Molecular Mechanisms of Cannabis Signaling in the Brain

Patrick J. Ronan, Narin Wongngamnit, Thomas P. Beresford

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

15 Scopus citations


Cannabis has been cultivated and used by humans for thousands of years. Research for decades was focused on understanding the mechanisms of an illegal/addictive drug. This led to the discovery of the vast endocannabinoid system. Research has now shifted to understanding fundamental biological questions related to one of the most widespread signaling systems in both the brain and the body. Our understanding of cannabinoid signaling has advanced significantly in the last two decades. In this review, we discuss the state of knowledge on mechanisms of Cannabis signaling in the brain and the modulation of key brain neurotransmitter systems involved in both brain reward/addiction and psychiatric disorders. It is highly probable that various cannabinoids will be found to be efficacious in the treatment of a number of psychiatric disorders. However, while there is clearly much potential, marijuana has not been properly vetted by the medical-scientific evaluation process and there are clearly a range of potentially adverse side-effects - including addiction. We are at crossroads for research on endocannabinoid function and therapeutics (including the use of exogenous treatments such as Cannabis). With over 100 cannabinoid constituents, the majority of which have not been studied, there is much Cannabis research yet to be done. With more states legalizing both the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana the rigorous scientific investigation into cannabinoid signaling is imperative.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Molecular Basis of Drug Addiction, 2016
EditorsShafiqur Rahman
PublisherElsevier B.V.
Number of pages25
ISBN (Print)9780128037867
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameProgress in Molecular Biology and Translational Science
ISSN (Print)1877-1173
ISSN (Electronic)1878-0814


  • Cannabis signaling
  • addiction
  • cannabinoid receptors
  • molecular mechanisms
  • psychiatric disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology


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