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Oct 15, 2013 09:46 AM EDT

Naturally Occurring Chemical Acid In The Brain Reduces Marijuana Addiction?

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Kynurenic acid, a naturally occurring chemical in the brain, can help addicts get rid of the habit of  smoking cannabis (marijuana), according to a new study from the University of Maryland. The researchers say the acid inhibits marijuana's effect on the brain's pleasure centers.

The scientists have successfully observed the positive effects of the acid treatment in drug-addicted rats and monkeys. The acid reduced the jolt (provided by THC, an active ingredient in marijuana) in these creatures.

The researchers said that dopamine, the pleasure enhancing neurotransmitter is influenced by the Kynurenic acid. The acid is effective because it blocks the receptors that increase the positive feelings created by dopamine.

According to the Daily Mail UK, THC activates dopamine neurones in the brain, which causes cells to release dopamine.

"Any drug of abuse has to do with dopamine," study researcher Robert Schwarcz, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland, told Live Science. "We found out few years ago that kynurenic acid controls dopamine. All we had to do was put those things together."

The acid produced from bananas and turkey is believed to cause lesser side effects than other prescribed treatments because it occurs naturally in the brain.

The researchers arrived at the conclusion after giving a drug to rats and squirrel monkeys that increased their levels of the acid. They found that the animals displayed less interest in the THC during the acid treatment.

In another experiment, for a short period of time, the researchers removed the creatures from THC. Then they increased their acid levels and gave them THC in small amounts at the same time.

The researchers found that by increasing the levels of the acid, they were able to stop the rats and monkeys from going back to their previous drug abuse patterns.

"We found that you can reduce dopamine levels and the animals behave differently - they don't have relapse, and don't abuse marijuana," Schwarcz said.

"A medication that would safely and effectively assist in the treat­ment of marijuana dependence would be an important step forward in dealing with cannabis-use disorders," Schwarcz told Daily Mail UK.

Until now, the findings have not been tested in people and it is unknown whether the treatment would have negative effects on other parts of the brain as well.

The finding has been published in Nature Neuroscience Journal.

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