Although hashish is usually related to “the munchies” in fashionable tradition, College of Toronto researcher Justin Matheson is asking whether or not cannabinoids – naturally occurring compounds within the plant – can really be used to deal with weight problems.
“On the floor, the analysis appears a bit paradoxical,” says Matheson, who earned a PhD from the Temerty School of Medication’s division of pharmacology and toxicology in 2020 and is now finishing a post-doctoral analysis fellowship within the Translational Dependancy Analysis Laboratory on the Centre for Dependancy and Psychological Well being.
“However what my supervisor [Professor Bernard Le Foll, chair of addiction psychiatry in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine] and others have discovered is that individuals who use hashish often even have decrease BMI, decrease danger of weight problems and a decrease of danger of diabetes then individuals who don’t use hashish.”
Matheson is without doubt one of the inaugural cohort of the Toronto Hashish and Cannabinoid Analysis Consortium (TC3) fellows.
He lately spoke to author Gabrielle Giroday about his work and the fast-growing area of cannabis- and cannabinoid-related well being analysis.
What you on this space of analysis?
My work is essentially centered on substance use and addictions. For my doctorate, I centered on intercourse and gender and the way they affect hashish use. For instance, I published a paper in 2019 how smoking hashish affected younger adults of various sexes.
Earlier than this challenge, I used to be already very thinking about investigating dependancy to hashish and how cannabinoids can be utilized to deal with substance use issues.
As for this present analysis, there are attention-grabbing parallels between weight problems and overeating, and dependancy or substance use issues. Each contain dangerous behavioural patterns that result in extreme consumption of meals or psychoactive medicine. It’s a brand new space that deserves additional exploration.
Are you able to clarify your strategy?
This analysis will embody a randomized managed trial that may have a look at if nabilone – an artificial cannabinoid drug – can cut back physique weight in adults with weight problems.
We’re recruiting a pattern of 60 individuals who have weight problems and randomizing them to obtain both a excessive dose of the drug nabilone, a low dose, or a placebo. Members might be 25 to 45 years outdated.
Nabilone might be taken as an oral capsule. It’s similar to THC, which is the energetic element of hashish, but it surely’s a little bit structurally completely different. The examine members might be taking nabilone day by day over the course of 12 weeks.
Throughout that interval, we’ll be monitoring the sufferers’ physique weight in addition to different measures to see if there are any hostile results of the nabilone.
Within the analysis, we’re not simply attempting to see if the cannabinoid drug can cut back physique weight in adults who’re overweight, however we’re additionally attempting to know why. We’ll do that by utilizing neuroimaging, measuring modifications within the intestine microbiome, and measuring cannabinoids within the blood and completely different hormones.
We’re additionally taking measures of members’ mind exercise on the baseline, earlier than they enter remedy and on the finish of the 12 weeks. Particularly, we’re thinking about seeing how the neural response to meals photos modifications over the course of remedy.
We’ve began recruiting members to participate of the analysis, and we’re hoping to complete the trial in two years.
What do you hope to attain via this work?
Nabilone is much like THC. And we all know hashish really is pro-appetite – in that it will increase urge for food. Prior to now, hashish has been related to “the munchies” and been utilized by individuals with losing syndromes or who’re having issues with urge for food. So, on the floor, the analysis appears a bit paradoxical.
However what my supervisor Le Foll and others have discovered is that individuals who use hashish often even have decrease BMI, decrease danger of weight problems and a decrease of danger of diabetes then individuals who don’t use hashish.
This analysis might be a first-in-human trial to see if administering nabilone will result in a decrease physique weight in adults who’re overweight, which might replicate animal findings and which might be line with what we’re seeing in epidemiological information. We don’t know what we’ll discover but.
How will you measure the consequences of nabilone on every participant?
The endocannabinoid system – which is the physique’s innate system that underlies the consequences of cannabinoids – is a system that may be very a lot concerned in all types of mind processes akin to our perceptions of enjoyment and reward. So, we predict it’s doable our analysis would possibly discover that nabilone reduces members’ responses to meals photos, which is why we’re doing neuroimaging of members’ brains.
Plus, there may be additionally an attention-grabbing relationship between cannabinoids and intestine micro organism, so we need to measure the intestine microbiome to see whether or not that modifications with remedy.
Analysis has discovered that folks with weight problems are inclined to have greater ranges of endocannabinoids, that are the physique’s personal cannabinoid compounds. We consider that taking nabilone, or any cannabinoid drug, over a time frame would possibly disrupt endocannabinoid ranges, which may very well be a technique that nabilone results in a discount in physique weight.
How would you describe the sphere of hashish or cannabinoid analysis today?
I believe hashish and cannabinoid analysis has modified, particularly after legalization. It’s undoubtedly a very rising area and I really feel fortunate I entered the sphere once I did in 2015 – three years earlier than legalization occurred.
I nonetheless suppose there’s nonetheless numerous stigma round hashish use. This impacts the members I work with, who typically use hashish or have a hashish use dysfunction. Hopefully, with legalization, this can change.
I believe it’s a very thrilling time to be doing hashish analysis, particularly as a result of there are numerous misconceptions. It appears to be a really polarizing matter. You may have hashish advocates who current it as a “cure-all drug,” after which you’ve prohibitionists, who argue it’s dangerous and harming individuals and must be unlawful.
To me, it’s someplace within the center. There are numerous misconceptions within the analysis group and in most people, which is why the sphere is so fascinating and why it’s the place I need to take the remainder of my profession.