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NIH Scientific Summit on Marijuana and Cannabinoids Begins March 22

March 18, 2016

David Shurtleff, Ph.D.

David Shurtleff, Ph.D.

Deputy Director

Acting Scientific Director

Division of Intramural Research

Acting Chief

Clinical Investigations Branch

Acting Chief

Pain and Integrative Neuroscience Branch

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

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The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) is joining four other NIH institutes and centers to convene “Marijuana and Cannabinoids: A Neuroscience Research Summit” on March 22-23, 2016. The summit will focus on the neurological and psychiatric effects of marijuana, other cannabinoids, and the endocannabinoid system, with discussion of both adverse effects and potential therapeutic effects. The overarching goal is to present current basic research and evidence-based information to identify research gaps to ultimately inform science, practice, and policy.

We are interested in this research topic for a number of reasons. One of our top priorities is supporting research that could improve pain management, a major public health concern. To do this, we are taking a number of strategic approaches, including funding research on the role of phytocannabinoids and their derivatives in modulating biological and neural systems associated with pain perception and analgesia.

Phytocannabinoids are a family of at least 60 chemicals naturally found in the marijuana plant (Cannabis sativa L.). Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (?9-THC) accounts for many of the psychoactive properties associated with marijuana use and is the most commonly recognized and perhaps the most studied phytocannabinoid. Others, however, may have not only potential benefits but fewer adverse effects. Cannabidiol (CBD), as one example, may be useful in treating seizures and other neurological disorders and is being studied on an ongoing basis.

Research on the safety and effectiveness of natural products is another priority for NCCIH, given the widespread availability and use of these products by the public. Specifically, we need better scientific information about interactions between natural products and drugs. Our Center is developing a roadmap for evaluating interactions between natural products (including phytocannabinoids) and drugs through a series of well-designed studies. Ultimately, we seek to improve the body of knowledge available to researchers, health care providers, consumers, and policymakers.

To hear world-class experts in the cannabinoid field discuss research advances and the state-of-the-science, I encourage you to register to watch the Summit online (the event has reached capacity for in-person attendance). This NIH meeting is cosponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse; the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism; NCCIH; the National Institute of Mental Health; and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

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