Lab rats get put through some pretty inhumane conditions, but at least scientists are able to gather useful information from them. In order to study morphine dependence, researchers deprive baby rats of their mothers at a young age, a stressful situation that makes them more susceptible to becoming addicted to opiates later in life. I feel sorry for the little guys, but their plight may one day help save a few humans; at least, that’s what the hope is.
A study carried out at the Laboratory for Physiopathology of Diseases of the Central Nervous System in France studied the effects of what they call dronabinol (the fancy generic name scientists have for THC) on morphine addiction in rats.
Intense neuronal development happens right after birth, and depriving a creature of its mother during that time makes it more vulnerable to opiate addiction. Maternally deprived rats that were given pretty large doses of THC during adolescence were less likely to become dependent on morphine as adults. They were given 5 mg/kg of THC intravenously; for someone that weighs 150 lbs, that’s equivalent to 340 mg of THC, which is way more than any adolescent I know ever consumes. Normal rats that were not deprived of their mothers showed average rates of morphine dependence.
The study certainly holds some interesting findings that may one day lead to an addiction treatment program that involves THC. It may even lead to THC being administered to someone who is prescribed opiates as a preventative measure to help avoid addiction. This is just another example of how pharmaceutical science is finally recognizing the power of cannabinoids, a unique class of chemicals made by only one plant in nature.