Modulation of the Endogenous Cannabinoid System as a Therapeutic Target in the Treatment of Mental Health Disorders
Biochemistry & Pharmacology Open Access
Focus on developing more effective therapeutic interventions to assuage the symptoms of mental health disorders has been a significant driving force in our search to understand the human brain. Current treatments for mental health disorders rely on modulating neurotransmitter systems such as norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine, and GABA to achieve therapeutic relief of symptoms. While there are many medications that individually target these specific systems, treatment often leads to unwanted
... de effects or incomplete relief. To counter this lack of treatment efficacy, we must investigate other avenues of achieving the same or better outcomes to potentially reach those patients resistant to common treatments. One of these systems is the Endogenous Cannabinoid System (ECS), which is composed of the metabotropic CB1 and CB2 receptors. These G protein coupled receptors are responsible for mediating the effects of acute cannabis ingestion as well as modulating a number of core functions including emotion, memory, and reward. Due to the ubiquitous nature of the expression of ECS proteins, there is broad overlap between the brain regions that show high levels of receptor expression and those that are involved in mental health disorders. Consequently, CB receptors could be used as a route for modulating the levels of other modulators, such as dopamine, that are known to play crucial roles in the progression of a number of mental health disorders. Here we will review the endogenous cannabinoid system and its natural ligands, along with how this system could potentially be involved in affective disorders, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia.