By Heidi Heilman | March 3, 2016, 14:23 EDT
We have, for some time, known that the more marijuana there is in our communities, the more opiate and heroin use rises. Now, brain science is beginning to explain why.
Studies reveal that the cannabinoid-opioid systems of the brain are intimately connected. There is a functional interaction between the mu and Cb1 receptors of the brain and these receptors commonly exist together on brain cells. In the areas of the brain where cannabinoids bind, opioids bind as well. If you modify one system, you automatically change the other.
The mechanism is not yet well understood. With marijuana research, we are where we were in the 1920s and 30s with tobacco research linking smoking to cancer. More research is needed. But, ultimately, cannabinoids and opioids are known to strictly interact in many physiological and pathological functions, including addiction. Overall, evidence confirms a neurobiological convergence of the cannabinoid and opioid systems that is manifest at both receptor and behavioral levels