Endocannabinoid System

Drug Policy Question of the Week – 6-13-12

As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 6-13-12. http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/3908

Question of the Week: What is the endocannabinoid system?

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration in its July 2011 entry into the Federal Register,

“Some 483 natural constituents have been identified in marijuana, including approximately 66 compounds that are classified as cannabinoids.  Cannabinoids are not known to exist in plants other than marijuana … “

A Brazillian overview states that,

“In the tip of secreting hairs located mainly on female-plant flowers and, in a smaller amount, in the leaves of cannabis plant, there are resin glands that have a considerable amount of chemically related active compounds, called cannabinoids.”

A 2003 article in Nature Reviews calls cannanbinoids,

“the active components of Cannabis sativa and their derivatives [that] act in the organism by mimicking endogenous substances, the endocannabinoids, that activate specific cannabinoid receptors.”

Trends in Pharmacological Sciences in 2009 stated that,

“most attention has been paid to [delta]9-tetrahydrocannabinol ([THC]), which is the most psychotropic component and binds specific Gprotein-coupled receptors named cannabinoid (CB1 and CB2) receptors. The discovery of a specific cell membrane receptor for [delta]9-THC was followed by isolation and identification of endogenous (animal) ligands termed endocannabinoids.”

According to Wikipedia, ligand is, “an ion or molecule that binds to a central metal atom to form a coordination complex

The Trends article goes on to read,

“Cannabinoid receptors, endogenous ligands that activate them, and the mechanisms for endocannabinoid biosynthesis and inactivation constitute the ‘endocannabinoid system.’ With its ability to modulate several physiological and pathophysiological processes (e.g. neurotransmitter release in the central and peripheral nervous system, pain perception, and cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and liver functions), the endocannabinoid system represents a potential target for pharmacotherapy”