- Smoking cannabis boosts brains' sensitivity to cocaine, US researchers report
- Young rats exposed to cannabis had 'enhanced reaction' to cocaine exposure
- In young humans cannabis abuse can enhance experiences with a different drug
Cannabis is a gateway drug that gives users a heightened sensitivity to harder illegal substances like cocaine, a new study suggests.
US researchers found adolescent rats that had been pre-exposed to cannabis had an enhanced reaction to their first exposure to cocaine.
Exposure to psychoactive cannabinoids during adolescence was found to 'prime' the animal's prefrontal cortex in the brain.
If applied to humans, the study suggests smoking a lot of weed as a teenager makes people more sensitive to cocaine and can lead to continued use and addiction.
Cannabis abuse during adolescence can enhance a person's initial positive experience with a different drug, such as cocaine, leading to sustained use.
Cannabinoid exposure in rat adolescence reprograms the initial behavioral, molecular, and epigenetic response to cocaine
The Science – Significance - The endocannabinoid system has a modulatory role in brain reward and cognitive processes. It has been hypothesized that repeated interference with endocannabinoid signaling (e.g., through abuse of cannabis or synthetic cannabinoids) can remodel the adolescent brain and make it respond differently to more addictive substances, such as cocaine. In the present study, we demonstrate that a history of synthetic cannabinoid exposure in adolescent animals results in distinct molecular and epigenetic changes following initial exposure to cocaine. These changes were pronounced in the prefrontal cortex and associated with an enhanced response to cocaine’s stimulatory effects. The prefrontal cortex is a brain region that still undergoes maturation in adolescence and its dysfunction contributes to the development of addictions.