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Marijuana-Like Compound Banishes Fear

Study Points to New Treatments for Anxiety, PTSD

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Would marijuana itself help people overcome fearful memories? Lutz thinks not.

"If you flood the brain with marijuana, I don't know if it would be beneficial," Lutz says. "The very important thing is if one influences the cannabinoid system, you have to do it along with psychotherapy [talk therapy]. Because you can only extinguish the memory at the time you recall it. It is good for psychotherapists to discuss with patients the aversive events they experienced. The more you do this, you extinguish this memory. So to support such a psychotherapy, you could maybe influence the extinction system by increasing cannabinoid levels."

Lutz thinks that marijuana, or even a more specific cannabinoid, would likely affect too much of the brain. He says a better idea would be to develop a drug that slows the normally rapid breakdown of cannabinoids in the brain.

"There are quite a few research groups working on this," Lichtman says. "The idea is instead of treating with marijuana, to treat with inhibitors of the enzyme that breaks down natural cannabinoids."

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