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Cannabidiol decreases cocaine consumption as it facilitates neuronal proliferation

Cannabidiol decreases cocaine consumption as it facilitates neuronal proliferation

Researchers led by Olga Valverde have investigated the mechanism whereby cannabidiol reduces cocaine consumption in mice.

06.06.2019

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A new study shows the mechanism whereby cannabidiol, a substance derived from cannabis without any addictive effects, reduces cocaine consumption in mice. The study by the Behavioural Neurobiology Research Group (GReNeC-NeuroBio) at UPF has been published today in the journal Addiction Biology. It was conducted by the researchers Miguel Ángel Luján and Lídia Cantacorps and led by Olga Valverde.

Cannabidiol is a compound from the cannabis plant, Cannabis sativa, that lacks psychotropic activity. In previous studies it has proved to be of high pharmacological interest, offering promising results in the treatment of drug addiction and epilepsy.

Previous studies had already shown that cannabidiol is effective in reducing cocaine use in an experimental rodent model. Now, in this new work, the authors have investigated the mechanism whereby cannabidiol produces such an effect on cocaine use.

Cannabidiol hinders the formation of the memories that associate the drug with its positive effect.

Drug addiction may be considered as being a learning and memory disorder. When consuming a drug, memories are created that are associated with the experience and its context. These memories become unalterable and aberrant, which prevents forgetting the positive experiences associated with the drug. And this continues to happen even though consumption is clearly harmful.  In addition, consumption becomes a priority even over other basic functions, such as eating or drinking.

In the words of Olga Valverde, full professor at the Department of Experimental and Health Sciences (DCEXS) at UPF, “our study shows that cannabidiol reduces cocaine use because on the one hand it hinders the formation of the memories that associate the drug with its positive effect, and it prevents these aberrant memories of the drug”.   

One of the mechanisms whereby cannabidiol reduced cocaine consumption is through its pro-neurogenesis effect, i.e., it facilitates the proliferation of neurons in the hippocampus.

“We have seen that one of the mechanisms whereby cannabidiol reduced cocaine consumption is through its pro-neurogenesis effect, i.e., it facilitates the proliferation of neurons in an area of the brain, the hippocampus, involved in memory formation”, explains Miguel Ángel Luján, first author of the study. “In a hitherto unknown way, neurogenesis modulates the creation of memories associated with the drug, allowing them not to acquire such prominence”, he adds.

For the study, the researchers blocked the pro-neurogenic effect of cannabidiol by administering a drug, temozolomide. “This drug blocks the beneficial effects it produces by reducing cocaine consumption and improving memory which cannabidiol also produces”, Olga Valverde points out. “Our findings show that cannabidiol may be of interest for the development of new therapies to treat cocaine addiction”, she concludes.

Reference article:

M Á Luján, L Cantacorps, O Valverde. “The pharmacological reduction of hippocampal neurogénesis attenuates the protective effects of cannabidiol on cocaine voluntary intake”, Addiction Biology, May 2019. DOI: 10.1111/adb.12778.

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