Cannabis/Psychedelic 1

Cannabidiol for treating seizures show promise

Cannabidiol for treating seizures show promise

March 3, 2016

Science Daily/University of Alabama at Birmingham

Researchers have presented the first findings of a large study of cannabidiol for treating seizures.

 

Investigators with the University of Alabama at Birmingham Cannabidiol Program will present the first results drawn from the CBD oil studies underway at UAB and Children's of Alabama. Three abstracts will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Vancouver, Canada.

 

The abstracts describe results from the first 51 subjects enrolled in the studies. Among other findings, the researchers report that approximately 50 percent of the subjects responded to the CBD oil therapy with overall sustained improvement in seizure control over a six-month period. Seizures declined between 32 and 45 percent in the responders, depending on the CBD dose. Two patients were seizure-free, and nine dropped out due to side effects or lack of efficacy.

 

UAB launched the studies of CBD oil as a treatment for severe, intractable seizures in April of 2015. The studies, an adult study at UAB and a pediatric study at Children's of Alabama, were authorized by the Alabama Legislature in 2014 by legislation known as Carly's Law.

 

The studies are designed to test the safety and tolerability of CBD oil in patients with intractable seizures. CBD oil, a derivative of the cannabis plant, is delivered orally as an oily liquid.

 

"The studies are ongoing, and we have a lot more to learn; but these preliminary findings are encouraging," said Jerzy Szaflarski, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the Department of Neurology, principal investigator of the adult study. "Among our goals was to determine the safety of CBD oil therapy, and it appears that, in many cases, patients tolerate the oil quite well. The evidence of seizure reduction gives us hope that, the more we learn about CBD oil, the better we will be able to tailor this therapy to provide relief for those with severe epilepsy."

 

The oil used in the studies is produced under stringent requirements of the United States Food and Drug Administration by a licensed pharmaceutical company. It contains only traces of THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana. The process developed by GW Pharmaceuticals guarantees the consistency of the product that is provided to study participants.

 

"The studies thus far show that the administration of CBD oil is a complex undertaking," said Martina Bebin, M.D., professor of neurology and principal investigator for the pediatric study. "Some patients respond well, but others either have no improvement or experience significant side effects. CBD is not a panacea, and it's not for everyone. But many patients do have a reduction in seizure activity, and we hope our efforts will further define how to best utilize CBD oil for maximum benefit to the appropriate patient population."

 

Tyler Gaston, M.D., a clinical neurophysiology fellow, led a study of potential interactions between CBD and clobazam, a commonly prescribed anti-epileptic medication. The investigators suspected that CBD treatment might cause an increase in the blood levels of clobazam and its metabolite, N-desmethylclobazam, leading to adverse events including sedation. Seventeen patients in the studies were taking clobazam, and investigators found clear evidence for an interaction, with rising clobazam levels during CBD therapy. This finding highlights the importance of monitoring clobazam and N-desmethylclobazam levels when treating patients with CBD, and the results underscore the importance of the new knowledge gained through the UAB CBD program.

 

A study headed by Leslie Perry, M.D., also a clinical neurophysiology fellow, looked at the effect of CBD oil therapy on electroencephalography, or EEG. EEG is the standard test to measure electrical activity in the brain. The same cohort of 51 patients received EEG tests prior to beginning CBD therapy and then again after CBD therapy had begun. The investigators report that CBD does not appear to have a negative effect on standard EEG parameters. However, the authors acknowledge that the conclusion is limited by the relatively short duration of both the EEG and the length of time from the tests done prior to beginning CBD therapy and then during therapy.

 

Another abstract, led by Jane Allendorfer, Ph.D., assistant professor of neurology, will be presented at the annual meeting of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping in Geneva, Switzerland. In her work, she evaluated the effects of CBD treatment on attention circuits in the brain using functional MRI. Eight patients underwent fMRI before treatment with CBD and while taking CBD. Their scanning showed improved activation of brain regions important for attention. The authors conclude that these preliminary results are promising and illustrate the potential of CBD treatment to improve not only seizure control but also cognition in patients with poorly controlled epilepsy.

 

The ongoing UAB CBD studies currently have 40 children and 39 adults enrolled.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160303204007.htm

 

Marijuana derivative reduces seizures in people with treatment-resistant epilepsy

New open-label trial of prescription cannabidiol shows overall safety, efficacy

December 23, 2015

Science Daily/NYU Langone Medical Center / New York University School of Medicine

Cannabidiol (CBD), a medical marijuana derivative, was effective in reducing seizure frequency and well-tolerated and safe for most children and young adults enrolled in a year-long study led by epilepsy specialists at NYU Langone Medical Center.

 

These latest findings provide the first estimates of safety, tolerability and efficacy of prescription CBD in children and adults with severe, highly treatment-resistant epilepsy. Led by Orrin Devinsky, MD, professor of neurology, neurosurgery, and psychiatry and director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at NYU Langone, the study is published in the December 23 issue of Lancet Neurology. While early findings have been released at medical meetings -- including the 2015 American Academy of Neurology conference -- these are the first findings from the trial to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

 

The study took place at 11 epilepsy centers across the country. Patients were given the oral CBD treatment Epidiolex over a 12-week treatment period. Results showed a median 36.5 percent reduction in monthly motor seizures, with the median monthly frequency of motor seizures falling from 30 motor seizures a month at the study's start to 15.8 over the 12 weeks. Equally important, CBD was shown to have a sufficient safety profile and was well-tolerated by many patients, despite some isolated adverse events.

 

"We are very encouraged by our trial results showing that CBD was safe and well-tolerated for most patients, and that seizures dropped significantly," says Devinsky. "But before we raise hopes for families who regularly deal with the devastation of treatment-resistant epilepsy, more research, including further studies through our ongoing randomized controlled trial, are needed to definitively recommend CBD as a treatment to patients with uncontrolled seizures."

 

How the Research Was Conducted

 

The study was an open-labeled trial, meaning that both the researchers and participants' families knew they were receiving CBD, a compound in medical marijuana that does not contain psychoactive properties. Between January 15, 2014, and January 15, 2015, 214 patients between 1 and 30 years of age with intractable, or treatment-resistant, epilepsy were enrolled in the trial. Of that cohort, 162 (76 percent) had at least 12 weeks of follow-up after the first dose of CBD and were included in the safety and tolerability analysis. In addition, 137 of the original study cohort (64 percent) were included in the analysis to determine the drug's efficacy.

 

Patients were given an oral CBD regimen from 2-5 mg/kg per day, with a dose up-titrated until intolerance occurred or to a maximum dose of 25 mg/kg or 50 mg/kg per day, depending on the trial site. Seizures were recorded by parents or caregivers in diaries and reviewed by the study team at each visit.

 

Lab screenings also were conducted at baseline, and after 4, 8 and 12 weeks of CBD treatment. The study showed variability in responses of individual seizure types to cannabidiol treatment. For example, the median change in total seizures was 34.6 percent , with the greatest reduction occurring in patients with focal and atonic seizures followed by tonic or tonic-clonic seizures. Two patients were free of all seizure types over the entire 12 weeks.

 

Adverse events were reported among participants, including drowsiness, decreased appetite, diarrhea, fatigue and convulsion. Most were mild to moderate and transient, but 20 patients had serious adverse events related to CBD use -most commonly status epilepticus, or seizures that last too long or too close together. Five patients had to discontinue treatment due to these adverse events.

 

Devinsky is currently leading a randomized, controlled trial -- considered the gold standard of scientific research -in which CBD or a placebo is randomly assigned to patients to better tease out the drug's effects and better eliminate research bias.

 

"I empathize with parents who are looking for answers and will try anything to help their children suffering the devastating effects of intractable epilepsy. But we must let the science, and not anecdotal success stories and high media interest, lead this national discussion," cautions Devinsky. "Taking CBD in a controlled medical setting is vastly different from going to a state where medical marijuana is legal and experimenting with dosing and CBD strains."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151223221532.htm

LSD changes consciousness by reorganizing human brain networks

December 10, 2015

Science Daily/American College of Neuropsychopharmacology

LSD is known to cause changes in consciousness, including "ego-dissolution," or a loss of the sense of self. Despite a detailed knowledge of the action of LSD at specific serotonin receptors, it has not been understood how this these pharmacological effects can translate into such a profound effect on consciousness. Now, a new report presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology in Hollywood, Florida, provides evidence to show that LSD reduces connectivity within brain networks, or the extent to which nerve cells or neurons within a network fire in synchrony. LSD also seems to reduce the extent to which separate brain networks remain distinct in their patterns or synchronization of firing. Overall, LSD interferes with the patterns of activation in the different brain networks that underlie human thought and behavior.

 

In this new study, Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris and his colleagues at Imperial College London did sequential brain scans of 20 healthy volunteers over 6 hours, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which maps brain activity by detecting changes in blood flow, and magnetoencephalography (MEG), a technique that images brain function by recording magnetic fields produced by electrical currents occurring in the brain. Using fMRI, the investigators showed that LSD led to a more chaotic brain state not entirely dissimilar to what is seen in the prodromal phase of psychosis. Specifically, neurons that were supposed to fire together within a network fell out of synchrony, while networks that are normally distinct started to overlap in their connectivity patterns. Dr. Carhart-Harris also found increases in blood flow in the visual cortex at the back of the brain, which might explain the visual hallucinations and distortions so common in LSD intoxication. MEG also showed a change in natural brain oscillations, specifically a decrease in alpha waves across the brain. The MEG changes were highly correlated with visual hallucinations, suggesting that under the influence of LSD, the visual system is tethered more to the internal than to the external world.

 

Dr. Carhart-Harris suggests that "with better assessment tools available today than in the 1950's and 1960's, it may be possible to evaluate potential uses of LSD as a treatment for addiction and other disorders, such as treatment-resistant depression -- which we are currently investigating with a similar drug to LSD." LSD also may provide a useful human model of psychosis, as it leads to changes in brain network behavior that shows overlap with the early phase of psychosis.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151210144910.htm

Active ingredient in magic mushrooms reduces anxiety, depression in cancer patients

December 10, 2015

Science Daily/American College of Neuropsychopharmacology

Psilocybin, found in magic mushrooms, decreased anxiety and depression in patients diagnosed with life-threatening cancer. New research shows that patients who received a psilocybin dose that altered perception and produced mystical-type experiences reported significantly less anxiety and depression compared with patients who received a low dose of the drug. The positive effects lasted 6 months.

 

A single dose of psilocybin, the major hallucinogenic component in magic mushrooms, induces long-lasting decreases in anxiety and depression in patients diagnosed with life-threatening cancer according to a new study presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology.

 

Patients who receive a cancer diagnosis often develop debilitating symptoms of anxiety and depression. Reports from the 1960s and 1970s suggest that hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD may alleviate such symptoms in cancer patients, but the clinical value of hallucinogenic drugs for the treatment of mood disturbances in cancer patients remains unclear. In this new study, Roland Griffiths and colleagues from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine investigated the effects of psilocybin on symptoms of anxiety and depression in individuals diagnosed with life-threatening cancer. Five weeks after receiving a dose of psilocybin sufficiently high to induce changes in perception and mystical-type experiences, patients reported significantly lower levels of anxiety and depression compared with patients that received a low dose of the drug. The positive effects on mood persisted in the patients at 6 month follow-up.

 

The authors suggest that a single dose of psilocybin may be sufficient to produce enduring decreases in negative mood in patients with a life-threatening cancer.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151210181635.htm

New findings reveal the interplay between epilepsy and aging

December 7, 2015

Science Daily/American Epilepsy Society

The largest and fastest-growing segment of people with epilepsy are those age 60 and older. People with epilepsy face a number of related health challenges, including cognitive, physical and psychological disorders. But new research suggests other, less expected consequences on the aging process. Four studies presented at the American Epilepsy Society's (AES) 69th Annual Meeting explore the effects of epilepsy on the brain, providing insights that shed light on the long-term implications of life with epilepsy.

 

People with epilepsy that is unresponsive to medication have brains that appear older than would be expected for their age, according to a study by researchers from New York University Langone Medical Center and Imperial College (abstract 1.146). The authors used structural MRI scans to predict the ages of participants with epilepsy and their healthy peers. A machine learning algorithm was used to predict age, based on data from healthy patients that had been gathered from large, publicly available imaging databases.

 

The difference between predicted brain age and chronological age was on average 8.8 years older for patients with uncontrolled epilepsy than healthy participants.

 

"The absence of similar changes in patients with new-onset epilepsy suggests that ongoing seizures may underlie the brain aging phenomenon observed in this study. This technique could potentially be used to identify individuals with intractable epilepsy early in the course of their disease, and may also be useful for other applications like measuring the protective effect of antiepileptic medication." said Heath Pardoe, Ph.D., an assistant professor of neurology at New York University Langone Medical Center.

 

A second study, led by researchers at the University of Turku, reveals the fate of children with epilepsy 50 years later. The researchers followed 179 individuals with childhood-onset epilepsy from childhood to old age using neuropsychological assessments and multimodality imaging techniques to gain insights into the aging process. An analysis of the participants' survival, seizure outcomes, social integration and reproductive activity seems promising: Most of the participants achieved 10-year remission without medications, and most of those without comorbid illnesses graduated from school, obtained driver's licenses and achieved a socioeconomic status comparable with healthy controls. Although the researchers note that fewer participants with epilepsy live in partnership and have children compared with healthy participants, both groups appear to enjoy a high quality of life.

 

"Despite having excellent seizure outcomes, the subjects proved to have abnormal neurologic signs, including markers of cerebrovascular disease. This is an excellent opportunity to show, in further follow-up investigations, whether or not the markers of cerebrovascular diseases predict future stroke and cognitive impairment," said author Matti Sillanpää, M.D., Ph.D., a professor and senior research scientist at the University of Turku, Finland.

 

The third study, conducted at the University of Eastern Finland, is the first of its kind to link traumatic brain injury (TBI) with post-traumatic epilepsy (PTE) in the aging population, particularly in elderly people carrying risk genes for Alzheimer's disease (AD).

 

In a study in mice, researchers explored whether TBI increases risk for the development of epilepsy, called epileptogenesis, in those genetically at risk for Alzheimer's. They found that the combination of TBI and genetic risk for Alzheimer's not only resulted in epileptogenesis, but also some somatomotor and cognitive impairments. The study is the first of its kind to provide comprehensive evidence that TBI in those with a genetic risk for familial AD can result in exacerbated epileptogenesis and its molecular mechanisms.

 

"This study will help improve the quality of life of the elderly community by being able to identify risk factors associated with TBI and AD," said Asla Pitkänen, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc., director of the department of neurobiology at the University of Eastern Finland. "By arming family members, caregivers and retirement communities with this information before a fall, we hope to put them on alert so preventative measures can be taken to prevent injury and post-traumatic epilepsy."

 

The fourth and final study, conducted by researchers at Dalhousie University in Halifax, compared patients who had their first seizure in their sixth decade with patients who had seizures in their seventh decade or later to determine if the widely used term "epilepsy in the elderly" (EE) is an oversimplification. Seizure dynamics, MRI lesions, EEG findings and treatment course in elderly and middle-aged (MAE) patients were studied in both groups. EE and MAE patients showed similar variability with regard to imaging findings such as microangiopathy, infarcts, atrophy, tumors, vascular malformations and other pathologies. In addition, there was no significant difference between seizure dynamics, EEG findings and overall excellent treatment prognosis in both groups.

 

"We had postulated that 'epilepsy in the elderly' was conceptually irrelevant and would need to be replaced by a cause-driven sophisticated classification system in the aging brain," said Bernd Pohlmann-Eden M.D. Ph.D., a professor in the division of neurology, department of pharmacology and department of psychology and neuroscience at Dalhousie University. "However, our small group data comparison trial confirms that our understanding in which way individually documented MRI findings in the aging brain predispose to seizure recurrence is currently entirely speculative."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151207145859.htm

Psychedelic therapy re-emerging for anxiety, PTSD and addiction

September 8, 2015

Science Daily/Canadian Medical Association Journal

Renewed medical interest in the use of psychedelic drugs for anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and addiction has resulted in small research studies that show some success with the controlled use of these drugs, according to an analysis published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

 

Psychedelic drugs are substances that have a strong effect on one's "conscious experience," such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin, found in "magic mushrooms," dimethyltryptamine (DMT), mescaline and methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA).

 

"The re-emerging paradigm of psychedelic medicine may open clinical doors and therapeutic doors long closed," writes Dr. Evan Wood, Professor of Medicine and Canada Research Chair, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, and coauthors.

 

One small randomized controlled trial indicates that LSD-assisted psychotherapy might help reduce anxiety from terminal illness. Another small study, in which the active molecule in "magic mushrooms" was used as part of therapy for alcohol addiction, shows a significant reduction in the number of days alcohol was used as well as in the amount. A small US study of the drug MDMA shows a reduction in PTSD symptoms in people with chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD.

 

"Continued medical research and scientific inquiry into psychedelic drugs may offer new ways to treat mental illness and addiction in patients who do not benefit from currently available treatments," write the authors.

 

Learnings from research conducted in the 1950s and 1960s, in which there were challenges to conducting studies and ethical breaches, is helping inform current research in the field.

 

"Although methodological and political challenges remain to some degree, recent clinical studies have shown that studies on psychedelics as therapeutic agents can conform to the rigorous scientific, ethical and safety standards expected of contemporary medical research," the authors write.

 

Canadian researchers are leading studies that are looking at psychedelic drugs as treatment for addiction and PTSD.

 

The authors emphasize that the studies included in their analysis are small and the results preliminary; further research is needed to determine if there is widespread clinical application.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150908131419.htm

Why hemp and marijuana are different

https://www.sciencedaily.com/images/2015/07/150717131014_1_540x360.jpg

July 17, 2015

Science Daily/University of Minnesota

Genetic differences between hemp and marijuana determine whether Cannabis plants have the potential for psychoactivity, a new study by University of Minnesota scientists shows.

 

"Given the diversity of cultivated forms of Cannabis, we wanted to identify the genes responsible for differences in drug content," says U of M plant biologist George Weiblen. While marijuana is rich in psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), hemp produces mostly a non-euphoric cannabidiol (CBD), but the genetic basis for this difference was a matter of speculation until now. The study was published in the July 17 online edition of New Phytologist.

 

The discovery of a single gene distinguishing the two varieties, which according to Weiblen took more than 12 years of research, could strengthen hemp producers' argument that their products should not be subject to the same narcotics laws as hemp's cannabinoid cousin. Since 1970, all Cannabis plants have been classified as controlled substances by the federal government, but nearly half of all states, including Minnesota, now define hemp as distinct from marijuana. Efforts to revise hemp's U.S. legal status so that it could again be cultivated commercially have gained momentum in recent years.

 

The market for hemp seed and fiber in the U.S. surpassed $600 million last year alone. But despite the plant's surging popularity as an ingredient in food, personal care products, clothing and even construction, commercial hemp cultivation is prohibited by the federal government. Currently, all hemp products are imported to the U.S.

 

Research on hemp is tightly controlled by government regulations. Weiblen and his co-authors at the University of Mississippi are among few labs in the country with the federal clearance to study Cannabis.

 

"It's a plant of major economic importance that is very poorly understood scientifically. With this study, we have indisputable evidence for a genetic basis of differences among Cannabis varieties," says Weiblen, "further challenging the position that all Cannabis should be regulated as a drug."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150717131014.htm

No bones about it: Cannabis may be used to treat fractures

Tel Aviv University researcher finds non-psychotropic compound in marijuana can help heal bone fissures

July 16, 2015

Science Daily/American Friends of Tel Aviv University

A new study explores another promising new medical application for marijuana. According to the research, the administration of the non-psychotropic component significantly helps heal bone fractures.

 

Cannabis -- marijuana, hashish -- was used as a go-to medical remedy by societies around the world for centuries. But the therapeutic use of marijuana was banned in most countries in the 1930s and '40s due to a growing awareness of the dangers of addiction. The significant medical benefits of marijuana in alleviating symptoms of such diseases as Parkinson's, cancer, and multiple sclerosis have only recently been reinvestigated.

 

A new study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research by Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University researchers explores another promising new medical application for marijuana. According to the research, the administration of the non-psychotropic component cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) significantly helps heal bone fractures. The study, conducted on rats with mid-femoral fractures, found that CBD -- even when isolated from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the major psychoactive component of cannabis -- markedly enhanced the healing process of the femora after just eight weeks.

 

The research was led jointly by Dr. Yankel Gabet of the Bone Research Laboratory at the Department of Anatomy and Anthropology at TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the late Prof. Itai Bab of Hebrew University's Bone Laboratory.

 

Undeniable clinical potential

The same team, in earlier research, discovered that cannabinoid receptors within our bodies stimulated bone formation and inhibited bone loss. This paves the way for the future use of cannabinoid drugs to combat osteoporosis and other bone-related diseases.

 

"The clinical potential of cannabinoid-related compounds is simply undeniable at this point," said Dr. Gabet. "While there is still a lot of work to be done to develop appropriate therapies, it is clear that it is possible to detach a clinical therapy objective from the psychoactivity of cannabis. CBD, the principal agent in our study, is primarily anti-inflammatory and has no psychoactivity."

 

According to Dr. Gabet, our bodies are equipped with a cannabinoid system, which regulates both vital and non-vital systems. "We only respond to cannabis because we are built with intrinsic compounds and receptors that can also be activated by compounds in the cannabis plant," he said. The researchers found that the skeleton itself is regulated by cannabinoids. Even the addition of a non-psychogenic compound acting outside of the brain can affect the skeleton.

 

Separating the components out

"We found that CBD alone makes bones stronger during healing, enhancing the maturation of the collagenous matrix, which provides the basis for new mineralization of bone tissue," said Dr. Gabet. "After being treated with CBD, the healed bone will be harder to break in the future."

 

The researchers injected one group of rats with CBD alone and another with a combination of CBD and THC. After evaluating the administration of THC and CBD together in the rats, they found CBD alone provided the necessary therapeutic stimulus.

 

"We found CBD alone to be sufficiently effective in enhancing fracture healing," said Dr. Gabet. "Other studies have also shown CBD to be a safe agent, which leads us to believe we should continue this line of study in clinical trials to assess its usefulness in improving human fracture healing."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150716124359.htm

Scientists separate medical benefits of cannabis from 'unwanted' side effects

July 9, 2015

Science Daily/University of East Anglia

Scientists at the University of East Anglia in collaboration with the University Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona have found a way to separate the medical benefits of cannabis from its unwanted side effects.

 

The research comes from the team that discovered how the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, known as THC, reduces tumour growth in cancer patients.

 

Their latest findings, published today in the journal PLOS Biology, reveal how the cognitive effects of THC are triggered by a pathway which is separate from some of its other effects.

 

That pathway involves both a cannabinoid receptor and a serotonin receptor. When it is blocked, THC can still exert several beneficial effects -- including pain relief -- while avoiding impairment of memory.

 

The research was carried out in mice, but it is hoped that the breakthrough will pave the way for safe cannabis-based therapies that do not cause alterations in mood, perception or memory.

 

Dr Peter McCormick, from UEA's school of Pharmacy, said: "THC, the major active component of marijuana, has broad medical use -- including for pain relief, nausea and anxiety. Our previous research has also found that it could reduce tumour size in cancer patients. However it is also known to induce numerous undesirable side effects such as memory impairment, anxiety and dependence.

 

"There has been a great deal of medical interest in understanding the molecular mechanisms at work in THC, so that the beneficial effects can be harnessed without the side-effects.

 

"THC acts through a family of cell receptors called cannabinoid receptors. Our previous research revealed which of these receptors are responsible for the anti-tumour effects of THC. This new research demonstrates how some of the drug's beneficial effects can be separated from its unwanted side effects."

 

The research team carried out behavioural studies in mice and investigated how pathways in their brains operate under THC. They found that the absence of a particular serotonin receptor (5HT2AR) reduced some of the effects of THC -- such as its amnesic effect, based on a standard memory test. But treatment to reduce 5HT2AR did not change other effects of THC, including pain relief.

 

"This research is important because it identifies a way to reduce some of what, in medical treatment, are usually thought of as THC's unwanted side effects, while maintaining several important benefits including pain reduction."

 

But Dr McCormick added that patients should not be tempted to self-medicate.

 

"Patients should not use cannabis to self-medicate, but I hope that our research will lead to a safe synthetic equivalent being available in the future."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150709144842.htm

Medical marijuana 'edibles' mostly mislabeled: Many too weak, some surprisingly strong

June 23, 2015

Science Daily/Johns Hopkins Medicine

The vast majority of edible cannabis products sold in a small sample of medical marijuana dispensaries carried labels that overstated or understated the amount of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a proof-of-concept study shows. Though the scope of the study was small, the researchers say, the results of the study suggest some medical cannabis patients could be unintentionally overdosing or are being cheated by mislabeled products.

 

In a proof-of-concept study, a team led by a Johns Hopkins researcher reports that the vast majority of edible cannabis products sold in a small sample of medical marijuana dispensaries carried labels that overstated or understated the amount of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

 

Though the scope of the study was small, the researchers say, the results of the study suggest some medical cannabis patients could be unintentionally overdosing or are being cheated by mislabeled products.

 

"If this study is representative of the medical cannabis market, we may have hundreds of thousands of patients buying cannabis products that are mislabeled," says experimental psychologist Ryan Vandrey, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and lead author of a report on the study published June 23 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

 

Calling for better regulation and oversight of marijuana edibles, Vandrey and his team say patients who consume underlabeled products -- meaning more THC is in the product than is stated on the label -- could suffer from overdosing side effects, including extreme anxiety and psychotic reactions. Patients purchasing products that are overlabeled are not getting what they paid for, he adds.

 

"Caveat emptor," or "let the buyer beware," is "just not right" for the sale of medical marijuana, he says.

 

For the study, Vandrey teamed with an independent laboratory and collected 75 different edible cannabis products -- baked goods, beverages and candy/chocolates -- representing 47 different brands. The products were legally purchased from a sample of three medical dispensaries in each of three cities: Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. "Those cities were chosen based on the location of the labs" in California and Washington, says Vandrey, "because you can't transport these products across state lines legally."

 

Comparing the THC content listed on product labels with the laboratory measures revealed only 13 products (17 percent) that were accurately labeled. When lab results differed from the product label by more than 10 percent, the team categorized those products as either under- or overlabeled. Some 17 products (23 percent) had more THC than advertised, which could lead to overdosing. The majority of products -- 45 products (60 percent) -- were overlabeled, meaning patients purchasing those products for their THC content are not getting the dose of medicine they believed they purchased.

 

"We didn't have a guess as to how many products would have inaccurate labels," says Vandrey, "but I was surprised it was so many."

 

The team also tested the products for cannabidiol, or CBD, another of the active ingredients in cannabis believed to have medical benefit, which may also help reduce the side effects of THC.

 

Laboratory testing showed 44 products (59 percent) had detectible levels of CBD, but the average ratio of THC to CBD was 36-to-1. Only one product had a 1-to-1 ratio, which some research suggests is associated with fewer side effects and improved clinical benefit compared with higher ratios of THC to CBD.

 

"A lot of dispensary owners and medical cannabis proponents make a big case about how therapeutically beneficial CBD is," says Vandrey, "but our testing indicates that a lot of what's available in the edible cannabis market may have very little CBD."

 

Currently, marijuana remains classified as a Schedule I substance under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, meaning it is considered to have a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical value and lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. Yet 23 states and the District of Columbia permit the sale and/or use of medical marijuana, and four states and D.C. permit its sale and use for recreational purposes.

 

In the absence of federal regulation, says Vandrey, "the states that have medical marijuana laws need to account for the quality and testing of medical marijuana products sold to their residents."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150623113156.htm

Psychedelic drugs should be legally reclassified as they may benefit patients

May 26, 2015

Science Daily/BMJ

Legal restrictions imposed on medical use of psychedelic drugs, such as LSD and psilocybin (the compound found in 'magic' mushrooms), are making trials almost impossible and authorities should 'downgrade their unnecessarily restrictive class A, schedule 1 classification,' writes a psychiatrist.

 

James Rucker, a psychiatrist and honorary lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London, describes how these drugs "were extensively used and researched in clinical psychiatry" before their prohibition in 1967.

 

He explains that many trials of psychedelics published before prohibition, in the 1950s and 1960s, suggested "beneficial change in many psychiatric disorders."

 

However, research ended after 1967. In the UK psychedelic drugs were legally classified as schedule 1 class A drugs -- that is, as having "no accepted medical use and the greatest potential for harm, despite the research evidence to the contrary," he writes.

 

Rucker points out that psychedelics remain more legally restricted than heroin and cocaine. "But no evidence indicates that psychedelic drugs are habit forming; little evidence indicates that they are harmful in controlled settings; and much historical evidence shows that they could have use in common psychiatric disorders."

 

In fact, recent studies indicate that psychedelics have "clinical efficacy in anxiety associated with advanced cancer, obsessive compulsive disorder, tobacco and alcohol addiction, and cluster headaches," he writes.

 

And he explains that, at present, larger clinical studies on psychedelics are made "almost impossible by the practical, financial and bureaucratic obstacles" imposed by their schedule 1 classification. Currently, only one manufacturer in the world produces psilocybin for trial purposes, he says, at a "prohibitive" cost of £100,000 for 1 g (50 doses).

 

In the UK, to hold a schedule 1 drug, institutions require a license, which costs about £5,000, he adds. Only four hospitals currently hold such licenses, which come with regular police or home office inspections and onerous rules on storage and transport.

 

This, he argues, "means that clinical research using psychedelics costs 5-10 times that of research into less restricted (but more harmful) drugs such as heroin."

 

As a result, "almost all grant funders are uncomfortable funding research into psychedelics," writes Rucker, while prohibition as a condition of UN membership is "arguably causing more harm than it prevents."

 

He concludes that psychedelics are neither harmful nor addictive compared with other controlled substances, and he calls on the UK Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and the 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs, "to recommend that psychedelics be reclassified as schedule 2 compounds to enable a comprehensive, evidence based assessment of their therapeutic potential."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150526215030.htm

Legalizing marijuana and the new science of weed

March 23, 2015

Science Daily/American Chemical Society (ACS)

More than a year into Colorado's experiment legalizing marijuana, labs testing the plants are able for the first time to take stock of the drug's potency and contaminants -- and openly paint a picture of what's in today's weed. At the 249th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), one such lab will present trends -- and some surprises -- that its preliminary testing has revealed about the marijuana now on the market.

 

Three major patterns have emerged over the past few months since Andy LaFrate, Ph.D., and his lab began testing marijuana samples. Those patterns concern potency, amounts of a substance called CBD and contaminants in the products.

 

"As far as potency goes, it's been surprising how strong a lot of the marijuana is," LaFrate says. "We've seen potency values close to 30 percent THC, which is huge." LaFrate is the president and director of research of Charas Scientific, one of eight labs certified by Colorado to do potency testing.

 

THC is an abbreviation for tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the psychoactive compound in the plant. He explains that three decades ago, THC levels were well below 10 percent. Its content has tripled in some strains because producers have been cross-breeding them over the years to meet user demands for higher potency, he says.

 

But an unexpected consequence of this breeding has occurred, says LaFrate. Many of the samples his lab has tested have little to no cannabidiol, or CBD. CBD is a lesser known compound in marijuana that is of increasing interest to medical marijuana proponents. Researchers are investigating CBD as a treatment for schizophrenia, Huntington's disease and Alzheimer's disease. It is also being considered for anxiety and depression. But unlike THC, CBD doesn't get people high -- that's a key trait for many people who are wary of buzz-inducing drugs and for potential medical treatments for children. As for recreational users, the lack of CBD in marijuana means that many of the hundreds of strains they select from could in actuality be very similar chemically, according to LaFrate.

 

"There's a lot of homogeneity whether you're talking medical or retail level," he says. "One plant might have green leaves and another purple, and the absolute amount of cannabinoids might change, which relates to strength. But the ratio of THC to CBD to other cannabinoids isn't changing a whole lot." That means there might be little difference in how the varieties make you feel, even though some people claim one kind will make you mellow and another will make you alert, LaFrate explains.

 

As for contamination testing, although Colorado doesn't yet require it, some producers have voluntarily submitted samples to see what's in their products. LaFrate says the results have been surprising. His lab looks for both biological and chemical contaminants, such as pathogenic microbes and solvents.

 

"It's pretty startling just how dirty a lot of this stuff is," he says. "You'll see a marijuana bud that looks beautiful. And then we run it through a biological assay, and we see that it's covered in fungi."

 

The lab also finds varying levels of chemical contaminants such as butane, which is used to create marijuana extracts. Contamination isn't necessarily a cause for alarm, but it does signal a need to figure out what levels are safe.

 

"It's a natural product," LaFrate says. "There's going to be microbial growth on it no matter what you do. So the questions become: What's a safe threshold? And which contaminants do we need to be concerned about?"

 

In other words, legalizing marijuana has raised a lot of issues that still have to be hammered out. LaFrate, who has been involved with the policy side of Colorado's new marijuana market, as well as the laboratory side, says he expects regulations will continue to evolve as scientists, lawmakers and others learn more about the plant and its products.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150323075237.htm

Psychedelic drug use could reduce psychological distress, suicidal thinking

March 9, 2015

Science Daily/Johns Hopkins Medicine

A history of psychedelic drug use is associated with less psychological distress and fewer suicidal thoughts, planning and attempts, according to new research from Johns Hopkins and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

 

In a national survey of over 190,000 U.S. adults, lifetime use of certain psychedelic drugs was associated with a 19 percent reduced likelihood of psychological distress within the past month, a 14 percent reduced likelihood of suicidal thinking within the past year, a 29 percent reduced likelihood of suicide planning within the past year and a 36 percent reduced likelihood of attempting suicide within the past year. These results were published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

 

The findings suggest that some nonaddictive psychedelic drugs, while illegal, may hold promise for depression, and that these psychedelics' highly restricted legal status should be reconsidered to facilitate scientific studies, says study author Matthew W. Johnson, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins.

 

While the study authors are not encouraging the illicit use of these substances, "these could be breakthrough medical treatments that we've been ignoring for the past 30 years," Johnson says. "We need to carefully examine these cautiously and thoroughly."

 

For the study, researchers pooled data from five years of results of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2008 to 2012) to evaluate the relationship between a history of using certain nonaddictive psychedelic drugs and psychological distress and suicidality. The annual survey, administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, estimates the prevalence of substance use and mental illness in the general U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population. The study focused on respondents with a history of using nonaddictive psychedelic drugs, which interact with certain serotonin receptors in the brain.

 

Of 191,382 respondents, 27,235 reported lifetime use of one or more of these psychedelics, primarily psilocybin and LSD. Lifetime use was concentrated among 26- to 64-year-olds and was more common among men; non-Hispanic whites and Native Americans/Alaska Natives; those with greater education and income; individuals who were divorced, separated or who had never married; those with greater self-reported engagement in risky behavior; and those who reported lifetime illicit use of other substances. Among users of these psychedelic drugs, only 240 said they never tried any other illicit drug.

 

In addition, 12,657 respondents reported psychological distress within the past month, 10,445 reported suicidal thinking within the past year, 3,157 reported suicidal planning within the past year and 1,716 reported suicidal attempt within the past year.

 

Using statistical methods that controlled for factors such as age, gender, income, education and other drug use, researchers found that lifetime use of these drugs was associated with a decreased likelihood of past-month psychological distress and past-year suicidal thinking, planning, and attempts. Conversely, lifetime use of other illicit substances was largely associated with an increase in these harms, "which is consistent with the fact that these other drugs, unlike classic psychedelics, are addictive," Johnson says.

 

The observational nature of the study cannot definitively show that psychedelics caused these effects, Johnson says, because those who chose to use psychedelics may have been psychologically healthier before using these drugs. However, the results probably reflect a benefit from psychedelics -- the study controlled for many relevant variables and found that, as the researchers expected, other drugs assessed in the study were linked to increased harms, he says. The use of nonaddictive psychedelic drugs may exacerbate schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders and can sometimes elicit feelings of anxiety, fear, panic and paranoia, which can lead to dangerous behavior, Johnson says. But these instances of individual harm, while serious, may not stand out in the survey data because they occur less often than the positive outcomes that some people experience.

 

"Our general societal impression of these drugs is they make people go crazy or are associated with psychological harm, but our data point to the potential psychological benefits from these drugs," he says. Current research at Johns Hopkins and several other universities is examining the therapeutic potential of one of the psychedelics, psilocybin, when administered in carefully controlled, monitored medical studies.

 

The study was co-authored by Peter S. Hendricks, Christopher B. Thorne, C. Brendan Clark and David W. Coombs of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150309174507.htm

An alternative to medical marijuana for pain?

March 4, 2015

Science Daily/Elsevier

Medical marijuana is proliferating across the country due to the ability of cannabis ingestion to treat important clinical problems such as chronic pain. However, negative side effects and the development of tolerance limit the widespread therapeutic use of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), the major psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

 

THC's side effects are produced via its actions at cannabinoid CB1 receptors in the brain. Thus, scientists theorized that an agent with similar mechanistic actions, but that activate CB2 receptors instead, may eliminate the unwanted side effects while maintaining an equivalent level of efficacy.

 

Dr. Andrea Hohmann and her colleagues at Indiana University tested this strategy and found that, unlike Δ9-THC, repeated dosing with the cannabinoid CB2 agonist AM1710 suppresses chemotherapy-induced pain in mice without producing tolerance, physical withdrawal, motor dysfunction, or hypothermia. Moreover, the therapeutic effects of AM1710 were preserved in mice lacking CB1 receptors but absent in mice lacking CB2 receptors.

 

Their findings are reported in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry.

 

"Our study is important because it demonstrates beyond doubt that activation of cannabinoid CB2 receptors suppresses neuropathic pain without producing signs of physical dependence (i.e., a withdrawal syndrome) or other unwanted side effects associated with activation of CB1 receptors in the brain," said Hohmann.

 

Their studies used animals that were treated with a chemotherapeutic agent (paclitaxel) to produce pain. When animals were given AM1710, a CB2 agonist, its pain-suppressive effects were fully preserved and its therapeutic effects were maintained even after repeated dosing.

 

Alternatively, and as expected, when animals were given Δ9-THC, they developed complete tolerance to the pain-suppressing effects of THC and with repeated dosing, THC was no longer effective in suppressing neuropathic pain.

 

When the THC-treated animals were challenged with a drug that blocks CB1 receptors in the brain, the animals showed a prominent withdrawal syndrome, indicating signs of physical dependence following removal of THC. Strikingly, this was not the case with the CB2 agonist; blocking either CB1 or CB2 receptors produced no signs of withdrawal in animals treated chronically with the CB2 agonist.

 

Hohmann added, "We think our data suggests that CB2 receptors are an important target for suppressing chronic pain without unwanted side effects (e.g. psychoactivity, addiction)."

 

"It is important to know whether the benefits of cannabis ingestion for pain could be attributed in large part to the stimulation of CB2 receptors," commented Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry. "CB2 agonists, in theory, would present less risk regarding addiction and intoxication than the ingestion of cannabis or THC."

 

More work will be necessary before CB2 receptor agonists could be prescribed for use in humans, but for now, these data support the therapeutic potential of CB2 agonists for managing pain without the adverse effects associated with cannabis.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150304075336.htm

Cannabis: A new frontier in therapeutics

February 15, 2015

Science Daily/McGill University Health Centre

While debate about recreational marijuana use continues, researchers are investigating the effectiveness of cannabis for treating pain, spasticity, and a host of other medical problems. In a symposium organized by the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) as part of the 2015 American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meeting held this week in San Jose, California, experts from North America and the U.K. share their perspectives on the therapeutic potential of medical cannabis and explore the emerging science behind it.

 

"We need to advance our understanding of the role of cannabinoids in health and disease through research and education for patients, physicians and policy-makers," says Dr. Mark Ware, director of clinical research at the Alan Edwards Pain Management Unit at the MUHC, in Canada.

 

As a pain specialist Dr. Ware regularly sees patients with severe chronic pain at his clinic in Montreal, and for some of them, marijuana appears to be a credible option. "I don't think that every physician should prescribe medical cannabis, or that every patient can benefit but it's time to enhance our scientific knowledge base and have informed discussions with patients."

 

Increasing numbers of jurisdictions worldwide are allowing access to herbal cannabis, and a range of policy initiatives are emerging to regulate its production, distribution, and authorization. It is widely believed that there is little evidence to support the consideration of cannabis as a therapeutic agent. However, several medicines based on tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient of cannabis, have been approved as pharmaceutical drugs.

 

Leading British cannabis researcher Professor Roger Pertwee, who co-discovered the presence of tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) in cannabis in the 70's, recently published with collaborators some findings of potential therapeutic relevance in the British Journal of Pharmacology. "We observed that THCV, the non-psychoactive component of cannabis, produces anti-schizophrenic effects in a preclinical model of schizophrenia," says Pertwee, professor of Neuropharmacology at Aberdeen University. "This finding has revealed a new potential therapeutic use for this compound."

 

Neuropsychiatrist and Director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) at the University of California, San Diego Dr. Igor Grant is interested in the short and long-term neuropsychiatric effects of marijuana use. The CMCR has overseen some of the most extensive research on the therapeutic effects of medical marijuana in the U.S. "Despite a commonly held view that cannabis use results in brain damage, meta analyses of extensive neurocognitive studies fail to demonstrate meaningful cognitive declines among recreational users," says Dr. Grant. "Bain imaging has produced variable results, with the best designed studies showing null findings."

 

Dr. Grant adds that while it is plausible to hypothesize that cannabis exposure in children and adolescents could impair brain development or predispose to mental illness, data from properly designed prospective studies is lacking.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150215070209.htm

How CBD, a component in marijuana, works within cells

February 11, 2015

Science Daily/Stony Brook University

A team of Stony Brook University researchers have identified fatty acid binding proteins (FABPs) as intracellular transporters for two ingredients in marijuana, THC and CBD (cannabidiol). The finding, published early online in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, is significant because it helps explain how CBD works within the cells. Recent clinical findings have shown that CBD may help reduce seizures and could be a potential new medicine to treat pediatric treatment-resistant epilepsy.

 

CBD differs from THC in that it is not psychoactive and does not bind to cannabinoid receptors. Some children who are resistant to conventional antiepileptic drugs have been reported to show improvement with oral CBD treatment. The Stony Brook research team found that three brain FABPs carry THC and CBD from the cell membrane to the interior of the cell. This action enabled them to conduct experiments inhibiting FABPs and thereby reducing anandamide breakdown inside the cells.

 

"Anandamide, an endocannabinoid, has been shown to have neuroprotective effects against seizures in basic research studies and this may turn out to be a key mechanism of seizure control," explained Dale Deutsch, PhD, Professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology and a faculty member of the Institute of Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery at Stony Brook University. "Therefore by CBD inhibiting FABPs, we could potentially raise the levels of anandamide in the brain's synapses."

 

The findings in the paper, titled "Fatty Acid Binding Proteins are Intracellular Carriers for THC and CBD," stem from the team's research that spans five years and includes their discoveries that showed anandamide levels were raised in rodent brains using novel drugs targeted to FABPs. In 2013, they received a $3.8 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to target endocannabinoid transporters to develop drugs for pain and inflammation.

 

The current research involving FABPs as transporters of CBD involves the work of faculty and students from several Stony Brook Departments. The team includes four Professors -- Dr. Deutsch, Martin Kaczocha (Anesthesiology), Iwao Ojima (Chemistry and the Institute of Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery), and Stella Tsirka (Pharmacological Sciences). The team also features a post-doctoral fellow (Jeremy Miyauchi in Pharmacological Sciences), a researcher who recently received his PhD (William Berger in Chemistry), a graduate student Matthew Elmes, a research technician Liqun Wang, and undergraduate students Brian Ralph, Kwan-Knok Leung, and Joseph Sweeney, all from the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150211140914.htm

Psychedelic drug prevents asthma development in mice

February 9, 2015

Science Daily/Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center

Research led by Charles Nichols, PhD, Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics at the LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, has found that a psychedelic drug, (R)-DOI, prevents the development of allergic asthma in a mouse model. The effects are potent and effective at a concentration 50-100 times less than would influence behavior. The research was published in the January 15 issue of the American Journal of Physiology -- Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology.

 

"These drugs are known only for their effects in the brain," notes Dr. Nichols. "What we have demonstrated for the first time is that they are also effective in treating physiological diseases outside of the brain, a completely new and exciting role for this class of drug. Not only is this a significant breakthrough in the field of study of serotonin and psychiatric drugs, but it is a breakthrough in the field of asthma as well. We have identified an entirely new anti-inflammatory mechanism for the treatment of asthma in the clinic that could someday be administered in an inhaler or a daily pill."

 

Previously, Dr. Nichols' lab found that activation of the serotonin receptor 5-HT2A with psychedelics produces powerful anti-inflammatory activity in tissues of the blood vessels and gut. Building on that, the researchers identified a drug they believed would be effective against the inflammatory disease asthma. They found that administration of (R)-DOI blocked pulmonary inflammation, mucus hyperproduction, airways hyperresponsiveness and turned off certain key genes in the lung involved in immune response that together blocked the development of allergic asthma in their mouse model.

 

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. Asthma causes recurring periods of wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing. Asthma affects people of all ages, but it most often starts during childhood. In the United States, more than 25 million people are known to have asthma.

 

"Overall, given the recent interest and success using these drugs for psychiatric therapies in the clinic, our research at LSU Health New Orleans is the first to show that they have potential to heal the body as well as the mind," concludes Dr. Nichols.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150209171311.htm

Possible use of medical marijuana for depression

February 4, 2015

Science Daily/University at Buffalo

Scientists at the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) are studying chronic stress and depression, with a focus on endocannabinoids, which are brain chemicals similar to substances in marijuana.

 

The findings raise the possibility that components of marijuana may be useful in reducing depression that results from chronic stress.

 

"In the animal models we studied, we saw that chronic stress reduced the production of endocannabinoids, leading to depression-like behavior," says RIA senior research scientist Samir Haj-Dahmane, PhD.

 

Endocannabinoids are naturally produced chemical compounds in the brain that affect motor control, cognition, emotions and behavior. As the name suggests, they are similar to the chemicals found in marijuana (Cannabis sativa) and its active ingredient, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

 

"Chronic stress is one of the major causes of depression," Haj-Dahmane says. "Using compounds derived from cannabis -- marijuana -- to restore normal endocannabinoid function could potentially help stabilize moods and ease depression."

 

He cautions this is preliminary research. "Our research thus far has used animal models; there is still a long way to go before we know whether this can be effective in humans," he says. "However, we have seen that some people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder have reported relief using marijuana."

 

Haj-Dahmane says the next step in the research is to see if using a marijuana extract, cannabidiol (CBD), restores normal behaviors in the animals without leading to dependence on the drug.

 

The study, co-authored by Roh-Yu Shen, PhD, RIA senior research scientist, was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. It appeared in the fall issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

 

Medical marijuana remains a controversial issue. Although 23 states and the District of Columbia have approved its use to provide relief for health problems such as glaucoma, nerve pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and nausea from chemotherapy, some experts are concerned that medical use of marijuana may normalize attitudes about the drug and lead people -- especially youth -- to believe it is completely safe.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150204163012.htm

Classic psychedelic use protective with regard to psychological distress and suicidality

January 21, 2015

Science Daily/SAGE Publications

Classic psychedelics, such as LSD, psilocybin mushrooms and mescaline, previously have been shown to occasion lasting improvements in mental health. But researchers led by University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health investigators wanted to advance the existing research and determine whether classic psychedelics might be protective with regard to suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

 

Approximately 30,000 lives in the United States are claimed by suicide every year, and more than 90 percent of victims have been diagnosed with mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

 

Using data from more than 190,000 respondents of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2008-2012, the researchers found that those who reported ever having used a classic psychedelic drug in their lifetime had a decreased likelihood of psychological distress in the past month, and decreased suicidal thinking, planning and attempts in the past year.

 

"Despite advances in mental health treatments, suicide rates generally have not declined in the past 60 years. Novel and potentially more effective interventions need to be explored," said Peter S. Hendricks, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Health Behavior and lead study author. "This study sets the stage for future research to test the efficacy of classic psychedelics in addressing suicidality as well as pathologies associated with increased suicide risk (e.g., affective disturbance, addiction and impulsive-aggressive personality traits)."

 

Hendricks says the take-home message from this study is that classic psychedelics may hold great promise in the prevention of suicide and evaluating the therapeutic effectiveness of classic psychedelics should be a priority for future research.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150121093544.htm

Teen contraband smokers more likely to use illicit drugs

December 16, 2014

Science Daily/University of Alberta

A University of Alberta economics professor has discovered a link between contraband cigarette use and illicit drug use among Canadian teens.

 

Professor Mesbah Sharaf, a health economics lecturer at the University of Alberta in Canada, recently published a joint study with the University of Waterloo titled "Association Between Contraband Tobacco and Illicit Drug Use Among High School Students in Canada" in The Journal of Primary Prevention.

 

The study shows that 31 per cent of adolescent smokers in Canada between grades 9 and 12 use contraband tobacco and indicates that teens who smoke contraband tobacco are more likely to use illicit drugs.

 

"The rate of illicit drug use among the contraband smokers is higher than that among teenagers who smoke non-contraband cigarettes--sometimes double or triple the rate," says Sharaf.

 

According to the study, 22 per cent of all adolescent smokers in Canada used cocaine. Among those who smoked contraband cigarettes, 31 per cent reported using cocaine, whereas only 18 per cent of non-contraband smokers reported using cocaine. Use of MDMA (ecstasy) was also more prevalent among contraband smokers (45 per cent) than among non-contraband smokers (33 per cent). The rate of ketamine and amphetamine use among the contraband-smoking teens was almost three times as high as the rate among non-contraband-using teens--and more than six times as high for heroin.

 

This is the first published research to specifically examine the potential connection between contraband cigarette smoking and drug use among adolescents.

 

"If, as we believe this study shows, contraband cigarette use is associated with illicit drug use, then intensive effort needs to be made to avoid this--by both government and tobacco companies," says Sharaf. "Adolescence is a critical period, and most unhealthy habits are developed at an early age."

 

Sharaf is calling on the federal government to strengthen contraband enforcement and enhance public education efforts to combat this trend. "This is an important insight, and we encourage the government to come up with measures to tackle this problem," he says.

 

In producing this study, three researchers--Sharaf, along with Sunday Azagba and David Hammond of the University of Waterloo--used a national sample of 2,136 current smoker students in grades 9 to 12 from the 2010-2011 Youth Smoking Survey conducted by Statistics Canada.

 

The survey assessed students' past-year use of the following drugs (including some street names for each type of drug): amphetamines, cocaine, hallucinogens, heroin, MDMA and ketamine. The study also showed a significant relationship between truancy and drug use, as well as binge drinking and drug use.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141216144121.htm

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