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Research & Development Medical research, Pharmaceutical, Pain

A Deep Dive Into Cannabinoid Pharmacology

What was your entry point into cannabis research?

I studied biochemistry at Oxford University in the 1960s. During my studies, I had the opportunity to work with the British Army Royal Engineers, which included an army diving course. As part of the safety training, I learned about “rapture of the deep” (also known as inert gas narcosis), a phenomenon in which breathable gases like nitrogen cause feelings of drunkenness when descending below 30 m. I was fascinated by the idea that the very air we breathe could have such a potent effect and sought out a PhD on the subject with a prominent pharmacology professor at Oxford, William Paton.

After my PhD, Professor Paton offered me a postdoc position exploring the pharmacological actions of some of the main cannabinoids and developing standard tests to measure their effects. We extracted our cannabinoids from bottles of a dark green liquid called “tincture of cannabis,” still legally sold as a medicine in Britain at that time.

A few years later and newly married, I decided I needed a permanent job and in 1974 I took a lectureship at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, where I have continued studying cannabinoids ever since.

You are co-discoverer of the first-known endocannabinoid, anandamide – how did that come about?

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