New research suggests over-the-counter painkillers may reduce some of the side effects associated with medical marijuana, and without reducing its potential to treat conditions like Alzheimer’s.
Studies have long shown that marijuana, THC specifically, can temporarily impair learning and memory abilities.
But researchers from Louisiana State University say they’ve discovered a pathway in the brain that may be responsible for marijuana’s effect on memory and learning. According to Chu Chen, PhD, who led the study, disrupting this pathway may be as simple as popping a few over-the-counter painkillers.
“Our studies have solved the longtime mystery of how marijuana causes neuronal and memory impairments. The results suggest that the use of medical marijuana could be broadened if patients concurrently take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen.”
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which include aspirin and ibuprofen, work by inhibiting the cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzyme.
In experiments with mice, published in the journal Cell, Dr. Chen and his team managed to link cognitive impairments caused by THC to an increase in COX-2 levels. But giving the mice an NSAID called Celebrex along with THC seemed to prevent these impairments.
More importantly, using models of Alzheimer’s disease, the scientists confirmed that Celebrex didn’t change the ability of THC to slow disease progression.
“Our results suggest that the unwanted side effects of cannabis could be eliminated or reduced, while retaining its beneficial effects, by administering a COX-2 inhibitor along with Δ9-THC for the treatment of intractable medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.”
The potential of THC to treat Alzheimer’s has been the focus of a number of studies, since, as Dr. Chen notes, “there are no effective medications currently available for preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease or halting disease progression.”
The study received funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)