The word “vaccination” generally brings to mind the prevention of infectious disease. However, significant advances have recently been made in the field of therapeutic vaccination for the treatment of chronic human disorders including neurological conditions and cancer. Simply put, a vaccine is a mixture of compounds (most often proteins) that are selected for their ability to activate the immune system. These compounds, also known as antigens, are then injected into the body where they prepare the immune system for a future assault.
For some time, people have known that using cannabis during adolescence increases the risk of developing cognitive impairment and mental illness (e.g. depression, anxiety or schizophrenia) later in life. Importantly however, the mechanisms responsible for this vulnerability are not well understood. A new study, published in Brain, shows that long-term cannabis use that starts during adolescence damages the neural pathways connecting brain regions, and that this may cause the later development of cognitive and emotional problems.
For patients diagnosed with a terminal illness, the end of their physical days can be wrought with anxiety, depression, and fear. Now, these patients may have more options for relieving this emotional stress, and it falls somewhere in between Nancy Reagan ("Just Say No!") and Timothy Leary ("the most dangerous man in America" per Richard Nixon). Sixty years ago, research into the effects of psychedelic drugs was accepted -- and, dare I say, frequent -- among certain institutions and researchers.
Salvia divinorum is a member of the mint family with known hallucinogenic properties which have been known for centuries. Historically it has been used in shaman rituals in the Oaxaca Mexico region. The psychoactive substance within salvia divinorum has been isolated and is called salvinorin A (salv A). Unlike the typical hallucinogenic drugs that act on the serotonergic system, salv A primarily acts on the kappa opioid system. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has taken a recent interest in this compound and is currently investigating whether it should be scheduled as a controlled substance. Currently thirteen states heave enacted laws regarding the use of salv A. The question on the scheduling of salv A and the synthetic isomers of the drug may produce an interesting debate.
- The Broken Mirror
- Surprising Role of Prions in Neurodegenerative Diseases