Regular cannabis users tend to withdraw into themselves, here is why.
Cannabis use can lead to behavioral changes in some individuals, including reduced social interactions. To better understand the phenomenon, researcher Giovanni Marsicano and his team at INSERM, in collaboration with Juan Bolaños’ team at the University of Salamanca (Spain), have identified for the first time the brain mechanisms underlying the relationship between cannabis and reduced sociability. Their results will be published in the journal Nature.
The star-shaped receptors
In particular, the scientists showed that after exposure to cannabis, receptors located on the cells of the central nervous system were activated. These star-shaped receptors, called astrocytes, cause the drug user to withdraw from social interaction.
“Given the importance of astrocytes and energy consumption for brain function, we wanted to understand the role of these specific cannabinoid receptors and the consequences for the brain and behavior when exposed to cannabis,” explains Giovanni Marsicano.
To this end, his team exposed mice to the cannabinoid THC, the most important psychoactive compound in cannabis. Their social interactions were significantly reduced up to 24 hours after taking the drug.
Finding therapeutic solutions
“Our study is the first to show that the decrease in sociability sometimes associated with cannabis use is the result of a change in glucose metabolism in the brain. It also opens up new avenues of research to find therapeutic solutions that can alleviate some of the behavioral problems caused by cannabis abuse. It also shows the direct influence of the energy metabolism of astrocytes on behavior,” says Giovanni Marsicano.
His work thus opens up new perspectives in the treatment of patients suffering from cannabis addiction. More than half of adults in the US aged 18 to 64 years have experimented with cannabis. Consumption during the year is 12% (15% for men and 9% for women), a proportion that remains stable over time.