by Laura Geftman, LCSW
Do you remember the smash HBO hit television series “Entourage.” The show featured Hollywood up-and-coming actor Vincent Chase and his friends who help him navigate the world of stardom. The show was not just an entertaining comedy but it also gave you a behind the scenes look at fame and fortune. Together Vinny, Eric, Turtle, Drama and Ari worked their way through all the pomp and circumstance being an actor could provide. Vinny did the acting while Eric managed his business, as Turtle took care of the details, then Drama kept them healthy, and Ari kept the deals coming in. Together they were able to take on the world and did. Their entourage had quite an effect.
While the story of Vinny and his boys was fiction, their interaction isn’t dissimilar to the ways in which the elements of cannabis work together. There are many different cannabis products on the market, and more being introduced each day. However with all the products, patients most common compliant (according to my personal doctor) is that “it stopped working.” Let’s take a closer look at why this is likely happening…
WHAT IS THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM?
Thought to be the largest system in the body, the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) regulates through a complex group of neuromodulatory lipids and their receptors. These receptors in the brain act as a liaison to help regulate various physiological processes including appetite, pain, mood, and memory. Neurotransmitters are communication molecules that help the brian and the body communicate with each other via nerve cells. Essentially it is a network that acts as a homeostatic regulator to help the body maintain optimal balance.
While more research is underway and still needed, scientists believe that the ECS system regulates:
- Visceral sensation
- Immune function
THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM AND CANNABIS
ECS mediates the psychoactive effects of cannabis and helps maintain a variety of physiological processes including appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory. Cannabis exerts psychoactive and medicinal effects by engaging with special receptors in our cells know as cannabinoid receptors. The active compounds in cannabis engage directly with the ECS. These compounds -which have not been found in any other plant- are called cannabinoids. The interact between ECS and cannabinoids work to aid the body to maintain homeostasis.
WHAT ARE CANNABINOIDS?
Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds responsible for effects experienced by cannabis users. Scientists have been able to identify at least 113 cannabinoids. The two most common compounds are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). While both THC and CBD yields psychoactive properties, THC is known to get you “high.” There are five major cannabinoids in cannabis that are particularly effective in relieving symptoms of various illnesses. So just like the five main characters in the show “Entourage,” each of the five compounds produces different effects. Medical cannabis is bred to have different amounts of each cannabinoid as they can be recommended for different conditions.
What is THC? – The Vinny
Decent actor and pretty boy Vincent Chase never goes anywhere without his boys. His passion shine throw in his terrible movie picks. He argued and opted for films of substance rather than fat paychecks. While womanizing and living the life, he always took care of those closest to him. A bad boy with a heart of gold…
…kinda like THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannibinol). While know as the active compound to get you high, THC physically it acts as a muscle relaxant and anti-inflammatory, and psychologically it acts as a stimulant. This makes medical cannabis strains high in THC a good choice for patients who need relief while also to remain alert and active.
THC effects include:
- stimulates appetite
- lowers blood pressure
- apoptosis (self induced cell death)
What is CBD? – The “E”
Eric Murphy- otherwise known as “E”- was Vinny’s BFF and alway had his best friend’s back. He took care of business as his manager and tried to keep it all together. In Vinny and E’s codependent relationship, E played it all with more self-awareness and understanding. He was the one who kept things level-headed.
CBD (cannabidiol) does just that for THC. CBD reduces the psychological effects of medical cannabis. A strain that has high THC and high CBD will have fewer mental effects and more physical ones. High CBD strains are especially effective for illnesses with strong physical symptoms.
CBD’s effects include:
- reduced pain
- reduced anxiety
- reduced nausea
- sedative effects
- arrests the spread of cancer
What is CBN? – The Ari
Ari Gold- while foul-mouthed and crude, he befriended and supported his #1 client’s success. Ari proved to be the powerful and influential Hollywood agent that brought Vince the roles to set his acting career on fire and keep it going. Though his antics were off-putting antics, Ari always held up his part of the deal.
CBN (cannabinol) has this kind of relationship with THC. CBN is very similar to THC, but has less psychological effects. It is produced as THC breaks down within the cannabis plant. High THC will make cannabinol’s effects stronger, and very high CBN concentrations can produce undesirably strong head highs.
CBN effects include:
- lowering pressure in the eye (such as with glaucoma)
What is CBC? – The Turtle
Turtle moved from the old neighborhood to Hollywood to be Vinny’s driver. But he’s no Kato. While Turtle took care of transportation, he also brought Vinny promotional deals for celebrity cameos and millions earned in tequila. They worked to declare that “tequila is the new vodka.”
…just as CBC (cannabichromene) does for THC. CBCs main action is to enhance the effects of THC. High cannabichromene levels will make a high-THC medical marijuana strain much more potent.
CBC effects include:
What is CBG? – The Drama
Johnny Drama had been in the biz longer than his “baby bro.” However Johnny seemingly couldn’t hack it without the support of his brother. He actually did pretty well for himself and kept the boys eating well as the personal chef of the crew.
CBG (cannabigerol) is just that in its cannabis family. CBG has no psychological effects on its own, and is not usually found in high amounts in most medical cannabis. Scientists believe CBC is actually one of the oldest forms of cannabinoids, meaning it is essentially a “parent” to the other cannabinoids. It also has anti-microbial properties.
Cannabigerol effects include:
- lowering pressure in the eye
- sleep assistance
If you’re surprised by this info, you’re not alone. There are many misconceptions about CBD. Find out more here.
THE ENTOURAGE EFFECT
All cannabinoids are effective individually; however- they all work together synergistically to attain the “Entourage Effect.” It’s widely accepted that THC stimulates our CB1 receptors, affecting our central nervous system. CBD stimulates our CB2 receptors, affecting our peripheral nervous system. CBD is also said to function in ways which lessen the psychoactive effect of THC. In all actuality, they both stimulate CB1 & CB2 receptors. Medicinal cannabis containing only THC or CBD aren’t always sufficient for many medical conditions.
FULL SPECTURM CANNABIS
Full spectrum cannabis is what is optimal for our body systems. Utilizing the full spectrum of all the cannabis therapeutic compounds provides the most abundant cannabinoids and all the benefits. Also referred to as “whole-plant cannabis,” it offers treatment for a wide breadth of symptoms and conditions. Whole-plant cannabis is thought to be like a multivitamin for inflammation and other effects.
There might also be medical applications when you don’t want the entourage effect at work. One of THC’s more famous treatments, for instance, is for lowering eye pressure to treat glaucoma. “We found that it works, and THC does a nice job,” says Indiana University, Bloomington researcher Alex Straiker, who studies cannabinoids. “But it’s actually blocked by CBD. People often think, oh yeah, CBD and THC work together. But in terms of CB1 receptor signaling, they actually oppose each other, or at least CBD opposes THC.” That’s not to say, though, that CBD isn’t having some sort of beneficial effect on its own when it comes to treating glaucoma.
Essentially cannabis isolates serve a monumental role not only as medicine but more importantly as a legislative stepping stone. CBD has prompted several states to adopt CBD only laws. While THC remains illegal, it’s a step in the right direction.
MENTAL HEALTH EFFECT
The endocannabinoid system is the largest neurotransmitter system in the body. It regulates other neurotransmitters including serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and GABA. Each of these chemicals is associated with the chemical imbalances of mental illness.
Those who struggle with depression, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and anxiety are often prescribed medication to manage their illnesses. More specifically medication is used to regulate the chemical compounds the body produces and control emotional symptomology. Traditional psychotropic medications target mental health disorders as follows: depression targets serotonin, ADHD targets dopamine, and anxiety targets GABA.
BIg pharma has development many medications targeting these compounds and aiming to manage mental health. However some of these medications come with a cost- adverse psychological and behavioral side effects, addiction, and more… Cannabis, however, can treat what synthetic drugs are created to do but it does not have any side effects. This option is proving to be the answer many who aren’t happy with their prescriptions.
There isn’t a medication that directly treats Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Most patients end up with a medication cocktail that’s supposed to address their symptoms but don’t. There also isn’t any research about using the combination of prescriptions. Cannabis reduces the amount of traumatic memories that are related to PTSD.
Why take synthetic drugs when the natural compounds in cannabis could treat the root of the problem? Cannabis can effectively treat all the metal health conditions mentioned without concerns of overdose or side effects. Cannabis is proving to be a much more useful drug than previously thought, and much healthier than prescription drugs.
ENTOURAGE IN EFFECT
So if Vincent Chase is the THC, Eric is the CBD, Ari is the CBN, Turtle is the CBC, Drama is the CBG, and Shauna, Billy Walsh, Dom, Mrs. Ari, Lloyd, Sloan and all the rest of the supporting characters lend to the effect of full spectrum cannabis. Essentially Vinny can only reach his full movie star potential when he rolls with his crew just like cannabis.
About Laura Geftman, LCSW
Laura Geftman, LCSW is the Founder of The Calm, Cool & Collected and a practicing therapist. Beyond all things cannabis and mental health, Laura is passionate about developing greater understanding for kindness and acceptance. In her free time, Laura can be found on her yoga mat, in a kayak or singing karaoke.
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