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Marijuana buzz linked to "runner's high"

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ATLANTA (Reuters) - The same family of chemicals that
produces a buzz in marijuana smokers may be
responsible for "runner's high," the euphoric feeling
that some people get when they exercise, U.S.
researchers say.

High levels of anandamide were found in young men who
ran or cycled at a moderate rate for about an hour,
according to a study made public this week by the
Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of
California, Irvine.

Anandamide is a cannabinoid, or lipid molecule, that
is naturally produced in the body. It is known to
produce sensations that are similar to those of THC,
the psychoactive property in marijuana.

The study's findings, which were recently published in
the journal NeuroReport, fly in the face of those who
believe that the release of brain chemicals called
endorphins cause the peculiar high that some runners
and cyclists claim to feel.

Arne Dietrich, the study's principal investigator and
a former visiting professor at Georgia Tech in
Atlanta, believes the body releases cannabinoids to
help it cope with the prolonged stress and pain of
moderate or intense exercise.

"No other study has ever considered this possibility,
which is why the results are so significant," said
Dietrich, who added that there were no indications
that cannabinoids caused any harm when naturally
released during intense exercise.

He added that the findings could provide sufferers of
glaucoma and chronic diseases an alternative to using
marijuana for pain control. Use of the drug for
medical purposes has been approved by voters in some
states, but remains illegal under federal law and
highly controversial in the medical community.

The 24 young men who participated in Dietrich's study
were asked to run, cycle or sit. If they ran or
cycled, participants began with a brief warm-up,
followed by 45 minutes of moderate exercise and then a
short cool-down period.

Dietrich said further studies were necessary to
determine the precise nature of the increase in
cannabinoids during physical activity and to what
degree the intensity, duration and type of exercise
affected their release.

The "runner's high" theory emerged in the United
States during the running craze of the 1970s, when
researchers discovered the brain's opiate receptors,
which are proteins located on the surface of nerve

Some scientists, however, say the concept is a myth.

By Paul Simao