If you have an autoimmune disease like Colitis (where the body's immune system attacks the colon), you could be at higher risk for anxiety disorders. While having one disorder may be bad, having two is even worse! Understanding the correlation between anxiety and Colitis could open up new treatment options for both disorders. Since the endocannabinoid system is involved in both disorders, this means that cannabis could be a potential treatment, but before that we need to understand more about how cannabis signaling in the brain works in Colitis.
Haley Vecchiarelli, PhD Student
Dr. Matthew Hill
Follow Matthew on Twitter: @canna_brain
University of CalgaryDr. Hill's Lab Website
The brain is really sensitive to inflammation, and one of the natural reactions to high levels of inflammation is stress and anxiety. Normally, stress helps us deal with inflammation, but in autoimmune conditions it can actually make things worse. This study used rats with Colitis, and found that the inflammation caused decreases in endocannabinoids in many important areas in the brain for emotion. In turn, this caused stress and anxiety, but increasing the endocannabinoid levels back to normal prevented the mental health consequences of Colitis.
This study looked at endocanabinoids, which are different than the cannabinoids found in marijiuana. An important next step in this research is to consider those cannabinoids, which could offer insight on if cannabis could be a treatment option for Colitis. Since cannabis has lots of anti-inflammatory properties, it might actually help Colitis in multiple ways. But before cannabis could be OKed as a treatment option, there is still a lot of work to be done in the lab to ensure we understand the risks, benefits, and other implications of cannabis in autoimmune conditions.
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