or synthetic drug when they were on the dopamine-stifling drug, 'LiveScience' reported.
In another experiment, the researchers took the animals off of the THC or synthetic drug for a while, and then increased their kynurenic acid levels while giving them a small dose of THC, or a cue associated with taking the drug.
Boosting kynurenic acid prevented the animals from returning to their old drug abuse patterns.
"We found that you can reduce dopamine levels and the animals behave differently ? they don't have relapse, and don't abuse marijuana," Schwarcz told the website.
Researchers cautioned that while the results are promising, they have not yet been validated in humans.
The study was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
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