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The existence of an endogenous cannabinoid system was demonstrated conclusively with
the discovery of endogenous brain constituents capable of activating the cannabinoid
receptors functionally. These compounds are synthesized by neuronal cells and inactivated
through re-uptake and enzymatic hydrolysis by both neurons and astrocytes. In analogy
with the endorphins they can be referred to as endocannabinoids. Apart from the identification
of their metabolic pathways, research carried out in the past six years has focused
on the possible cellular and molecular targets for the actions of endocannabinoids.
These studies have confirmed a similarity between the endocannabinoids and the psychoactive
substance in marijuana, delta9(-)-tetrahydrocannabinol, and have suggested a role
for endocannabinoids in the modulation of neurotransmitter action and release.