Cannabis appears to make young brains more sensitive to the first exposure to cocaine, according to a recent study led by Columbia University and Italy’s University of Cagliari.
Researchers gave adolescent and adult rats synthetic psychoactive cannabinoids followed by cocaine. In the adolescent rats, researchers were able to identify key molecular and epigenetic changes in the brain. These changes did not occur in the adult rats.
“We know from human epidemiological studies that individuals who abuse cocaine have a history of early cannabis use and that a person’s initial response to a drug can have a large impact on whether they continue to use it,” said Dr. Denise Kandel, co-senior author of the research report and a Columbia professor. “But many questions remain on how early cannabis exposure affects the brain,”
Other recent studies concluded the development of cocaine cravings are dependent on the brain’s glutamatergic system. Glutamate is a brain molecule that acts as a synaptic transmitter in the brain, enhancing the transmission of signals between the brain’s neurons.
Researchers discovered that rats with a history of psychoactive cannabinoid use in adolescence who were exposed to cocaine had a series of unique molecular reactions in the brain. Reactions included changes in glutamate receptors.