Health

As marijuana use becomes increasingly normalized and liberalized, more and more adolescents are initiated into using the drug with serious implications for the healthcare system and public health.   Confirming what those of us in the prevention community have long known, a systematic review and meta-analysis published in JAMA Psychiatry found that marijuana use in adolescence was associated with increased risk of depression and suicide in young adulthood (18-32 years of age). After pooling data from 11 studies of over 23,300 individuals, researchers found that compared to non-users, adolescents who used marijuana were 40% more likely to suffer from depression, 50% more likely to experience suicidal ideation, and 250% more likely to attempt suicide in young adulthood.

Proponents of legalization often argue that alcohol and tobacco are legal even though they are responsible for far more deaths than marijuana. That is true. However, it is precisely because they are legal and widely accessible that they are so deadly. Do we want to add yet another legal intoxicant that has been linked to a number of negative health and social consequences at the individual and population levels? Two wrongs never make a right. Adolescent use of marijuana increases risk of suicidality by 250%. If the nation’s entire population of approximately 25,000,000 adolescents had access to recreational marijuana in the context of legalization, we could expect to see big increases in future suicides among young adults that are directly attributable to marijuana use. That is far too high a price to pay.

 

Source: https://www.dfaf.org/research/

 

Researchers report 63 percent of breast milk samples from mothers using marijuana contained traces of the drug

With the legalization of marijuana in several states, increased use for both medicinal and recreational purposes has been documented in pregnant and breastfeeding women. Although national organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that breastfeeding mothers do not use marijuana, there has been a lack of specific data to support health or neurodevelopmental concerns in infants as a result of exposure to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or other components of marijuana via breast milk.

To better understand how much marijuana or constituent compounds actually get into breast milk and how long it remains, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine conducted a study, publishing online August 27 in Pediatrics.

Fifty-four samples from 50 women who used marijuana either daily, weekly or sporadically — with inhalation being the primary method of intake — were examined. Researchers detected THC, the primary psychoactive component of marijuana, in 63 percent of the breast milk samples for up to six days after the mother’s last reported use.

“Pediatricians are often put into a challenging situation when a breastfeeding mother asks about the safety of marijuana use. We don’t have strong, published data to support advising against use of marijuana while breastfeeding, and if women feel they have to choose, we run the risk of them deciding to stop breastfeeding — something we know is hugely beneficial for both mom and baby,” said Christina Chambers, PhD, MPH, principal investigator of the study, professor in the Department of Pediatrics at UC San Diego School of Medicine and director of clinical research at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego.

The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for up to six months. Early breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of obesity, asthma and sudden infant death syndrome and with improved immune health and performance on intelligence tests. In mothers, breastfeeding has been associated with lower risks for breast and uterine cancer and type 2 diabetes.

Cannabinoids — marijuana’s active compounds, such as THC — like to bind to fat molecules, which are abundant in breast milk. This stickiness has suggested that, in women who use marijuana, these compounds can end up in breast milk, raising concerns about their potential effects on nursing babies.

“We found that the amount of THC that the infant could potentially ingest from breast milk was relatively low, but we still don’t know enough about the drug to say whether or not there is a concern for the infant at any dose, or if there is a safe dosing level,” said Chambers, co-director of the Center for Better Beginnings at UC San Diego. “The ingredients in marijuana products that are available today are thought to be much more potent than products available 20 or 30 years ago.”

The samples of breast milk used for the study were obtained from mothers who joined the Mommy’s Milk Human Milk Research Biorepository at UC San Diego, a program that focuses on looking at the numerous benefits of breast milk at the molecular level. Chambers and her research team collaborated with Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at UC San Diego to measure the levels of marijuana in the samples.

Chambers said the results are a stepping stone for future research. More studies need to be done, not only to determine the long-term impact of marijuana in breast milk for children, but more specifically: “Are there any differences in effects of marijuana in breast milk for a two-month-old versus a 12-month-old, and is it different if the mother smokes versus eats the cannabis? These are critical areas where we need answers as we continue to promote breast milk as the premium in nutrition for infants.

Source: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180827080911.htm

 

Abstract

Cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabidivarin (CBDV) are natural cannabinoids which are consumed in increasing amounts worldwide in cannabis extracts, as they prevent epilepsy, anxiety, and seizures. It was claimed that they may be useful in cancer therapy and have anti-inflammatory properties. Adverse long-term effects of these drugs (induction of cancer and infertility) which are related to damage of the genetic material have not been investigated. Therefore, we studied their DNA-damaging properties in human-derived cell lines under conditions which reflect the exposure of consumers. Both compounds induced DNA damage in single cell gel electrophoresis (SCGE) experiments in a human liver cell line (HepG2) and in buccal-derived cells (TR146) at low levels (≥ 0.2 µM). Results of micronucleus (MN) cytome assays showed that the damage leads to formation of MNi which reflect chromosomal aberrations and leads to nuclear buds and bridges which are a consequence of gene amplifications and dicentric chromosomes. Additional experiments indicate that these effects are caused by oxidative base damage and that liver enzymes (S9) increase the genotoxic activity of both compounds. Our findings show that low concentrations of CBD and CBDV cause damage of the genetic material in human-derived cells. Furthermore, earlier studies showed that they cause chromosomal aberrations and MN in bone marrow of mice. Fixation of damage of the DNA in the form of chromosomal damage is generally considered to be essential in the multistep process of malignancy, therefore the currently available data are indicative for potential carcinogenic properties of the cannabinoids.

Government warnings about fentanyl hitting UK streets have inadvertently sparked a demand for the deadly opioid among drug users, a community leader has told IBTimes UK.

Last month, the National Crime Agency (NCA) revealed that 60 drug deaths had been linked to fentanyl and its cousins, including the elephant tranquilizer carfentanyl, since December 2016.

This followed a warning in April from Public Health England (PHE) that the synthetic opiates, which are 50 to 10,000 times stronger than heroin, were being mixed with the street drug.

But these announcements have merely whetted the appetite of some heroin users, according to Martin McCusker, chair of the Lambeth Service User Council, a support network for drug users in south London.

“The warnings have generated a lot of interest among drug users who think ‘wow – this fentanyl stuff is sh*t cool – it must be really strong’,” he said.

McCusker said he was not surprised by the response of his peers when they learned that fentanyl, which is ravaging communities across North America, was becoming more prevalent in this country.

“We get these warnings about overdoses but that’s not what we hear,” he said, adding that a drug user’s typical thought process might be: “Wow, people are overdosing in Wandsworth. Oh right, they must have good gear in Wandsworth.”

As little as 0.002g of fentanyl and 0.00002g of carfentanyl – a few grains – can be fatal. When dealers mix this with heroin the resultant product may contain “hotspots” – unintended concentrations of the more potent substances.

People experiencing an opioid overdose effectively forget to breathe as their respiratory systems shut down.

McCusker acknowledged agencies’ predicaments when it comes to safeguarding drug users without giving harmful substances undue publicity.

But he said the government warnings, combined with media coverage about the spate of fentanyl-related deaths in the UK, had acted as “adverts” for the extra-strong painkiller, which killed the pop musician Prince.

“It’s not that people want fentanyl. It’s that people want stronger opioids and if fentanyl comes along then great,” he said. “Just today I was talking to this guy and he said ‘this dealer in [redacted] estate has got fentanyl.'”

McCusker claimed fentanyl was not being discussed among people who use heroin in the Brixton area until about six months ago, when reports of it being mixed with UK street supplies hit the mainstream press.

Recent interventions from government agencies had only heightened the buzz surrounding the drug, he added.

A spokesperson for PHE said: “The alert we put out was aimed primarily at emergency, medical and other frontline professionals. But we are aware that the decision about whether, and when, to issue an alert about a dangerous drug is a delicate balance between informing the right people to prevent overdoses and not driving demand for it.”

No UK opioid epidemic – for now

At least 60 drug-related deaths have been linked to fentanyl and its analogues in the last eight months, according to figures released by the NCA at a briefing on 31 July. That number refers to cases where the substances showed up in toxicology reports and does not mean they were the outright cause of death.

The synthetic substances, largely imported from Chinese manufacturers, were not instrumental to the recent surge in UK opiate deaths, which jumped from 1,290 in 2012 to 2,038 in 2016. That rise has been attributed to an ageing heroin-using population more prone to underlying health problems, and the increased purity of street heroin.

McCusker pointed out that it was impossible for users to know they were buying fentanyl-laced heroin “unless you’ve got an amazing drug testing kit at home”. He said that some of the excitement surrounding fentanyl was “just hype”.

NCA Deputy Director Ian Cruxton told reporters at the July briefing he was “cautiously optimistic” that the UK heroin market would not be flooded with fentanyl.

He said there had been a significant reduction in fentanyl-related deaths after major busts on mixing ‘labs’ in Leeds and Wales as well as the seizure of dark web marketplaces Alpha Bay and Hansa by law enforcement agencies.

In an April briefing paper, the NCA said: “We have not seen any evidence to date of UK heroin users demanding fentanyl-laced heroin.” McCusker’s testimony suggests the tide may have turned.

Source: https://www.ibtimes.co.uk/heroin-addicts-now-want-fentanyl-after-government-campaign-advertises-how-much-stronger-it-1634152 August 2017

Marijuana use increases the risk of death from high blood pressure, a new study has found.

A survey published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology calculated the risk of death resulting from cardiovascular and cerebrovascular causes. In the years 2005-2006 a total of 1,213 participants were asked if they smoked marijuana.

Those who answered ‘yes’ were then considered to be marijuana users, and the age they said they first tried the drug was subtracted from their current age. This calculated the duration of use.

Results found that 34 per cent used neither marijuana nor cigarettes, 21 per cent used only marijuana, 16 per cent used marijuana and were past smokers and 4 per cent smoked only cigarettes.

The average duration of marijuana use based on the calculations was 11 and a half years.

Those who smoked marijuana had a 3.42 times higher risk of dying from hypertension, and the risk grew by 1.04 each year of use.

There was however, no association between marijuana use and death from heart disease or cerebrovascular disease.

Lead author of the study, Barbara A Yankey, a PhD student in the School of Public Health, Georgia State University, Atlanta told Science Daily: “Our results suggest a possible risk of hypertension mortality from marijuana use. This is not surprising since marijuana is known to have a number of effects on the cardiovascular system. Marijuana stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, leading to increases in heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen demand. Emergency rooms have reported cases of angina and heart attacks after marijuana use.

“We found higher estimated cardiovascular risks associated with marijuana use than cigarette smoking.

“This indicates that marijuana use may carry even heavier consequences on the cardiovascular system than that already established for cigarette smoking. However, the number of smokers in our study was small and this needs to be examined in a larger study.

“Needless to say, the detrimental effects of marijuana on brain function far exceed that of cigarette smoking.”

The study does not deny the medicinal properties of the herb, but cautions against prolonged recreational use, stating: “We are not disputing the possible medicinal benefits of standardised cannabis formulations; however, recreational use of marijuana should be approached with caution. It is possible that discouraging recreational marijuana use may ultimately impact reductions in mortality from cardiovascular causes.”

Source: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/marijuana-use-high-blood-pressure-risk-death-study-cannabis-weed-cigarettes-a7888711.html August 2017

Filed under: Cannabis/Marijuana,Health :

 

 

source: https://www.familyfirst.org.nz/?s=In+addition+to+smoking+a+joint+

 

Realizing you have a drinking problem and deciding to quit are the first two steps of recovery, and for some people, they are the hardest. So, if that’s where you are in your journey right now, know you’re not alone and that you can claim your life back from a destructive addiction.

Once you’ve decided to quit drinking, you must commit to staying sober, despite any temptations or triggers you might come across. This is much more practical when you have support from therapy, a church group, friends who don’t drink, and/or any other kind of system that motivates you and helps you to stay accountable.

It’s also essential that you add meaningful and enjoyable things to your life that don’t involve drinking, and that you move your life forward so that you can thrive. This article will provide some tips on how to get on with your life while recovering from alcohol abuse.

Get Car Insurance

One of the first things to get in order will be your car insurance (if you don’t have any), as you won’t be able to legally drive without it. If your policy lapsed due to having your license suspended, try going to your former insurance company for coverage. If they won’t work with you, you will need to look around at other companies. Sometimes, a lapse in coverage means that it’s too high a risk for standard companies to insure you. However, there are companies that specialize in insuring higher-risk drivers, though you can expect higher premiums.

Surround Yourself with Support

One of the most important aspects of staying sober is hanging around people who help you in your mission. While therapy, treatment, and church can prove invaluable, so can spending time with non-drinking friends. This is because it helps to break social connections with alcohol and normalize sobriety, and friends can keep you accountable on your journey. Plus, boredom can easily lead to relapse, and doing things with people will help prevent that from happening.

Improve Your Diet

What you eat obviously has a lot to do with your physical health, which plays a major role in your mental and emotional health. Start being conscious of your diet — maximizing fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats, while limiting sugar, sodium and saturated fats. You should also make mood-boosting foods like kale, eggs, spinach, nuts, and wild salmon a part of your diet. If it’s easier for you, just start by replacing one meal a day with a healthier option than you normally would consider, and build from there.

Get Fit

Physical activity is also important. Not only does regular exercise yield long-term health benefits, but it also provides short-term benefits. The endorphins released during exercise creates a sense of reward in the brain, which can instantly boost your mood, reduce stress, and make you feel productive. Also, exercise is known to reduce anxiety and depression symptoms, as well as promote better sleep.

Set New Goals

Finally, in order to move past your addiction, you have to move forward in your life. Think of where you want to be in the future, and start setting goals. This could include goals to start a new career, progress in your current career, or go back to school. It can also include goals for repairing and developing relationships, learning new activities or skills, or any other number of things. Take advantage of your commitment to change by setting and focusing on new goals.

Recovering from alcohol addiction is not easy, but the rewards far outweigh the struggle. Be sure to look into your car insurance, and start hanging around positive, non-drinking friends. Prioritize your physical health to boost your mental and emotional health, and set new goals for your future. Most importantly, have grace on yourself, and try to maintain a positive outlook throughout your journey through addiction recovery.

Source:  Ryan Randolph   Recovery Proud  November 2019

A. Benjamin Srivastava, MD
Mark S. Gold, MD

The opioid epidemic is the most important and most serious public health crisis today. The effects are reported in overdose deaths but are also starkly evident in declines in sense of well-being and general health coupled with increasing all-cause mortality, particularly among the middle-aged white population. As exceptionally well described by Rummans et al in this issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, the cause of the epidemic is multifactorial, including an overinterpretation of a now infamous New England Journal of Medicine letter describing addiction as a rare occurrence in hospitalized patients treated with opioids, initiatives from the Joint Commission directed toward patient satisfaction and the labeling of pain as the “5th vital sign,” the advent of extended-release oxycodone (OxyContin), an aggressive marketing campaign from Purdue Pharma L.P., and the influx of heroin and fentanyl derivatives.

To date, most initiatives directed toward fighting the opioid initiatives, and the focus of the discussion from Rummans et al, have targeted the “supply side” of the equation. These measures include restricting prescriptions, physician drug monitoring programs, and other regulatory actions. Indeed, although opioid prescriptions have decreased from peak levels, the prevalence of opioid misuse and use disorder remains extremely prevalent (nearly 5%). Further, fatal drug overdoses, to which opioids contribute to a considerable degree, continue to increase, with 63,000 in 2016 alone. Thus, although prescription supply and access are necessary and important, we need to address the problem as a whole. To this point, for example, the ease of importation and synthesis of very cheap and powerful alternatives (eg, fentanyl and heroin) and the lucrative US marketplace have contributed to the replacement pharmacy sales and diversion with widespread street-level distribution of these illicit opioids; opioid-addicted people readily switch to these illicit opioids.

A complementary and necessary approach is to target the “demand” side of opioid use, namely, implementation of preventive measures, educating physicians, requiring physician continuing education for opioid prescribing licensure, and addressing why patients use opioids in the first place. Indeed, prevention of initiation of use is the only 100% safeguard against addiction; however, millions of patients remain addicted, and they need comprehensive, rather than perfunctory, treatment. Rummans and colleagues are absolutely correct in their delineation of the unwitting consequences of a focus on pain, given that a perceived undertreatment of pain fueled the opioid epidemic in the first place. They are correct to point out how effective pain evaluation and treatment are much more than prescribing and should routinely include psychotherapy, interventional procedures, and nonopioid therapies. In addition, we have described the crossroads between pain and addiction as well as successful strategies to manage patients with both chronic pain syndromes and addiction.

Rummans and colleagues also mention much needed dissemination of medication-assisted treatment (MAT; eg, methadone and buprenorphine) and the opioid overdose medication naloxone, and we agree with both of these measures. However, in addressing the demand side of the opioid epidemic, the focus must be much more comprehensive. Viewing opioid addiction as a stand-alone disease without consideration of other substance use or comorbid psychiatric pathology provides only a limited perspective. Rather, dual disorders are the rule and not the exception, and thus addiction evaluation and treatment should also specifically focus on psychiatric symptomatology and comorbidity. Epidemiological evidence indicates that over 50% of individuals with opioid use disorder meet criteria for concurrent major depressive disorder.Recent evidence from Cicero and Ellis indicates that the majority of opioid-addicted individuals seeking treatment indicate that their reasons for use are for purposes of “self-medication” and relief of psychiatric distress. To expand on this concept, we have suggested that drugs, by targeting the nucleus accumbens, alter motivation and reinforcement circuits and change brain reward thresholds; this change results in profound dysphoria and anhedonia, which, in turn, lead to further drug use.

Obviously, then, opioid addiction treatment should focus on diagnosing and assessing psychiatric comorbidity and monitoring of affective states and other depressive symptoms. However, a bigger problem might be the pretreatment phase, considering that, as Rummans et al note, only 10% of patients with opioid use disorder receive any treatment at all. Resources have principally been devoted to mitigating the effects of acute opioid toxicity both before and during intervention in the emergency department. A principal means of medical stabilization has been overdose reversal with the μ-opioid receptor antagonist naloxone, and efforts have been largely focused on dissemination of this agent. However, while increased naloxone use among the lay public, first responders, and medical personnel has been successful in reducing deaths, recidivism is high and increased naloxone use has not affected the problem as a whole. Generally, when patients present to the emergency department, clinical experience dictates that opioid overdoses are considered accidental until proven otherwise, which, after stabilization, allows the physician to discharge the medically stable patient, the hospital to collect reimbursement, and the pharmaceutical company to raise prices (eg, naloxone prices increased by 400% from 2014 to 2016, for autoinjection formulations).

In addition to the substantial costs associated with repeated naloxone administration and emergency department visits, recidivism is inextricably linked with another problem—the reason for overdose in the first place is not addressed. As mentioned earlier in this editorial, depression prevalence is high in patients with opioid use disorders. Strikingly, using nationwide data from US poison control centers, West et al found that over 65% of opioid overdoses reported were indeed suicide attempts, and of completed overdoses, the percent of those characterized as suicides climbed to 75%. Thus, an “inconvenient truth” may be that many of these opioid overdoses presenting to emergency departments may be unrecognized suicide attempts and that many of the over 66,000 deaths may indeed be completed suicides. Thus, comprehensive evaluation and treatment become even more relevant.

Clearly, more thorough evaluations in emergency departments with comprehensive risk assessments are needed, especially given that these patients may be guarded about suicidal ideation in the first place. Indeed, efforts to initiate buprenorphine in the emergency department, which independently is being investigated for its therapeutic effects on suicidal ideation, have spread; however, while abstinence outcomes are favorable at 30 days, the therapeutic benefit seems to disappear at both 6 months and 1 year. This failure of opioid reversal treatment is important, especially given that at 1 year, 15% of patients rescued with naloxone had died. Additionally, lack of psychiatric services and overcrowding at many emergency departments may preclude a comprehensive evaluation; however, target screening of all high-risk patients may identify patients with even hidden suicidal ideation and allow for appropriate triage.

Most addiction treatment today is centered around time-limited settings without adequate follow-up. Although MAT is an important addition to treatment for opioid addicts, it is generally not sufficient for long-term sobriety given (1) the relatively high rates of immediate and short-term treatment discontinuation and (2) that patients rarely are using just opioids. In fact, regarding long-term outcomes, methadone may be the only MAT treatment that demonstrates superior abstinence rates, safety, opioid overdose prevention, and treatment retention. We recommend that future studies include random assignment to different treatment modalities, assessing abstinence with urine testing and other modalities, psychosocial outcomes, and overall level of functioning for 5 years.

In terms of treatment, we suggest a continuing care approach, viewing addiction as a chronic, relapsing disease, but higher quality data are needed. For example, in most states, physicians with substance use disorders who are referred for treatment indeed undergo evaluation and detoxification, but they are also monitored for 5 years with frequent drug testing, contingency management, evaluation and treatment of comorbid psychiatric issues, and mutual support groups. Outcomes are generally superior, with 5-year abstinence and return to work rates approaching 80%. Notably, most of these programs do not allow MAT, yet opioid-addicted physicians do as well in the structured, supportive, long-term care model as physicians addicted to other substances. Obviously, the threat of professional license sanctions may impel physicians to comply with treatment, but many of the aforementioned strategies including contingency management, long-term follow-up, comprehensive psychiatric evaluation, and mutual support have demonstrable evidence for addiction treatment in general.

More resources need to be devoted to addressing the opioid epidemic, particularly on the prevention and also the demand side. Access to treatment is important, but more investment is needed in improving treatment including implementing 5-year comprehensive care programs. Thus, we recommend that future studies involve random assignment to different treatment groups, focusing on urine drug test–confirmed abstinence, psychosocial outcomes, and overall functioning. Additionally, advances in neuroscience may allow for the development of novel therapeutics targeting specific neurocircuitry involved in reward and motivation (ie, moving beyond the single receptor targets). A parallel can be drawn to the AIDS epidemic, in which massive basic science investments yielded novel effective therapies, which have now become standard of care and one of the world’s great public health successes. Resources focused on these interventions and reinvigorating drug education and prevention may prove fruitful in addressing this devastating epidemic. Further, lessons from this epidemic may help us move beyond a specific “one drug, one approach” so that for future epidemics, irrespective of the drug involved, we would already have in place a generalizable framework that utilizes the full repertoire of responses and resources.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently issued a warning about vaping following a multistate outbreak of severe lung problems linked to the use of electronic cigarettes. According to the CDC, there are, as of September 6, 450 reported cases of possible vaping-linked lung problems across 33 states and 1 territory, resulting in 6 deaths. Officials have not identified a specific e-cigarette product as a cause of the illnesses, meaning that various devices on the market could be contributing to this alarming pattern. Patients admitted for lung problems report difficulty breathing, fatigue, fever, nausea, and vomiting. Somehow, to proponents and purveyors of e-cigarettes, the very idea that vaping could be dangerous seems to have come as a surprise. 

The CDC updated its warning to suggest that e-cigarette and vaping device users refrain from using the products at all during the course of its investigation. It has also warned against buying counterfeit or street vaping products, including those with THC or other cannabinoids, and against modifying e-cigarette products. Moreover, the CDC urges youth, pregnant women, and adults who do not currently use tobacco products to refrain from using e-cigarette products, and encourages individuals who smoke and want to quit to use FDA-approved medications instead of e-cigarettes. Some health officials and experts believe that street vaping products with illicit or tainted substances may be behind the outbreak of lung problems, but no one can be certain at this point. Some patients have reported using vaping cartridges with THC or cannabinoids, but others have reported using different vaping cartridges without such substances. Most contain ingredients not generally tested for chronic inhalation in humans, and, to make matters worse, they can become contaminated in ways detrimental to respiratory and heart health. It is unlikely that any substance you inhale has been tested for safety for weeks, months, or over the long haul. But inhalation from vaping has effects on the lungs that are dramatic, can be easily seen on imaging, and do not seem easy to reverse.

Tobacco smoking in the English colonies of North America started early and peaked in the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s, credible evidence proving its causal links to cancer, emphysema, and bronchitis emerging only over a century after its explosive growth and wild popularity. Why would boosters and defenders of today’s e-cigarettes, looking back at this history, believe that research would come to indicate the product’s benefits for the lungs, or for the respiratory health of those they may expose to vaping?

While experts and officials will continue to study this outbreak and may identify particular illicit substances as the culprit, the headlines have naturally raised questions for individuals who vape about long term consequences. What we know about cigarette smoking is bad enough, but there are few surprises. Here, we’re in uncharted territory. Yes, the FDA and other agencies will look at the broader health and safety of e-cigarette products and devices, but in the meantime, users will need to be evaluated and hope that their own lungs are not compromised in ways that only become clearly understood after they stop, or years down the line. While receiving considerably less media coverage, journalists recently found that the FDA began investigating vaping-associated seizures after some users of JUUL, the top-selling vaping product in the U.S., submitted claims of seizures to the administration’s safety portal.

It is important to note that Research You Can Use previously observed that there is not yet enough evidence to conclude whether e-cigarettes are suitable for smoking cessation. Some researchers now suggest that vaping nicotine may not be safer than smoking tobacco cigarettes. More recently, the FDA has agreed that JUUL’s claims of comparative safety are unproven. Other new studies have looked at the relative health of ingredients in some e-cigarette products, and the effects of vaping on the vascular system. The truth is that it’s risky and scientifically invalid to start from the premise that drugs are safe until proven dangerous. It reminds me of cocaine being touted as safe, or non-addicting, or even as “the champagne of drugs” until the aftermath of widespread use in the 1970s and 80s demonstrated that it was highly addictive and led to heart problems, brain damage, and other diseases.

What did these studies find?

One study, led by Yale’s Julie Zimmerman, found that chemical interactions in some of JUUL’s inhaled liquid nicotine mixtures yield unanticipated new chemicals that can cause breathing problems. In this study, researchers created a machine to trap JUUL aerosol and investigate its chemical composition. They found that the alcohols hosting flavors and nicotine in JUUL’s e-liquid react with vanillin, a flavor prohibited in tobacco cigarettes, to produce acetals. The effects of inhaling acetal chemicals are unknown, but the study notes that they can cause inflammation and lung irritation. The study found acetals in JUUL’s ‘Crème Brulée’ flavor. One researcher told Yale in an interview that the team was surprised to find such high vanillin chemical levels, pointing out that the detected levels reached those established for health limits on vanillin in bakeries and flavoring businesses.

This study also found menthol in 4 of the 8 JUUL flavors it tested. Menthol, the researchers note, can expand nicotine intake. This could be concerning in part because JUUL pods already have high nicotine content relative to other nicotine products—individuals absorb from one JUUL pod as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes. The researchers also observe that the findings are notable because users of the product often believe that the ingredients and chemical makeup of e-liquids are stable, without realizing that the included chemicals can combine, alter each other, or produce potentially harmful new compounds. The study calls for vaping regulations that tackle the creation of new and possibly toxic chemical elements in e-liquids, exposure to flavorings, and menthol levels.

Another new study, this time from the University of Pennsylvania, examined the effects of vaping on the vascular system and found that e-cigarette use, even without nicotine, can damage blood flow. Researchers studied 31 nonsmokers between the ages of 18 and 35, with no prior history of cardiovascular problems, hypertension, asthma, respiratory tract infections, or cancer. Participants in the study inhaled from e-cigarette devices 16 times each, at three seconds per inhalation. The researchers then used MRIs to measure the participants’ blood vessel health, having evaluated it before and after the vaping exercises. In the participants’ post-vaping leg veins, oxygen levels fell 20 percent, and their peak blood flow velocity fell 17 percent. Their femoral arteries also dilated 34 percent less. The researchers call for additional research on the topic to corroborate their findings in larger groups, and their results focus only on the ECO e-cigarette device, but they nonetheless point to serious concerns about chronic use of vaping products, which may not give time for users’ blood vessel health to normalize or reset.

Why is this important?

Individuals who use vaping products can assume, on the basis consumer-focused “evidence,” that because e-cigarette makers claim that their products are a healthier alternative to tobacco products, they must be “healthy” overall. Some evidence does support the idea that vaping is preferable to smoking tobacco, which is why the United Kingdom’s government asserts that vaping is 95 percent less harmful than e-cigarette use and encourages e-cigarette users to switch to vaping. The dispute over this assertion may come down to the exact meaning of “less harmful,” but those with vaping-related lung disease would certainly argue that vaping is not safer than smoking tobacco. It’s also true that news reports on vaping can often overstate claims in the other direction, alleging or implying that e-cigarettes alone are responsible for severe lung distress. On this point, it may be useful to consider a similar research problem: attempting to determine whether smoking cannabis causes lung cancer when most cannabis smokers also smoke other drugs, and when many also smoke tobacco. By the time health officials and experts reach a definitive conclusion, it may be too late for those vaping. While exaggerations or misleading reports exist, they should not be used to support denial of mounting evidence, or instill confidence in vapers when new research shows obvious reasons to worry—and to worry about health more seriously than the “long-term effects are unknown” talking point.

The CDC’s overall position on vaping in recent years, subject to change,  is that e-cigarettes “have the potential” to help adult smokers quit if they are not pregnant and can entirely substitute vaping for smoking tobacco products. Again, the CDC is now suggesting that individuals avoid vaping while investigations into the associated outbreak continue. It also says that scientists still have much to learn about e-cigarettes and warns that they are not safe for youth. The CDC, FDA, NIDA, and other authorities have recognized youth vaping as a growing epidemic, and have begun taking measures to confront it. Federal officials are now reportedly creating a plan to ban flavored e-cigarette products, which have a particular appeal to youth. Given the recent outbreak of severe lung problems and continued youth interest in e-cigarettes, additional action on this front will likely be required. Another recent study, for example, found 25 distinct “vape tricks” in 59 sample videos on YouTube with a median count of over 32,000 views. “Vape tricks” are stylized and playfully affected techniques for vaping, such as exhaling clouds in unique shapes, that attract the young. 48 percent of the videos were linked to industry posting accounts. This study recommended restrictions on e-cigarette social media marketing to help curb youth vaping, which sounds like a promising avenue for public health. Officials may also find it beneficial to take account of new studies about vaping’s effects on lung and blood vessel health as they deal with the increasingly apparent reality that e-cigarette use is not merely problematic in associated outbreaks, but in legal use, too.

Source: https://www.addictionpolicy.org/blog/tag/research-you-can-use/vaping-and-lungs September 2019

After Lynley Graham’s custody photo was posted to a police force’s Facebook page, horrified users were quick to discuss the harmful effects of hard drugs

Deep lines etched across a woman’s face and cheeks sunken to the bone – this one shocking image illustrates the effects of substance abuse.

Lynley Graham’s custody picture has been released by Humberside Police after she was jailed for 18 months for drug offences.
Graham was found in possession of class A drugs, including heroin and cocaine, and was subsequently charged with possessing a class A drug with intent to supply, Grimsby Live reports.

After the photo was posted to Humberside Police’s Facebook page on Wednesday, users were quick to discuss the 53-year-old’s weathered appearance.

Before and after pictures show a striking physical transformation.

One said: “I’m 64, I look young compared to her. Is she a lesson, perhaps, in what substance abuse can do to your skin?”

Another added: “Let’s hope some young people look at her and see what a life of drugs does apart from ruining entire families.”

Drug addiction and misuse contributed to more than 2,500 UK deaths in 2017.

Inhalants can cause damage to the kidneys, liver and bone marrow, and persistent drug consumption can result in abscesses, tooth decay – known as ‘meth mouth’ in the United States.

Other symptoms include premature ageing of the skin, often adding decades to someone’s appearance.

Rehabs.com, a US-based charity, has also published startling images of drug users to demonstrate the long-term toll narcotics have on one’s appearance.

Drugs can damage almost every system in the body; bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, puffy faces and discoloured skin are all noticeable signs.

Some users suffer a rapid physical deterioration – with facial appearances sometimes ruined in just a matter of years.

Self-inflicted wounds, common among consumers of methamphetamine, can be caused by users picking at their skin to relieve the sensation of irritation – sometimes described as like crawling insects.

And a skeletal appearance can be the result of appetite-suppression.

Cocaine can commonly lead to chronic skin ulcers, pus-filled skin and the development of Buerger’s disease – an inflammation in small and medium-sized blood vessels.

Heroin has been known to dry the skin, leaving addicts with itchy and aged skin.

In May, Sir Angus Deaton, a world-leading economist, warned that drug abuse and alcoholism claim more lives of those in middle-age than heart disease.

‘Economic isolation’ is cited as one of the biggest contributors.

In 2017, a poll of 1,600 adults found that almost nine in ten said that seeing the physical effects of hard drugs made them less likely to take them.

The publication of such images is a common tactic among anti-addiction campaigners.

Scotland is experiencing its own drug crisis, with a 27 per cent rise in drug-related deaths, according to official statistics.

It puts Scotland’s drug mortality rate three times higher than the UK as a whole, and higher than any other country in the European Union.

The NHS offer services for drug and alcohol recovery, as do outside agencies, such as Addaction

Source: https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/shocking-image-illustrates-how-drugs-18790997 July 2019

This collection of articles has been collated to show how the use of cannabis has been involved in many murders and attacks of violence.

Attacker Smoked Cannabis: suicide and psychopathic violence in the UK and Ireland
“Those whose minds are steeped in cannabis are capable of quite extraordinary criminality.”

What do we want?

Our demands are simple:

· acknowledge that cannabis is a dangerous drug and a prime factor in countless acts of suicide and psychopathic violence, and that no amount of ‘regulation’ will eliminate this danger;
· acknowledge that the alleged medicinal benefits of certain aspects of cannabis are a red herring to soften attitudes to the pleasure drug and ensure that certain corporations are well placed if and when the pleasure drug is legalised;
· admit that since around 1973 cannabis has been decriminalised in all but name, and that this has been a grave mistake;
· begin punishing possession: a caution for a first offence, a mandatory six-month prison sentence and £1000 fine thereafter.

Woman killed by taxi driver ‘might be alive if he had been properly managed’
Shropshire Star | 19 Mar 2018 |

“From the limited evidence which was available to the independent investigation team, it appears possible that, if MB had been fully compliant with anti-psychotic medication and had refrained from misuse of cannabis, then he may not have suffered from a relapse of his psychotic illness.”
Martin Bell had been sectioned for about nine months in August 1999 and was released around six weeks before he killed Gemma Simpson.
The family of a woman who was killed and partially dismembered by a taxi driver who was suffering from a psychotic illness have said she “might still be alive today” if he had been managed properly.
Gemma Simpson’s family were responding to the publication of a report into the treatment of Martin Bell, who killed 23-year-old Miss Simpson in 2000 with a hammer and a knife before sawing her legs off and burying her at a beauty spot near Harrogate, in North Yorkshire.
Bell admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility after leading police to her body 14 years later, and was told he must serve a minimum of 12 years in prison.
Bell had been sectioned in a hospital for about nine months in August 1999 and was released around six weeks before he killed Miss Simpson.
On Monday, NHS England published an independent report into his care and treatment.
The report, which said its authors were severely hampered by a lack of medical records, concluded: “From the limited evidence which was available to the independent investigation team, it appears possible that, if MB had been fully compliant with anti-psychotic medication and had refrained from misuse of cannabis, then he may not have suffered from a relapse of his psychotic illness.
“In these circumstances, the death of Gemma Simpson might have been prevented.”
The new report confirmed that doctors had considered Bell’s cannabis use may have contributed to or exacerbated Bell’s illness and he had smoked the drug on the day he killed Miss Simpson in his Harrogate flat.
But it said that “notwithstanding the failures in service provision outlined in this report, there were no actions that clinicians could have specifically taken to enforce the continuation of medication given MB’s presentation in May 2000, nor to enforce his abstinence from cannabis.”
In a statement issued by the campaign group Hundred Families, Miss Simpson’s family said they broadly welcomed the findings of the report but added: “In 2000 Martin Bell was known to carry a knife, was delusional, and recognised as a real risk to others, yet he was able to be released without any effective package of care, monitoring, or even a proper assessment of how the risks he posed to others would be managed.
“There appear to have been lots of red flags, just weeks and days before Gemma’s death, that should have raised professional concerns.
“We believe that if he had been managed properly, Gemma might still be alive today.”
The family said they understood the pressures on mental health services but said: “We keep hearing that lessons have been learned, but we want to make sure they are truly learned in this case.”
In court in 2013, prosecutors said Bell struck Miss Simpson, who was from Leeds, an “uncountable” number of times with the knife and hammer in a “frenzied” attack before leaving her body for four days in a bath.
He then sawed off the bottom of her legs so she would fit in the boot of a hire car before burying her at Brimham Rocks, near Harrogate.
Bell, who was 30 at the time of the attack, handed himself in at Scarborough police station in 2013 and later took police to where she was buried.

Source: https://www.shropshirestar.com/news/uk-news/2018/03/19/woman-killed-by-taxi-driver-might-be-alive-if-he-had-been-properly-managed/ NHS England report: https://www.england.nhs.uk/north/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2018/03/independent-investigation-mb-march-18.pdf

On 14 May 2017, Akshar Ali, acting with his friend Yasmin Ahmed, murdered his wife and mother-of-four Sinead Wooding, stabbing her with a knife six times and bludgeoning her with a hammer before dumping her body in a woodland and setting it alight. On 17 January 2018, he and his accomplice were sentenced to 22 years in prison.
One might think the fact that the guilty pair smoked and grew cannabis together would be of interest to reporters, and worthy of at least a fleeting sentence or two, but I have found it mentioned in only two news reports, one in the Yorkshire Evening Post, the other in South African news site IOL.
Of far more interest to some British media, sadly, is the fact that Ali was an ostensible Muslim and Ms Wooding a Muslim convert who had, in the weeks before she was murdered, defied her husband by wearing western clothing and seeing a friend he did not approve of. Some media, including the BBC, the Guardian and, curiously, British media abnormally incurious about the role of cannabis in a gruesome act of uxoricide the Sun managed to avoid mentioning either the matter of Islam or the smoking of cannabis.
Is it, I wonder, an abnormal lack of curiosity that prevents reporters from mentioning the smoking of a powerful psychoactive drug that is a prime factor in countless thousands of similar cases? Or is it a deliberate omission?

An extraordinary murder in Ireland

The following story from Ireland, which occurred ten years ago, is extraordinary for two reasons. First, the 143 injuries the attacker inflicted is, as far as I’m aware, a record. As I have noted many times, a frenzy of violence involving multiple stab wounds is nearly always a sign of a mind unhinged by drugs. 143, though, points to a frightening level of madness, and, as such, the verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity is unsurprising.
But then there is this:
The jury had deliberated for under one hour and had returned during that hour to ask if the fact that Mr Connors had smoked cannabis before the killing was relevant to his culpability.
Mr Justice Birmingham told the jury that consultant psychiatrist, Dr Damien Mohan, had considered whether Mr Connors’ behaviour was attributable to drugs or mental illness and was of the “firm and clear” view that the accused’s mental disorder was the causative factor.
In other words, the fact that the defendant had smoked cannabis before the killing, which occurred around six o’clock in the morning, was not deemed relevant, and the link between his mental disorder and his consumption of cannabis appears to have gone unexplored.

Man found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity
Irish Examiner 4 Feb 2009

A jury has found a Dublin man who killed a stranger with garden shears not guilty of murder by reason of insanity at the Central Criminal Court.
Thomas Connors (aged 25) thought Michael Hughes (aged 30), from Banagher in Offaly, was the embodiment of the devil when he found him sleeping in the stairwell of an apartment block.
Mr Justice George Birmingham told the jury that it had reached “absolutely the right verdict in accordance with the expert evidence”. He thanked it for its careful attention to the case and exempted its members from jury service for seven years.
Mr Connors, of Manor Court, Mount Argos, Harold’s Cross, killed Mr Hughes in a savage attack in the stairwell of an adjacent apartment block, Manor Villa, on the morning of December 15, 2007.
Mr Justice Birmingham said this was a case of “mind boggling sadness” and, were it not for the issue of insanity, would have been a perfectly clear and appalling case of murder.
He said: “Consequent on the special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity I direct that Mr Connors be committed to a specially designated centre, the Central Mental Hospital, until further order.”
Prosecuting counsel, Paul O’Higgins SC, said Mr Hughes’ family were aware that victim impact evidence would not be heard because the case did not involve the imposition of a sentence.
Mr Justice Birmingham said to the family: “You truly have been through the most appalling experience. Words can’t and don’t describe it and all I can do is express my sympathy.”
The jury had deliberated for under one hour and had returned during that hour to ask if the fact that Mr Connors had smoked cannabis before the killing was relevant to his culpability.
Mr Justice Birmingham told the jury that consultant psychiatrist, Dr Damien Mohan, had considered whether Mr Connors’ behaviour was attributable to drugs or mental illness and was of the “firm and clear” view that the accused’s mental disorder was the causative factor.
Yesterday, the jury heard that Mr Hughes had gone out for a night in Dublin with his cousin and friends. He was to stay at his cousin’s flat in Harold’s Cross but the cousin had gone home early and Mr Hughes was unable to get into the flat when he returned after 4am.
Mr Hughes decided to sleep in the stairwell and sometime after 6am Mr Connors came crashing through the glass doors of the apartment block with garden shears and savagely attacked him, inflicting 143 injuries.
Residents heard screaming and rang gardaí who found Mr Connors walking away from the scene with the shears. He told gardaí that he had fought with the devil and the devil was gone now.
In the days leading up to the killing Mr Connors, a married man with one child, had gone to hospital three times seeking help. He was hearing voices and suffering delusions that his wife was the daughter of the devil. On the second visit he was given tablets. His wife was so frightened by his behaviour that she took their child to a women’s shelter.
On the third occasion, the day before the killing, doctors at Saint Vincent’s Hospital decided Mr Connors should be admitted to Saint James’ but he absconded during the four-hour wait for an ambulance.
In the hours before he killed Mr Hughes, Mr Connors thought the devil was in his apartment and had taken a duvet outside and stabbed it, believing the devil had been hiding in it.
Dr Mohan told the jury that Mr Connors suffered from schizophrenia, as did his father. He had been hospitalised with psychosis in 2004 and 2005 and believed that his father-in-law was the devil.
The victim’s father, Liam Hughes, made a statement outside the Four Courts on behalf of the Hughes family. He said that the family’s thoughts, as always but especially today, were on the 30 years of “love, kindness and generosity of spirit they enjoyed with the deceased”.
Mr Hughes said his son would be remembered by his friends as “a respectful and decent person”. He said a former teacher had contacted the family to pay tribute to Michael as “an honest, kind, sincere, popular and respected person who was a credit to his family and school”.
Mr Hughes said Michael had been a hard-working young man who commuted from Offaly to Dublin each day to work and had recently entered into further education. Mr Hughes said his son had coped admirably with the demands of full-time work and part-time study.
On October 27, 2007, he had become engaged to Deborah Lynch, who was with the family in court. Mr Hughes said his family had shared in their joy at setting up a home together and planning for their future.
He said: “Only seven short weeks later Deborah’s hopes and dreams were shattered.”
He said the Hughes family earnestly hoped that she would find happiness in the future.
Mr Hughes thanked UCD, which had honoured Michael recently on what would have been his conferring day, and his employer, Dublin Bus. He also thanked the team who investigated his son’s death, the Garda family liaison officer and the many friends who had offered comforting words.
He said it had been 13 months since the killing but the pain and horror of it had “scarcely lessened”. He said the natural “role reversal” in the cycle of life could not now happen as he had lost his son.
He said the family was disturbed and saddened by the evidence given in court, but there relieved that the process was over. He asked that the family’s privacy be respected at this time.

Source: https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/ireland/man-found-not-guilty-of-murder-by-reason-of-insanity-397642.html Posted on May 6, 2019 Leave a comment on An extraordinary murder in Ireland

Jail for man who shot girlfriend 13 times with airgun – before trying to strangle and suffocate her
Leicester Mercury | 27 July 2017 |

Kristian Pole had been smoking cannabis when he ‘flipped out’ and attacked his partner at his home in Leicester
A man who failed to take a chance given by a judge, following an airgun attack on a girlfriend, has been jailed for two years.
Kristian Pole repeatedly fired pellets at close range into his then girlfriend’s face, limbs and body. Then he tried to strangle her and suffocate her with a pillow, Leicester Crown Court was told.
The frightened woman managed to run from Pole’s home in Leicester and alert the police, having suffered bruising and red marks from 13 plastic pellets and being gripped around her neck, in August last year.
Judge Robert Brown gave Pole a chance, in June, by imposing a two-year community order, with rehabilitation requirements, because he had already served several months on remand in custody.
Pole later failed to inform the probation service he had moved address – a condition of the order. He also refused to tell them where he was living with a new partner. This resulted in him being brought back to court, where Judge Brown re-sentenced him on Tuesday.
The judge told 24-year-old Pole, of no known address: “I’ve no choice but to revoke the order and impose custody. You’ve thrown away the chance of a community order by your own actions. When I sentenced you in June, for possessing a BB gun with intent to cause fear of violence and causing actual bodily harm, you’d already served eight or nine months in custody.”
He told Pole, who admitted the offences: “You’d done well on remand and changed your attitude. I was invited to take a chance on you and put you on a community order.
“You’ve failed to engage with the probation service and moved out of your mother’s address, without notifying those concerned about where you were living. This was a serious example of an assault.”
Lynsey Knott, prosecuting, said the assault with the BB gun happened when Pole’s then girlfriend visited his home, where he was smoking cannabis with a male friend.
When the cannabis ran out he erupted in violence, attacking her and shooting “at close range” her face and limbs.
James Varley, mitigating, said: “He’d smoked too much cannabis and flipped out.
“Your Honour will have told many defendants it’s not the harmless drug that many young people think it is.
“It has deleterious effects … what else could explain his conduct other than he was completely out of it when his cannabis supply was cut off.”

Source:https://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/news/leicester-news/jail-man-who-shot-girlfriend-243489

Couple killed friend, set him on fire and then had sex to celebrate, court told
ITV News | 16 Feb 2019 |

Cold-hearted killers who brutally murdered a vulnerable friend before setting him on fire and then having sex will spend at least 28 years in jail.

Evil William Vaill and Deborah Andrews were handed life sentences for killing Skelmersdale dad Eamon Brady in a “brutal and sustained” attack.
Mr Brady was hit in the head with a hammer at least 17 times and repeatedly stabbed and slashed in the neck and body in the early hours of July 21.
Vaill, 37, and Andrews, 44, then wrapped his body in bedding and set it on fire before stealing a PlayStation 4, sound bar, DVD player and bank card belonging to their victim.
Andrews later described the couple as “the new Bonnie and Clyde”.
After the callous killing, the pair went to Beacon Country Park where they burned clothing and hid the weapons. They are also believed to have had sex in a nearby park hours after the attack, the court heard.
They also went on to attempt to sell his PlayStation 4 and use the stolen bank card in a local shop.
The evil couple, who had been friends with Mr Brady for several years, bumped into him by chance after Vaill had attended a funeral. They went back to his flat in Elmridge, Skelmersdale, where they drank and smoked cannabis.
By the time of the murder, Vaill, whose previous convictions include arson and criminal damage, had been drinking for 40 straight hours.
The pair left the flat at around around 4:50am and later told police that Mr Brady was alive and well when they left. But recordings in the police van heard that Andrews was ‘buzzing’ about the murder and describing the pair as the new Bonnie and Clyde.
Vaill, of Evington, Skelmersdale, pleaded guilty to murder and arson last month and was today given a life sentence with a minimum of 28-and-a-half years in prison.
Andrews, of Elmstead, Skelmersdale, was found guilty after a trial and given a life sentence with a minimum of 28 years in prison.
Both appeared emotionless throughout the sentencing at Preston Crown Court while Andrews sat with her hands in her pockets throughout.
Prosecuting, Francis McEntree said Mr Brady was a vulnerable man who was regularly taken advantage of by those around him. He had earlier told family that he wanted to move out of Skelmersdale to escape from people who were ‘leeching off him’.
He knew both of the victims well, having been friends for several years and they had all spent the together socially in a “happy, if noisy” manner.
Mr Brady had been friends with Vaill since their teenage years and an earlier incident in which Vaill stabbed him in the foot with a penknife was considered no more than horseplay after Mr Brady had laughed at him getting hurt when he kicked a lamppost.
An emotional victim statement read on behalf of Mr Brady’s daughter Amy Brady told of the devastating effects she has suffered since the murder of her best friend.
Her father’s death came 17 days short of the second anniversary of her brother Ryan’s death and that after seeing his battered and burnt body, Ms Brady now regularly suffers nightmare and is left “angry with the world”.
“There was a hole in my heart when my brother died that has been made bigger and will never be filled,” it stated.
“My dad was not only my dad, he was my entire being.”
Defending Vaill, Stuart Denney said he had begun cannabis and alcohol use since before he was a teenager and that Skelmersdale was “the worst place in the world for him”.
Michael Lavery, defending Andrews, said she had “limited capabilities and intelligence” and was previously of good character.
Sentencing the pair, Judge Mark Brown said: “Having killed him you set fire to his body to destroy evidence of what had happened and in doing so you committed arson with reckless disregard for the lives of the other residents in the building who were asleep at the time.
“It’s another matter of this case that having just murdered this a man in extremely violent and brutal circumstances that you had sex with each other soon after.”

Source: https://www.itv.com/news/granada/2019-02-16/couple-killed-friend-set-him-on-fire-and-then-had-sex-to-celebrate-court-told/

Teenager found guilty of fatal stabbing of Luke Howard
Liverpool Echo | 22 Jan 2009 |

A LIVERPOOL teenager has been found guilty of killing a friend he stabbed 12 times in a drunk and drug-fuelled rage.

A jury at Liverpool Crown Court found Charlijo Calvert, 15, not guilty of the murder of 16-year-old Luke Howard but unanimously convicted him of manslaughter.
Calvert, of Ronald Street, Old Swan, stabbed Luke, from Dovecot, in the early hours of August 30 at the house of a friend in Ashcombe Road, Knotty Ash.
During the week-long trial, the court heard a group of teenage boys, including the victim and defendant, had gone to the house and drank alcohol, smoked cannabis and snorted cocaine.
Throughout the night, and into the early hours, witnesses said they saw Luke prodding Calvert with a screwdriver and the pair “winding each other up”. At one point, the court heard, they threatened to stab each other but the fatal attack at around 7am.

Source: https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/teenager-found-guilty-fatal-stabbing-3462600

Four ‘racist’ killings, two years apart, with one important commonality
1. Skunk addicted schizophrenic fulfils sick fantasy by killing a black woman: ‘Psychiatric reports stated that Maxwell was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, and his abnormality was so great that it affected his judgment [sic].The reports also said his condition was exacerbated by the heavy use of skunk.’ (3 Apr 2007)
2. Drive caught in gang’s ‘revenge’: ‘The 41-year-old minibus taxi driver was dragged screaming from his cab and beaten to death in July by several white teenagers in Huddersfield… Some of the teenagers had been drinking and smoking cannabis with some girls, who they then persuaded to call up and order the minibus – with fatal consequences.’ (26 Jan 2007)
3. Racist thugs face 30 years in prison for axe murder: ‘The two men who murdered black teenager Anthony Walker were last night each facing up to 30 years in jail after the trial judge ruled the killing was racially motivated, effectively doubling the time they will serve… Anthony Walker wanted to be a lawyer, maybe a judge. He loved God, worked hard at his studies, practised his basketball skills whenever he could, though not on a Sunday if it clashed with church.
Paul Taylor and Michael Barton revelled in the nicknames Chomper and Ozzy. One wanted to be a burglar, the other wanted to join the army, but was too stupid to pass the exams. They spent their time hanging around, smoking cannabis and, in the words of one, “going out robbing”.’ (1 Dec 2005)
4. Asian gang kicked man to death: ‘Three Asian men who kicked a white computer expert to death and bragged: “That will teach an Englishman to interfere in Paki business” were found guilty of murder at the Old Bailey yesterday… The court heard that the three had been drinking all evening in the West End before returning to east London to drink vodka and smoke cannabis.’ (23 Nov 2005)
You know, of course, what the important commonality is, a much more important factor than apparent ‘racism’. I will note here only, as the article does not, that the ‘skunk addicted schizophrenic’ who deliberately targeted a black woman is himself black.

In defence of Peter Hitchens (@ClarkeMicah) and the theory of mental illness

Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens, author of The War We Never Fought, has received a lot of abuse recently for pointing out in his MoS column of 7 April that the killer of Jo Cox, Thomas Mair, was mentally ill, not a ‘political actor’, and that his mental state was not discussed at his trial (at which Mair himself did not speak).
This matters a great deal, because those who cannot accept that, far from being part of a ‘far-right terrorist plot’, Mair was simply mentally unhinged, and that this mental illness was likely the result of or exacerbated by psychoactive medication, often equally refuse to believe that the prime factor in a particular act of suicide or psychopathic violence isn’t terrorism, Islam, immigration, austerity, video games, gangs, gun laws, ‘depression’, or racism, but cannabis.
Many have cited the following sentencing remarks of the judge in the Mair case, Mr Justice Wilkie, as evidence that Mr Hitchens is barking up the wrong tree:
There is no doubt that this murder was done for the purpose of advancing a political, racial and ideological cause namely that of violent white supremacism and exclusive nationalism most associated with Nazism and its modern forms.
Those who believe that Mair was a ‘terrorist’ are not open to the possibility that the judge is mistaken, nor aware that his remarks are, as Mr Hitchens points out, unusually political in tone. I wonder, then, what such people would make of these sentencing remarks of Judge Findlay Baker, QC, to a man who stabbed his friend’s father to death with a pair of garden shears: “This was an attack of extreme and persistent violence. And I have no doubt it would not have happened if you had not consumed cannabis.”
Or these, of Judge Anthony Niblett, to a man who punched his girlfriend and burnt down her house: “Those whose minds are steeped in cannabis are capable of quite extraordinary criminality. Your mind has been steeped in cannabis for much of your adult life.”
Or these, of Judge Rosalind Coe, QC, to a young man who attempted to murder his infant son: “If any case demonstrates the dangers and potentially tragic consequences of cannabis abuse, such as you had taken part in for many years, this is such a case.”
I could go on.
By contrast, some judges all but shrug and hold up their hands when trying to make sense of a heinous crime. The judge who sentenced 16-year-old Aaron Campbell, for example, said he had “no idea” why Campbell abducted, raped and murdered six-year-old Alesha MacPhail, even though it was noted during the trial that he was high on cannabis when he committed the crime, and knew the MacPhail family from having bought the drug from Alesha’s father. Some judges, like some people, can see the wood amid the trees. Some cannot.

Violence and legalised cannabis in Uruguay: a clarification

I would like to clarify the meaning of a tweet I sent yesterday of a link to an article on violence and homicide in Uruguay, ‘Uruguay gets tough on crime after posting record homicide rate’.
The article reports that in 2018, a year after cannabis went on sale, following legalisation in 2013, there were a record 414 homicides in Uruguay, a small nation of 3.5 million people once famed for its peace and tranquillity. So alarming was this figure (up from 284 in 2017) that 400,000 voters signed a petition calling for exceptional measures against violent crime.
I must stress first that, while it is likely that at least some of these acts of homicide were committed by people whose minds have been damaged by cannabis, I do not say that cannabis legalisation was the cause. I tweeted the article whilst arguing about correlation and causation with a dim-witted young drugs enthusiast who had claimed that an apparent decrease in rates of cannabis consumption amongst teenagers in Washington state was caused by cannabis being legalised there. I have written before that dope heads parrot the phrase ‘correlation does not equal causation’ only when the correlation upsets them. When they find a correlation they like they immediately claim cannabis legalisation as the cause.
Again, I do not say that homicide rate in Uruguay is exceptionally high because cannabis has been legalised. As Peter Hitchens points out in an article on Portugal, ‘The Alleged Portuguese Drug Paradise Examined’, legalisation or decriminalisation nearly always follows years of lax enforcement, making any before-and-after comparison meaningless. By contrast, in his largely excellent book Tell Your Children, Alex Berenson spends too much time, as I write in my review, trying to prove that violent crime has risen in those American states that have legalised cannabis, when he would have done better to expand his section on the alleged ‘war’ on drugs in America and the fact that, contrary to popular opinion, rates of incarceration solely for drugs possession in the USA have been quite low for many years.
I would further add that suggestions that ‘gang warfare’ is involved in Uruguay’s high homicide rate seem similarly erroneous. Drug rivals killing each other makes a good subject for a film or TV series,
but the reality is often a much blander case of a paranoid young man in possession of a weapon killing somebody (often not his ostensible target) out of fear or delusion.

Xixi Bi Llandaff murder: Jordan Matthews jailed for life

He accepted he was smoking “quite a lot” of cannabis at the time and the court heard he felt “insecure” when his girlfriend visited her family in China.

Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-east-wales-39026270

‘Cannabis made my boy a killer’

THE mother of a violent schizophrenic who stabbed his best friend to death last night described how her son’s long-term cannabis habit turned him into a monster.
Julie Morgan, formerly from Cardiff, claimed her 20-year-old son Richard Harris’ ‘kind and gentle’ side disappeared not long after he started smoking cannabis from the age of 14.
“Cannabis took my son from me, I have no problem saying that,” said the 45-year-old.

Carl Madigan knifed Sam Cook in heart two weeks after friend slashed man’s stomach open

Facebook accounts show Carl Madigan, 23, and Shaun Bethell, 19, hanging around together and smoking cannabis before the shocking offences which will now define their young lives.
In a dreadful two week period last October, Madigan killed tragic Sam Cook while Bethell, a teenager with a record to rival any career criminal’s, left a man’s bowel hanging out of his body.

Man found guilty of murdering girlfriend’s toddler before claiming he slipped underwater in bath in 999 call

Smith was also found to have a high reading of cannabis in his bloodstream almost six hours after the 999 call – while a makeshift Ribena bottle ‘bong’ and the remains of six cannabis joints were found in a rear annex.
Despite Willett claiming she “always put the kids first,” text messages showed a woman desperate to buy cannabis, even on the night before Teddy’s death.

Cork man, 26, who shattered skull of girlfriend’s infant daughter jailed for eight years
Brendan Kelly, defence barrister, said[…] that the accused appeared to be detached from what was going on and that the defendant had been a long-time cannabis user.

Dad shook baby daughter to death as he was agitated at running out of cannabis
Daily Mirror

A dad who shook his baby daughter to death because he was agitated at running out of cannabis was today jailed for six years.
William Stephens, aged 25, shook daughter Paris so violently she suffered catastrophic head injuries and was bleeding in the eyes.
The thug attacked 16-week-old Paris for crying after he was left to look after her while mum Danah Vince, 19, went to see a doctor.
The little girl died two days later in hospital and one shocked expert said he had never before seen such a severe case of bleeding in the eyes.
Stephens had a history of violence and social services were called in because of his volatile relationship with mum Vince.
A serious case review is being carried out into the way public bodies handled the case.
Stephens – who had serious learning difficulties – was convicted of manslaughter after a seven-week trial.
Vince was cleared of causing or allowing the baby’s death in January.
Passing sentence, the judge Mr Justice Teare told Stephens: “This is a case where a loss of temper and control has resulted in fatal violence to a defenceless baby.
“You will have to live with the fact that you killed your daughter.”
Defence lawyer Ignatious Hughes QC, told the jury: “There is plenty of evidence that he and Danah Vince are likely to have been in a state of agitation due to lack of cannabis.”
Bristol crown court heard Stephens and Vince often fought and argued and social services stepped in to get the pair to sign agreements against domestic violence.
Stephens, from Southmead, Bristol, was given a restraining order to stay away from Vince but defied the ban and continued living with her and their daughter.
He appeared in juvenile court in 2006 for three assaults on a previous girlfriend and received a community order.
Five months later he appeared in front of magistrates for battery and was given the same punishment.
A year later he was given a caution for repeatedly punching a pregnant woman and in November 2008 got another caution for common assault.
In April 2010, he was hauled before magistrates for assaulting a police officer.
The local council is conducting a serious case review which will be published next year.
A spokesman said: “This is an extremely sad case where there has been the tragic loss of a young life.
“If nothing else I hope that today’s verdict offers some small measure of closure.
“An independent Serious Case Review by the Bristol Safeguarding Children Board is being completed, carefully examining the role of public bodies involved in the case to see if there are any lessons to be learnt.
“The complexity of this case will become apparent once that review is published early next year following the conclusion of all relevant legal processes.”
A year later, Danah Vince, the mother of the baby, committed suicide.

Source: https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/william-stephens-shook-baby-paris-2923262

Teen faces one year for vicious attack on man outside takeaway

A 17-year-old boy has been warned he faces a one-year sentence for leading a vicious gang attack on a young man who was repeatedly punched and kicked outside a takeaway in Dublin.
The boy, who cannot be named because he is a minor, has pleaded guilty at the Dublin Children’s Court to assault causing harm and violent disorder in connection with the incident on the night of November 14, 2015.
Judge John O’Connor adjourned sentencing to see if the boy’s solicitor can organise a psychological assessment of the teenager whose behaviour, he said, has become more violent and aggressive.
The judge also noted the boy had tragic personal circumstances.
He said it was unacceptable that the boy had started smoking cannabis at the age of 12, and anyone who says it is not addictive “is not living in the real world”.
Garda Dave Jennings had told Judge O’Connor that the victim, a foreign national who is also aged in his late teens, had been at a Chinese takeaway at Kiltalown Way, Tallaght. A group of youths shouted in to him that they were going to rob him when he came out.
When he walked out one of them grabbed the handlebars of his bicycle and the youth then punched him in the side of his face.
The rest of the youths then joined in, grabbing the man, who was repeatedly punched and kicked before his bike was stolen.
The defendant struck the first blow but was not involved in the rest of the attack.
The victim fled back into the takeaway but was followed and had to run into the kitchen area for his safety. Garda Jennings agreed with Damian McKeone, defending, that the attack was not racially motivated.
CCTV footage was shown to Judge O’Connor, who described it as a “vicious assault”.

Source: https://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/teen-faces-one-year-for-vicious-attack-on-man-outside-takeaway-399847.html

Robbers who held knife to man’s neck before stealing his phone and laptop jailed

Two males who robbed a man at knifepoint at his home in north Belfast have been jailed.
Bennet Donaghy and his accomplice, who at the time of the offence was 16, targeted their victim in the early hours of September 13, 2015.
He managed to escape and ran down the Shore Road in the middle of the night shouting for help.
Donaghy (20), a father-of-one from Cheston Close in Carrickfergus, was handed a 30-month sentence at Belfast Crown Court yesterday. His accomplice, who cannot be named, was given 15 months’ jail.
Both men were informed they would spend half their sentences in custody, with the remainder on licence.
The pair admitted a charge of assault with intent to rob, while the youth also admitted stealing the man’s laptop and mobile phone.
Prior to sentencing, Judge Gordon Kerr QC was informed that the victim was asleep on his sofa at around 4am when he heard persistent knocking at his front door.
He recognised the youth, who he knew from the area, with another young man.
The younger man asked the victim to lend him money, but when he handed them £5 the pair told him: “That’s not enough.”
Crown prosecutor Robin Steer said Donaghy then produced a knife and held it against the occupant’s neck.
The youth, who the man said looked like he was under the influence of drugs, punched the victim a number of times while Donaghy told him he was from the UDA and ordered him to hand over drugs and money.
The man’s home was ransacked, but he escaped and ran down the Shore Road barefoot and with a bruised face, only to be stopped by police.
Officers subsequently called at a house in the area, where they arrested Donaghy and the youth. Also located was a four-inch knife, along with the man’s laptop and mobile phone.
During police interviews, the youth admitted he knew the occupant, but claimed he was unable to remember what had happened because he had smoked a cannabis cigarette.
Like his accomplice, Donaghy claimed to have no recollection of the incident because he too had been smoking drugs.
Mr Steer told Belfast Crown Court there were a number of aggravating factors.
These included the use of violence and threats during the robbery, the presence of a weapon and the fact the victim was targeted in his home in the middle of the night.
Defence barrister Jon Paul Shields, representing the youth, confirmed that his client was under the influence of drugs on the night in question.
He also added that he had since “recognised the seriousness of the offences.”
Telling the court his client knew his behaviour had been unacceptable, Mr Shields said: “At the time, he simply did not give any thought to what he was doing.”
The barrister also told how the young man, who has been working with the Youth Justice Agency, had expressed shame over the incident.
The lawyer said that at the time of the offence, his client had just lost a child, which led to him self-medicating.
Barrister Chris Holmes, acting on behalf of Donaghy, said that his client “apologises profusely to the victim”.
He added that on the night of the robbery, Donaghy was “very, very much under the influence” of drugs.
Mr Holmes also spoke of the defendant’s troubled background, telling the judge his client “didn’t have his sorrows to seek when he was being brought up”, which in turn contributed to poor mental health.

Source: https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/robbers-who-held-knife-to-mans-neck-before-stealing-his-phone-and-laptop-jailed-35560290.html

Sally Hodkin murder: Killer ‘had miscarriage’ prior to fatal stabbing

A patient who murdered a grandmother believed she had suffered a miscarriage and was smoking cannabis in the lead up to the killing, an inquest has heard.
Nicola Edgington virtually decapitated Sally Hodkin with a stolen butcher’s knife in Bexleyheath, in 2011, six years after killing her own mother.
Edgington told hospital staff she needed to be sectioned and felt like killing someone.
A recent report found NHS and police failings led to Mrs Hodkin’s murder.
Edgington, a diagnosed schizophrenic, was discharged from the Bracton Centre mental health facility in 2009 despite an order she be detained indefinitely following the killing of her mother Marion in Forest Row, Sussex, in 2005.
Around two weeks before the killing on 10 October, 2011, Edgington made a number of emergency calls to police about “crackheads” stealing from her flat in early October. She had also been using skunk cannabis, the inquest heard.
On 29 September, she sent a message to her brother telling him about the miscarriage, saying she wanted to reconnect.
The message also mentioned their mother, with Edgington saying: “No-one’s taking care of me like she would.”
Her brother replied on the same day: “You stabbed her to death and left me to find the body. Good news about your miscarriage … do us a favour and slit your wrists.”
On the day of Mrs Hodkin’s murder, Edgington was taken to Oxleas House mental health unit, but was later allowed to walk out of the building.
She got a bus to Bexleyheath, bought a large knife from Asda and stole a steak knife from a butcher’s shop.
Edgington then stabbed Mrs Hodkin and another woman in the street.
Elizabeth Lloyd-Folkard, a forensic social worker who was looking after Edgington, told the inquest that around a week before the killing, she had “no cause of concern about her state of mind”.
Contact with family members, substance misuse, and any issues around pregnancy were noted in reports as high-risk factors that could affect Edgington’s mental health, the inquest heard.
Mrs Hodkin’s son Len Hodkin told the inquest: “All of those risk factors were present in the two to three weeks leading up to October 10.
“It’s not coming with the benefit of hindsight, this information was available to you and other members of the multi-disciplinary team at the time.”
The inquest continues.

Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-46022330

Using a well-established method of biological age assessment based on arterial stiffness adult patients exposed to cannabis were shown to be have increased arterial stiffness and so to be biologically older [1]. This finding is consistent with pro-inflammatory actions of cannabis [2-7] which are also linked with advancing biological age [8-10]. It was recently shown in advanced cellular senescence that LINE-1 mobile transposable elements, so-called “jumping genes” or retrotransposons, which comprise 17% of the genome, can become mobilized and re-insert into the genome in a random manner using endogenous reverse transcriptases [11]. Not only is this destructive to the genomic sequence with downstream consequences including teratogenesis, carcinogenesis, aging and age-related degenerative disease, but this also activates cytoplasmic cGAS-STING signalling and autocrine and paracrine senescence programs [11-15]. Whilst this novel and fascinating aging mechanism is yet to be evaluated following cannabis exposure several lines of evidence implicate LINE-1 in cannabis-related pathologies including autism [16, 17] and pediatric leukaemias [18] and cancers [19-21] especially germ cell tumours [19] where all four studies to examine the relationship between cannabis use and testicular cancer have found a positive relationship [22-25].

Intriguingly addition of serotonin to the tail of histone 3 (H3) on the glutamine at position 5 (Q5) – right beside the well-known transcription-activating trimethylation post-translational modification (PTM) at H3K4 (lysine 4) – has been shown to be an essential permissive and facilitative histone PTM at many gene promoters to permit proper differentiation of brain and body tissues [26, 27]. This PTM is known as Q5ser. H3K4Q5ser occurs at high density in brain and testes. It is likely that other monoamines such as histamine and dopamine may soon be similarly implicated [26, 27]. The monoamines serotonin and dopamine are well known to be intimately involved in cannabis dependency syndromes [28, 29]. Further thickening the plot the N-terminal tail of H3 was recently shown to be a hot spot for oncomutations amongst histone proteins which allow genes to be made accessible for transcription, often in an activating manner which is independent of SWI/SNF signalling and thus renders it constitutively active [30]. Cannabis use has previously been linked with four pediatric cancers and eight cancers in adults including the germ cell tumours mentioned above [31-33].

Source: Nature Journal 2019

Two major public health issues are colliding,’ CDC official warns

Public health officials grappling with record-high syphilis rates around the nation have pinpointed what appears to be a major risk factor: drug use.

“Two major public health issues are colliding,” said Dr. Sarah Kidd, a medical officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and lead author of a new report issued Thursday on the link between drugs and syphilis.
The report shows a large intersection between drug use and syphilis among women and heterosexual men. In those groups, reported use of methamphetamine, heroin and other injection drugs more than doubled from 2013 to 2017.
The data did not reveal the same increases in drug use among gay men with syphilis, the group with the highest rates of the disease.

Researchers said the results suggest that drug use — and the risky sexual behaviors associated with it — may be driving some of the increase in syphilis transmission among heterosexuals.
People who use drugs are more likely to engage in unsafe sexual behaviors, which put them at higher risk for sexually transmitted diseases, experts said. The CDC also saw increases in syphilis among heterosexuals during the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s, and use of the drug was associated with higher syphilis transmission.
“The addiction takes over,” said Patricia Kissinger, an epidemiology professor at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

For example, people using drugs may avoid condoms, have multiple sex partners or exchange sex for drugs or money — all significant risk factors for sexually transmitted diseases, said Dr. Sara Kennedy, medical director of Planned Parenthood Northern California.
“I think it’s impossible to eradicate syphilis and congenital syphilis unless we are simultaneously addressing the meth-use and IV-use epidemic,” Kennedy said.
Syphilis rates are setting records nationally. They jumped by 73 percent overall and 156 percent for women from 2013 to 2017. The highest rates were reported in Nevada, California and Louisiana.
Syphilis — which had been nearly eradicated before its resurgence in recent years — is treatable with antibiotics, but if left untreated it can lead to organ damage and even death. Congenital syphilis, which occurs when a mother passes the disease to her unborn baby, can lead to premature birth and newborn deaths.

The study’s authors analyzed syphilis cases from 2013 to 2017 and determined which patients had also reported using drugs. They discovered methamphetamine was the biggest problem: More than one-third of women and one-quarter of heterosexual men with syphilis reported using methamphetamine within the previous year.
Substance use among both populations was highest in 13 Western states and lowest in the Northeast. In California, methamphetamine use by people with syphilis nearly doubled for women and heterosexual men from 2013 to 2017, according to the California Department of Public Health.

‘OPPORTUNITY LOST’

The intersecting epidemics of sexually transmitted infections and substance abuse make it harder to identify and treat people with syphilis because drug use makes people less likely to go to the doctor and to report their sexual partners, Kidd said.
Pregnant women also may be reluctant to seek prenatal care and get syphilis testing and treatment because of concerns their doctor will report the drug use.
To stem the transmission of syphilis, the CDC urges more collaboration between programs that address STDs and programs that treat substances abuse.

Drug use is an “incredibly huge contributing factor” to somebody getting an STD and transmitting it, said Jennifer Howell, sexual health program coordinator for the health district in Washoe County, Nev.
“Everybody needs to see that we are dealing with a lot of the same clients,” she said.
Fresno County has the highest rate of congenital syphilis in California. Its health department analyzed 25 cases of congenital syphilis in 2017 and determined that more than two-thirds of the mothers were using drugs, said Joe Prado, the county’s community health division manager.
The county has started offering STD testing for people entering inpatient drug treatment facilities, Prado said. “That’s our opportunity to get them screened,” he said.
Those who return for the results are offered incentives such as gift cards. The county also gives people in drug treatment a care package that contains condoms and education materials about sexually transmitted infections, Prado said.

The city of Long Beach sends a mobile clinic to drug treatment facilities, where it provides HIV testing, said Dr. Anissa Davis, the city’s health officer. She said Long Beach hopes to expand services to include screening for other sexually transmitted infections.
Although increased collaboration between drug treatment providers and STD clinics is essential, it’s not always easy because they traditionally have not worked together, said Kissinger of Tulane.
“The STI people are hyper-focused on STIs and the substance abuse people are focused on substance abuse,” she said. It is an “opportunity lost” if people in drug treatment aren’t screened for syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections, she added.

Fighting the rising rates of syphilis will also require more resources, said Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, a professor of medicine and public health at UCLA.
“The STD workforce has almost entirely disappeared,” he said. “While policies could be put in place that require syphilis testing, those policies also have to come with resources.”

SOURCE: ANNA GORMAN, KAISER HEALTH NEWS 15TH FEB2019

January 2019 • Volume 48, Number 1 • Alex Berenson
Alex Berenson Author, Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence

The following is adapted from a speech delivered on January 15, 2019, at Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C.

Seventy miles northwest of New York City is a hospital that looks like a prison, its drab brick buildings wrapped in layers of fencing and barbed wire. This grim facility is called the Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Institute. It’s one of three places the state of New York sends the criminally mentally ill—defendants judged not guilty by reason of insanity.
Until recently, my wife Jackie—Dr. Jacqueline Berenson—was a senior psychiatrist there. Many of Mid-Hudson’s 300 patients are killers and arsonists. At least one is a cannibal. Most have been diagnosed with psychotic disorders like schizophrenia that provoked them to violence against family members or strangers.
A couple of years ago, Jackie was telling me about a patient. In passing, she said something like, Of course he’d been smoking pot his whole life.
Of course? I said.
Yes, they all smoke.

So marijuana causes schizophrenia?
I was surprised, to say the least. I tended to be a libertarian on drugs. Years before, I’d covered the pharmaceutical industry for The New York Times. I was aware of the claims about marijuana as medicine, and I’d watched the slow spread of legalized cannabis without much interest.
Jackie would have been within her rights to say, I know what I’m talking about, unlike you. Instead she offered something neutral like, I think that’s what the big studies say. You should read them.
So I did. The big studies, the little ones, and all the rest. I read everything I could find. I talked to every psychiatrist and brain scientist who would talk to me. And I soon realized that in all my years as a journalist I had never seen a story where the gap between insider and outsider knowledge was so great, or the stakes so high.

I began to wonder why—with the stocks of cannabis companies soaring and politicians promoting legalization as a low-risk way to raise tax revenue and reduce crime—I had never heard the truth about marijuana, mental illness, and violence.
***
Over the last 30 years, psychiatrists and epidemiologists have turned speculation about marijuana’s dangers into science. Yet over the same period, a shrewd and expensive lobbying campaign has pushed public attitudes about marijuana the other way. And the effects are now becoming apparent.
Almost everything you think you know about the health effects of cannabis, almost everything advocates and the media have told you for a generation, is wrong.
They’ve told you marijuana has many different medical uses. In reality marijuana and THC, its active ingredient, have been shown to work only in a few narrow conditions. They are most commonly prescribed for pain relief. But they are rarely tested against other pain relief drugs like ibuprofen—and in July, a large four-year study of patients with chronic pain in Australia showed cannabis use was associated with greater pain over time.
They’ve told you cannabis can stem opioid use—“Two new studies show how marijuana can help fight the opioid epidemic,” according to Wonkblog, a Washington Post website, in April 2018— and that marijuana’s effects as a painkiller make it a potential substitute for opiates. In reality, like alcohol, marijuana is too weak as a painkiller to work for most people who truly need opiates, such as terminal cancer patients. Even cannabis advocates, like Rob Kampia, the co-founder of the Marijuana Policy Project, acknowledge that they have always viewed medical marijuana laws primarily as a way to protect recreational users.

As for the marijuana-reduces-opiate-use theory, it is based largely on a single paper comparing overdose deaths by state before 2010 to the spread of medical marijuana laws— and the paper’s finding is probably a result of simple geographic coincidence. The opiate epidemic began in Appalachia, while the first states to legalize medical marijuana were in the West. Since 2010, as both the epidemic and medical marijuana laws have spread nationally, the finding has vanished. And the United States, the Western country with the most cannabis use, also has by far the worst problem with opioids.
Research on individual users—a better way to trace cause and effect than looking at aggregate state-level data—consistently shows that marijuana use leads to other drug use. For example, a January 2018 paper in the American Journal of Psychiatry showed that people who used cannabis in 2001 were almost three times as likely to use opiates three years later, even after adjusting for other potential risks.
Most of all, advocates have told you that marijuana is not just safe for people with psychiatric problems like depression, but that it is a potential treatment for those patients. On its website, the cannabis delivery service Eaze offers the “Best Marijuana Strains and Products for Treating Anxiety.” “How Does Cannabis Help Depression?” is the topic of an article on Leafly, the largest cannabis website. But a mountain of peer-reviewed research in top medical journals shows that marijuana can cause or worsen severe mental illness, especially psychosis, the medical term for a break from reality. Teenagers who smoke marijuana regularly are about three times as likely to develop schizophrenia, the most devastating psychotic disorder.

After an exhaustive review, the National Academy of Medicine found in 2017 that “cannabis use is likely to increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychoses; the higher the use, the greater the risk.” Also that “regular cannabis use is likely to increase the risk for developing social anxiety disorder.”
***
Over the past decade, as legalization has spread, patterns of marijuana use—and the drug itself—have changed in dangerous ways.
Legalization has not led to a huge increase in people using the drug casually. About 15 percent of Americans used cannabis at least once in 2017, up from ten percent in 2006, according to a large federal study called the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. (By contrast, about 65 percent of Americans had a drink in the last year.) But the number of Americans who use cannabis heavily is soaring. In 2006, about three million Americans reported using cannabis at least 300 times a year, the standard for daily use. By 2017, that number had nearly tripled, to eight million, approaching the twelve million Americans who drank alcohol every day. Put another way, one in 15 drinkers consumed alcohol daily; about one in five marijuana users used cannabis that often.
Cannabis users today are also consuming a drug that is far more potent than ever before, as measured by the amount of THC—delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical in cannabis responsible for its psychoactive effects—it contains. In the 1970s, the last time this many Americans used cannabis, most marijuana contained less than two percent THC. Today, marijuana routinely contains 20 to 25 percent THC, thanks to sophisticated farming and cloning techniques—as well as to a demand by users for cannabis that produces a stronger high more quickly. In states where cannabis is legal, many users prefer extracts that are nearly pure THC. Think of the difference between near-beer and a martini, or even grain alcohol, to understand the difference.

These new patterns of use have caused problems with the drug to soar. In 2014, people who had diagnosable cannabis use disorder, the medical term for marijuana abuse or addiction, made up about 1.5 percent of Americans. But they accounted for eleven percent of all the psychosis cases in emergency rooms—90,000 cases, 250 a day, triple the number in 2006. In states like Colorado, emergency room physicians have become experts on dealing with cannabis-induced psychosis.
Cannabis advocates often argue that the drug can’t be as neurotoxic as studies suggest, because otherwise Western countries would have seen population-wide increases in psychosis alongside rising use. In reality, accurately tracking psychosis cases is impossible in the United States. The government carefully tracks diseases like cancer with central registries, but no such registry exists for schizophrenia or other severe mental illnesses.

On the other hand, research from Finland and Denmark, two countries that track mental illness more comprehensively, shows a significant increase in psychosis since 2000, following an increase in cannabis use. And in September of last year, a large federal survey found a rise in serious mental illness in the United States as well, especially among young adults, the heaviest users of cannabis.
According to this latter study, 7.5 percent of adults age 18-25 met the criteria for serious mental illness in 2017, double the rate in 2008. What’s especially striking is that adolescents age 12-17 don’t show these increases in cannabis use and severe mental illness.

A caveat: this federal survey doesn’t count individual cases, and it lumps psychosis with other severe mental illness. So it isn’t as accurate as the Finnish or Danish studies. Nor do any of these studies prove that rising cannabis use has caused population-wide increases in psychosis or other mental illness. The most that can be said is that they offer intriguing evidence of a link.
Advocates for people with mental illness do not like discussing the link between schizophrenia and crime. They fear it will stigmatize people with the disease. “Most people with mental illness are not violent,” the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) explains on its website. But wishing away the link can’t make it disappear. In truth, psychosis is a shockingly high risk factor for violence. The best analysis came in a 2009 paper in PLOS Medicine by Dr.Seena Fazel, an Oxford University psychiatrist and epidemiologist. Drawing on earlier studies, the paper found that people with schizophrenia are five times as likely to commit violent crimes as healthy people, and almost 20 times as likely to commit homicide.

NAMI’s statement that most people with mental illness are not violent is of course accurate, given that “most” simply means “more than half”; but it is deeply misleading. Schizophrenia is rare. But people with the disorder commit an appreciable fraction of all murders, in the range of six to nine percent.
“The best way to deal with the stigma is to reduce the violence,” says Dr. Sheilagh Hodgins, a professor at the University of Montreal who has studied mental illness and violence for more than 30 years.

The marijuana-psychosis-violence connection is even stronger than those figures suggest. People with schizophrenia are only moderately more likely to become violent than healthy people when they are taking antipsychotic medicine and avoiding recreational drugs. But when they use drugs, their risk of violence skyrockets. “You don’t just have an increased risk of one thing—these things occur in clusters,” Dr. Fazel told me.

Along with alcohol, the drug that psychotic patients use more than any other is cannabis: a 2010 review of earlier studies in Schizophrenia Bulletin found that 27 percent of people with schizophrenia had been diagnosed with cannabis use disorder in their lives. And unfortunately—despite its reputation for making users relaxed and calm—cannabis appears to provoke many of them to violence.
A Swiss study of 265 psychotic patients published in Frontiers of Forensic Psychiatry last June found that over a three-year period, young men with psychosis who used cannabis had a 50 percent chance of becoming violent. That risk was four times higher than for those with psychosis who didn’t use, even after adjusting for factors such as alcohol use. Other researchers have produced similar findings. A 2013 paper in an Italian psychiatric journal examined almost 1,600 psychiatric patients in southern Italy and found that cannabis use was associated with a ten-fold increase in violence.

The most obvious way that cannabis fuels violence in psychotic people is through its tendency to cause paranoia—something even cannabis advocates acknowledge the drug can cause. The risk is so obvious that users joke about it and dispensaries advertise certain strains as less likely to induce paranoia. And for people with psychotic disorders, paranoia can fuel extreme violence. A 2007 paper in the Medical Journal of Australia on 88 defendants who had committed homicide during psychotic episodes found that most believed they were in danger from the victim, and almost two-thirds reported misusing cannabis—more than alcohol and amphetamines combined.

Yet the link between marijuana and violence doesn’t appear limited to people with pre-existing psychosis. Researchers have studied alcohol and violence for generations, proving that alcohol is a risk factor for domestic abuse, assault, and even murder. Far less work has been done on marijuana, in part because advocates have stigmatized anyone who raises the issue. But studies showing that marijuana use is a significant risk factor for violence have quietly piled up. Many of them weren’t even designed to catch the link, but they did. Dozens of such studies exist, covering everything from bullying by high school students to fighting among vacationers in Spain.

In most cases, studies find that the risk is at least as significant as with alcohol. A 2012 paper in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence examined a federal survey of more than 9,000 adolescents and found that marijuana use was associated with a doubling of domestic violence; a 2017 paper in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology examined drivers of violence among 6,000 British and Chinese men and found that drug use—the drug nearly always being cannabis—translated into a five-fold increase in violence.

Today that risk is translating into real-world impacts. Before states legalized recreational cannabis, advocates said that legalization would let police focus on hardened criminals rather than marijuana smokers and thus reduce violent crime. Some advocates go so far as to claim that legalization has reduced violent crime. In a 2017 speech calling for federal legalization, U.S. Senator Cory Booker said that “states [that have legalized marijuana] are seeing decreases in violent crime.” He was wrong.

The first four states to legalize marijuana for recreational use were Colorado and Washington in 2014 and Alaska and Oregon in 2015. Combined, those four states had about 450 murders and 30,300 aggravated assaults in 2013. Last year, they had almost 620 murders and 38,000 aggravated assaults—an increase of 37 percent for murders and 25 percent for aggravated assaults, far greater than the national increase, even after accounting for differences in population growth.

Knowing exactly how much of the increase is related to cannabis is impossible without researching every crime. But police reports, news stories, and arrest warrants suggest a close link in many cases. For example, last September, police in Longmont, Colorado, arrested Daniel Lopez for stabbing his brother Thomas to death as a neighbour watched. Daniel Lopez had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was “self-medicating” with marijuana, according to an arrest affidavit.

In every state, not just those where marijuana is legal, cases like Lopez’s are far more common than either cannabis or mental illness advocates acknowledge. Cannabis is also associated with a disturbing number of child deaths from abuse and neglect—many more than alcohol, and more than cocaine, methamphetamines, and opioids combined—according to reports from Texas, one of the few states to provide detailed information on drug use by perpetrators.

These crimes rarely receive more than local attention. Psychosis-induced violence takes particularly ugly forms and is frequently directed at helpless family members. The elite national media prefers to ignore the crimes as tabloid fodder. Even police departments, which see this violence up close, have been slow to recognize the trend, in part because the epidemic of opioid overdose deaths has overwhelmed them.
So the black tide of psychosis and the red tide of violence are rising steadily, almost unnoticed, on a slow green wave.
***
For centuries, people worldwide have understood that cannabis causes mental illness and violence—just as they’ve known that opiates cause addiction and overdose. Hard data on the relationship between marijuana and madness dates back 150 years, to British asylum registers in India. Yet 20 years ago, the United States moved to encourage wider use of cannabis and opiates.
In both cases, we decided we could outsmart these drugs—that we could have their benefits without their costs. And in both cases we were wrong. Opiates are riskier, and the overdose deaths they cause a more imminent crisis, so we have focused on those. But soon enough the mental illness and violence that follow cannabis use will also be too widespread to ignore.

Whether to use cannabis, or any drug, is a personal decision. Whether cannabis should be legal is a political issue. But its precise legal status is far less important than making sure that anyone who uses it is aware of its risks. Most cigarette smokers don’t die of lung cancer. But we have made it widely known that cigarettes cause cancer, full stop. Most people who drink and drive don’t have fatal accidents. But we have highlighted the cases of those who do.
We need equally unambiguous and well-funded advertising campaigns on the risks of cannabis. Instead, we are now in the worst of all worlds. Marijuana is legal in some states, illegal in others, dangerously potent, and sold without warnings everywhere.

But before we can do anything, we—especially cannabis advocates and those in the elite media who have for too long credulously accepted their claims—need to come to terms with the truth about the science on marijuana. That adjustment may be painful. But the alternative is far worse, as the patients at Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Institute—and their victims—know.

Source: Imprimis January 2019 • Volume 48, Number 1

People suffering from opioid addiction in New Jersey and the U.S. have been increasingly abusing Imodium, an over-the-counter anti-diarrhea medicine, to combat their withdrawal symptoms, experts say.
While Imodium and similar medications are harmless when taken at the recommended dose, experts say the medication can stop the heart if it’s taken at an extremely high dose.
Several fatal or near-fatal overdoses have been reported in New Jersey over the past year, said Diane P. Calello, executive and medical director of New Jersey Poison Information and Education System, which recently consulted on several cases.

Imodium’s active ingredient, loperamide, is actually an opioid. The poison control center said that while its effects do not get you high like other opioids (heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone), in extremely high doses it does “stimulate the brain in the same way.”
It’s been known for some years that people sometimes use loperamide to get high. But using it to alleviate opioid withdrawal symptoms is something experts have only begun to see within the past five years, Calello said.

“It’s become clear that people are increasingly using (loperamide) to avoid withdrawal,” she said.
While only a few people have died from loperamide overdoses in New Jersey in the past three years, Calello said, it’s becoming a growing problem in the state and nation. She worries that the lack of knowledge about the dangers of the medication may contribute to more deaths. A recent study of loperamide abuse, in which Calello was involved, tied the increasing misuse of the drug to the internet and online forums filled with people casually recommending it as a cheap and readily available alternative to legitimate opioid withdrawal medications like Suboxone, which requires a prescription.
While federal regulations require other medications prone to misuse, like Sudafed, to be purchased behind the counter at pharmacies, Imodium can be bought cheaply and in unlimited amounts.
Because of that, poison control officials are seeing people taking 100 or even 400 times the recommended dose, which can cause fatal heart rhythms and death, Calello said.

“If you take Imodium for diarrhea, you’re not going to have a problem. But if you take 100 times the therapeutic dose, this is what can happen: cardiac arrest,” she said.
Withdrawing from opioids is often an agonizing process. Calello said that may drive people in pain to do desperate and unusual things to alleviate their symptoms, particularly if they don’t have a prescription for legitimate medications.

“People with opioid abuse disorder, they have a significant problem with withdrawal,” she said. “It’s one of the primary burdens of that illness. It’s exceedingly uncomfortable, an insatiable craving for the drug … body aches, flu-like symptoms, vomiting. You feel awful. You can’t function.”
Calello believes the increasing misuse of loperamide should signal that some restrictions should be put into place.
She said too many people are dying. “I think it makes sense.”

Source: https://www.nj.com/healthfit/2019/01 8th Jan.2019

Abstract

Background: Given current drug policy reforms to decriminalize or legalize cannabis in numerous countries worldwide, the current study assesses the relation between cannabis use and the development of testicular cancer.

Methods: The study included a population-based sample (n = 49,343) of young men ages 18–21 years who underwent conscription assessment for Swedish military service in 1969–1970. The conscription process included a nonanonymous questionnaire eliciting information about drug use. Conscription information was linked to Swedish health and administrative registry data. Testicular cancers diagnosed between 1970 and 2011 were identified by International Classification of Diseases-7/8/9/10 testicular cancer codes in the Swedish National Patient Register, the Cancer Register, or the Cause of Death Register. Cox regression modeling was used to estimate the hazards associated with cannabis use and time to diagnosis of testicular cancer.

Results: No evidence was found of a significant relation between lifetime “ever” cannabis use and the subsequent development of testicular cancer [n = 45,250; 119 testicular cancer cases; adjusted HR (aHR), 1.42; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.83–2.45]. “Heavy” cannabis use (defined as usage of more than 50 times in lifetime, as measured at conscription) was associated with the incidence of testicular cancer (n = 45,250; 119 testicular cancer cases; aHR 2.57; 95% CI, 1.02–6.50).

Conclusions: The current study provides additional evidence to the limited prior literature suggesting cannabis use may contribute to the development of testicular cancer.

Impact: Emerging changes to cannabis drug policy should consider the potential role of cannabis use in the development of testicular cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev; 26(11); 1644–52. ©2017 AACR.

Source: http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/26/11/1644 November 2017

Filed under: Cannabis/Marijuana,Health :

New research from Northern Medical Program Professor Dr. Russ Callaghan has found that use of marijuana is associated with the development of testicular cancer.

As part of a retrospective study, Dr. Callaghan and his team looked at data from young men conscripted for military service in Sweden in 1969 and 1970, and tracked their health conditions over the following 42 years. They found that heavy cannabis use (defined as more than 50 times in a lifetime, as measured at conscription) was associated with a 2.5-fold increased risk of developing testicular cancer.

“At this time, surprisingly little is known about the impacts of cannabis on the development of cancer in humans,” said Dr. Callaghan, the study’s lead author. “With Canada and other countries currently experimenting with the decriminalization or legalization of recreational cannabis use, it is critically important to understand the potential harms of this type of substance use.”

The results from the recent study, as well as three prior case-control studies in this area, suggest that cannabis use may facilitate later onset of testicular cancer.

“Our study is the first longitudinal study showing that cannabis use, as measured in late adolescence, is significantly associated with the subsequent development of testicular cancer. My hope is that these findings will help medical professionals, public health officials and cannabis users to more accurately assess the possible risks and benefits of cannabis use.”

The project included an international team of researchers from Karolinska University in Sweden and the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute in the U.S. The study is part of Dr. Callaghan’s ongoing research assessing the potential health risks associated with cannabis use and the potential impacts of cannabis legalization on use and related harms.

Source: https://www.unbc.ca/newsroom/unbc-stories/research-finds-link-between-marijuana-use-and-testicular-cancer November 2017

Filed under: Cannabis/Marijuana,Health :

Why don’t we start with a short quiz of general knowledge of current events and topical issues in the community??

 Questions:

 Brain:

Which American state has 500 students with autism in every graduating year group across the whole state?

Which American state has current legislation afoot to declare autism at epidemic proportions in their state?

Which American state has the fastest growing autism epidemic by recent metrics (at 30% every two years)?

Which smoked illegal drug is now linked with causing strokes???

Which smoked illegal drug is linked with causing most major psychiatric diseases – including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety.

Which illicit drug is known to cause failure of achievement of major life goals – forming a long term stable relationship, getting a job, having a career, paying tax???

In which US state have city after city been trashed by out of control mental illness, drug use, homelessness, poverty and law enforcement and social relief services completely overwhelmed?

 Heart:

Which American state is amongst the top four for rates of children born with holes in their heart (known as atrial septal defect)?

In which American state did the rate of holes in the heart (atrial septal defect) increase more than threefold from 299 to 912 cases 2000-2012?

Which smoked illegal drug is now recognized to cause heart attacks?

Which illegal drug is known to stop the heart by causing major cardiac arrythmias?

 Head:

Which two American states share the highest rates of children born without ears or with tiny little ears (like peas – called anotia or microtia)???

 Chromosomes:

Which four American states have the highest rates of Downs syndrome in the nation??

What do all four of these states have in common??

Which American state has the highest rates in the nation for all four major chromosomal abnormalities of birth namely Trisomies 13, 18, 21 (Down’s syndrome) and Turner’s syndrome???

 Limbs:

Which are the two leading states for babies born without arms??

What do these two states have in common??

 Drugs:

Drug use is known to damage babies when they are growing inside their mothers. 

In which leading American state, which was also home to most of the above waves of recent deformed babies, was the rate of all drug use actually falling – all except one drug.  Which state was that?

And which drug was the exception??

 Cancer:

Drug use is well recognized as leading to cancer in many organs.  This is widely recognized for both tobacco and alcohol. 

Which drug has been linked with causing cancer of the testicles in 100% of the studies – four out of four – which have examined this question?

Which is the only illicit drug linked to four inheritable cancers in the children born to infants exposed in utero exposed?

Which drug was examined in detail in a 150 page report by the Californian environmental Protection agency and found to be a proven carcinogen in 2009?

Why are virtually all carcinogens considered teratogens – known to harm developing babies?

 Reproduction:

Which smoked illicit drug causes major genetic damage to both eggs and sperm?

Which smoked illicit drug reduces fertility in both males and females?

Our genes not only carry our DNA sequence, but also the software which programs those genes and turns them on and off – which scientists call the “epigenome”. 

Which smoked illicit drug is known to damage the epigenome?

For how many generations does epigenetic inheritance continue?

Is this period more or less than 100 years???

 

 Answers:

 The above series of questions relate to the recent experience of the US state of Colorado following its progressive legalization of cannabis over the period 2000-2014. 

If you answered “Colorado” to most of the questions about congenital defects you were correct.  The two exceptions were the question about babies born without limbs – the two commonest US states for these defects are Alaska and Oregon; and babies born with tiny ears – which are Alaska and Oregon.

 The leading states for cannabis use according to major recent US surveys are Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, Maine, Vermont and Washington.  Scarily Alaska comes at or near the top of the list for: Down’s syndrome, atrial septal defect (ASD), ventricular septal defect (VSD) a defect called Encephalocoele where babies are born with a big bubble blown out the back of their skull where the neck joins, no arms, no ears and gastroschisis which is where the bowels are hanging out.  Colorado leads or co-leads the charge on the three chromosomal trisomies trisomy 21, 18 and 13 and no ears (anotia).  The four states which lead the pack on Downs syndrome are all cannabis liberal states: Colorado, Alaska, Oregon and Massachusetts.

 Downs syndrome, ASD and VSD are relatively common congenital defects.  Congenital defects as a whole affect around 3% of the community – unless you live in Colorado which up until September 2018 reported a major congenital abnormality rate four times higher than that at 12.6%.  One notes that after that the problem “went away” because the state then changed all of their official congenital anomaly figures for the past 15 years after attention was drawn to these facts internationally.

And one cannot attribute these severe changes in Colorado to the use of other drugs as the national survey showed that the use of most other drugs has actually fallen across this recent period.  So it is obviously a cannabis signal.

 This strong “red flag” warning signal for cannabis also shows up loud and clear in the US nation’s leading mental health survey where cannabis use grew most strongly across the nation in the 18-25 year age group, which was also the age group with by far the worse mental health, which was also declining most rapidly.  This implies that the decline in both the US nation’s minds and their gene pool is occurring in close relationship to cannabis use both across the nation geographically, across time with temporal variability, and also within defined demographic groups.

Cannabis is known to damage the epigenome of the sperm in a way which affects brain heart and immune development and has also been traced in human foetal tissue from live born babies.  This damage is presently believed to be inheritable for four generations or 100 years.  Scientists are very concerned about this serious risk.  In one study over 6,000 sites of DNA methylation were affected and thus reprogrammed, and that is a substantial number compared to our around 25,000 genes.

And most worryingly it was recently reported from Ain in the east of France near the Swiss border that the incidence of babies born without arms is 58 times higher than the normal background.  And the same thing was seen in the cattle in the area.  However this was not seen in nearby Switzerland where it is not permitted to add hemp to the food chain via stock feed.  Cannabis has previously been linked with such defects in a major Hawaiian study of over 300,000 births published in 2007.

Most of the cannabis teratological literature is fairly conservative.  The Centres for Disease Control in Atlanta Georgia have admitted in 2014 that cannabis is linked with four defects – no brain (anencephaly – babies die within an hour or two mostly), bowels having out (|gastroschisis) diaphragmatic hernia and oesophageal atresia with or without tracheooesophageal fistula.  The American Academy of paediatrics has issued a position statement in 2007 saying that both ventricular septal defect (holes in the heart) and Ebsteins anomaly (damaged tricuspid valve) are known to be linked with cannabis use. 

And the three longitudinal studies of babies born after prenatal cannabis exposure presently being conducted in Pittsburgh, Ottawa and Netherlands, all very consistently find persistent and subtle brain damage of executive functioning to be major issues.  This finding in three nations is the most concerning and likely by far the most common of all.

Certainly physicians in both Colorado and in Australia are seeing just this pattern of subtle brain abnormalities in the patients who present to our clinics.  This is therefore the most concerning aspect of the cannabis free for all which is being falsely foisted on the west by a relentless media mantra.  If India has its holy cows, then the theistically allergic media are no less as enamoured with their own devoutly protected “deep green god” – regardless of the painfully obvious fallout.

Most worryingly of all – consider these few final major issues.  Of the two perspective described above – the conservative one espoused by well recognized international authorities – and the more worrying picture of 21 defects reported from the massive epidemiological Hawaiian study – which one is the more correct – especially in an era when as is widely known cannabis, cannabis oils and hashish butane oils are rapidly becoming so much more concentrated than in past eras??  It is said that the most stringent test of any theory is its ability to make predictions about future events.  By this criterion only the 2007 Hawaiian report by Forrester predicted the links in Ain in France with the armless defect, and the patterns of chromosomal abnormalities, atrial septal defect and anotia / microtia across USA.  In this important respect then the Forrester – Menz report is more accurate – and of course much more concerning – than the “standard received wisdom”.  It appears to be acting as a kind of a roadmap – as the tide both of cannabis use and of cannabis concentration – rises all around us.

And most concerning of all is that many papers in the cannabinoid genotoxicity literature show an exponential relationship between cannabis dose exposure and the genotoxic damage which is directly responsible for cancers in patients, their children and foetal abnormalities including mental retardation and brain damage.  That is to say that beyond a certain threshold dose doubling the exposure produces not twice as much genetic damage- but 10-20 times as much. Cannabis use during pregnancy has been linked with the following four cancers which are all believed to be due to genotoxic damage uncurred during in utero exposure: acute lymphatic leukaemia, acute myelomonocytic leukemia, neuroblastoma and rhabdomyosarcoma.

 It is very important to appreciate that these concerns relate not just to Δ9 -tetrahydrocannabinol itself, but, since cannabis contains at least 108 cannabinoids, all of them have been implicated in genotoxic damage through the above mentioned epidemiological studies.  Studies in animals and cells have found that cannabidiol, cannabinol, cannabidivarin and cannabichromene – at least – all have direct genotoxic and / or epigenetic effects which are of great concern.  In many cases this effect is worse than that observed with Δ9 -tetrahydrocannabinol.  They all also damage mitochondrial function which exerts severe indirect genotoxicity partly by limiting energy supply to growing, dividing and metabolically active tissues, and partly by close and multichannel signaling from the mitochondria directly to the nucleus and its architecture and genetic management machinery.

And… despite what one might think from the deafening silence from the popular press, the genotoxicity of cannabinoids is not even controversial!  Serious warnings relating to reproductive health are prominently featured in the formally registered patient information inserts for both cannabidiol “Epidiolex” and the cannabidiol / THC mixture “Sativex”.

All of which paints an horrific and ghoulish picture of the drug-wrecked future.  In the USA it is obvious that the guardians of the culture are radically missing in action.  CDC which is charged with protecting the public health; FDA which are charged with protecting the food and pharmaceutical supply and the USA President all seem be absent from the foray.  One can only wonder why…  Intimidated??  Cultural groupthink??  Personal money at stake?? Careers on the line??

My father always taught me:  “If everybody else was jumping over a cliff, would you jump to??”  Paradoxically indeed in 1958 it was the FDA which protected the USA from the holocaust that became the completely avoidable international thalidomide teratogenesis epidemic, whilst societies in Australia, England and in Europe were duped and succumbed to the commercial marketing campaign and the deliberate subversion of the then known truth.  Cannabis was recently been found to be recommended to 78% of pregnant women in Colorado.  Just as in that era, thalidomide was also used for anxiety, sleeplessness, nausea, unwellness and “dis-ease”.  Today America has obviously succumbed to the siren voice of the modern media darling – the “green holy cow” of the west. 

 One can only wonder if anyone in this country has the courage to see the obvious and call “Enough Already” and insist that our public agencies do their duty and discharge their office with honour.       Dr. Stuart Reece.

Source:  January 2019 edition of Family World News

 

People who are mentally ill or addicted can’t work effectively, if at all, so they have to turn to crime and/or public support for survival.  Marijuana escalates the risk of mental illness 5 times.[i] On average, 17% of adolescents and 9% of adults  will become addicted.[ii]Based on federal research  7,000 people use marijuana for the first time each day.[iii] Taking an average of 13%, nationally over 332,000 new marijuana addicts will be created.  California’s share at 13% of the population will be over 33,000 new addicts annually, adding another 1.3 billion in cost at $40,000 each.  Instead of preventing these problems, we can expect more academic failure, lost productivity, mental illness, addiction and crime. In Sacramento, 59% of all arrestees for any crime tested positive just for marijuana; 83% for any drug[iv]. Jail overcrowding is also a factor as those deemed mentally ill languish there for weeks and months, waiting for space in a mental health facility.

Marijuana causes permanent brain damage and loss of IQ for anyone under 25.[v]  It causes psychotic breaks leading to gruesome acts, including decapitations, stabbings, mass murders and suicides. Other harms include DNA damage causing birth abnormalities[vi] not just in the next generation, but the next four (100 years).  Because marijuana is fat soluble, it stays in the body and brain for one month, compounding with each additional use.  The impairment adversely affects cognition, judgement and memory all of which contribute to traffic deaths. [vii]

MARIJUANA – THE ECONOMIC COSTS 
Aside from the devastating environmental cost, the social costs are huge.  For alcohol and tobacco, the social costs exceed tax revenues by 9 to 1. The black market won’t disappear. In Colorado the black market is still about 50% of the total.  In California only about 16% of cultivators have signed up to be licensed and taxed. The rest will avoid taxes and sell to the black market throughout the US. In 2009, a study called Shoveling Up: The Impact of Substance Abuse on Federal, State and Local Governments[viii] was done which showed in 2005, California spent 19.5% of its budget ($19.9 billion) on substance abuse, of which only $38 million (1/3rd of 1%) on prevention, and the rest shoveling up the damage. This is horrible economic policy, and its much worse today.  Instead of preventing this preventable disease, we cultivate it.

Voters bought the Gavin Newsom lie that Prop 64 would be a good thing. The orchestrated legislative analysis, approved by our Attorney General, Secretary of State, et al., suggested the state would save $100 million in prison costs, get rid of the black market and earn up to $1 billion in tax revenues. No mention of the environmental devastation and reclamation costs.  It outrageously suggested marijuana had no serious health impacts.  To cap it off, the illicit drug trade and out-of-state billionaires spent $35 million to back the campaign. If we care about our kids, and our future, its time to fight back.

[i] https////health.harvard.edu/Teens who smoke pot at risk for later schizophrenia

[ii] www.drugabuse.gov

[iii] www.theatlantic.com/Everyday 7,000 Americans try weed for the first time

[iv] www.ncjrs.gov/pdfiles1/ondcp/ADAMII Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program

[v] www.healthline.com.  The Effects of Marijuana on your body.

[vi] www.sciencedaily.com.  Marijuana Damages DNA and may cause cancer

[vii] www.nbcnews.com/health/healt-news/Pot Fuels Surge In Driving Deaths

[viii] www.casacolumbia.org/Shoveling Up:  The Impact of Substance Abuse on Federal, State and Local Budgets

Source: http://tbac.us/2018/09/15/marijuana-causes-mental-illness-and-addiction-in-turn-more-homelessness-poverty-and-crime/ September 2018

Abstract:

Purpose: This study aims to assess potential health care costs and adverse health effects related to cannabis use in an acute care community hospital in Colorado, comparing study findings to those medical diagnoses noted in the literature. Little information is available about specific hospital health care costs, thus this study will add to the knowledge gap and describe charges and collections from visits of these patients in one hospital’s Emergency Department (ED).

Objective: Review diagnoses of cannabis users visiting a local ED and outline the potential financial and health effects of these patients on the health care system.

Design: An Institutional Review Board (IRB) approved retrospective observational study of patients seen in the ED from 2009 to 2014 with cannabis diagnoses and positive urine drug analyses (UDA) matched with hospital billing records. Randomized patient records were reviewed to determine completeness of documentation and coding related to cannabis use.

Setting: An acute care hospital in one city in Colorado. The city has nearly 100 medical marijuana dispensaries, but has not legalized recreational cannabis use. The city decided to not allow recreational stores in city limits as they were allowed to make that determination as a result of Amendment 64, which allowed municipalities to determine if they wanted recreational marijuana in their town. As of this publication, more than 70% of Colorado’s municipalities have opted out of recreation marijuana sales.

Participants: Subjects seen through the ED who had both a diagnosis code listing cannabis and a positive UDA for cannabis. Exclusions were subjects with UDA for cannabis but also tested positive for other substances, subjects who had cannabis diagnosis but no UDA result or those who had no UDA but did have a cannabis diagnosis.

Conclusion: Subjects seen in the ED had similar diagnoses as those reviewed in the literature, confirming the serious side effects of marijuana use. During the study period, the study hospital incurred a true loss of twenty million dollars in uncollected charges after allowing for contractual obligations. While adverse health effects have been described in the literature, there is little data on the financial impact of marijuana use on the health care system. This study demonstrated an increasing number of patients who are seen in the ED also have used cannabis. These patients are not always able to pay their bills, resulting in a financial loss to the hospital. The authors encourage the collection of hospital financial data for analysis in the states where medicinal (MMJ) and/or recreational marijuana is legal

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/314140400_The_Hidden_Costs_of_Marijuana_Use_in_Colorado_One_Emergency_Department’s_Experience

Kenneth Finn, MD,

The problem of increased marijuana use has origin in its purported use for pain, but the medical literature is completely void of evidence for the treatment.

Pain is the most common diagnosis associated with marijuana being recommended for medical use. With more states moving towards accepting marijuana use for medical purposes, there is a call from the
medical and scientific community for more research and evidence that it actually works for common pain conditions.

Out of the top 20 medical diagnoses presenting to the primary care physician nationally, there are only three that are associated with a painful condition:
spinal disorders (i.e., lower back pain), arthropathies and related disorders (i.e., knee arthritis), and abdominal pain.

There were no other pain diagnoses in the top 20 diagnoses that present to the primary care physician for treatment, including cancer pain or neuropathic pain. What does the medical literature tell us about the
use of marijuana for pain? In 2011, The British Journal of Pharmacology released a paper looking at the use for cannabinoids for the treatment of chronic non-cancer pain.

They narrowed a broad literature review to only 18 trials with a total of 925 participants. Most of the trials studied neuropathic pain (72%), including HIV neuropathy and multiple sclerosis related neuropathy (three trials), with single studies looking at arthritis and chronic spinal pain.

There were four studies that looked at smoked cannabis and neuropathic pain only. Six studies evaluated synthetic cannabinoids (Dronabinol, Nabilione) for pain (offlabel use).
From these trials, the average number of patients was 49 with average duration of 22 days, some of which were one week long. Despite their conclusion that cannabinoids may help for chronic non-cancer pain, they noted study limitations of small sample size, modest effects, and the need for larger trials of longer duration to determine safety and efficacy.

In 2015, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) released an article on cannabinoids for medical use.4 Chronic pain was assessed in 28 studies, involving 63 reports and 2,454 participants. Thirteen studies evaluated nabiximols (not available in the United States), four smoked THC, six synthetic THC, three oromucosal spray, one oral THC, and one vaporized cannabis. The majority of studies looked at some form of neuropathic pain or cancer pain. Two studies were at low risk of bias, nine at unclear risk, and 17 at high risk. Studies generally suggested improvements in pain measures associated with cannabinoids but did not reach statistical significance in most individual studies.

Despite these difficulties, the authors concluded there was moderate-quality evidence to suggest that cannabinoids may be beneficial for the treatment of chronic neuropathic or cancer pain (smoked THC and nabiximols). Note these are less common pain conditions presentimg to the physician for treatment nationally. The authors noted an increased risk of short-term adverse effects with cannabinoid use, including some serious adverse effects. Common adverse effects included asthenia, balance problems, confusion, dizziness, disorientation, diarrhea, euphoria, drowsiness, dry mouth, fatigue, hallucination, nausea, somnolence, and vomiting.

In 2017, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine released a paper on the health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids. It may be important to note that none of the authors had a background in Anesthesia or Pain Medicine. The authors felt the referenced JAMA article was the most comprehensive and that the medical condition most often associated with chronic pain in that article was neuropathy, and a majority of studies evaluated treatment with nabiximols, which are not available in the United States. The committee found that only a handful of studies evaluated the use of cannabis and that many of the cannabis products sold in state regulated markets bear little resemblance to the products available for research at the federal level in the United States. They also note that very little is known regarding efficacy, dose, routes of administration, or side effects of commonly used and commercially available products in the U.S. Despite this, they concluded that “cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic pain in adults.” The above noted papers demonstrate the limited data available to the public and medical community, and represent the only information available regarding treatment of pain with marijuana. Despite that, the public has embraced that marijuana can treat all pain conditions, and state governments have followed suit, without scientific evidence, and have allowed an industry to prosper on the thin ice of what is currently and scientifically available.

It is important to understand that pain covers a broad spectrum of disorders and pain of different origins does not necessarily respond the same to different medications. Additionally, dispensary cannabis is considered a generic substance without defined or accepted dosing guidelines, and will vary in purity as well as potency. It may also contain hundreds of other compounds, some of which may have physiologic activity. Cannabinoids are purified components of the plant which have been isolated in a laboratory and have more scientific foundation, but are currently not available for study or use in pain conditions in the U.S.

Since de facto legalization in Colorado in 2009, there has been a significant increase in public health and safety concerns, which include utilization of the health care system, an increase in adolescent substance use treatment for cannabis, and an increase in marijuana-related driving fatalities. The addiction rates are reportedly 9% in the adult and roughly 18% in the adolescent, which was based on the potency of marijuana from nearly 20 years ago. The potency has significantly increased in the past five years alone, so we are now in uncharted waters and unable to predict the long term effects or addiction rates of currently available, highly potent products, with variable delivery systems.

As the number of medical marijuana patients increased in Colorado, there appeared to be a parallel increase in the number of adolescents needing substance use treatment, most often for cannabis. Colorado is now contending with a huge opioid and heroin epidemic, and despite the widespread availability of Narcan, does not appear to have leveled off or curbed the number of opioid or heroin deaths in the state which continue to rise.

Although the concept of using marijuana to decrease opioid use is attractive, there is little data to suggest that may be the case. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of drug overdose deaths in Colorado has continued to increase, ahead of the national average. The above problems are now falling into the laps of other groups including law enforcement and mental health providers who are pushing back and straining their respective resources.

In summary, the problem of increased marijuana use has origin in its purported use for pain, but the medical literature is completely void of evidence for the treatment of common pain conditions with cannabinoids or cannabis. Current medical literature suggests benefit in less common pain conditions, with products not commercially available in the U.S., or with synthetic THC, not with dispensary cannabis. The variability of available products changes regularly and their use in medicine, particularly pain, is unproven. The end game is in the court of law enforcement, mental health providers, the medical community, and our educational systems, at unknown societal costs, which are only now becoming apparent.

Source: http://www.omagdigital.com/publication/?i=450168#{%22issue_id%22:450168,%22page%22:8} September/October 2017

The typical overdose victim is becoming younger and more urban

EVERY 25 minutes an American baby is born addicted to opioids. The scale of both use and abuse of the drugs in the United States is hard to overstate: in 2015, the most recent year for which figures are available, an estimated 38% of adults took prescription opioids. Of those, one in eight (11.5m people in total) misused their prescription. Around 1m Americans overdosed last year, and 64,000 of them died.

The scourge of opioid abuse gained political salience last year, as voters in parts of the country with high levels of drug overdoses swung strongly towards Donald Trump. The president has taken few steps to combat the opioid crisis since taking office, but on October 26th he is expected to direct his secretary of health and human services to declare a public-health emergency. His national drug commission is due to publish a report on November 1st recommending a mix of rehabilitation, awareness-building and policing as the best response the epidemic.

Politically, it stands to reason that Mr Trump would show interest in the opioid crisis, given that press reports paint the typical abuser as an archetypal older, rural Trump voter, perhaps with a prescription to treat back pain. Yet the government runs the risk of fighting the last war in its effort to quell the epidemic, because the causes and victims of drug overdoses in America are changing fast.

The number of deaths from prescription opioids has continued to rise, from around 11,000 in 2013 to 15,000 a year now. But the rate of growth has slowed, and many forecasters predict it may be nearing its peak. By contrast, the toll from fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times stronger than heroin, is soaring. After claiming just 3,000 lives in 2013, it killed 22,000 people in America last year, more than either heroin or prescription opioids. Deaths from heroin have become far more frequent as well: after being roughly a quarter as common as fatal prescription overdoses in the mid-2000s, they overtook deaths from prescription opioids in 2015.

This change in the leading causes of opioid-related deaths has been accompanied by a shift in the profile of the average victim. The highest rates of prescription-opioid abuse can be found among middle-aged rural whites, including women. By contrast, both fentanyl and heroin users tend to be much younger, more likely to live in cities, somewhat more racially diverse and overwhelmingly male (see heat map above). Reaching people at high risk of exposure to these more potent opioids cannot be done by offering services to former Rust Belt factory workers or Appalachian coal miners, but will require a different approach.

Similarly, most media attention has focused on substance abuse in states Mr Trump won, such as West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio. But blue states like Maryland, Delaware and Massachusetts also figure among the current top ten for deaths from drug overdoses. That means Mr Trump will need to extend the government’s efforts far beyond his electoral base if he hopes to address the opioid epidemic.

Source: https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2017/10/26/the-shifting-toll-of-americas-drug-epidemic October 2017

Randi Melissa Schuster, PhD; Jodi Gilman, PhD; David Schoenfeld, PhD; John Evenden, PhD; Maya Hareli, BA; Christine Ulysse, MS; Emily Nip, BA; Ailish Hanly, BA; Haiyue Zhang, MS; and A. Eden Evins, MD, MPH

J Clin Psychiatry 2018;79(6):17m11977

10.4088/JCP.17m11977

Objective: Associations between adolescent cannabis use and poor neurocognitive functioning have been reported from cross-sectional studies that cannot determine causality. Prospective designs can assess whether extended cannabis abstinence has a beneficial effect on cognition.

Methods: Eighty-eight adolescents and young adults (aged 16–25 years) who used cannabis regularly were recruited from the community and a local high school between July 2015 and December 2016. Participants were randomly assigned to 4 weeks of cannabis abstinence, verified by decreasing 11-nor-9-carboxy-∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol urine concentration (MJ-Abst; n = 62), or a monitoring control condition with no abstinence requirement (MJ-Mon; n = 26). Attention and memory were assessed at baseline and weekly for 4 weeks with the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery.

Results: Among MJ-Abst participants, 55 (88.7%) met a priori criteria for biochemically confirmed 30-day continuous abstinence. There was an effect of abstinence on verbal memory (P = .002) that was consistent across 4 weeks of abstinence, with no time-by-abstinence interaction, and was driven by improved verbal learning in the first week of abstinence. MJ-Abst participants had better memory overall and at weeks 1, 2, 3 than MJ-Mon participants, and only MJ-Abst participants improved in memory from baseline to week 1. There was no effect of abstinence on attention: both groups improved similarly, consistent with a practice effect.

Conclusions: This study suggests that cannabis abstinence is associated with improvements in verbal learning that appear to occur largely in the first week following last use. Future studies are needed to determine whether the improvement in cognition with abstinence is associated with improvement in academic and other functional outcomes.

Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT03276221

In a backpacking hostel during a stag weekend 10 years ago, I fell asleep on a top bunk next to an open window. Of course, that now strikes me as a stupid thing to have done, but at the time I didn’t give it a thought. I was on a weekend away, not a health-and-safety awareness course. At some point during the night, I tried getting out of the bunk, but instead of turning left and using the ladder, I turned right and hopped straight out of the window.

I fell 24ft on to concrete. From a survival point of view, I was lucky to land on my feet. The downside was that some rather important sections of my legs did not come out of it so well.

My left heel was crushed, while over on the right, my tibia and fibula – the two long bones in the lower leg – detached from their couplings and shattered. The next few weeks involved operations, plates, screws and quite unimaginable levels of agony. At one point, I felt a kind of blinding calm, as though the pain had gone all the way up the scale and rung a bell at the top.

While those pain levels have never returned, over the years there have been generous helpings of it; my legs didn’t take too kindly to being smashed up and bolted back together, and they seem to enjoy reminding me of this. After trying many different ways of managing the pain, eight months ago I started taking cannabidiol, or CBD for short – a non-psychoactive compound found in both hemp and cannabis plants.

The effect on the pain has been profound. It comes as an oil that I put under my tongue whenever pain moves from a dull niggle to the kind that is difficult to ignore.

CBD influences the release and uptake of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, leading to many potential therapeutic uses. Crucially, it does not contain any THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis; in other words, CBD does not get you high. Since last year, it has been legal to buy in the UK, after the government’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHPR) approved its use as a medicine under licence.

CBD oil has since been prescribed to an 11-year-old British boy suffering from epilepsy, in what is believed to be the first instance of a cannabis-derivative being prescribed on the NHS.

Last month, a cancer patient diagnosed four years ago with an incurable brain tumour and given just six months to live, ascribed her incredible recovery to turning to cannabis oil as a last resort.

While research into the medical benefits of CBD oil is in its infancy, it is certainly encouraging. Recent reports suggest it could be a more useful anti-inflammatory than ibuprofen.

“There has been some early scientific evidence that CBD can help with inflammation,” says Dr Henry Fisher, of drug policy thinktank Volteface. “There is also a lot of anecdotal evidence that it helps people who do contact sports, because of the tendency to get inflamed joints. Taking other anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen on a long-term basis – as many sportspeople do – is not a good idea because of potential damage to your liver.”

It also has distinct advantages over opioid medicines, says Dr Fisher. “With CBD, there is no evidence of any long-term negative impact, and no likelihood of addiction. And, of course, there are no known cases of anybody overdosing on CBD.”

The comparison to prescription medicine is particularly pertinent for me. For several months after my accident, I took Oxycontin, a common opioid painkiller. It was very useful at that time because it gave me a warm fuzzy feeling, making everything seem okay. But after a while, I started waking up feeling groggy and crushed. So I decided to stop, and the withdrawal was horrendous. It was several days of indescribable misery, so bad that it made the pain from the injuries feel like a slightly over-zealous massage.

Q&A | CBD and cannabis oil

What is CBD oil?

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of more than 80 cannabinoids, natural compounds found in the marijuana plant. It is extracted from the plant via steam distillation and usually bottled with a dropper. Unlike THC, Tetrahydrocannabinol – the most abundant cannabinoid, CBD does not have an intoxicating effect.

What does it do?

Most studies of CBD’s effects are preclinical, but is been shown useful in treating social anxiety and lessening episodes of schizophrenia. The most complete research on the benefits of CBD is on treatment of childhood epilepsy and a plant-based medicine, Epidiolex is scheduled for FDA approval in the US.

Another cannabis-based drug, Sativex, is already approved to relive the pain of muscle spasms in people suffering from multiple sclerosis. Clinical trials are also underway to test this category of drugs for cancer pain, glaucoma and appetite loss in people with HIV or AIDS.

Is it legal?

A low-concentration CBD oil is available in UK pharmacies as a health supplement. Campaigners have called for a high-concentration oil to also be made legal here. In December 2016, the government’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency ruled that “products containing CBD used for medical purposes are a medicine”.

Read more from the NHS on Cannabis: the facts

Getting off that heavy-duty medicine was key for my recovery. Because this kind of medication saps your energy, and the one thing you need to fight back to full fitness is energy. I spent months in a wheelchair, then on crutches, then finally I was able to start taking slow, painful steps on legs that had forgotten what their purpose was. I had always done a lot of sport, particularly martial arts – I got my black belt in kickboxing when I was 21 and spent some time working as an instructor. This training helped after the accident because I was in reasonably good shape – mashed bones notwithstanding – and I was used to pushing myself.

I never thought I would be able to fight again. So I just concentrated on simply being able to take care of myself. I also just got on with my life, somehow managing to acquire a lovely wife, daughter and son along the way. Then three years ago, I decided that the legs must have healed as much as they were ever going to, and I started doing martial arts again.

Rather than risk going back to kickboxing, I took up Brazilian jiu-jitsu, a grappling discipline where you subdue your opponent with chokes and joint-locks. If you watch beginners, it can look a bit like playground wrestling, but done properly it is graceful but deadly. I started off gently, but after a while I put the injuries behind me and trained as hard as ever. It was through the men I train with that I found out about CBD.

Everyone that uses it tells a similar story: they sleep better and feel less pain. While there are ongoing trials for CBD as a treatment for everything from multiple sclerosis to Parkinson’s disease, all I know is that for me it can make the difference being sitting on the sofa and being able to go training. I can now lift and carry my children without wincing.

CBD does not make the pain go away completely, but that is okay – a bit of pain is necessary, an alarm system to warn of imminent peril. But once the message has been received, it is nice to be able to turn the volume down a little bit.

Source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/body/could-cannabis-extract-cbd-replace-ibuprofen-painkiller/ October 2017

As the legalization of marijuana continues to spread among various states within the U.S., researchers, and physicians are trying to fully grasp the potential health hazards of the recreational use of the drug. Since marijuana can be consumed through a variety of methods—e.g., eating, smoking, or vaporizing—it is important to understand if and how drug delivery methods affect users. With that in mind, a recent study from investigators at Portland State University found benzene and other potentially cancer-causing chemicals in the vapor produced by butane hash oil, a cannabis extract.

Findings from the new study—published recently in ACS Omega in an article entitled “Toxicant Formation in Dabbing: The Terpene Story”—raises health concerns about dabbing, or vaporizing hash oil—a practice that is growing in popularity, especially in states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana. Dabbing is already controversial. The practice consists of placing a small amount of cannabis extract (a dab) on a heated surface and inhaling the resulting vapor. The practice has raised concerns because it produces extremely elevated levels of cannabinoids—the active ingredients in marijuana.

“Given the widespread legalization of marijuana in the U.S., it is imperative to study the full toxicology of its consumption to guide future policy,” noted senior study author Robert Strongin, Ph.D., professor of organic chemistry at Portland State University. “The results of these studies clearly indicate that dabbing, while considered a form of vaporization, may, in fact, deliver significant amounts of toxins.”

Dr. Strongin and his colleagues analyzed the chemical profile of terpenes—the fragrant oils in marijuana and other plants—by vaporizing them in much the same way as a user would vaporize hash oil.

“The practice of ‘dabbing’ with butane hash oil has emerged with great popularity in states that have legalized cannabis,” the authors wrote. “Despite their growing popularity, the degradation product profiles of these new products have not been extensively investigated.”

The authors continued, stating that the current study focused on the “chemistry of myrcene and other common terpenes found in cannabis extracts. Methacrolein, benzene, and several other products of concern to human health were formed under the conditions that simulated real-world dabbing. The terpene degradation products observed are consistent with those reported in the atmospheric chemistry literature.”

Many of the terpenes that the researchers discovered in the vaporized hash oil are also used in e-cigarette liquids. Moreover, previous experiments by Dr. Strongin and his colleagues found similar toxic chemicals in e-cigarette vapor when the devices were used at high-temperature settings. The dabbing experiments in the current study produced benzene—a known carcinogen—at levels many times higher than the ambient air, the researchers noted. It also produced high levels of methacrolein, a chemical similar to acrolein, another carcinogen.

“The results of these studies clearly indicate that dabbing, although considered a form of vaporization, may, in fact, deliver significant amounts of toxic degradation products,” the authors concluded. “The difficulty users find in controlling the nail temperature put[s] users at risk of exposing themselves to not only methacrolein but also benzene. Additionally, the heavy focus on terpenes as additives seen as of late in the cannabis industry is of great concern due to the oxidative liability of these compounds when heated. This research also has significant implications for flavored e-cigarette products due to the extensive use of terpenes as flavorings.”

Source: https://www.genengnews.com/topics/translational-medicine/cancer-causing-compounds-found-in-cannabis-oil/ September 2017

Filed under: Cannabis/Marijuana,Health :

Thomas M. Nappe, DO* and Christopher O. Hoyte, MD

Abstract

Since marijuana legalization, pediatric exposures to cannabis have increased. To date, pediatric deaths from cannabis exposure have not been reported. The authors report an 11-month-old male who, following cannabis exposure, presented with central nervous system depression after seizure, and progressed to cardiac arrest and died. Myocarditis was diagnosed post-mortem and cannabis exposure was confirmed.

Given the temporal relationship of these two rare occurrences – cannabis exposure and sudden death secondary to myocarditis in an 11-month-old – as well as histological consistency with drug-induced myocarditis without confirmed alternate causes, and prior reported cases of cannabis-associated myocarditis, a possible relationship exists between cannabis exposure in this child and myocarditis leading to death. In areas where marijuana is commercially available or decriminalized, the authors urge clinicians to preventively counsel parents and to include cannabis exposure in the differential diagnosis of patients presenting with myocarditis.

INTRODUCTION

Since marijuana legalization, pediatric exposures to cannabis have increased, resulting in increased pediatric emergency department (ED) visits. Neurologic toxicity is most common after pediatric exposure; however, gastrointestinal and cardiopulmonary toxicity are reported. According to a retrospective review of 986 pediatric cannabis ingestions from 2005 to 2011, pediatric exposure has been specifically linked to a multitude of symptoms including, but not limited to, drowsiness, lethargy, irritability, seizures, nausea and vomiting, respiratory depression, bradycardia and hypotension.Prognosis is often reassuring. 

Specific myocardial complications related to cannabis toxicity that are well documented in adolescence through older adulthood include acute coronary syndrome, cardiomyopathy, myocarditis, pericarditis, dysrhythmias and cardiac arrest. To date, there are no reported pediatric deaths from myocarditis after confirmed, recent cannabis exposure. The authors report an 11-month-old male who, following cannabis exposure, presented in cardiac arrest after seizure and died. Myocarditis was diagnosed post-mortem and cannabis exposure was confirmed. Analyses of serum cannabis metabolites, post-mortem infectious testing, cardiac histopathology, as well as clinical course, support a potential link between the cannabis exposure and myocarditis that would justify preventive parental counseling and consideration of urine drug screening in this reported setting.

CASE REPORT

An 11-month-old male with no known past medical history presented to the ED with central nervous system (CNS) depression and then went into cardiac arrest. The patient was lethargic for two hours after awakening that morning and then had a seizure. During the prior 24–48 hours, he was irritable with decreased activity and was later retching. He was noted to be healthy before developing these symptoms. Upon arrival in the ED, he was unresponsive with no gag reflex. Vital signs were temperature 36.1° Celsius, heart rate 156 beats per minute, respiratory rate 8 breaths per minute, oxygen saturation 80% on room air.

Physical exam revealed a well-nourished, 20.5 lb., 11-month-old male, with normal development, no trauma, normal oropharynx, normal tympanic membranes, no lymphadenopathy, tachycardia, clear lungs, normal abdomen and Glasgow Coma Scale rating of 4. He was intubated for significant CNS depression and required no medications for induction or paralysis. Post-intubation chest radiograph is shown in Image 2. He subsequently became bradycardic with a heart rate in the 40s with a wide complex rhythm. Initial electrocardiogram (ECG) was performed and is shown in Image 1.

He then became pulseless, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation was initiated. Laboratory analysis revealed sodium 136 mmol/L, potassium 7.7 mmol/L, chloride 115 mmol/L, bicarbonate 8.0 mmol/L, blood urea nitrogen 24 mg/dL, creatinine 0.9 mg/dL, and glucose 175 mg/dL Venous blood gas pH was 6.77. An ECG was repeated (Image 3). He received intravenous fluid resuscitation, sodium bicarbonate infusion, calcium chloride, insulin, glucose, ceftriaxone and four doses of epinephrine. Resuscitation continued for approximately one hour but the patient ultimately died.

Initial electrocardiogram demonstrating wide-complex tachycardia.

Post-intubation chest radiograph. Measurement indicates distance of endotracheal tube tip above carina.

Repeat electrocardiogram showing disorganized rhythm, peri-arrest.

Further laboratory findings in the ED included a complete blood count (CBC) with differential, liver function tests (LFTs), one blood culture and toxicology screen. CBC demonstrated white blood cell count 13.8 K/mcL with absolute neutrophil count of 2.5 K/mcL and absolute lymphocyte count of 10.7 K/mcL, hemoglobin 10.0 gm/dL, hematocrit 34.7%, and platelet count 321 K/mcL. LFTs showed total bilirubin 0.6 mg/dL, aspartate aminotransferase 77 IU/L, and alanine transferase 97 IU/U. A single blood culture from the right external jugular vein revealed aerobic gram-positive rods that were reported two days later as Bacillus species (not Bacillus anthracis). Toxicology screening revealed urine enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay positive for tetrahydrocannabinol-carboxylic acid (THC-COOH) and undetectable serum acetaminophen and salicylate concentrations. Route and timing of exposure to cannabis were unknown.

Autopsy revealed a non-dilated heart with normal coronary arteries. Microscopic examination showed a severe, diffuse, primarily lymphocytic myocarditis, with a mixed cellular infiltrate in some areas consisting of histiocytes, plasma cells, and eosinophils. Myocyte necrosis was also observed. There was no evidence of concomitant bacterial or viral infection based on post-mortem cultures obtained from cardiac and peripheral blood, lung pleura, nasopharynx and cerebrospinal fluid. Post-mortem cardiac blood analysis confirmed the presence of Δ-9-carboxy-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ-9-carboxy-THC) at a concentration of 7.8 ng/mL. Additional history disclosed an unstable motel-living situation and parental admission of drug possession, including cannabis.

DISCUSSION

As of this writing, this is the first reported pediatric death associated with cannabis exposure. Given the existing relationship between cannabis and cardiovascular (CV) toxicity, as well as the temporal progression of events, post-mortem analysis, and previously reported cases of cannabis-induced myocarditis, the authors propose a relationship between cannabis exposure in this patient and myocarditis, leading to cardiac arrest and ultimately death. This occurrence should justify consideration of urine drug screening for cannabis in pediatric patients presenting with myocarditis of unknown etiology in areas where cannabis is widely used. In addition, parents should be counseled regarding measures to prevent such exposures.

The progressive clinical presentation of this patient during the prior 24–48 hours, including symptoms of somnolence, lethargy, irritability, nausea, seizure and respiratory depression are consistent with previously documented, known complications of recent cannabis exposure in the pediatric population. It is well known that common CV effects of cannabis exposure include tachycardia and decreased vascular resistance with acute use and bradycardia in more chronic use. These effects are believed to be multifactorial, and evidence suggests that cannabinoid effect on the autonomic nervous system, peripheral vasculature, cardiac microvasculature, and myocardial tissue and Purkinje fibers are all likely contributory. The pathogenesis of myocarditis is not fully understood. In general, myocarditis results from direct damage to myocytes from an offending agent such as a virus, or in this case, potentially a toxin. The resulting cellular injury leads to a local inflammatory response. Destruction of cardiac tissue may result in myocyte necrosis and arrhythmogenic activity, or cellular remodeling in chronic myocarditis.

Autopsy findings in this patient were consistent with noninfectious myocarditis as a cause of death. The histological findings of myocyte necrosis with mature lymphocytic mixed cellular infiltrate are consistent with drug-induced, toxic myocarditis.The presence of THC metabolites in the patient’s urine and serum, most likely secondary to ingestion, is the only uncovered risk factor in the etiology for his myocarditis. This is highly unlikely attributable to passive exposure.

It is difficult to extrapolate a specific time of cannabis ingestion given the unknown dose of THC, the individual variability of metabolism and excretion, as well as the lack of data on this topic in the pediatric population and post-mortem redistribution (PMR) kinetics. However, the THC metabolite detected in the patient’s blood, Δ-9-carboxy-THC, is known to peak in less than six hours and be detectable for at least a day, while the parent compound, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is expected to rapidly metabolize and distribute much more quickly, being potentially undetectable six hours after exposure in an infrequent user. 

The parent compound was below threshold for detection in this patient’s blood. In addition, if cannabis ingestion occurred the day of presentation, it would have been more likely that THC would have been detected with its metabolite after PMR. Given this information, the authors deduce that cannabis consumption occurred within the recent two to six days, assuming this was a single, acute high-potency ingestion. This time frame would overlap with the patient’s symptomatology and allow time for the development of myocarditis, thus supporting cannabis as the etiology.

The link between cannabis use and myocarditis has been documented in multiple teenagers and young adults. In 2008 Leontiadis reported a 16-year-old with severe heart failure requiring a left ventricular assist device, associated with biopsy-diagnosed myocarditis.The authors attributed the heart failure to cannabis use of unknown chronicity. In 2014 Rodríguez-Castro reported a 29-year-old male who had two episodes of myopericarditis several months apart.Each episode occurred within two days of smoking cannabis.In 2016, Tournebize reported a 15-year-old male diagnosed with myocarditis, clinically and by cardiac magnetic resonance imaging, after initiating regular cannabis use eight months earlier. There were no other causes for myocarditis, including infectious, uncovered by these authors, and no adulterants were identified in these patients’ consumed marijuana.Unlike our patient, all three of these previously reported patients recovered.

In the age of legalized marijuana, children are at increased risk of exposure, mainly through ingestion of food products, or “edibles.”These products are attractive in appearance and have very high concentrations of THC, which can make small exposures exceptionally more toxic in small children.

Limitations in this report include the case study design, the limitations on interpreting an exact time, dose and route of cannabis exposure, the specificity of histopathology being used to classify etiology of myocarditis, and inconsistent blood culture results. The inconsistency in blood culture results also raises concern of a contributing bacterial etiology in the development of myocarditis, lending to the possibility that cannabis may have potentially induced the fatal symptomatology in an already-developing silent myocarditis. However, due to high contaminant rates associated with bacillus species and negative subsequent blood cultures, the authors believe this was more likely a contaminant. In addition, the patient had no source of infection on exam or recent history and was afebrile without leukocytosis. All of his subsequent cultures from multiple sites were negative.

CONCLUSION

Of all the previously reported cases of cannabis-induced myocarditis, patients were previously healthy and no evidence was found for other etiologies. All of the prior reported cases were associated with full recovery. In this reported case, however, the patient died after myocarditis-associated cardiac arrest. Given two rare occurrences with a clear temporal relationship – the recent exposure to cannabis and the myocarditis-associated cardiac arrest – we believe there exists a plausible relationship that justifies further research into cannabis-associated cardiotoxicity and related practice adjustments. In states where cannabis is legalized, it is important that physicians not only counsel parents on preventing exposure to cannabis, but to also consider cannabis toxicity in unexplained pediatric myocarditis and cardiac deaths as a basis for urine drug screening in this setting.

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5965161/ March 2017

  • US Department of Veteran Affairs found an increase in PTSD symptoms from veterans who used medical marijuana 
  • Among patients who use medical marijuana, 80% use it for chronic pain and 33% for PTSD
  • Use for chronic pain can lead to increased risk of motor vehicle accidents and short-term cognitive impairment, experts warn
  • Medical marijuana is allowed in 30 states including DC 
  • The NFL is looking into medical marijuana use for its players for pain relief

There is no conclusive evidence that marijuana helps with chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder, experts say.

Since legalization, 80 percent of medical marijuana patients use it for chronic pain and about 33 percent use it for PTSD.

However, experts warn that there isn’t enough research to confirm it is effective for users.

Researchers around the country are scrambling to find evidence of the harms and benefits of patients using medical marijuana as it becomes legalized in more states.

And now they have found that there is still an insufficient amount of evidence to prove if medical marijuana can help with chronic pain and PTSD.

Researchers from the US Department of Veterans Affairs analyzed data into the treatment of chronic pain and PTSD in patients.

With chronic pain, the results in one clinical trial showed only 28 percent of participants feeling a change when using nabiximols, which is a mixture THC and CBD.

Also, there was 16 percent of participants who felt a change when taking a placebo.

This suggests psychological symptoms are possible when someone thinks they are feeling pain.

Experts also warn the use of marijuana for chronic pain could lead to an increase risk of harm such as motor vehicle accidents, psychotic symptoms and short-term cognitive impairment.

Dr Thomas O’Brien, who has run his own medical marijuana office in New York City for the past year-and-a-half, told Daily Mail Online that he’s seen high success rates from his patients dealing with chronic pain.

The type of marijuana he gives to his patients is high in CBD, so he says it doesn’t have the psychotic symptoms that critics worry about.

‘My patients do not feel sleepy or experience memory loss when they take it,’ Dr O’Brien said.

The marijuana he prescribes is from an indica-dominant strain. This means there is high CBD and low THC, which he says won’t give patients the same ‘high’ feeling that is felt from recreational marijuana.

NFL says it WILL study marijuana in terms of pain relief for players

Early this month, the NFL confirmed with Daily Mail Online that it will look into using medical marijuana for its players.

The NFL has had a strict stance against their players using marijuana.

But a report came out saying 50 percent of NFL players admitted to using marijuana to relieve pain.

The league usually prescribes highly addictive opioid painkillers to help players deal with game-related injuries and pain.

This change comes after player Calvin Johnson retired due to chronic pain and injury.

He said the players were given opioids from doctors ‘like candy’.

Currently, a player caught with THC in their system will face a fine and full-season suspension.

Source: Bleacher Report

He will prescribe a dose with a higher level of THC only if his patient’s symptoms are so bad that they can’t sleep.

He works with his patients to figure out the best mixture for them and their symptoms based on a spectrum level.

‘They are in pain and suffering from their conditions,’ Dr O’Brien said. ‘This is not recreational.’

Dr O’Brien has worked with more than 600 patients and claims that close to 90 percent have seen success.

‘The key is to educate the community that it is not like you’re going out back and sneaking a puff.’

In a large observational study of veterans, the researchers found an increase in participants who experienced a heightening of their PTSD symptoms when using medical marijuana.

The study looked at evidence from 47,000 veterans dealing with PTSD from 1992 to 2011.

From this group of veterans, the researchers could not conclusively say that medical marijuana has benefits when dealing with people with PTSD.

US Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin said: ‘My opinion is, is that some of the states that have put in appropriate controls, there may be some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful. And we’re interested in looking at that and learning from that.’

But the VA does not prescribe medical marijuana to its veterans currently.

‘Until the time that federal law changes, we are not able to be able to prescribe medical marijuana for conditions that may be helpful,’ Shulkin said.

Marijuana is legal for medical and recreational use in eight states: Massachusetts, Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, Nevada, California and Maine.

It is also legal for strictly medical use in the District of Columbia and 21 states: Montana, North Dakota, Arizona, New Mexico, Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware and Hawaii.

How is THC used and what its effects

Tetrahydrocannabinoil (THC) is a natural element found in a cannabis plant. It is the most common cannabinoid element found in the cannabis plant. THC is found in the recreational form of marijuana.

THC is psychoactive:

This means that the drug has a significant effect on the mental processes of the person taking it.

Effects on people taking it:

  • Produces the ‘high’ feeling
  • Relaxation
  • Altered senses
  • Fatigue
  • Hunger

How it helps medically: 

Marijuana with THC are used to help with chemotherapy, multiple sclerosis and glaucoma.

Medical marijuana practitioners can diagnose a mixture of THC and CBD to the patient for treatment.

How is CBD used and what its effects

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a natural element found in a cannabis plant. It is lesser known than THC and does not produce the same ‘high’ that people experience when they have recreational marijuana.

CBD is an antipsychotic:

This means that the drug helps manage psychosis such as hallucinations, delusions or paranoia. Antipsychotic drugs are used for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Effects on people taking it:

  • Reduces anxiety and paranoia
  • Boosts energy
  • Helps with pain and inflammation

How it helps medically: 

Marijuana with CBD strains are used to help with chronic pain, PTSD and epilepsy

Medical marijuana practitioners can diagnose a mixture of THC and CBD to the patient for treatment.

The study notes that there is still a lack of evidence and clinical trials to conclusively say there are benefits or harms to medical marijuana.

Former Surgeon General Dr Vivek Gupta released a report in November saying: ‘Marijuana is in fact addictive.’

But he supported the idea of easing up restrictions on marijuana studies to help better understand the drug since its legalization is moving fast through the US.

Dr O’Brien said part of the issue was people not understanding the difference between the use of THC and the use of CBD.

‘It is very safe [CBD],’ he said. ‘We need to study it for other medical conditions that haven’t been approved by the states yet.’

The restrictions on marijuana studies are partly due to the Drug Enforcement Agency’s hesitation on allowing medical marijuana across the US.

Last year, the DEA said it would accept applications for new growers to be used for clinical trials and other studies.

Currently, there is only one federally regulated operation that studies marijuana use and it is at the University of Mississippi.

There have been 25 applicants so far to host a new grow operation but none have been approved yet, according to Scientific American.

This has led to many critics saying that the DEA is still trying to slow down the research into medical marijuana to prevent its use federally.

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-4789388/Medical-marijuana-does-not-help-chronic-pain-PTSD.html August 2017

LONDON (Reuters) – People who smoke marijuana have a three times greater risk of dying from hypertension, or high blood pressure, than those who have never used the drug, scientists said on Wednesday. The risk grows with every year of use, they said. The findings, from a study of some 1,200 people, could have implications in the United States among other countries. Several states have legalized marijuana and others are moving toward it. It is decriminalized in a number of other countries.

“Support for liberal marijuana use is partly due to claims that it is beneficial and possibly not harmful to health,” said Barbara Yankey, who co-led the research at the school of public health at Georgia State University in the United States. “It is important to establish whether any health benefits outweigh the potential health, social and economic risks. If marijuana use is implicated in cardiovascular diseases and deaths, then it rests on the health community and policy makers to protect the public.” Marijuana is also sometimes used for medicinal purposes, such as for glaucoma. 

The study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, was a retrospective follow-up study of 1,213 people aged 20 or above who had been involved in a large and ongoing National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. In 2005–2006, they were asked if they had ever used marijuana.

For Yankey’s study, information on marijuana use was merged with mortality data in 2011 from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, and adjusted for confounding factors such as tobacco smoking and variables including sex, age and ethnicity. The average duration of use among users of marijuana, or cannabis, was 11.5 years. The results showed marijuana users had a 3.42-times higher risk of death from hypertension than non-users, and a 1.04 greater risk for each year of use. There was no link between marijuana use and dying from heart or cerebrovascular diseases such as strokes.

Yankey said were limitations in the way marijuana use was assessed ― including that researchers could not be sure whether people had used the drug continuously since they first tried it. But she said the results chimed with plausible risks, since marijuana is known to affect the cardiovascular system. “Marijuana stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, leading to increases in heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen demand,” she said.

Experts not directly involved in the study said its findings would need to be replicated, but already raised concerns. “Despite the widely held view that cannabis is benign, this research adds to previous work suggesting otherwise,” said Ian Hamilton, a lecturer in mental health at Britain’s York University.

Reporting by Kate Kelland, editing by Jeremy Gaunt

Source: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/marijuana-use-holds-three-fold-blood-pressure-death-risk_n_598b4b2be4b0d793738c2917 September 2017

Filed under: Cannabis/Marijuana,Health :

Psychology of Addictive Behaviors journal makes corrections, SAM calls on media to correct stories

A prominent journal article about marijuana and health which resulted in media outlets reporting on marijuana’s harmlessness has now been corrected. A recheck of the statistics has now found that the incidence of psychotic disorders trended toward a 2.5-fold increase in marijuana users, a difference that went beyond a trend to reach significance in a one-tailed statistical test. This degree of impact matches very well the results of many prior studies involving marijuana use and psychosis though falls short of the five-fold increase in psychosis risk for marijuana users seen with the high strength strains that are more recently available.

Dr. Christine Miller, a former schizophrenia researcher from Johns Hopkins University and now Director of SAM Maryland, first alerted the journal, Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, last December. Some media outlets have already corrected their original story. 

“We commend the Washington Post’s Ariana Cha for now updating her story, and hope many more will follow her lead,” remarked Dr. Miller. “The flaw in the original University of Pittsburgh report were certain correction factors applied to the raw data, factors which are strongly affected by psychosis rather than being causes of such a disorder. These inappropriate corrections overpowered the marijuana effect. We’re glad the corrections have been made.”

SAM urges other media outlets to correct their headlines and stories.

The new data comes on the heels of a major report released by the State of Vermont’s Health Department which found that marijuana worsened conditions ranging from mental illness to motor vehicle accidents to negative pregnancy effects – and almost all of them are found to be worsened by marijuana:

Source: Email from SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) <info@learnaboutsam.org>, January 2016

Link to clarification:

https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2015-58335-001

Researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) have identified 428 distinct disease conditions that co-occur in people with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), in the most comprehensive review of its kind.

The results were published today in The Lancet.

“We’ve systematically identified numerous disease conditions co-occurring with FASD, which underscores the fact that it isn’t safe to drink any amount or type of  at any stage of pregnancy, despite the conflicting messages the public may hear,” says Dr. Lana Popova, Senior Scientist in Social and Epidemiological Research at CAMH, and lead author on the paper. “Alcohol can affect any organ or system in the developing fetus.”

FASD is a broad term describing the range of disabilities that can occur in individuals as a result of alcohol exposure before birth. The severity and symptoms vary, based on how much and when alcohol was consumed, as well as other factors in the mother’s life such as stress levels, nutrition and environmental influences. The effects are also influenced by genetic factors and the body’s ability to break down alcohol, in both the mother and fetus.

Different Canadian surveys suggest that between six and 14 per cent of women drink during pregnancy.

The 428 co-occurring conditions were identified from 127 studies included in The Lancet review. These disease conditions, coded in the International Classification of Disease (ICD-10), affected nearly every system of the body, including the central nervous system (brain), vision, hearing, cardiac, circulation, digestion, and musculoskeletal and respiratory systems, among others.

While some of these disorders are known to be caused by alcohol exposure – such as developmental and cognitive problems, and certain facial anomalies – for others, the association with FASD does not necessarily represent a cause-and-effect link.

Problems range from communications disorders to hearing loss

However, many disorders occurred more often among those with FASD than the general population. Based on 33 studies representing 1,728 individuals with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), the most severe form of FASD, the researchers were able to conduct a series of meta-analyses to establish the frequency with which 183 disease conditions occurred.

More than 90 per cent of those with FAS had co-occurring problems with conduct. About eight in 10 had communications disorders, related to either understanding or expressing language. Seven in 10 had developmental/cognitive disorders, and more than half had problems with attention and hyperactivity.

Because most studies were from the U.S., the frequency of certain co-occurring conditions was compared with the general U.S. population. Among people with FAS, the frequency of hearing loss was estimated to be up to 129 times higher than the general U.S. population, and blindness and low vision were 31 and 71 times higher, respectively.

“Some of these other co-occurring problems may lead people to seek professional help,” says Dr. Popova. “The issue is that the underlying cause of the problem, alcohol exposure before birth, may be overlooked by the clinician and not addressed.”

The benefits of screening and diagnosis

Improving the screening and diagnosis of FASD has numerous benefits. Earlier access to programs or resources may prevent or reduce secondary outcomes that can occur among those with FASD, such as problems with relationships, schooling, employment, mental health and addictions, or with the law.

“We can prevent these issues at many stages,” says Dr. Popova. “Eliminating alcohol consumption during pregnancy or reducing it among alcohol-dependent women is extremely important. Newborns should be screened for , especially among populations at high risk. And alerting clinicians to these co-occurring conditions should trigger questions about prenatal .”

“It is important that the public receive a consistent and clear message – if you want to have a healthy child, stay away from alcohol when you’re planning a pregnancy and throughout your whole pregnancy,” she says.

It’s estimated that FASD costs $1.8 billion annually in Canada, due largely to productivity losses, corrections and health care costs, among others.

In addition to this review, Dr. Popova has been part of an expert group of leading FASD researchers and clinicians working with the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services on its new FASD strategy. Her team is also undertaking a study to determine how common FASD is in Canada, as well as in other countries in Eastern and Central Europe and Africa.

Provided by: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Source: https://m.medicalxpress.com/news/2016-01-conditions-co-occur-fetal-alcohol-spectrum.html January 2016

Narcotics experts are warning against dangerous drugs being mis-sold as MDMA.

According to reports from the UK, this substance can lead to psychosis and some users claim it has the ability to keep them awake for up to three days. These undesired side effects are not typical of MDMA or “Molly.”

Instead, this “fake MDMA” — drug N-Ethyl-Pentylone — is made three times as strong. It was first discovered in the US in 2016, which spread to Australia in 2017 and most recently has been found at the Manchester music festival, Parklife.

This drug has been linked to mass casualties around the world. Dr. David Caldicott, an expert in emergency medicine, explained the dangers of N-Ethyl-Pentylone as follows:

“It has been clearly responsible for the deaths of people overseas, and a rather unfortunate phenomenon known as ‘mass casualty overdoses’, where 10-20 people drop simultaneously. So, it’s of great concern to the music festival environment.”

While this was discovered in the UK, it’s possible for partakers to happen upon this in North America too, so please exercise every caution if you do take the risk of doing drugs at a show or festival this summer.

Source:  https://www.youredm.com/2018/06/10/mdma-lookalike-drug-makes-its-way-into-festivals/   June 2018

Anybody wondering what happens to the 8 per cent of the skunk-smoking population who develop mental illness should visit any psychiatric hospital in Britain or speak to somebody who has done so What is really needed in dealing with cannabis is a “tobacco moment”, as with cigarettes 50 years ago, when a majority of people became convinced that smoking might give them cancer and kill them. Since then the number of cigarette smokers in Britain has fallen by two-thirds.

A depressing aspect of the present debate about cannabis is that so many proponents of legalisation or decriminalisation have clearly not taken on board that the causal link between cannabis and psychosis has been scientifically proven over the past ten years, just as the connection between cancer and cigarettes was proved in the late 1940s and 1950s.

The proofs have emerged in a series of scientific studies that reach the same grim conclusion: taking cannabis significantly increases the risk of schizophrenia. One study in The Lancet Psychiatry concludes that “the risk of individuals having a psychotic disorder showed a roughly three times increase in users of skunk-like cannabis, compared with those who never used cannabis”. As 94 per cent of cannabis seized by the police today is super-strength skunk, compared to 51 per cent in 2005, almost all those who take the drug today will be vulnerable to this three-fold increase in the likelihood that they will develop psychosis.

Mental health professionals have long had no doubts about the danger. Five years ago, I asked Sir Robin Murray, professor of psychiatric research at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, about them. He said that studies showed that “if the risk of schizophrenia for the general population is about one per cent, the evidence is that, if you take ordinary cannabis, it is two per cent; if you smoke regularly you might push it up to four per cent; and if you smoke ‘skunk’ every day you push it up to eight per cent”.

Anybody wondering what happens to this 8 per cent of the skunk-smoking population should visit any mental hospital in Britain or speak to somebody who has done so. Dr Humphrey Needham-Bennett, medical director and consultant psychiatrist of Cygnet Hospital, Godden Green in Sevenoaks, explained to me that among his patients “cannabis use is so common that I assume that people use or used it. It’s quite surprising when people say ‘no, I don’t use drugs’.”

The connection between schizophrenia and cannabis was long suspected by specialists but it retained its reputation as a relatively benign drug, its image softened by the afterglow of its association with cultural and sexual liberation in the 1960s and 1970s.

This ill-deserved reputation was so widespread that even 20 years ago, the possible toxic side effects of cannabis were barely considered. Zerrin Atakan, formerly head of the National Psychosis Unit at the Maudsley Psychiatric Hospital and later a researcher at the Institute of Psychiatry,

said: “I got interested in cannabis because I was working in the 1980s in an intensive care unit where my patients would be fine after we got them well. We would give them leave and they would celebrate their new found freedom with a joint and come back psychotic a few hours later.”

She did not find it easy to pursue her professional interest in the drug. She recalls: “I was astonished to discover that cannabis, which is the most widely used illicit substance, was hardly researched in the 1990s and there was no research on how it affected the brain.” She and fellow researchers made eight different applications for research grants and had them all turned down, so they were reduced to taking the almost unheard of course of pursuing their research without the support of a grant.

Studies by Dr Atakan and other psychiatrists all showed the connection between cannabis and schizophrenia, yet this is only slowly becoming conventional wisdom. Perhaps this should not be too surprising because in 1960, long after the link between cigarettes and lung cancer had been scientifically established, only a third of US doctors were persuaded that this was the case.

A difficulty is that people are frightened of mental illness and ignorant of its causes in a way that is no longer true of physical illnesses, such as cancer or even HIV. I have always found that three quarters of those I speak to at random about mental health know nothing about psychosis and its causes, and the other quarter know all too much about it because they have a relative or friend who has been affected.

Even those who do have experience of schizophrenia do not talk about it very much because they are frightened of a loved one being stigmatised. They may also be wary of mentioning the role of cannabis because they fear that somebody they love will be dismissed as a junkie who has brought their fate upon themselves.

This fear of being stigmatised affects institutions as well as individuals. Schools and universities are often happy to have a policy about everything from sex to climate change, but steer away from informing their students about the dangers of drugs. A social scientist specialising in drugs policy explained to me that the reason for this is because “they’re frightened that, if they do, everybody will think they have a drugs problem which, of course, they all do”.

The current debate about cannabis – sparked by the confiscation of the cannabis oil needed by Billy Caldwell to treat his epilepsy and by William Hague’s call for the legalisation of the drug – is missing the main point. It is all about the merits and failings of different degrees of prohibition of cannabis when it is obvious that legal restrictions alone will not stop the 2.1 million people who take cannabis from going on doing so. But the legalisation of cannabis legitimises it and sends a message that the government views it as relatively harmless. The very fact of illegality is a powerful disincentive for many potential consumers, regardless of the chances of being punished.

The legalisation of cannabis might take its production and sale out of the hands of criminal gangs, but it would put it into the hands of commercial companies who would want to make a profit, advertise their product and increase the number of their customers. Commercialisation of cannabis has as many dangers as criminalisation.

A new legal market in cannabis might be regulated and the toxicity of super-strength skunk reduced. But the argument of those who want to legalise cannabis is that the authorities are unable to enforce regulations when the drug is illegal, so why should they be more successful in regulating it when its production and sale is no longer against the law?

The problem with these rancorous but sterile arguments for and against legalisation and decriminalisation is that they divert attention from what should and can be done: a sustained campaign to persuade people of all ages that cannabis can send them insane. To a degree people are learning this already from bitter experience. As Professor Murray told me five years ago, the average 19- to 23-year-old probably knows more about the dangers of cannabis than the average doctor “because they have a friend who has gone paranoid. People know a lot more about bad trips than they used to.”

Patrick Cockburn is the co-author of Henry’s Demons: Living With Schizophrenia, A Father and Son’s Story

A depressing aspect of the present debate about cannabis is that so many proponents of legalisation or decriminalisation have clearly not taken on board that the causal link between cannabis and psychosis has been scientifically proven over the past ten years, just as the connection between cancer and cigarettes was proved in the late 1940s and 1950s.

The proofs have emerged in a series of scientific studies that reach the same grim conclusion: taking cannabis significantly increases the risk of schizophrenia. One study in The Lancet Psychiatry concludes that “the risk of individuals having a psychotic disorder showed a roughly three times increase in users of skunk-like cannabis, compared with those who never used cannabis”. As 94 per cent of cannabis seized by the police today is super-strength skunk, compared to 51 per cent in 2005, almost all those who take the drug today will be vulnerable to this three-fold increase in the likelihood that they will develop psychosis.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid: The government will carry out a review of the scheduling of cannabis for medicinal use

Mental health professionals have long had no doubts about the danger. Five years ago, I asked Sir Robin Murray, professor of psychiatric research at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, about them. He said that studies showed that “if the risk of schizophrenia for the general population is about one per cent, the evidence is that, if you take ordinary cannabis, it is two per cent; if you smoke regularly you might push it up to four per cent; and if you smoke ‘skunk’ every day you push it up to eight per cent”.

According to a Colorado Springs Gazette editorial about legalization in Colorado there has been a doubling of drivers involved in fatal crashes testing positive for marijuana. [1]

Marijuana significantly impairs driving including time and distance estimation and reaction times and motor coordination. [2] The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration lists marijuana as the most prevalent drug in fatally injured drivers with 28 % testing positive for marijuana. [3]

It is true that the crash risk for a driver on alcohol is higher than on marijuana. But to suggest it is safe to drive after using marijuana is irresponsible. An even greater danger is the combination of alcohol and marijuana that has severe psychomotor effects that impair driving. [4]

What about our kids? Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among those aged 16-25. [5] Weekend nighttime driving under the influence of marijuana among young drivers has increased by 48%. [6] About 13 % of high school seniors said they drove after using marijuana while only 10 % drove after having five or more drinks.[7] Another study showed about 28,000 seniors each year admitted to being in at least one motor vehicle accident after using marijuana. [8]

The marijuana industry is backing legalization. Do we want more dangerous drivers on our roads and dead kids so the industry can make money from selling marijuana?

References regarding DUI

[1] http://gazette.com/editorial-the-sad-anniversary-of-big-commercial-pot-in-colorado/article/1614900

[2] NHTSA, Use of Controlled Substances and Highway Safety; A Report to Congress (U.S. Dept. of Transportation, Washington, D.C., 1988)

[3] http://cesar.umd.edu/cesar/cesarfax/vol19/19-49.pdf

[4] https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6448a1.htm?s_cid=mm6448a1_w

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid

[7] https://archives.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/drug-impaired-driving-by-youth-remains-serious-problem

[8] “Unsafe Driving by High School Seniors: National Trends from 1976 to 2001 in Tickets and Accidents After Use of Alcohol, Marijuana and Other Illegal Drugs.” Journal of Studies on Alcohol. May 2003

LEGALIZING POT WILL CAUSE MORE OPIATE USE

Legalizing marijuana will cause more marijuana use. Marijuana use is associated with an increased risk for substance use disorders. [1] The interaction between the opioid and the cannabinoid system in the human body might provide a neurobiological basis for a relationship between marijuana use and opiate abuse.[2] Marijuana use appears to increase rather than decrease the risk of developing nonmedical prescription opioid use and opioid use disorder. [3] In 2017, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) landmark report written by top scientists concluded after a review of over 10,000 peer-reviewed academic articles, that marijuana use is connected to progression to and dependence on other drugs, including studies showing connections to heroin use. [4]

New research suggests that marijuana users may be more likely than nonusers to misuse prescription opioids and develop prescription opioid use disorder. The investigators analyzed data from more than 43,000 American adults. The respondents who reported past-year marijuana use had 2.2 times higher odds than nonusers of meeting diagnostic criteria for prescription opioid use disorder. They also had 2.6 times greater odds of initiating prescription opioid misuse. [5]

Marijuana used as a medicine is being sold as reducing the need for other medicines. However, a new study shows that medical marijuana users were significantly more likely to use prescription drugs in the past 12 months. Individuals who used medical marijuana were also significantly more likely to report nonmedical use in the past 12 months of any prescription drug with elevated risks for pain relievers, stimulants and tranquilizers. [6]

References regarding opiates

[1] JAMA Psychiatry. 2016 Apr;73(4):388-95. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.3229.

Cannabis Use and Risk of Psychiatric Disorders: Prospective Evidence From a US National Longitudinal Study. Blanco C1, Hasin DS2, Wall MM2, Flórez-Salamanca L3, Hoertel N4, Wang S2, Kerridge BT2, Olfson M2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26886046

[2] Cadoni C, Pisanu A, Solinas M, Acquas E, Di Chiara G. Behavioural sensitization after repeated exposure to Delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cross-sensitization with morphine. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2001;158(3):259-266. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/11640927_Behavioral_sensitization_after_repeated_exposure_to_D9-tetrahydrocannabinol_and_cross-sensitization_with_morphine

[3] Cannabis Use and Risk of Prescription Opioid Use Disorder in the United States, Mark Olfson, M.D., M.P.H., Melanie M. Wall, Ph.D., Shang-Min Liu, M.S., Carlos Blanco, M.D., Ph.D. Published online: September 26, 2017at: https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2017.17040413

[4] Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research. See: http://nationalacademies.org/hmd/~/media/Files/Report%20Files/2017/Cannabis-Health-Effects/Cannabis-chapter-highlights.pdf

[5] https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2017/09/marijuana-use-associated-increased-risk-prescription-opioid-misuse-use-disorders

[6] Journal of Addiction Medicine, http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/693004/?sc=dwtn

MARIJUANA USE BEFORE, DURING OR AFTER PREGNANCY CAN CAUSE SERIOUS MEDICAL CONDITIONS, LEARNING PROBLEMS, AND BIRTH DEFECTS

Legalizing marijuana will cause more marijuana use among women of child bearing age. Prenatal marijuana use has been linked with:

1. Developmental and neurological disorders and learning deficits in children.

3. Premature birth, miscarriage, stillbirth.

4. An increased likelihood of a person using marijuana as a young adult.

5. The American Medical Association states that marijuana use may be linked with low birth weight, premature birth, behavioral and other problems in young children.

6. Birth defects and childhood cancer.

7. Reproductive toxicity affecting spermatogenesis which is the process of the formation of male gamete including meiosis and formation of sperm cells.

Moderate concentrations of THC, the main psychoactive substance in marijuana, when ingested by mothers while pregnant or nursing, could have long-lasting effects on the child, including increasing stress responsivity and abnormal patterns of social interactions. THC consumed in breast milk could affect brain development.

References regarding pregnancy

Volkow ND, Compton WM, Wargo EM. The risks of marijuana use during pregnancy. JAMA. 2017;317(2):129-130.

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/letter-director

https://www.acog.org/Clinical-Guidance-and-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Obstetric-Practice/Marijuana-Use-During-Pregnancy-and-Lactation

AMA pushes for regulation on pot use during pregnancy

http://omr.bayer.ca/omr/online/sativex-pm-en.pdf

https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/pdf/marijuana-pregnancy-508.pdf

Risk of Selected Birth Defects with Prenatal Illicit Drug Use, Hawaii, 1986-2002, Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A, 70: 7-18, 2007

Maternal use of recreational drugs and neuroblastoma in offspring: a report from the Children’s Ocology Group., Cancer Causes Control, 2006 Jun:17(5):663-9, Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

DO YOU CARE?

Do you care…about our Environment? Marijuana growing creates environmental contamination. [1]

Do you care…about Pedestrian and Motor Vehicle Deaths caused by marijuana impaired drivers?

Increased marijuana impaired driving due to the increased potency of THC creates more risk.[2]

Do you care…about Freedom of Choice? Cannabis Use Disorder destroys freedom of choice. [3]

Do you care…about Violence, Domestic Abuse and Child abuse? Oftentimes marijuana is reported in incidents of violence. Continued marijuana use is associated with a 7-fold greater odds for subsequent commission of violent crimes. [4]

Do you care…about Safety in the Workplace? Numerous professions and trades require alertness that marijuana use can impair. Employers experience challenges to requirements for drug free workplaces, finding difficulty in hiring with many failing marijuana THC drug tests. [5]

Do you care…about Substance Use Disorders and the growing Addiction Epidemic? Recent data suggest that 30% of those who use marijuana may have some degree of marijuana use disorder. That sounds small? 22,000,000 US marijuana users x 30% = over 6,000,000 with a marijuana use disorder. There is a link between adolescent pot smoking and psychosis. [6]

Do you care…about Suicide Prevention? Marijuana use greatly increases risk of suicide especially among young people. [7]

Do you care…about your Pets? Vets report increases in marijuana poisoned pets since normalizing and commercializing of marijuana. [8]

Do you care…about our Students and Schools? Normalization of marijuana use brought increased use to schools. Edibles and vaping have made use harder to detect. Colorado has had an increase in high school drug violations of 71% since legalization and school suspensions for drugs increased 45%. [9]

Do you care…about Racial Inequality? Marijuana growers and sellers typically locate in poorer neighborhoods and degrade the quality of the areas. Arrests of people of color have increased since drug legalization while arrests of Caucasians have decreased. [10].

Do you care…about Our Kids and Grandkids, the Next Generations? Help protect them by advocating for their futures. [11] Please oppose increasing the use of marijuana

References

[1] https://silentpoison.com/

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6448a1.htm?s_cid=mm6448a1_w

[3] https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/marijuana-addictive

[4] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-new-brain/201603/marijuana-use-increases-violent-behavior

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/297718566_Continuity_of_cannabis_use_and_violent_offending_over_the_life_course

https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/marijuana-violence-and-law-2155-6105-S11-014.pdf https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/teen/substance-abuse/Pages/legalizing-marijuana.aspx http://www.poppot.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/020518-Child-dangers-fact-sheet-FINAL_updated.pdf?x47959

[5] http://www.questdiagnostics.com/home/physicians/health-trends/drug-testing.html

[6] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/2464591

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/what-scope-marijuana-use-in-united-states https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/link-between-adolescent-pot-smoking-and-psychosis-strengthens/

[7] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/wps.20170

http://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lanpsy/PIIS2215-0366(14)70307-4.pdf

[8] http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/poison/marijuana/

[9] http://gazette.com/editorial-the-sad-anniversary-of-big-commercial-pot-in-colorado/article/1614900

https://youtu.be/BApEKGUpcXs Weed Documentary from a high school in Oregon

[10] https://learnaboutsam.org/comprehensive-study-finds-marijuana-legalization-drives-youth-use-crime-rates-black-market-harms-communities-color/

[11] https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/teen/substance-abuse/Pages/legalizing-marijuana.aspx

Legalization

http://nationalacademies.org/hmd/~/media/Files/Report%20Files/2017/Cannabis-Health-Effects/Cannabis-chapter-highlights.pdf

MARIJUANA EXPOSURES AMONG CHILDREN INCREASE BY UP TO OVER 600%

The rate of marijuana exposures among children under the age of six increased by 610% in the “medical” marijuana states according to a study published in Clinical Pediatrics. The data comes from the National Poison Data System. 75% percent of the children ingested edible marijuana products such as marijuana-infused candy. Clinical effects include drowsiness or lethargy, ataxia [failure of muscle coordination], agitation or irritability, confusion and coma, respiratory depression, and single or multiple seizures.

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0009922815589912

MORE FACTS

Today’s marijuana is very high in potency and can reach 99% THC. It is very destructive and causes addiction, mental illness, violence, crime, DUIs and many health and social problems.

https://herb.co/marijuana/news/thc-a-crystalline

FACTS FROM COLORADO

The people who are pushing marijuana legalization paint Colorado as a pot paradise. This is not true according to Peter Droege who is the Marijuana and Drug Addiction Policy Fellow for the Centennial Institute a policy think tank in Lakewood Colorado. In a April 20, 2018 opinion article he states that:

According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), Colorado is a national leader among 12-17-year-olds in (1) Last year marijuana use; (2) Last month marijuana use; and (3) The percentage of youth who tried marijuana for the first time.

A 2017 analysis by the Denver Post showed Colorado had experienced a 145% increase in the number of fatal crashes involving marijuana-impaired drivers between 2013 and 2016. While the analysis stresses that the increase cannot definitively be attributed to the legalization of marijuana, it reports that the number of marijuana-impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes has more than doubled since 2013, the year before the state legalized recreational marijuana use.

A July 20, 2016 article in Westword magazine reports that increased homelessness, drugs, and crime are causing local residents and convention visitors to shun Denver’s 16th Street Mall, once one of the most vibrant tourist destinations in the region.

A group of concerned scientists from Harvard University and other institutions wrote a letter to Governor Hickenlooper on March 10, 2017, seeking to correct the record after his Feb. 26, 2017, interview on Meet the Press in which he told Chuck Todd that Colorado had not seen a spike in youth drug use after the legalization of recreational marijuana, and that there was “anecdotal” evidence of a decline in drug dealers – claims he repeated in Rolling Stone.

In the letter, the scientists reference numerous studies, including the NSDUH survey, that report a dramatic increase in youth marijuana use, emergency room visits, mental health issues and crime tied to the legalization of marijuana in Colorado. They quote an official from the state’s attorney general’s office saying legalization “has inadvertently helped fuel the business of Mexican drug cartels … cartels are now trading drugs like heroin for marijuana, and the trade has since opened the door to drug and human trafficking.”

Today’s high-potency “crack weed” is marketed to youth through vapes, candies, energy drinks, lip balms and other products easy to conceal in homes and schools. Most dispensaries in Colorado are located in low-income neighborhoods, targeting young people who do not need another obstacle in fulfilling their great potential in life. *

* https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/04/20/colorado-governor-marijuana-hickenlooper-column/53

3731002/

MARIJUANA RELATED SUICIDES OF YOUNG PEOPLE IN COLORADO

Marijuana is the Number 1 substance now found in suicides of young people in Colorado who are 10-19 years old. Go to the below Colorado website and click on the box that lists “methods, circumstances and toxicology” and then click on the two boxes for 10-19 years olds. The marijuana data will appear.

https://cohealthviz.dphe.state.co.us/t/HSEBPublic/views/CoVDRS_12_1_17/Story1?:embed=y&:showAppBanner=false&:showShareOptions=true&:display_count=no&:showVizHome=no#4)

55% OF COLORADO MARIJUANA USERS THINK IT’S SAFE TO DRIVE WHILE HIGH

55% of marijuana users surveyed by the Colorado Department of Transportation last November said they believed it was safe to drive under the influence of marijuana. Within that group, the same percentage said they had driven high in the past 30 days, on average 12 times. A recent analysis of federal traffic fatality data by the Denver Post found that the number of Colorado drivers involved in fatal crashes who tested positive for marijuana has doubled since 2013.

CDOT survey: More than half of Colorado marijuana users think it’s safe to drive while high

TODDLERS WITH LUNG INFLAMMATION

In Colorado one in six infants and toddlers hospitalized for lung inflammation are testing positive for marijuana exposure. This has been a 100% increase since legalization (10% to 21%). Non-white kids are more likely to be exposed than white kids.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160430100247.htm

TEEN ER VISITS

Marijuana related emergency room visits by Colorado teens is substantially on the rise. They see more kids with psychotic symptoms and other mental health problems and chronic vomiting due to marijuana use.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-marijuana-kids/marijuana-related-er-visits-by-colorado-teens-on-the-rise-idUSKBN1HO38A

LOW BIRTH WEIGHTS

The Colorado School of Public Health reports that there is a 50% increase in low birth weights among women who use marijuana during pregnancy. Low birth weight sets the stage for future

health problems including infection and time spent in neonatal intensive care.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180423125052.htm

EMERGENCY CARE

Colorado Cannabis Legalization and Its Effect on Emergency Care

“Not surprisingly, increased marijuana use after legalization has been accompanied by an increase in the number of ED visits and hospitalizations related to acute marijuana intoxication. Retrospective data from the Colorado Hospital Association, a consortium of more than 100 hospitals in the state, has shown that the prevalence of hospitalizations for marijuana exposure in patients aged 9 years and older doubled after the legalization of medical marijuana and that ED visits nearly doubled after the legalization of recreational marijuana, although these findings may be limited because of stigma surrounding disclosure of marijuana use in the prelegalization era. However, this same trend is reflected in the number of civilian calls to the Colorado poison control center. In the years after both medical and recreational marijuana legalization, the call volume for marijuana exposure doubled compared with that during the year before legalization.

Kim HS, Monte AA. Colorado cannabis legalization and its effect on emergency care. Ann Emerg Med. 2016;68:71-75.

https://search.aol.com/aol/search?q=http%3a%2f%2fcolorado%2520cannabis%2520legalization%2520and%2520its%2520effect%2520on%2520emergency%2520care%2e&s_it=loki-dnserror

CONTAMINATION OF MARIJUANA PRODUCTS

There is contamination in marijuana products in Colorado. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment claims that “Cannabis is a novel industry, and currently, no recognized standard methods exist for the testing of cannabis or cannabis products.”

https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/marijuana-sciences-reference-library

The medical marijuana market is in a downward spiral as businesses, lured by big money, shift to recreational

At the height of the medical marijuana industry there were 420 dispensaries in Oregon. Now there are only eight.

In 2015, Erich Berkovitz opened his medical marijuana processing company, PharmEx, with the intention of getting sick people their medicine. His passion stemmed from his own illness. Berkovitz has Tourette syndrome, which triggers ticks in his shoulder that causes chronic pain. Cannabis takes that away.

Yet in the rapidly changing marijuana landscape, PharmEx is now one of three medical-only processors left in the entire state of Oregon.

On the retail end, it’s also grim. At the height of the medical marijuana industry in 2016, there were 420 dispensaries in Oregon available to medical cardholders. Today, only eight are left standing and only one of these medical dispensaries carries Berkovitz’s products.

Ironically, Oregon’s medical marijuana market has been on a downward spiral since the state legalized cannabis for recreational use in 2014. The option of making big money inspired many medical businesses to go recreational, dramatically shifting the focus away from patients to consumers. In 2015, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) took over the recreational industry. Between 2016 and 2018, nine bills were passed that expanded consumer access to marijuana while changing regulatory procedures on growing, processing and packaging.

In the shuffle, recreational marijuana turned into a million-dollar industry in Oregon, while the personalized patient-grower network of the medical program quietly dried up.

Now, sick people are suffering.

“For those patients that would need their medicine in an area that’s opted out of recreational sales, and they don’t have a grower or they’re not growing on their own, it does present a real access issue for those individuals,” said André Ourso, an administrator for the Center for Health Protection at the Oregon Health Authority. The woes of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) were outlined in a recently published report by the Oregon Health Authority. The analysis found the program suffers from “insufficient and inaccurate reporting and tracking,” “inspections that did not keep pace with applications”, and “insufficient funding and staffing”.

Operating outside of Salem, Oregon, PharmEx primarily makes extracts – a solid or liquid form of concentrated cannabinoids. Through his OMMP-licensed supply chain, he gets his high dose medicine to people who suffer from cancer, Crohn’s, HIV and other autoimmune diseases. Many are end-of-life patients.

These days, most recreational dispensaries sell both consumer and medical products, which are tax-free for cardholders. The problem for Berkovitz is that he’s only medically licensed. This means recreational dispensaries can’t carry his exacts. Legally, they can

only sell products from companies with an OLCC license. Since issuing almost 1,900 licenses, the OLCC has paused on accepting new applications until further notice.

Limits on THC – a powerful active ingredient in cannabis products – are also an issue, according to Berkovitz. With the dawn of recreational dispensaries, the Oregon Health Authority began regulating THC content. A medical edible, typically in the form of a sweet treat, is now capped at 100mg THC, which Berkovitz says is not enough for a really sick person.

“If you need two 3000mg a day orally and you’re capped at a 100mg candy bar, that means you need 20 candy bars, which cost $20 a pop,” he said. “So you’re spending $400 a day to eat 20 candy bars.”

“The dispensaries never worked for high dose patients, even in the medical program,” continued Berkovitz. “What worked was people who grew their own and were able to legally process it themselves, or go to a processor who did it at a reasonable rate.”

But with increased processing and testing costs, and a decrease on the number of plants a medical grower can produce, patients are likely to seek cannabis products in a more shadowy place – the black market.

“All the people that we made these laws for – the ones who are desperately ill – are being screwed right now and are directed to the black market,” said Karla Kay, the chief of operations at PharmEx.

Kay, who also holds a medical marijuana card for her kidney disease, said some patients she knows have resorted to buying high dose medical marijuana products illegally from local farmers markets – in a state that was one of the first to legally establish a medical cannabis industry back in 1998.

Moreover, the networks between medical patients, growers and processors have diminished.

The OMMP maintains a record of processors and the few remaining dispensaries, but no published list of patients or grow sites – a privacy right protected under Oregon law, much to the chagrin of law enforcement.

According to the Oregon Health Authority’s report, just 58 of more than 20,000 medical growers were inspected last year.

In eastern Oregon’s Deschutes county, the sheriff’s office and the district attorney have repeatedly requested the location of each medical marijuana grower in their county. They’ve been consistently denied by the Oregon Health Authority.

Recently, the sheriff has gone as far as hiring a detective to focus solely on enforcing marijuana operations.

“There is an overproduction of marijuana in Oregon and the state doesn’t have adequate resources to enforce the laws when it comes to recreational marijuana, medical marijuana, as well as ensuring the growth of hemp is within the THC guidelines,” said the Deschutes sheriff, Shane Nelson. As of last February, the state database logged 1.1m pounds of cannabis flower, as reported by the Willamette Week in April. That’s three times what residents buy in a year, which means the excess is slipping out of the regulated market. To help curb the trend, senate bill 1544 was passed this year to funnel part of the state’s marijuana tax revenues into the Criminal Justice Commission and provide the funding needed to go after the black market, especially when it comes to illicit Oregon weed being smuggled to other states. The program’s priority is “placed on rural areas with lots of production and diversion, and little law enforcement”, said Rob Bovett, the legal counsel with the Association of Oregon Counties, who crafted the bill.

In a May 2018 memo on his marijuana enforcement priorities, Billy J Williams, a US attorney for the district of Oregon, noted that “since broader legalization took effect in 2015, large quantities of marijuana from Oregon have been seized in 30 states, most of which continue to prohibit marijuana.”

As of 1 July, however, all medical growers that produce plants for three or more patients – about 2,000 growers in Oregon – must track their marijuana from seed-to-sale using the OLCC’s Cannabis Tracking System.

Berkovitz, however, is looking to cut out the middle man (namely dispensaries) to keep PharmEx afloat. “The only way the patients are going to have large, high doses of medicine is if we revive the patient-grower networks. They need to communicate with each other. No one’s going to get rich, but everybody involved will get clean medicine from the people they trust at a more affordable rate.”

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jul/31/oregon-cannabis-medical-marijuana-problems-sick-people

There are several principal pathways to inheritable genotoxicity, mutagenicity and teratogenes is induced by cannabis which are known and well established at this time including the following.
These three papers discuss different aspects of these effects.

1) Stops Brain Waves and Thinking The brain has both stimulatory and inhibitory pathways.  GABA is the main brain inhibitory pathway. Brain centres talk to each other on gamma (about 40 cycles/sec) and theta frequencies (about 5 cycles/sec), where the theta waves are  used as the carrier waves for the gamma wave which then interacts like harmonics in music.
The degree to which the waves are in and out of phase carries information which can be  monitored externally. GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid) inhibition is key to the generation of the synchronized firing which underpins these various brain oscillations. These GABA transmissions are controlled presynaptically by type 1 cannabinoid receptors (CB1R’s) and CB1R stimulation shuts them down. This is why cannabis users forget and fall asleep.

2) Blocks GABA Pathway and Brain Formation GABA is also a key neurotransmitter in  brain formation in that it guides and direct neural stem cell formation and transmission and development and growth of the cerebral cortex and other major brain areas. Gamma and theta  brain waves also direct neural stem cell formation, sculpting and connectivity.

Derangements then of GABA physiology imply that the brain will not form properly. Thin frontal cortical  plate measurements have been shown in humans prenatally exposed to cannabis by fMRI.
This implies that their brains can never be structurally normal which then explains the long  lasting and persistent defects identified into adulthood.

3) Epigenetic Damage DNA not only carries the genetic hardware of our genetic code but it also carries the software of the code which works like traffic lights along the sequence of DNA bases to direct when to switch the genes on and off. This is known as the “epigenetic code”.

Fetal alcohol syndrome is believed to be due to damage to the software epigenetic code. The long lasting intellectual, mood regulation, attention and concentration defects which have been described after in utero cannabis exposure in the primary, middle and high schools and as college age young adults are likely due to these defects. Epigenetics “sets in stone” the errors of brain structure made in (2) above.

4) Arterial Damage. Cannabis has a well described effect to damage arteries through (CB1R’s) (American Heart Association 2007) which they carry in high concentration (Nature Reviews Cardiology 2018). In adults this causes heart attack (500% elevation in the first hour after smoking), stroke, severe cardiac arrhythmias including sudden cardiac death; but in developing babies CB1R’s acting on the developing heart tissues can lead to at least six major cardiac defects (Atrial- ventricular- and mixed atrio-ventricular and septal defects, Tetralogy of Fallot, Epstein’s deformity amongst others), whilst constriction of various babies’ arteries can lead to serious side effects such as gastroschisis (bowels hanging out) and possibly absent limbs (in at least one series).

5) Disruption of Mitotic Spindle. When cells divide the separating chromosomes actually slide along “train tracks” which are long chains made of tubulin. The tubulin chains are called “microtubules” and the whole football-shaped structure is called a “mitotic spindle”. Cannabis inhibits tubulin formation, disrupting microtubules and the mitotic spindle causing the separating chromosomes to become cut off in tiny micronuclei, where they eventually become smashed up and pulverized into “genetic junk”, which leads to foetal malformations, cancer and cell death. High rates of Down’s syndrome, chromosomal anomalies and cancers in cannabis exposed babies provide clinical evidence of this.

6) Defective Energy Generation & Downstream DNA Damage DNA is the crown jewel of the cell and its most complex molecule. Maintaining it in good repair is a very energy intensive process. Without energy DNA cannot be properly maintained. Cannabis has been known to reduce cellular energy production by the cell’s power plants, mitochondria, for many decades now. This has now been firmly linked with increased DNA damage, cancer formation and aging of the cells and indeed the whole organism. As it is known to occur in eggs and sperm, this will also damage the quality of the germ cells which go into forming the baby and lead directly to damaged babies and babies lost and wasted through spontaneous miscarriage and therapeutic termination for severe deformities.

7) Cancer induction Cannabis causes 12 cancers and has been identified as a carcinogen by the California Environmental Protection agency (2009). This makes it also a mutagen. 4 of these cancers are inheritable to children; i.e. inheritable carcinogenicity and mutagenicity. All four studies in testicular cancer are strongly positive (elevation by three fold). Carcinogen = mutagen = teratogen.

8) Colorado’s Teratology Profile. From the above described teratological profile we would expect exactly the profile of congenital defects which have been identified in Colorado (higher total defects and heart defects, and chromosomal defects) and Ottawa in Canada (long lasting and persistent brain damage seen on both functional testing and fMRI brain scans in children exposed in utero) where cannabis use has become common.

Gastroschisis was shown to be higher in all seven studies looking at this; and including in Canada, carefully controlled studies. Moreover in Australia, Canada, North Carolina, Colorado, Mexico and New Zealand, gastroschisis and sometimes other major congenital defects cluster where cannabis use is highest. Colorado 2000-2013 has experienced an extra 20,152 severely abnormal births above the rates prior to cannabis liberalization which if applied to the whole USA would equate to more than 83,000 abnormal babies live born annually (and probably about that number again therapeutically aborted); actually much more since both the number of users and concentration of cannabis have risen sharply since 2013, and cannabis has been well proven to be much more severely genotoxic at higher doses.

9) Cannabidiol is also Genotoxic and tests positive in many genotoxicity assays, just as tetrahydrocannabinol does.

10) Births defects registry data needs to be open and transparent and public. At present it is not. This looks too much like a cover up.

Source: Email from Dr Stuart Reece to Drug Watch International members May 2018

Eleonora Patsenker, Ph.D. and Felix Stickel, M.D., Ph.D.

Mounting evidence indicates that the endocannabinoid (EC) system (ECS) plays an important role in various liver diseases including viral hepatitis, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), alcoholic liver disease, hepatic encephalopathy, and autoimmune hepatitis. The ECS also impacts on involved processes such as hepatic hemodynamics, nutrient intake and turnover, and ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) after liver transplantation. Although this involvement is undisputed, therapeutic implications regarding the ECS are just beginning to emerge; so far, no approved drug
acting specifically on the ECS is available.

Source: https://aasldpubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/cld.527 2016

 

 

Source:

http://www.pnas.org/content/109/40/E2657

July 2012

Featuring Thomas Kosten, MD,
Professor and the Jay H. Waggoner Endowed Chair in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine
Dr. Mark Gold and Dr. Thomas Kosten discuss anti-drug vaccines to treat substance use and addiction.

Q – Congratulations on your career to date and most recent work. Can you explain the idea behind your anti-drug vaccines? Are there any of your papers you’d suggest the reader look at?
A – Abused drugs are far too small to produce antibody responses. The vaccines work by covalently attaching the abused drug to 20 to 30 exposed amino acids on a carrier protein such as tetanus toxoid and then injecting this vaccine into humans to produce antibodies to both the tetanus toxoid and to the abused drug, because the drug now “looks like” part of this toxoid.

Q – Is the idea to block the drug’s reinforcing effects? What about overdose effects? Are each of the vaccines specific to a single drug or class of drugs?
A – Yes, the antibodies block reinforcing effects, but a slower process like overdose is still possible unless the drug is typically taken in very small quantities when abused – such drugs include PCP and fentanyl. These vaccines are highly specific to a class of drugs and have limited cross-reactivity.

Q – What happens if the drug abused is cocaine? Heroin? How would this be preferable to methadone or buprenorphine? Naltrexone?
A – For opiates, naltrexone is a better choice as a broad-spectrum blocker, but it does not effectively block the super-agonists related to fentanyl. However, these high potency agents are ideal targets for vaccine development, which is underway.

Q – How long would a single antidrug vaccine treatment last?
A – These antibodies persist at high levels for about three months and then require a booster vaccination about every three months.

Q – Are there risks that would prevent vaccination of women? Other risks? Adverse effects?
A – There are no specific risks from these tetanus toxoid based vaccines for women, since tetanus vaccine is even given to pregnant women. The antibodies cross over the placenta so that the fetus would also be protected.

Q – Are any approved for use? Why?
A – None are approved for use by the FDA because they have not met the criteria set for efficacy with either cocaine or nicotine. There have been no safety concerns, and a cocaine vaccine, particularly combined with the enhanced cholinesterase, would be the most likely to meet FDA efficacy standards relatively easily.

Q – Many experts think that the current opioid epidemic will be followed by a cocaine epidemic. What treatments exist for a cocaine-dependent patient or those presenting to an ED with a cocaine overdose? Are you developing for cocaine overdose? Cocaine addictions?
A – As suggested above, yes, we have a new and much more potent cocaine vaccine than we previously tested, but we need funds to move it forward. This vaccine combined with the Teva or other enhanced cholinesterases (Indivior also has one) would prevent overdoses.

Q – What about methamphetamine?
A – We have a methamphetamine vaccine and hope to have it in humans within a year or so, if our funding continues from NIDA.

Q – What kinds of studies are you doing right now? Planning?
A – The studies are all in animals with methamphetamine, cocaine, nicotine and fentanyl vaccines using a highly effective new adjuvant that has been used in humans at 50 times the dose needed for raising our antibody levels up to sevenfold higher than our previous cocaine vaccine.

Q – Anything else to add?
A – You covered it all, just send money. This is a difficult area for getting venture capital as well as NIDA funds to manufacture and get initial FDA approval to use these vaccines in humans.

Source: Email from Mark Gold, MD <donotreply@rivermendhealth.com>  September 2017

As of yesterday, it’s now legal for adults in California to purchase recreational marijuana. This is being hailed as a breakthrough against marijuana prohibition, but the masses of would-be pot smokers in California seem to carry a popular delusion that rests on the false idea that marijuana is safe to smoke in unlimited quantities because it’s “natural.”

As much as I disdain prohibition against any medicinal plant — and I’m convinced the “War on Drugs” was a miserable failure — I have news for all those who smoke pot: Smoking anything is a health risk because you’re inhaling a toxic stew of carcinogens produced in the smoke itself. Whether you’re smoking pot or tobacco, you’re still poisoning yourself with the very kind of carcinogens that promote lung cancer, heart disease, accelerated aging and cognitive decline.

Just because cannabis is now legal to smoke in California doesn’t mean it’s a wise habit to embrace. (There’s also a much better way to consume cannabis: Liquid form for oral consumption, as explained below…)

California, which increasingly seems to be operating in a delusional fairy tale bubble on every issue from immigration to transgenderism, believes the legalization of recreational marijuana is a breakthrough worth celebrating. “The dispensary staff cheered as hundreds stood in line outside the club, waiting to shop and celebrate,” reports SF Gate. “At some shops, the coming-out party was expected to feature live music, coffee and doughnuts, prizes for those first in line and speeches from supportive local politicians…”

Because, y’know, in a state that’s being overrun by illegal aliens, the junk science of “infinite genders” and university mobs of climate change cultists, what’s really needed is a whole new wave of lung cancer victims to add even more burden to the state’s health care costs. Genius! Gov. Brown should run for President or something…

Inhale some more pesticides and see how “natural” you feel

Sadly, many pro-cannabis consumers in California have convinced themselves that Big Tobacco is evil, but smoking pot is safe and natural… even “green.” Yet the cold hard truth of the matter it that marijuana in California is often produced with a toxic cocktail of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Yep, the very same people who buy “organic” at the grocery store are now smoking and inhaling cancer-causing weed grown with conventional pesticides. These are the same people who are concerned about 1 ppb of glyphosate in their Cheerios while simultaneously smoking 1,000 ppb of Atrazine in their weed. But science be damned, there’s a bong and a gas mask handy. Smoke up!

California pot has already been scientifically proven to be shockingly contaminated. A whopping “…93 percent of samples collected by KNBC-TV from 15 dispensaries in four Southern California counties tested positive for pesticides,” reports the UK Daily Mail, which also reports:

That may come as a surprise for consumers who tend to trust what’s on store shelves because of federal regulations by the US Agriculture Department or the US Food and Drug Administration. ‘Unfortunately, that’s not true of cannabis,’ Land said. ‘They wrongly assume it’s been tested for safety.’

I suppose all the science in the world is irrelevant when you have a mob of people who just want to get high. These are the same people who will March Against Monsanto, but they won’t even buy pesticide-free weed that they’re inhaling.

Edible cannabis products often contain toxic solvents, too

It’s not just the pesticides in weed that are a major concern: Edible pot products also frequently contain traces of toxic solvents such as hexane. Because of the shocking lack of regulation of cannabis product production in places like Colorado, many small-scale producers are using insanely dangerous solvents to extract CBD, THC and other molecules from raw cannabis plants. Those solvents include:

  • Hexane (a highly explosive solvent also used by the soy industry to extract soy protein)
  • IPA (isopropyl alcohol, which causes permanent nerve damage if you drink it)
  • Gasoline (also used to extract heroin in Third World countries)

Anyone who thinks consuming these solvents is somehow “healthy” may have already suffered extensive brain damage from consuming those solvents. Yet edible cannabis products are almost universally looked upon as health-enhancing products, often with no thought given whatsoever to the pesticides, solvents or other toxins they may contain. (Some shops do conduct lab testing of their products, so if you’re going to consume these products, make sure you get lab-tested cannabis products.)

In essence, the very same state where “progressives” have now come to believe there are an infinite number of genders — and that global warming causes extremely cold weather — have now embraced a delusional fairy tale about the imagined safety of consuming cannabis. All the news about the health benefits of cannabis only seems to have made the delusion worse: Some people now perceive smoking weed as a form of nutritional supplementation. They’ve even made it part of their holistic lifestyles, in a twisted kind of way.

But what California has actually unleashed with all this is a whole new wave of:

  • Heart disease
  • Lung cancer
  • Cognitive decline
  • Accelerated aging
  • Increased health care costs state-wide

Check with your friends in California and you’ll find that they have little to no awareness of the devastating health consequences of long-term pot smoking. It’s not going to turn you into a raging lunatic as depicted in Refer Madness, but it is going to expose your lungs, bloodstream and brain to a shockingly toxic stew of cell-damaging carcinogens. That gives pot smoke many of the same health risks as cigarette smoke.

So what’s the right answer on all this? If you want to stay healthy, stop smoking cannabis. Take it in liquid form instead.

The safer option: Liquid cannabis extracts

Liquid cannabis extracts are not only far safer to consume (because they don’t contain toxic carcinogens found in smoke); they also contain a far more diverse composition of cannabinoids.

CBD-A, for example, the carboxylic acid form of cannabidiol, is destroyed by heat. This means that when you smoke cannabis, you’re not getting any CBD-A, even if it’s naturally present in the plant. The heat of the incineration destroys it before you inhale.

The same is true with THC-A and other carboxylic acid forms of cannabinoids. In fact, cannabis extracts that are heated to destroy those components are called “decarboxylated” or just “de-carbed” for short. Lighting up a joint and burning the cannabis as you inhale actually destroys many of the more medicinal components of cannabis.

Taking cannabis extracts orally, on the other hand, gives you the full complement of all the cannabinoids, terpenes and other constituents… without the health risks associated with inhaling smoke.

The cannabis extract brand that we test and certify in our lab to meet or exceed label claims is called Native Hemp Solutions. It’s a whole-plant extract that maintains the natural cannabinoids and other constituents found in the living plant. Because it’s not an isolate, its molecules work synergistically to provide a more profound effect.

Liquid forms of cannabis are vastly superior to cannabis smoke in terms of their synergistic phytonutrients (chemical constituents). While smoking marijuana provides a more rapid assimilation of THC into your bloodstream, the oral form of cannabis extracts actually provide a vastly more diverse array of nutrients, many of which are being studied for therapeutic use.

That’s why I don’t smoke cannabis. In fact, the only cannabis I consume is high-CBD, near-zero-THC liquid forms. That’s because I don’t want to give myself lung cancer or heart disease as a side effect of consuming a cannabis product.

Smoking pot isn’t harmless: Think rationally about the way to ingest cannabis molecules

The bottom line here is that I want to encourage you to think carefully about the vectors through which you introduce cannabis molecules into your body. Smoking pot is rapid but carries long-term health risks due to carcinogenic smoke that you’re inhaling. I’m thrilled that California finally decriminalized this healing plant, but the fanfare surrounding the change in the law almost seems to be a celebration of smoking, which is a truly hazardous habit no matter what you’re smoking.

Oral forms are vastly superior in terms of ingesting the full array of nutrients, and some people on the extreme end of the spectrum actually use cannabis suppositories for a rapid effect that doesn’t involve damaging the lungs. Personally, I’m happy with taking CBD oils as a dietary supplement for the simple reason that I don’t ingest cannabis to get high; I ingest it for its health supporting effects.

Now, let us hope Jeff Sessions and the feds can finally get around to ending marijuana prohibition, too. It’s time to end the senseless war on this promising natural herb, but we must also think carefully about the ways we ingest it.

Source: https://www.naturalnews.com/2018-01-01-california-legalize-pot-smokers-cannabis-contaminated-pesticides-mold-heavy-metals.html

A warning about life-threatening bleeding linked to use of synthetic cannabinoids — commonly known as fake weed or spice — was issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday after two deaths and dozens of patients appearing in ERs with serious unexplained bleeding.

A total of 94 people — 89 in Illinois, two in Indiana and one each in Maryland, Missouri and Wisconsin — were seen in emergency departments with heavy bleeding between March 10 and April 5, according to the CDC outbreak alert.
Both of the fatalities occurred in Illinois. Interviews with 63 of the Illinois patients revealed that all had used synthetic cannabinoids.
Synthetic cannabinoids are mind-altering chemicals that are made in a lab and sold either sprayed on shredded plant material so it can be smoked like marijuana or as liquid that can be vaporized in e-cigarettes. “Fake weed” products are marketed in shiny packages with hundreds of brand names, including Spice, K2, Joker, Black Mamba, Kush and Kronic.
At least three product samples in the latest outbreak tested positive for brodifacoum — rat poison — and further laboratory tests confirmed this exposure in at least 18 of the Illinois patients.
“A working hypothesis is the synthetic cannabinoids were contaminated with brodifacoum,” according to the CDC.

‘Huge number of toxic effects’

“This is the first time bleeding has ever been associated with synthetic cannabinioids,” said Professor Paul L. Prather of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Arkansas’ College of Medicine, who was not involved in the CDC report. “It is certainly possible that the bleeding issues … might be due to products laced with the rat poison brodifacoum.”
However, he suggests that these adverse effects might be caused by an as-yet-unidentified synthetic cannabinoid chemical.
Specifically, this newest synthetic cannabinoid chemical could be derived from coumarin, a special class of chemical compounds, he believes.
A latecomer among synthetic cannabinoids, coumarin derivatives were first identified in a 2012 Journal of Medicinal Chemistry paper. This class of chemicals activates the cannabinoid receptors inthe brain while acting as anticoagulants or blood thinners. Warfarin and phenprocoumon, blood clot-preventing drugs prescribed to heart patients to protect them from getting heart attacks, are coumarin derivatives.
Although bleeding, seen for the first time in Illinois, is a “whole other can of worms,” Prather said, “there’s a huge number of toxic effects of synthetic cannabinoids.”
“They produce a lot of neurological side effects. Seizures actually bring people into emergency departments a lot of the time,” he said. Other important neurological side effects include psychosis, panic attacks, agitation, confusion and catatonia.
“Young patients will come in with acute renal or kidney failure,” he said. There are also troubling effects on the heart (chest pain and hypertension) and, recently, gastrointestinal problems and hyperemesis syndrome: an extreme amount of vomiting.
So why all the side effects?

‘Guinea pigs’

“What happens with the synthetic cannabinoid clandestine laboratories is, they’re very smart people, and they look at these papers and they go, ‘Oh, this compound has been developed, and it binds to these [cannabinoid] receptors, so if I produce this in my lab, I can probably sell this, because when people take it, it will probably produce euphoria like marijuana does,’ ” Prather explained.
Yet, he said, the compounds the clandestine scientists create — even when the formulas come from a published scientific paper — are “totally unknown chemicals.” Plus, there’s a lack of quality control.
“These drugs are made in a clandestine lab. Who knows what kind of contaminants are in this laboratory, and who knows from batch to batch how much of the chemical is actually made” — or the concentration of each chemical made, Prather added. One synthetic weed product might be four specific chemicals of a weak concentration, but the next time you buy the same product, it might be five chemicals of high concentration.
“If you’ve ever been to a drug company, they have the most rigid quality control you can imagine,” Prather said. Plus, there’s a lot of testing to ensure safety. “Believe me, in the drug industry, you kill a lot of rats and you kill a lot of mice before you get to the point of that final drug.”
Drug users are “the guinea pigs and the rats and the mice for the development of these compounds,” Prather said. “It’s really kind of crazy.”
At the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Ruben Baler, a health scientist administrator, is getting the word out about the dangers of synthetic cannabinoids by speaking at conferences, giving lectures across the nation and talking with reporters.
He believes that “the perception of harm is going up and usage is going down, at least among teenagers.”
In fact, American Association of Poison Control Centers data indicates a decreasing number of exposures to synthetic cannabinoids reported between 2011 and 2017. Poison control centers across the country received 6,968 calls about these drugs in 2011, compared with 1,952 in 2017. As of March 31, there have been 462 reports this year.
“I don’t see an explosion of use among young people,” Baler said. Mostly, those who gravitate toward synthetic cannabinoids are “marginalized people,” including the homeless and those affected by mental illness, he said. “That’s where you see the deaths so far.”
Enforcement of the law is not the role played by the National Institute on Drug Abuse; that role is played by the Drug Enforcement Administration, whose spokesman, Rusty Payne, says synthetic cannabinoids are designed for one reason only: “to get your credit card, get you high and addicted, and keep you coming back for more.”

Links to terrorism

The DEA first encountered synthetic cannabinoids about 2006, Payne said.
In 2012, the US government passed the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act, which classified a number of “designer drugs,” including synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic hallucinogens, under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act — meaning they have no accepted medical use and high potential for abuse.
Synthetic cannabinoids are made mainly in labs in China and mostly distributed online or at gas station convenience stores. “It used to be open shelf, but now this stuff is in the back,” Payne said.
“Ten-plus years of these problems,” he said. Despite the constantly changing chemical formulas, synthetic cannabinoids are considered illegal. Still, “that doesn’t mean it’s easy to prosecute,” he said.
“Terrorists are increasingly turning to drug trafficking to finance their operations,” Payne, said, adding that the DEA has seen “significant amount of money transfers” into the Middle East of late, including Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and areas of unrest that are “financial system black holes.” Cash from synthetic cannabinoids, in particular, is flowing to these nations.
Drug users who turn to synthetic cannabinoids are playing Russian roulette, Payne said. They are dangerous and even life-threatening, as the CDC reports. His thoughts are echoed by Baler and Prather, who added, “You hope you’re getting euphoria, but who knows what else you’re going to get?”

“Permission empowered models of drug policy interpretation are driving demand for drug use – NOT prohibition models. The ‘law’ is not what ruins lives, it’s those who tear down that protective fence to simply ‘get wasted’, that do that!”

“Acceptability – Accessibility – Availability, all increase consumption!”  D.I
__________________________________________________________________

It is certainly no surprise that the pro-drug, cannabis promoting lobby, manifesting itself through The Greens, continue to employ tired mantras that:

  • deny science,
  • ignore best health-care practice and
  • propagandize harms away, with promises of tax revenues!

Here’s the first anomaly: the same lobbyists rail against alcohol harms and seek to limit the pervasive nature of this ‘legal’ drug – to the point of even stating; ‘If alcohol was bought to market for the first time today, it would be prohibited/banned!” Yet in breathtaking cognitive dissonance they want to unleash cannabis into the same promotable arena that alcohol and tobacco occupy – legal entitlement!

The second anomaly is: the tobacco fiasco – millions of dollars where spent on keeping/promoting cigarettes as not only legal and socially acceptable, but even healthy for you. Billions has been spent over the last 50 years dealing with the health outcomes of this drug – and then Billions more spent on driving this legal drug into the pariah space that is pseudo-prohibition!

Make no mistake, the cannabis industry and those promoting its regulation is just Big Tobacco all over again, but with new and greater levels of pernicious harms.

The active push to normalise and legitimise Cannabis for ‘recreational’ use has been in play since late 70’s with Richard Cowen, a former Director of NORML (National Organisation for Reform of Marijuana Laws), going on public record (speaking at 1993 conference celebrating the 50 year anniversary of the discovery of LSD) stating “The key to it [legalizing marijuana for recreational use] is to have 100’s of thousands of people using it ‘medically’ under medical supervision, the whole scam is going to be blown. Once there is medical access and we do what we continually have to do, and we will, then we will get full legalisation!”

The National Drug Strategy

The latest National Drug Strategy 2017-26, now puts Demand Reduction as the priority!
The strategy states that “Harm Minimisation includes a range of approaches to help prevent and reduce drug related problems…including a focus on abstinence-oriented strategies [Harm minimisation] policy approach does not condone drug use.” (page 6)

Prevention of uptake reduces personal, family and community harms, allow better use of health and law enforcement resources, generates substantial social and economic benefits and produces a healthier workforce. Demand Reduction strategies that prevent drug use are more cost effective than treating established drug-related problems…Strategies that delay the onset of use prevent longer term harms and costs to the community.” (page 8)

We need to be reducing demand for cannabis, not increasing it through the undermining of both demand and supply reduction pillars in our National Drug Strategy!

Is the de-facto legalisation and ‘regulation’ of cannabis going to reduce demand, supply and harm, or will it promote/permit the same and to an even wider cohort?

If we have a regulated market for recreational Cannabis, will the already law-breaking and recalcitrant users suddenly line up to pay for, a now taxed product? We have seen the ‘black’ or ‘grey’ market on decriminalised prostitution continue alongside the now regulated industry for the simple reason that people do not want to pay more or be regulated as we are now seeing in the US State of Colorado!

Let us cut through the propagandised mantras about the so called ‘benign nature’ of this plant that buries evidence-based data with emotionalism and ‘big dollar’ revenue rhetoric.
 
“If one was to read at least three academically sourced evidence-based articles/resources on the inherent physical, psychological, environmental, genetic, social, productivity, familial & community Harms of this drug, every single day of the year for 10 years, you will still not have read half the current data on the dangers/risks of Cannabis.” D.I
Submission to the Canadian Senate Standing Committee on Health – for their consideration and review of Bill C.45.2017

The following is but a snapshot of those harms:

  • Both cannabis intoxication and withdrawal have been linked with violence and homicide including mass shootings.
  • Effect on developing brains 1-15
  • Effect on driving 16-26
  • Effect on developmental trajectory and failure to attain normal adult goals (stable relationship, work, education) 17,31-43
  • Effect on IQ and IQ regression 13,44-48
  • Effect to increase numerous psychiatric and psychological disorders 49-62
  • Effect on respiratory system 63-85
  • Effect on reproductive system 7,86-91
  • Effect in relation to immunity and immunosuppression 92-108
  • Effect of now very concentrated forms of cannabis, THC and CBD which are widely available 109,110
  • Outdated epidemiological studies which apply only to the era before cannabis became so potent and so concentrated 110.
  • At the cellular level cannabis and cannabinoids have been linked with decreased energy production from mitochondria 13-18,
  • Increased production of inflammation and reduced anti-oxidant defence 16,18,19;
  • Reduced enzymes involved in DNA repair 16; and increased errors of mitosis which occur due to disruption of the tubulin “rails” of the mitotic spindle 16,19-21 in such a way that chromosomes become left behind and eventually shatter under cellular stress 21,22;
  • Cannabis also stimulates the carcinogenic oncoproteins tumour protein isoform 2 and tumour protein D54 23,24;
  • Stimulation of lipoxygenase and thromboxane synthase can lead to clotting and coagulation 18.

Effect as a Gateway drug to other drug use including the opioid epidemic 27-30

The Colorado Chaos!

  • The legalisation of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact 2017
    • Colorado Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area released its latest report 2017
    • The 176-page report details the worsening impact of marijuana on Colorado, including:
    • A 66% increase in marijuana-related traffic deaths
    • A 12% increase in youth marijuana use in the past month
    • A 71% increase in adult marijuana use in the past month
    • A 72% increase in marijuana-related hospitalizations
    • A 139% increase in marijuana-related exposures
    • An 844% increase in parcels of marijuana seized in U.S. mail
    • An 11% increase in crime state-wide
    • Colorado now has more marijuana retail outlets (491) than McDonald’s (208) or Starbucks (392)
  • Colorado Governor: Cannabis legalisation was ‘reckless’ (Business Insider, 2014)
  • Crime rates have gone up, not down in Colorado – arrests of minorities in particular, are increasing.*
  • Black-market is flourishing – (people don’t want to pay tax under the ‘regulated’ system, so they chose the non-taxed black market product over the government endorsed product – now giving us at least two markets for supply.)*
  • Cartels now use shop fronts to peddle their product and their presence is growing.*
  • Youth use is increasing – even though poor data collection in attempting to hide such. * https://youtu.be/5mFglI7KEpI 
  • Colorado District Attorney: ‘Marijuana is gateway drug to homicide’:         

A Colorado district attorney drew attention this week after he pronounced marijuana to be a “gateway drug to homicide.” District Attorney Dan May came at a news conference Tuesday about a large black-market marijuana bust in the state. Thirteen people have been indicted

  • Marijuana X – The Documentary the ‘Industry’ doesn’t want you to see!
  • Cannabis Conundrum 100’s of articles on the inherent harms of Cannabis.

“It is estimated that there are at least 200,000 people dependent on cannabis in Australia, with one in ten people who try the drug at least once in their lifetime having problems ceasing use!  (2012) https://ndarc.med.unsw.edu.au/news/world-first-study-cannabis-withdrawal-management-drug      

  • This number has only increased, and this is all while the drug is still in its prohibition category. Permission models only increase access and use.

Call for greater accountability from proponents of Cannabis Legalisation – Time to put up or shut up!
How easy has it been in the past for legislators to present such incredibly irresponsible policy measures to unleash (via government approval) the use of Cannabis as a ‘recreational’ substance. It’s time to put your money where your mouth is.
We propose that those sponsoring/voting for such a change to our laws need to be held fiscally accountable for the costs of the harms done by their policies. As architects of a dangerous harm creating social experiment, who believe it to be in best interest of the entire community to, legalize, decriminalise, regulate or otherwise promote access/ entitlement to this drug, will then be fiscally accountable for the significant and broad ranging harms that will be incurred by our society as a result.

Any legislation passing that enables further entitlement to cannabis/marijuana should include the names and political parties who sponsor these drug use liberalisation groups. The legislation must include that all costs of harms for said legislation must pay for the negative outcomes – all health, social and welfare costs incurred.  The monitoring and measuring of all aforementioned harms due to the liberalization of cannabis will be tallied and annual invoices to levied to Political Parties and individuals promoting such measures, for their remittance. If such accountabilities were in place, proponents would definitely think twice before being so outrageous in their claim.
It’s time to get serious about the drug issue as we did with the Tobacco scourge. The War on Tobacco was long, but effective. It’s time we had a serious campaign (for the first time in 30 years) on illicit drugs.

We need, as with the QUIT Tobacco Campaign, One Focus – Once Message – One Voice in every key sector in the culture; Government – Education – Media – Policing – Community!
So, who is driving drug policy now – Drug users, or law abiding, best health practice and responsible citizens?
It’s time our legislators and policy makers cared more for the clear majority of families, children and the community who do not use, or want drug use in their community. Legislators risk looking as though they have succumbed to the highly manipulative, drug-affected minority to further harm the community. These manipulators attempt to assail the law, assault families and damage public health all with the cleverly crafted, weaponised activities of the local ‘pot-head’ or desperado, currently being given too much ‘oxygen’ in the public domain.

Communications Liaison

                        E: admin@drugfree.org.au E: drug-advice@daca.org.au 
P: 1300 975 002 M:0403 334 002
https://learnaboutsam.org/

Source: Email from The Dalgarno Institute <operations@dalgarnoinstitute.org.au> 

April 2018

Sydney Parliament House, 09.07.2018

Cannabis has been greatly oversold by a left leaning press controlled by globalist and centralist forces while its real and known dangers have not been given appropriate weight in the popular press. In particular its genotoxic and teratogenic potential on an unborn generation for the next hundred years has not been aired or properly weighed in popular forums.

These weighty considerations clearly take cannabis out of the realm of personal choice or individual freedoms and place it squarely in the realm of the public good and a matter with which the whole community is rightly concerned and properly involved.

Cannabinoids are a group of 400 substances which occur only in the leaves of the Cannabis sativa plant where they are used by the plants as toxins and poisons in natural defence against other plants and against herbivores.

Major leading world experts such as Dr Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse at NIH 1, Professor Wayne Hall, Previous Director of the Sydney Based National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at UNSW 2, and Health Canada 3 – amongst many others – are agreed that cannabis is linked with the following impressive lists of toxicities:

1) Cannabis is addictive, particularly when used by teenagers

2) Cannabis affects brain development

3) Cannabis is a gateway to other harder drug use

4) Cannabis is linked with many mental health disorders including anxiety, depression,

psychosis, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder

5) Cannabis alters and greatly impairs the normal developmental trajectory – getting a

job, finishing a course and forming a long term stable relationship 4-11

6) Cannabis impairs driving ability 12

7) Cannabis damages the lungs

8) Cannabis is immunosuppressive

9) Cannabis is linked with heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular disease

10) Cannabis is commonly more potent in recent years, with forms up to 30% being widely available in many parts of USA, and oils up to 100% THC also widely available.

Serious questions have also been raised about its involvement in 12 different cancers, increased Emergency Room presentations and exposures of developing babies during pregnancy. It is with this latter group that the present address is mainly concerned.

Basic Physiology and Embryology Cells make energy in dedicated organelles called mitochondria. Mitochondrial energy, in the form of ATP, is known to be involved in both DNA protection and control of the immune system. This means that when the cell’s ATP is high DNA maintenance is good and the genome is intact. When cellular ATP drops DNA maintenance is impaired, DNA breaks remain unsealed, and cancers can form. Also immunity is triggered by low ATP.

As organisms age ATP falls by half each 20 years after the age of 20. Mitochondria signal and shuttle to the cell nucleus via several pathways. Not only do cells carry cannabinoid receptors on their surface, but they also exist, along with their signalling machinery, at high density on mitochondria themselves 13-19. Cannabis, and indeed all addictive drugs, are known to impair this cellular energy generation and thus promote the biochemical aging process 14-16,19,20. Most addictions are associated with increased cancers, increased infections and increased clinical signs of ageing 21-34.

The foetal heart forms very early inside the mother with a heartbeat present from day 21 of human gestation. The heart forms by complicated pathways, and arises from more than six groups of cells inside the embryo 35,36. First two arteries come together, they fold, then flex and twist to give the final shape of the adult heart. Structures in the centre of the heart mass called endocardial cushions grow out to form the heart valves between the atria and ventricles and parts of the septum which grows between the two atria and ventricles. These cardiac cushions, and their associated conoventricular ridges which grow into and divide the cardiac outflow tract into left and right halves, all carry high density cannabinoid type 1 receptors (CB1R’s) and cannabis is known to be able to interfere with their growth and development.CB1R’s appear on foetal arteries from week nine of human gestation 37.

The developing brain grows out in a complex way in the head section 35,36. Newborn brain cells are born centrally in the area adjacent to the central ventricles of the brain and then migrate along pathways into the remainder of the brain, and grow to populate the cortex, parietal lobes, olfactory lobes, limbic system, hypothalamus and hippocampus which is an important area deep in the centre of the temporal lobes where memories first form.

Developing bipolar neuroblasts migrate along pathways and then climb out along 200 million guide cells, called radial glia cells, to the cortex of the brain where they sprout dendrites and a major central axon which are then wired in to the electrical network in a “use it or lose it”, “cells that fire together wire together” manner.

The brain continues to grow and mature into the 20’s as new neurons are born and surplus dendrites are pruned by the immune system. Cannabinoids interfere with cellular migration, cellular division, the generation of newborn neurons and all the classes of glia, axonal pathfinding, dendrite sprouting, myelin formation around axons and axon tracts and the firing of both inhibitory and stimulatory synapses 14-16,19,20,38-40. Cannabinoids interfere with gene expression directly, via numerous epigenetic means, and via immune perturbation.

Cannabinoids also disrupt the mechanics of cell division by disrupting the mitotic spindle on which chromosomal separation occurs, causing severe genetic damage and frank chromosomal mis-segregation, disruption, rupture and pulverization 41-43.

Cannabis was found to be a human carcinogen by the California Environmental Protection agency in 2009 44. This makes it a likely human teratogen (deforms babies). Importantly, while discussion continues over some cancers, it bears repeating that a positive association between cannabis and testicular cancer was found in all four studies which investigated this question 45-49.

Cannabis Teratogenesis

The best animal models for human malformations are hamsters and rabbits. In rabbits cannabis exhibits a severe spectrum of foetal abnormalities when applied at high dose including shortened limbs, bowels hanging out, spina bifida and exencephaly (brain hanging out). There is also impaired foetal growth and increased foetal loss and resorption 50,51.

Many of these features have been noted in human studies 52. In 2014 Centres for Disease Control Atlanta Georgia reported increased rates of anencephaly (no brain, usually rapid death) gastroschisis (bowels hanging out), diaphragmatic hernia, and oesophageal narrowing 53,54. The American Heart Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics reported in 2007 an increased rate of ventricular septal defect and an abnormality of the tricuspid valve (Ebstein’s anomaly) 55. Strikingly, a number of studies have shown that cannabis exposure of the father is worse than that of the mother 56. In Colorado atrial septal defect is noted to have risen by over 260% from 2000-2013 (see Figure 1; note close correlation (correlation coefficient R = 0.95, P value = 0.000066) between teenage cannabis use and rising rate of major congenital anomalies in Colorado to 12.7%, or 1 in 8 live births, a rate four times higher than the USA national average !) 57.

And three longitudinal studies following children exposed to cannabis in utero have consistently noted abnormalities of brain growth with smaller brains and heads – persisting into adult life – and deficits of cortical and executive functioning persistent throughout primary, middle and high schools and into young adult life in the early 20’s 58-63. An Australian MRI neuroimaging study noted 88% disconnection of cortical wiring from the splenium to precuneus which are key integrating and computing centres in the cerebral cortex 38,39,64. Chromosomal defects were also found to be elevated in Colorado (rose 30%) 57, in Hawaii 52 in our recent analysis of cannabis use and congenital anomalies across USA, and in infants presenting from Northern New South Wales to Queensland hospitals 65. And gastroschisis shows a uniform pattern of elevation in all recent studies which have examined it (our univariate meta-analysis) 52,54,66-71.

Interestingly the gastroschisis rate doubled in North Carolina in just three years 1997-2001 72, but rose 24 times in Mexico 73 which for a long time formed a principal supply source for Southern USA 74. Within North Carolina gastroschisis and congenital heart defects closely followed cannabis distribution routes 74-76. In Canada a remarkable geographical analysis by the Canadian Government has shown repeatedly that the highest incidence of all anomalies – including chromosomal anomalies – occurs in those northern parts where most cannabis is smoked 77,78.

Congenital anomalies forms the largest cause of death of babies in the first year of life. The biggest group of them is cardiovascular defects. Since cannabis affects several major classes
of congenital defects it is obviously a major human teratogen. Its heavy epigenetic footprint,
by which it controls gene expression by controlling DNA methylation and histone modifications 79-81, imply that its effects will be felt for the next three to four generations – that is the next 100 years 82,83. Equally obviously it is presently being marketed globally as a major commodity apparently for commercial – or ideological – reasons. Since cannabis is clearly contraindicated in several groups of people including:

1) Babies

2) Children

3) Adolescents

4) Car drivers

5) Commercial Drivers – Taxis, Buses, Trains,

6) Pilots of Aeroplanes

7) Workers – Manual Tools, Construction, Concentration Jobs

8) Children

9) Adolescents

10) Males of Reproductive age

11) Females of Reproductive age

12) Pregnancy

13) Lactation

14) Workers

15) Older People – Mental Illness

16) Immunosuppressed

17) Asthmatics – 80% Population after severe chest infection

18) People with Personal History of Cancer

19) People with Family History of Cancer

20) People with Personal History of Mental Illness

21) People with Family History of Mental Illness

22) Anyone or any population concerned about ageing effects 34

… cannabis legalization is not likely to be in the best interests of public health.

Concluding Remarks

In 1854 Dr John Snow achieved lasting public health fame by taking the handle off the Broad Street pump and saving east London from its cholera epidemic, based upon the maps he drew of where the cholera cases were occurring – in the local vicinity of the Broad Street pump.

Looking across the broad spectrum of the above evidence one notices a trulyremarkable concordance of the evidence between:

1) Preclinical studies in

i) Rabbits and

ii) Hamsters

2) Cellular and biological mechanisms, particularly relating to:

i) Brain development

ii) Heart development

iii) Blood vessel development

iv) Genetic development

v) Abnormalities of chromosomal segregation

i. Downs syndrome

ii. Turners syndrome

iii. Trisomy 18

iv. Trisomy 13

vi) Cell division / mitotic poison / micronucleus formation

vii) Epigenetic change

viii) Growth inhibition

3) 84Cross-sectional Epidemiological studies, especially from:

i) Canada 77,85

ii) USA 86,87

iii) Northern New South Wales 65,88 4) Longitudinal studies from 58:

i) Ottawa 59-63

ii) Pittsburgh

iii) Netherlands

Our studies of congenital defects in USA have also shown a close concordance of congenital anomaly rates for 23 defects with the cannabis use rate indexed for the rising cannabis concentration in USA, and mostly in the three major classes of brain defects, cardiovascular defects and chromosomal defects, just as found by previous investigators in Hawaii 52.

Of no other toxin to our knowledge can it be said that it interferes with brain growth and development to the point where the brain is permanently shrunken in size or does not form at all. The demonstration by CDC twice that the incidence of anencephaly (no brain) is doubled by cannabis 53,54 implies that anencephaly is the most severe end of the neurobehavioural teratogenicity of cannabis and forms one end of a continuum with all the other impairments which are implied by the above commentary.

(Actually when blighted ova, foetal resorptions and spontaneous abortion are included in the teratological profile anencephaly is not the most severe end of the teratological spectrum – that is foetal death). It is our view that with the recent advent of high dose potent forms of cannabis reaching the foetus through both maternal and paternal lines major and clinically significant neurobehavioural teratological presentations will become commonplace, and might well become all but universal in infants experiencing significant gestational exposure.

One can only wonder if the community has been prepared for such a holocaust and tsunami amongst its children?

It is the view of myself and my collaborators that these matters are significant and salient and should be achieving greater airplay in the public discussion proceeding around the world at this time on this subject.

Whilst cannabis legalization may line the pockets of the few it will clearly not be in the public interest in any sense; and indeed the public will be picking up the bill for this unpremeditated move for generations to come. Oddly – financial gain seems to be one of the primary drivers of the present transnational push. When the above described public health message gets out amongst ambitious legal fraternities, financial gain and the threat of major medico-legal settlements for congenital defects – will quickly become be the worst reason for cannabis legalization.

Indeed it can be argued that the legalization lobby is well aware of all of the above concerns – and their controlled media pretend debate does not allow such issues to air in the public forum. The awareness of these concerns is then the likely direct reason that cannabis requires its own legislation. As noted in the patient information leaflet for the recently approved Epidiolex (cannabidiol oil for paediatric fits) the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is well aware of the genotoxicity of cannabinoids.

The only possible conclusion therefore is that the public is deliberately being duped. To which our only defence will be to publicize the truth.

Source: Summary of Address to Sydney Parliament House, 09.07.2018 by Professor Dr. Stuart Reece, Clinical Associate Professor, UWA Medical School. University of Western Australia

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Tens of thousands of people are ending up in hospital with cannabis-related health problems, official figures have revealed.

There were 27,501 admissions linked to cannabis in England in 2016/17, a 15 per cent rise in just two years from 23,866 in 2014/15.

Labour MP Jeff Smith, who requested the figures on cannabis-related hospitalisations, said the large increase was ‘a concern’.

The influential medical journal The Lancet has just taken the unprecedented step of branding cannabis a ‘huge risk to health’.

Mr Smith, an ex-DJ who has admitted taking drugs, said: ‘It could be that the rise in hospital admissions is associated with rises in particular types of cannabis being used – street cannabis now tends to be more “skunk”.’

‘Skunk’ has a high concentration of the main psychoactive compound THC, which is strongly linked to increased risk of psychosis.

A recent study based on drugs seized by police found that 94 per cent of cannabis now sold on UK streets is ‘skunk’. Academics say this super-strength cannabis could be behind the rise in mental health problems linked to the drug.

Now,The Lancet has warned in a hard-hitting editorial that with the ‘increasing liberalisation of laws’, users need to be made ‘aware of risks to their health and wellbeing.

The journal was reflecting on results from the 2018 Global Drug Survey, which asked 130,000 people in 44 nations about their use of drugs. The Lancet said: ‘Globally, cannabis is still the top illicit drug used and, with the concurrent use of tobacco, remains a huge health risk.’

Its position is in marked contrast to 1995 when it stated: ‘The smoking of cannabis, even long-term, is not harmful to health.’

Mr Smith claimed: ‘Legalisation and regulation is a better way of reducing harm than leaving the trade in the hands of criminals.’

Source: Mail Online July 11th 2018

SUMMARY

Background

Interest in the use of cannabis and cannabinoids to treat chronic non-cancer pain is increasing, because of their potential to reduce opioid dose requirements. We aimed to investigate cannabis use in people living with chronic non-cancer pain who had been prescribed opioids, including their reasons for use and perceived effectiveness of cannabis; associations between amount of cannabis use and pain, mental health, and opioid use; the effect of cannabis use on pain severity and interference over time; and potential opioid-sparing effects of cannabis.

Methods

The Pain and Opioids IN Treatment study is a prospective, national, observational cohort of people with chronic non-cancer pain prescribed opioids. Participants were recruited through community pharmacies across Australia, completed baseline interviews, and were followed up with phone interviews or self-complete questionnaires yearly for 4 years.

Recruitment took place from August 13, 2012, to April 8, 2014. Participants were asked about lifetime and past year chronic pain conditions, duration of chronic non-cancer pain, pain self-efficacy, whether pain was neuropathic, lifetime and past 12-month cannabis use, number of days cannabis was used in the past month, and current depression and generalised anxiety disorder. We also estimated daily oral morphine equivalent doses of opioids.

We used logistic regression to investigate cross-sectional associations with frequency of cannabis use, and lagged mixed-effects models to examine temporal associations between cannabis use and outcomes.

Findings

1514 participants completed the baseline interview and were included in the study from Aug 20, 2012, to April 14, 2014. Cannabis use was common, and by 4-year follow-up, 295 (24%) participants had used cannabis for pain. Interest in using cannabis for pain increased from 364 (33%) participants (at baseline) to 723 (60%) participants (at 4 years). At 4-year follow-up, compared with people with no cannabis use, we found that participants who used cannabis had a greater pain severity score (risk ratio 1·14, 95% CI 1·01–1·29, for less frequent cannabis use; and 1·17, 1·03–1·32, for daily or near-daily cannabis use), greater pain interference score (1·21, 1·09–1·35; and 1·14, 1·03–1·26), lower pain self-efficacy scores (0·97, 0·96–1·00; and 0·98, 0·96–1·00), and greater generalised anxiety disorder severity scores (1·07, 1·03–1·12; and 1·10, 1·06–1·15).

We found no evidence of a temporal relationship between cannabis use and pain severity or pain interference, and no evidence that cannabis use reduced prescribed opioid use or increased rates of opioid discontinuation.

Interpretation

Cannabis use was common in people with chronic non-cancer pain who had been prescribed opioids, but we found no evidence that cannabis use improved patient outcomes. People who used cannabis had greater pain and lower self-efficacy in managing pain, and there was no evidence that cannabis use reduced pain severity or interference or exerted an opioid-sparing effect. As cannabis use for medicinal purposes increases globally, it is important that large well designed clinical trials, which include people with complex comorbidities, are conducted to determine the efficacy of cannabis for chronic non-cancer pain. Funding National Health and Medical Research Council and the Australian Government.

Source:https://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lanpub/PIIS2468-2667(18)30110-5.pdf July 2018

RESEARCH UPDATE

Co-prescription of opioids and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) was common in the US from 2013 to 2014, according to a recent study.1 In March 2016 the FDA issued a safety warning about the risk of serotonin syndrome with combined use of opioids and triptans, or SSRIs/SNRIs.2 Whether the FDA warning has resulted in changes in prescribing practices is unknown, though it may be too early to know.

However, what’s clear is that the opioid problem in the US is not going away quickly. Despite recommendations against opioids for acute migraine from the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and the American Headache Society (AHS) and despite CDC guidelines3 against opioids for chronic non-cancer pain, prescription of opioids in the US tripled between 1999 and 2015.

Serotonin syndrome is a very rare but serious adverse effect of serotonergic antidepressants, caused by excess serotonergic agonism. Symptoms range from mild (diarrhea, shivering) to severe and potentially life-threatening (muscle rigidity, fever, seizures). The opioids most commonly linked to serotonin syndrome include fentanyl, methadone, andoxycodone. Meperidine, methadone and tramadol carry label warnings about the risk of serotonin syndrome.

To provide better epidemiological data about the nationwide prevalence of co-prescription of these medications in the period before the FDA warning, researchers lead by David A. Sclar, PhD, of the Midwestern University College of Pharmacy in Glendale, Arizona, used data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS) database for 2013 to 2014. NAMCS is a cross-sectional nationally representative survey of office-based physician visits run annually by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). The analysis included data from 903.6 million outpatient visits.

Key results

• 2% of visits (17.7 million) involved co-prescription of opioids with a triptan or SSRI/SNRI

-Opioid–SSRI/SNRI: 16,044,721 visits

-Opioid–triptan: 1,622,827 visits

• 20% of opioid co-prescribing involved higher-risk opioids with a label warning about serotonin syndrome

-Tramadol most common: 18.6% of opioid–SSRI/SNRI and 21.8% of opioid–triptan co-prescriptions

• 16.3% of visits for migraine involved opioid prescribing

-3.8% of these involved opioid-SSRIs/SNRIs co-prescriptions

-2.0% of these involved opioid-triptan co-prescriptions

The authors emphasized that the prevalence of opioid prescriptions for migraine has changed little over the past decade. A complicating factor is that patients with migraine commonly suffer from depression, making them at increased risk of co-prescription for serotonergic antidepressants and opioids. While acknowledging the importance of effective pain control in migraine, they warned that these results should not discourage undertreatment of depression.

“[T]reatment with serotonergic antidepressants in patients with migraine and comorbid depression must not be unnecessarily discouraged, given the importance of treatment with appropriate pharmacotherapy and evidence that depression is highly prevalent and may be undertreated in this patient population,” they wrote.

They noted that the study precedes the FDA warning by about 2 years, and most of the study occurred before the 2014 DEA re-classification of tramadol as a schedule-IV controlled substance and hydrocodone as a schedule-II controlled substance. Further study is needed to evaluate how these changes may have affected prescribing practices.

Take home points

• Between 2013 to 2014, 2% of outpatient visits surveyed by NAMCS involved co-prescription of opioids with a triptan or SSRI/SNRI

• 20% of these involved higher-risk opioids with a label warning about serotonin syndrome

• 16.3% of visits for migraine involved opioid prescribing

• Further study is needed to evaluate how a 2016 FDA warning about co-prescription of opioids and SSRIs/SNRIS or triptans may have affected prescribing practices.

Source: http://www.neurologytimes.com/high-co-prescription-opioid-ssri-snris-despite-risks?rememberme=1&elq_mid=2125&elq_cid=1748615&GUID=8CCBBF2C-6541-4A09-A30A-3E72BFE8C975 June 27th 2018

Cannabis is in the headlines for its potential medical benefits after the recent confiscation of cannabis oil medication from the mother of a 12-year-old British boy with severe epilepsy. The furore that ensued is shining a light on campaigns for cannabis oils to be made legal for medical reasons, and the UK government has now announced a review into the use of medicinal cannabis. Here’s what you need to know.

What is cannabis oil?

Cannabis oil is extracted from the cannabis plant Cannabis sativa. The plants medicinal properties have been touted for more than 3,000 years. It was described in the ancient Eygyptian Ebers papyrus around 1550BC, and it was likely used as a medicine in China before that. Some varieties of the plant contain high levels of the psychoactive substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for the “high” that comes from smoking or eating cannabis leaves or resin. The plant’s other major chemical component is cannabidiol, which has no psychoactive effect. Both act on the body’s natural cannabinoid receptors which are involved in many processes such as memory, pain and appetite. The cannabis plant also contains more than 100 other different cannabinoid compounds at lower concentrations.

So can cannabis oil make you high?

It depends on the THC content. Some types of Cannabis sativa plant, known as hemp, contain very little THC. The extracts from these plants contain mainly cannabidiol, so will not get anyone stoned.

Is it legal?

That’s a complicated question. In the UK cannabidiol is legal. Cannabis plant extracts (known as hemp or CBD oils) are available in high-street stores but the THC content must be below 0.2 per cent. “THC is not psychoactive at this level,” says David Nutt, a neuropsychopharmacologist at Imperial College London. But cannabidiol is illegal in many other countries.

In the USA for example, cannabidiol is classed as a schedule 1 controlled substance, and can only be sold in states where cannabis use is legal.

However, the tide may turn in favour of cannabidiol after a recent World Health Organisation review. This concluded that cannabidiol “exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential” but “has been demonstrated as an effective treatment of epilepsy … and may be a useful treatment for a number of other medical conditions.”

What is the evidence that cannabis oils can help treat epilepsy?

Although there is some scientific evidence that THC has potential to control convulsions, its mind-altering effects mean that much of the focus has turned to cannabidiol – particularly for childhood epilepsies that conventional drugs fail to control.

Two recent high quality randomised and placebo controlled trials showed that cannabidiol is an effective treatment for Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, severe forms of epilepsy. The mechanism of action is unknown, but it may be due to a combination of effects, such as inhibiting the activity of neurons and dampening inflammation in the brain.

The situation is less clear when it comes to the use of commercial cannabis oils to control seizures, where the evidence is mainly anecdotal, and the oils can contain differing concentrations of cannabidiol and THC.

The UK government announced on 19 June that it would review the use of medical cannabis.

Are there any cannabis-based epilepsy drugs on the market?

Not yet. In April the US Food and Drug Administration recommended the approval of a drug called Epidiolex for Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. Its active ingredient is cannabidiol, and final approval is due at the end of this month.

However, it is possible the drug is not as effective as cannabis oil containing THC, says Nutt. For example, the cannabis oil used to treat Billy Caldwell, the boy at the centre of the recent cannabis oil confiscation furore, contained cannabidiol and a low dose of THC, because cannabidiol alone did not stop all his seizures.

This is one of the big unknowns. “It is important to remember that there is currently very little scientific evidence to support cannabis oil containing both THC and cannabidiol as a treatment for epilepsy,” said the charity Epilepsy Action, in a statement issued this month.

Are cannabis-based medications available for other conditions?

Yes. A synthetic version of THC called Nabilone has been used since the 1980s to treat nausea after chemotherapy and to help people put on weight. A drug called Sativex is also approved for the treatment of pain and spasms associated with multiple sclerosis. It contains an equal mix of THC and cannabidiol, but would not be suitable for the treatment of children with epilepsy such as Billy. “If you used that to treat epilepsy, the kids would be stoned off their heads,” says Nutt.

What is the aim of the UK government’s review of medical cannabis? 

The first part of the review will look at the evidence for the therapeutic value of cannabis-based products. It can recommend any promising ones for the second part of the review. This will be carried out by the government’s Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs, which can recommend a change to the legal medical status of cannabis and cannabinoids.

This will hopefully lead to a relaxation of the rules surrounding research into cannabis-based medicines says Tom Freeman, a clinical psychopharmacologist at King’s College London.

In the UK cannabis currently has Schedule 1 status, the most restrictive category, which is for drugs which are not used medicinally such as LSD. “This creates a Catch 22 situation,” says Freeman. “You can’t show that cannabis and cannabis-based products have medicinal value because of restrictions on medical research.”  If cannabis is moved to the Schedule 2 category, it will join substances such as morphine and diamorphine (heroin) which can be prescribed by doctors if there is a clinical need. 

Source: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2172415-cannabis-oil-what-is-it-and-does-it-really-work-as-medicine/ June 2018

Interviewed by Mark Gold, MD

FEATURED ADDICTION EXPERT:
Daniel M. Blumenthal, MD, MBA
Attending Physician, Division of Cardiology, Massachusetts General Hospital
Instructor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School
Associate Chief Medical Officer at Devoted Health

Do FDA-approved psychostimulants increase the risk of cardiovascular events?

There is no convincing evidence that FDA-approved psychostimulants (e.g. methylphenidate, dextroamphetamine, amphetamine salts, and atomoxatine) increase the risk for cardiovascular events among patients without pre-existing cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, among those with pre-existing heart disease, including arrhythmias, coronary artery disease, heart failure, or in patients for whom an increase in heart rate or blood pressure could be harmful, psychostimulants may increase the risk for cardiovascular events.

How does cocaine end up as the number two cause of drug deaths, just behind opioids? Excluding adulteration with opioids, how does cocaine kill you?
The effects of cocaine on the cardiovascular system can be grouped into acute and chronic processes. Cocaine use can cause one or more of several acute, life-threatening cardiovascular effects. The most common is myocardial ischemia or infarction (e.g. a heart attack). Cocaine can induce a heart attack through one of several mechanisms. First, cocaine causes arterial (including coronary artery) vasoconstriction, which can lead to coronary vasospasm. Second, cocaine activates platelets, which increases the risk of thrombosis (including coronary thrombosis). Third, cocaine use produces an adrenergic surge which induces tachycardia (high heart rate) and hypertension. High heart rate and hypertension both increase myocardial oxygen demand, which can cause supply-demand mismatch and precipitate myocardial ischemia or infarction. Fourth, vasospasm or stress associated with cocaine use can also precipitate coronary artery plaque rupture (the mechanism underlying most classic heart attacks).

     Two thirds of heart attacks due to cocaine occur within three hours of cocaine use; the risk of a heart attack is 24-fold higher than normal in the first sixty minutes after using cocaine. Cocaine has several other potentially devastating acute effects, including stroke, aortic dissection (e.g. dissection of the major artery connecting the heart to the rest of the body), life threatening heart arrhythmias, and myocarditis which can also occur with chronic use. Chronic cocaine can result in accelerated atherogenesis (i.e. accelerated plaque buildup in the coronary arteries), hypertrophy of the left ventricle, dilated cardiomyopathy, aortic aneurysms, and coronary aneurysms.

Patients who are acutely intoxicated with cocaine and present with chest discomfort should be referred to an emergency room immediately for evaluation. They should undergo a chest-x-ray, an electrocardiogram, blood work to evaluate for evidence of a heart attack and non-myocardial muscle breakdown (e.g. rhabdomyolysis), and to assess kidney function, white and red blood cell counts, and liver function.

    Cocaine intoxication is diagnosed if and when patients report recent cocaine use and through serum and urine toxicology screens (which should be performed immediately as well). If a clinician suspects that a patient is acutely intoxicated with cocaine, treatment should not be withheld while waiting for the results of the toxicology screen. Patients with acute cocaine intoxication and symptoms concerning for cerebrovascular or other cardiovascular sequelae of cocaine intoxication may also need additional imaging to assess for evidence of damage to the heart, aorta, or other blood vessels.

In terms of treatment, these patients should receive benzodiazepines to help mitigate the adrenergic surge. If chest pain due to myocardial ischemia is suspected, sublingual nitroglycerin should be administered. Ongoing ischemic symptoms, as well as hypertension and tachycardia (drivers of myocardial oxygen demand) should be treated with calcium channel blockers (i.e. diltiazem or verapamil). Beta blockers should ideally be avoided until there is no cocaine remaining in the patient’s system. If beta blockers must be used, we recommend using either labetalol or carvedilol, which are non-selective inhibitors of both alpha and beta receptors (note: other beta blockers that are selective for beta receptors are contraindicated due to a theoretical risk that selective beta blockade could lead to unopposed alpha-mediated arterial vasoconstriction, which could precipitate marked hypertension and even peripheral and splanchnic ischemia).

    Alternative, and highly effective, agents for treatment of hypertension include IV nitroglycerin (which should also be used if the patient has chest pain) and IV nitroprusside. Phentolamine, an alpha blocker, can be used for refractory hypertension. Patients presenting with chest pain should also receive a full dose chewable aspirin (325 mg) and 80 mg of atorvastatin (if available). Patients with ECG changes consistent with myocardial ischemia or infarction and/or elevated blood levels of cardiac biomarkers should be managed identically to patients with non-cocaine induced myocardial ischemia and infarction.

Cocaine and methamphetamine addicts often have heart disease. Why? How is a diagnosis made?
Cardiac sequelae are the second most common cause of death (behind overdose) in patients who use methamphetamines (“meth”). Like cocaine use, use of methamphetamines can produce both acute and chronic cardiovascular disease. Acute intoxication with methamphetamines produces a hyperadrenergic state, not unlike having a pheochromocytoma. The hypertension and tachycardia that result can lead to myocardial ischemia and infarction, aortic dissection, malignant arrhythmias, Takotsubo’s (stressinduced) cardiomyopathy, and cardiac arrest.

     Chronic methamphetamine use can lead to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (due to persistent severe hypertension) or dilated cardiomyopathy (due to the drug’s toxic effects on myocardium), and the clinical syndrome of heart failure. In addition, chronic meth use can also cause pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). Meth-associated PAH is a devastating disease, with five year mortality rates above 50%.

Diagnosing and managing acute methamphetamine intoxication:

Patients who present with suspected acute methamphetamine intoxication should undergo a full physical exam, electrocardiogram, and basic lab work (including basic metabolic panel, blood counts, clotting times (prothrombin time and international normalized ratio), liver function tests, creatine phosphokinase (CPK), urinalysis, and urine and serum toxicology screens). Amphetamine intoxication or toxicity is ultimately diagnosed by confirming the presence of amphetamines in urine or serum. However, if patients present with signs and symptoms which raise concern for amphetamine intoxication—including hyperthermia, agitation, hypertension, and tachycardia—treatment should not be delayed while waiting for these test results to return.

If there is concern for myocardial ischemia or infarction (for example, if the patient complains of chest discomfort or shortness of breath or the ECG shows ischemic changes), then cardiac biomarkers should be checked as well (i.e. troponin I or T). Acute methamphetamine intoxication with secondary sequelae (i.e. agitation, hypertension, tachycardia) should be managed initially with sedatives (benzodiazepines and 2nd generation atypical antipsychotics).

Hyperthermia should be managed aggressively by controlling core body temperature with sedatives and, if necessary, with paralysis and intubation (but antipyretics should not be used).

Rhabdomyolysis is common, and a CPK level should always be checked in patients who are acutely intoxicated with meth. If the hypertension is refractory to treatment with an adequate trial of sedation, then nitrates and/or phentolamine should be used. Calcium channel blockers can also be used, and are effective agents for managing tachycardia that persists despite sedation. Beta-blockers should be avoided in the acute setting to avoid precipitating unopposed alpha-mediated vasoconstriction (via identical mechanisms to those described above).

     If beta blockers are necessary for chronic management of a different disease process (e.g. cardiomyopathy or coronary artery disease), then labetalol or carvedilol are the preferred agents due to their partial alphaantagonism. Myocardial infarction in the setting of methamphetamine intoxication should be managed per evidence-based guidelines for the management of heart attacks, and as described above (for cocaine). The one exception is that, if heart rate control is needed, calcium channel blockers, not beta blockers, should be used. Interestingly, monoclonal antibodies against methamphetamine have been developed and are currently in clinical trials.

Chest pain in the setting of acute methamphetamine intoxication should raise concern not only for myocardial infarction, but also for acute aortic dissection. Methamphetamine abuse is the second most common cause of acute fatal aortic dissection in the US, after hypertension. Unlike chest discomfort due to myocardial ischemia, which often starts as mild or moderate discomfort and worsens progressively over minutes-hours, chest discomfort due to aortic dissection is typically extreme from the outset.

What does the patient PE and EKG look like if a patient has overdosed on opioids? What about when injected with Narcan and reversed? Does Methadone, when given as a MAT, have QT and other effects on the heart? What about Suboxone and the heart?
Opiate overdose can precipitate respiratory depression and coma. The pupils will be mioitic, or “pinpoint.” Patients commonly experience mild hypotension as well. The electrocardiogram classically shows sinus bradycardia with nonspecific changes. Approximately 20% of patients will have prolongation of the QT interval. Administration of an adequate dose of Narcan rapidly reverses the respiratory depression, miosis, and coma, and can also lead to improvements in blood pressure and an increase in heart rate.

     However, Narcan is short acting and the reversal is temporary. Thus, patients must be monitored following Narcan administration to determine if they need subsequent doses, or even initiation of an IV naloxone drip. Methadone may also cause QT prolongation but is an uncommon cause of Torsades Des Pointes, the potentially fatal arrhythmia that can result from QT prolongation. Suboxone can also cause hypotension, including orthostatic hypotension, and should be used with caution in patients with established cardiovascular disease (e.g. coronary artery disease). However, I am unaware of any unique cardiovascular side effects associated with suboxone use.

Does smoking have effects on the heart?
Smoking is an extremely strong and independent risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and peripheral artery disease. Smoking increases the risk of these conditions in a dose dependent fashion, and no amount of smoking is safe. People who smoke less than five cigarettes per day are at increased risk for myocardial infarction relative to non-smokers. The incidence of myocardial infarction among men and women who have smoked at least twenty cigarettes per day for any period of time is three fold and six fold higher, respectively, than the incidence of myocardial infarction in never smokers.

     More generally, smoking increases the risk of coronary artery disease, heart attack, arterial aneurysms, aortic dissection, blood clots, carotid artery stenosis, upper and lower extremity ischemic claudication, and death. Smoking’s deleterious cardiac, cerebrovascular, and peripheral vascular effects are the result of a variety of mechanisms that contribute to atherogenesis. Smoking is associated with insulin resistance and oxidization of low-density lipoprotein (LDL-c, or bad cholesterol). Oxidization of LDL-c makes it more proatherogenic. Smoking also activates the sympathetic nervous system which increases heart rate and blood pressure and leads to peripheral vasoconstriction.

    Moreover, smoking increases inflammation, which activates platelets and creates a prothrombotic milieu. Furthermore, smoking damages blood vessel walls, rendering them less elastic and promoting premature arterial stiffening; in addition, smoking promotes endothelial dysfunction, which impairs the ability of coronary arteries to vasodilate. The risks of cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and peripheral artery disease and associated events decrease significantly and relatively rapidly with smoking cessation.

What about cannabis addicts or chronic smokers and the cardiologist?
While we know relatively less about the effects of marijuana on the cardiovascular system, there is significant and growing interest in understanding how marijuana use impacts heart and blood vessel function. We do know that smoking marijuana leads to an acute, four- to five-fold increase in the risk of myocardial infarction in young men. This risk persists for approximately 60 minutes following inhalation. Daily cannabis use is associated with a 1.5%-3% annual increase in the risk of myocardial infarction. There is some evidence that the mechanism underlying this increased risk is a higher likelihood of experiencing coronary artery vasospasm (as opposed to accelerated atherogenesis).

The physiologic effects of marijuana may surprise some people. Marijuana intoxication typically leads to a slowing of the reflexes, and the appearance of a relaxed state. However, marijuana use actually stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which leads to tachycardia, the release of systemic catecholamines, and increased myocardial oxygen demand. At the same time, marijuana use increases supine systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and increases the likelihood of experiencing orthostatic hypotension.

     There is also some evidence that marijuana use activates platelets by modulating the endocannabinoid system. Longitudinal prospective studies of cannabis users have failed to reveal evidence that chronic cannabis use leads to significant alterations body mass index, blood pressure, total cholesterol, high density lipoprotein, triglycerides, or blood glucose levels. There is no consistent evidence that marijuana use increases cardiovascular mortality. We know relatively little about whether the mode of use (i.e. smoking vs. ingestion) modifies the effects of marijuana on the cardiovascular system.

Ketamine is being used off label for depression. What are the cardiovascular risks and concern when this is done?
This is an extremely interesting question. Ketamine is a sympathomimetic. Studies of the cardiovascular effects of Ketamine have found that the drug increases cardiac output by up to 50% in healthy subjects. However, among sicker patients, the drug’s effects appear to be more variable, with some patients experiencing augmented ventricular performance, and others demonstrating some impairment in left ventricular function due to Ketamine use (among coronary artery bypass graft patients, for example, induction of anesthesia with Ketamine has been shown to significantly reduce left ventricular stroke volume).

     Ketamine does consistently produce tachycardia and this simple fact should lead us to be cautious about using it to treat depression in patients with obstructive coronary artery disease or congestive heart failure. The cardiovascular effects of Ketamine remain incompletely characterized, and the prospect of widespread use to treat chronic illnesses like depression heightens the need to more clearly elucidate how Ketamine effects the cardiovascular system.

Withdrawal from opioids is associated with hypertension and tachycardia. Is this a concern?
Yes—the hypertension and tachycardia which occur during opioid withdrawal can undoubtedly stress the cardiovascular system. Patients with a history of coronary artery disease (particularly those with a history of angina), patients with congestive heart failure, and those with aortic aneurysms should be monitored closely during the withdrawal period for new or worsening cardiovascular symptoms. In addition, patients’ home cardiovascular medication regimens, including beta blockers, antihypertensives, and anti-anginals (i.e. nitrates) should ideally be continued during the withdrawal period if possible in order to blunt the physiologic effects of opioid withdrawal.

Are any drug withdrawal syndromes a concern to a cardiologist?
In general, most withdrawal syndromes result in some degree of heightened sympathetic tone, which can produce hypertension and tachycardia. In patients with serious chronic cardiovascular illness, including coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, valvular disease (i.e. aortic stenosis, mitral stenosis, or mitral regurgitation), or arrhythmias, including atrial fibrillation or paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia, this sympathetic surge can precipitate symptoms or even acute decompensations. So, and this is a key point, it is the patient substrate which matters more than the specific withdrawal syndrome. Put another way, if the patient has significant cardiovascular comorbidities, any withdrawal syndrome may be dangerous.

In general, I worry most about alcohol withdrawal for a few reasons. First, alcoholics regularly live with multiple comorbidities, including cardiovascular comorbidities like atrial fibrillation and heart failure (which may be due to an alcoholic cardiomyopathy). I have seen alcohol withdrawal precipitate new or recurrent atrial fibrillation, and lead to acute heart failure decompensations in patients with underlying alcoholic cardiomyopathies.

     Second, alcohol withdrawal is by far the most mortal withdrawal syndrome; seizures due to withdrawal, or delirium tremens, carry a significant risk of mortality in patients without underlying cardiovascular illness, and may be even more dangerous in patients who are suffering from concomitant cardiovascular disease. Third, many alcoholics are poorly nourished, and have significant electrolyte disturbances, including hypokalemia (which is a risk factor for ventricular arrhythmias).

     The wasting of magnesium that occurs in alcoholics is particularly concerning, because potassium repletion is ineffective in the absence of adequate serum magnesium levels. Thus, when checking basic electrolytes in an alcoholic (e.g. sodium, potassium, bicarbonate, chloride, etc.), be sure to also check magnesium levels. And, if an alcoholic is hypokalemic and you don’t have a serum magnesium level, replete the magnesium before giving potassium (or alongside the potassium). A little extra magnesium won’t have any adverse consequences, but failing to replete magnesium could result in failure to correct the low potassium level, which could have serious consequences.

Which patients should an addiction rehab send to a cardiologist for evaluation?
This is a difficult question to answer with high specificity.  First, any patient with new or concerning cardiovascular symptoms or confirmed cardiovascular disease, including 1) exertional chest discomfort; 2) documentation of a new or recurrent arrhythmia; 3) new exertional shortness of breath; and/or 4) new signs or symptoms of congestive heart failure, including exertional shortness of breath, new or progressive lower extremity edema, and/or paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea or orthopnea, should be evaluated by a cardiologist.  In addition, anyone with a syncopal event without a prodrome (i.e. sudden, unexplained, and unheralded syncope) or with a history of complex congenital heart disease should be referred to see a cardiologist. 

     Patients with chronic, stable cardiovascular comorbidities, including coronary artery disease (with or without angina), congestive heart failure, peripheral artery disease (with or without claudication), valvular disease (i.e. aortic stenosis or mitral regurgitation), and/or cerebrovascular disease do not necessarily need to be seen by a cardiologist while they are in Rehab, and provided they remain stable and are able to continue their long term outpatient treatment regimens for these conditions. However, a rehab should generally have a low threshold to engage a cardiologist in the management of any patient with complex, chronic cardiovascular disease.

What are the CVD effects of alcohol use, abuse, and addiction? Alcohol users have a variety of CV effects including noticing that their heart skips a beat or so…is this related to alcohol abusers or alcoholics heart blocks?
Modest alcohol consumption—two or fewer drinks per night for a man, and one drink per night for a woman— has been shown to be healthy, and may even reduce all-cause mortality and mortality due to cardiovascular disease. However, when consumed in greater quantities, alcohol is a cardiotoxin. People who abuse or are dependent on alcohol have a heightened risk of arrhythmias—including atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, and ventricular arrhythmias (due to electrolyte abnormalities or an alcoholic cardiomyopathy)—and alcoholic cardiomyopathy.

     Alcoholic cardiomyopathies can be profound; I have taken care of daily drinkers who present with severe, bi-ventricular dysfunction and left ventricular ejection fractions (LVEF) of 10%-15% (normal is 52- 70%). Importantly, alcoholic cardiomyopathy is usually not this fulminant. Many daily drinkers may suffer from very mild, and even subclinical, forms of this cardiomyopathy, and their LVEF may be normal.

However, in these patients the cardiotoxic effects of alcohol may still predispose to premature atrial and ventricular beats—which they may experience, and describe, as “skipped beats.” As noted above, alcoholic cardiomyopathy increases the risk of both atrial and ventricular arrhythmias, and prior work shows that the risk of ventricular tachycardia in alcoholic cardiomyopathy is comparable to that seen in patients with idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathies. The electrolyte abnormalities commonly found in alcoholics—most notably hypomagnesemia and hypokalemia— further compound the risk for these arrhythmias.

Fortunately, alcoholic cardiomyopathy is usually a reversible process; I have multiple patients whose LVEF has improved from this 10%-15% range (while drinking daily) to 50% or more (essentially normal) after one-two years of abstinence from alcohol and adherence with traditional heart failure therapies. Alcoholic cardiomyopathy may at times reach a point of irreversibility, of course, but, broadly speaking, it has a very favorable prognosis if long term abstinence can be achieved.

Alcoholic abuse/dependence is also associated with a modestly increased risk for myocardial infarction, particularly in patients with pre-existing cardiovascular disease.

Source:

https://www.rivermendhealth.com/resources/qa-daniel-blumenthal-abuse-cardiovascular-disease  May 2018

As the legalization of marijuana continues to spread among various states within the U.S., researchers, and physicians are trying to fully grasp the potential health hazards of the recreational use of the drug. Since marijuana can be consumed through a variety of methods—e.g., eating, smoking, or vaporizing—it is important to understand if and how drug delivery methods affect users. With that in mind, a recent study from investigators at Portland State University found benzene and other potentially cancer-causing chemicals in the vapor produced by butane hash oil, a cannabis extract.

Findings from the new study—published recently in ACS Omega in an article entitled “Toxicant Formation in Dabbing: The Terpene Story”—raises health concerns about dabbing, or vaporizing hash oil—a practice that is growing in popularity, especially in states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana. Dabbing is already controversial. The practice consists of placing a small amount of cannabis extract (a dab) on a heated surface and inhaling the resulting vapor. The practice has raised concerns because it produces extremely elevated levels of cannabinoids—the active ingredients in marijuana.

“Given the widespread legalization of marijuana in the U.S., it is imperative to study the full toxicology of its consumption to guide future policy,” noted senior study author Robert Strongin, Ph.D., professor of organic chemistry at Portland State University. “The results of these studies clearly indicate that dabbing, while considered a form of vaporization, may, in fact, deliver significant amounts of toxins.”

Dr. Strongin and his colleagues analyzed the chemical profile of terpenes—the fragrant oils in marijuana and other plants—by vaporizing them in much the same way as a user would vaporize hash oil.

“The practice of ‘dabbing’ with butane hash oil has emerged with great popularity in states that have legalized cannabis,” the authors wrote. “Despite their growing popularity, the degradation product profiles of these new products have not been extensively investigated.”

The authors continued, stating that the current study focused on the “chemistry of myrcene and other common terpenes found in cannabis extracts. Methacrolein, benzene, and several other products of concern to human health were formed under the conditions that simulated real-world dabbing. The terpene degradation products observed are consistent with those reported in the atmospheric chemistry literature.”

Many of the terpenes that the researchers discovered in the vaporized hash oil are also used in e-cigarette liquids. Moreover, previous experiments by Dr. Strongin and his colleagues found similar toxic chemicals in e-cigarette vapor when the devices were used at high-temperature settings. The dabbing experiments in the current study produced benzene—a known carcinogen—at levels many times higher than the ambient air, the researchers noted. It also produced high levels of methacrolein, a chemical similar to acrolein, another carcinogen.

“The results of these studies clearly indicate that dabbing, although considered a form of vaporization, may, in fact, deliver significant amounts of toxic degradation products,” the authors concluded. “The difficulty users find in controlling the nail temperature put[s] users at risk of exposing themselves to not only methacrolein but also benzene. Additionally, the heavy focus on terpenes as additives seen as of late in the cannabis industry is of great concern due to the oxidative liability of these compounds when heated. This research also has significant implications for flavored e-cigarette products due to the extensive use of terpenes as flavorings.”

Source: https://www.genengnews.com/gen-news-highlights/cancer-causing-compounds-found-in-cannabis-oil/81254980  September 2017

  • Trials on mice showed those exposed to cannabinoids had memory impairments
  • Brain scans by British and Portuguese researchers then confirmed the finding
  • The new experiment shines a light on the little-known dangers of cannabinoids

Smoking cannabis or taking medication based on the drug can harm the brain and damage memory, research has found. Trials on mice showed those exposed long-term to cannabinoids – compounds found in the marijuana plant – suffered ‘significant’ memory impairments.

Brain scans confirmed the finding, and showed cannabis can stop vital memory-controlling regions of the organ communicating with each other. Experts fear both recreational users and those who rely on it to combat their health conditions may be at risk of memory problems.

The study comes after Government advisers yesterday declared doctors should be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis, which contains the potentially harmful cannabinoids.

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) agreed cannabis does possess a medicinal benefit, in a review sent to to Home Secretary Sajid Javid.

He commissioned the review after two high profile cases, including that of epileptic 12-year-old Billy Caldwell, whose mother had seven bottles of cannabis oil that helped combat his seizures confiscated at Heathrow Airport.

For years scientists have warned smoking cannabis can lead to mental health problems, such as schizophrenia. Studies have shown cannabis can also shrink memory-related structures in the brain, most notably the hippocampus. But there is little understanding of the potential negative side effects of cannabinoids, such as CBD.

The new experiment, led by scientists at the universities of Lancaster and Lisbon, shines a light on the dangers.

They studied the effects of cannabinoid drug WIN 55,212-2 in mice. It is similar to THC, the compound that causes a high in cannabis.

Researchers discovered long-term exposure to the cannabinoid impaired the learning ability and memory of mice. Rodents who had been exposed to the drug could not even distinguish between a familiar and novel object.

Brain scans backed up the initial finding – and showed the drug affected the healthy function of brain regions involved in learning and memory.

It was discovered that the cannabinoid stopped the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex from communicating with each other.

Researchers led by Lancaster’s Dr Neil Dawson suggested this was to blame for the negative effects of cannabinoids on memory.

The findings were published in the Journal of Neurochemistry.

Dr Dawson said: ‘This work offers valuable new insight into the way in which long-term cannabinoid exposure negatively impacts on the brain.’ He called for further trials to confirm their finding, in order to establish exactly how cannabinoids can damage memory.

Ian Hamilton, a drug researcher at York University, told Mail Online: ‘We know that heavy use of cannabis impairs memory, although the good news is this can be reversed if the person abstains.

‘But studies like this add to the need for young people to avoid daily use of cannabis as this will hinder their ability to learn and recall information for exams.’ 

The use of medicinal cannabis has been increasing worldwide over the past decade. It is currently not legal medicinally in the UK.

Evidence published in respected journals shows the drug can help to combat epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and chronic pain.

And in recent years, Spain, South Africa, Uruguay and several states in the US have even made cannabis legal for recreational use.

Lisbon’s Professor Ana Sebastiao said: ‘As for all medicines, cannabinoid-based therapies have not only beneficial disease-related actions, but also negative side effects.

‘It is for the medical doctor to weight the advantages of the therapy… against the potential side effects.’   

THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THC AND CBD

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are both derived from the cannabis plant. 

Together, they are part of the cannabinoid group of compounds found in hashish, hash oil, and most strains of marijuana. 

THC is the psychoactive compound responsible for the euphoric, ‘high’ feeling often associated with marijuana.

THC interacts with CB1 receptors in the central nervous system and brain and creates the sensations of euphoria and anxiety. 

CBD does not fit these receptors well, and actually decreases the effects of THC, and is not psychoactive. 

CBD is thought to help reduce anxiety and inflammation. 

Source:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-5975265/Long-term-use-cannabis-impairs-memory-conclude-researchers.html July 2018

Authors: Mücke M, Weier M, Carter C, Copeland J, Degenhardt L, Cuhls H, Radbruch L, Häuser W, Conrad R.

Abstract

We provide a systematic review and meta-analysis on the efficacy, tolerability, and safety of cannabinoids in palliative medicine. The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, PsycINFO, PubMed, Scopus, and http://clinicaltrials.gov, and a selection of cancer journals were searched up until 15th of March 2017.

     Of the 108 screened studies, nine studies with a total of 1561 participants were included. Overall, the nine studies were at moderate risk of bias. The quality of evidence comparing cannabinoids with placebo was rated according to Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation as low or very low because of indirectness, imprecision, and potential reporting bias.

     In cancer patients, there were no significant differences between cannabinoids and placebo for improving caloric intake (standardized mean differences [SMD]:

0.2 95% confidence interval [CI]: [-0.66, 1.06] P = 0.65),

appetite (SMD: 0.81 95% CI: [-1.14, 2.75]; P = 0.42),

nausea/vomiting (SMD: 0.21 [-0.10, 0.52] P = 0.19),

>30% decrease in pain (risk differences [RD]: 0.07 95% CI: [-0.01, 0.16]; P = 0.07),

or sleep problems (SMD: -0.09 95% CI: [-0.62, 0.43] P = 0.72).

     In human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) patients, cannabinoids were superior to placebo for weight gain (SMD: 0.57 [0.22; 0.92]; P = 0.001) and appetite (SMD: 0.57 [0.11; 1.03]; P = 0.02) but not for nausea/vomiting (SMD: 0.20 [-0.15, 0.54]; P = 0.26).

     Regarding side effects in cancer patients, there were no differences between cannabinoids and placebo in symptoms of dizziness (RD: 0.03 [-0.02; 0.08]; P = 0.23) or poor mental health (RD: -0.01 [-0.04; 0.03]; P = 0.69), whereas in HIV patients, there was a significant increase in mental health symptoms (RD: 0.05 [0.00; 0.11]; P = 0.05).

     Tolerability (measured by the number of withdrawals because of adverse events) did not differ significantly in cancer (RD: 1.15 [0.80; 1.66]; P = 0.46) and HIV patients (RD: 1.87 [0.60; 5.84]; P = 0.28). Safety did not differ in cancer (RD: 1.12 [0.86; 1.46]; P = 0.39) or HIV patients (4.51 [0.54; 37.45]; P = 0.32) although there was large uncertainty about the latter reflected in the width of the CI. In one moderate quality study of 469 cancer patients with cancer-associated anorexia, megestrol was superior to cannabinoids in improving appetite, producing >10% weight gain and tolerability.

     In another study comparing megestrol to dronabinol in HIV patients, megestrol treatment led to higher weight gain without any differences in tolerability and safety. We found no convincing, unbiased, high quality evidence suggesting that cannabinoids are of value for anorexia or cachexia in cancer or HIV patients.

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29400010  February 2018

Cannabis’ effects on diabetes unclear – by Dr. Elizabeth Ko & Dr. Eve Glazier – Ask the Doctors  column, August 4, 2018 –  Ask the Doctors, c/0 Media Relations, UCLA Health, 924 Westwood Blvd. Suite 350, Los Angeles, CA  90095

Question:  I have Type 1 diabetes and have used marijuana for years to control my blood sugar.  I’ve seen my blood sugar drop 100 points in five minutes with marijuana, faster than my Humalog insulin can manage.  Why is that?  Will medical marijuana ever go mainstream?

Answer:  Marijuana, or cannabis, contains more than 100 active chemical compounds.  Known as cannabinoids, each behaves differently in the body.  As the number of states that allow the use of cannabis for medical purposes continues to grow, so does the body of evidence that many of the compounds found within the plant have therapeutic potential.

     The challenge to investigate medical claims regarding cannabis is that it remains illegal at the federal level.  Research is subject to numerous restrictions.  Even so, various studies and clinical trials are moving forward.

     We found that you’re not alone in noticing its effect on blood sugar.  However, much of what we found is anecdotal evidence, which lacks scientific rigor.  The study of cannabis and its potential effects on diabetes is in the early stages, which much of the work done in mice and on donated tissue samples.

     Until researchers are able to work extensively with human populations, the how and why of the effects of cannabis on the complex physiologic processes encompassed by diabetes will remain educated guesses.

     Preliminary research suggests that certain cannabinoids may help with glucose control.  Some studies have found that cannabis can have a positive effect on insulin resistance.  A study published in 2016 in a journal of the American Diabetes Association found that THCV, one of the cannabinoids that are not psychoactive, improved glycemic control in some individuals with Type 2 diabetes.  Another study that same year drew a link between cannabidiol, a compound in cannabis, and a decrease in inflammation of the pancreas.  In an observational study using data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers found the incidence of diabetes among regular cannabis users to be measurably lower than that of the population at large.

     The results of several other recent studies contradict a number of these pro-cannabis findings.  So, basically, the jury is still out.

     Although cannabis shows promise in the area of diabetes, science has yet to catch up with the claims being made.  In the research that has been done, the reason for the effects of cannabis is not yet fully understood.  Interest in the subject is strong, though, and continues to grow.

From “Ask the Doctors” – typed-copied from printed Erie Times-News (Erie, Pa.), August 4, 2018 (www.GoErie.com

In 2000, Colorado voters decriminalized marijuana for medical use; however, because marijuana use remained illegal under federal law, the number of users was low. In 2009, President Obama instructed federal officials not to enforce marijuana laws that were in conflict with state laws, and the number of registered medical marijuana users in Colorado increased to 60,000 in 2008 compared with 2,000 in the prior 8 years. In 2012, Colorado legalized recreational marijuana use. As the number of people using marijuana has increased, there has been a parallel increase in marijuana-related emergency department (ED) visits and poison center calls. We expect that as other states liberalize marijuana laws, they will also experience an increase in marijuana-related ED visits. This article reviews several common marijuana-related ED cases that we have encountered in our practice.

 

Total (blue line) and pediatric (red line) marijuana exposure calls received by the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center from 2011 through 2015

Source: http://www.ajhp.org/content/early/2017/09/22/ajhp160715  October 2017

Interviewed by Mark Gold, MD

FEATURED ADDICTION EXPERT:
Frederick S. Southwick, MD
Professor of Internal Medicine and Former ​Chief of Infectious Diseases at the University of Florida

2010 Harvard University Advanced Leadership Fellow
Expert in Medicine, Infectious Disease and Medical Errors​

We see patients who smoke cigarettes, drink and/or abuse drugs. How does this affect their immune status or ability to fight common infections? Any association between a drug dependency like cigarettes and/or marijuana, smoking and/or alcohol drinking?

Smoking is a major risk factor for developing pneumonia. Those who smoke 20 or more cigarettes a day have three times the risk of developing pneumonia. Cigarette smoke damages the tracheal lining of the lungs, alters the consistency of the fluid that coats this lining, and destroys the cilia that move bacteria and other foreign substances out of the lung. When the fluid coating the tubes of the lung becomes thicker as a consequence of the inflammatory reaction to smoke, cilia can no longer transport this fluid, and the foreign particles, including bacteria, usually trapped by this fluid can no longer be transported out of the lungs. Damage to the cilia also interferes with this important protective mechanism.

Alcohol and other sedating drugs interfere with the function of the epiglottis. This large flap of tissue covers the trachea to prevent saliva, food and liquids from entering the lungs. We have all accidently choked on water when our epiglottis malfunctions and water enters the lung. We quickly cough it out. When drugs lead to sedation our epiglottis is more likely to malfunction and food, saliva and bacteria from the mouth can more easily enter the lungs. Sedation also interferes with our cough reflex, and as a consequence, severe aspiration pneumonia can follow an overdose or an episode of heavy drinking.

Drug abuse often leads to malnutrition and some drugs, particularly alcohol, can depress the body’s ability to produce white blood cells. Malnutrition and the loss of these cells can depress the normal acute immune response to infection, and as a consequence, infections are often more severe and life threatening in alcoholics and patients who suffer drug abuse.

Do substance abusers or addicts have more mono, flu, pneumonia, TB or other Infectious Diseases (ID)?

The incidence of mononucleosis is not known to be higher. Influenza is more severe in addicts with depressed immune responses. Tuberculosis may have a higher incidence in addicts because their depressed immune function allows the organism to more readily spread in the lungs and throughout the body.

What are some IDs associated with intravenous drug users?

Another major risk for infection is the use of intravenous drugs. Too often the drugs being injected into the blood stream are contaminated with bacteria, particularly Staphylococcus aureus (found on the skin) and Pseudomonas (found in tap water). These bacteria can infect the heart valves leading to endocarditis, a very serious and potentially fatal infection. Once bacteria enter the blood stream they can also lodge in small vessels of the bones, particularly the vertebral bodies or back bones resulting in bone infection or osteomyelitis. This infection is associated with chronic pain, fever and loss of energy. Osteomyelitis is very difficult to treat and requires six weeks of high dose intravenous antibiotics. Despite prolonged therapy, this infection often relapses resulting in years of pain and suffering.

In addition to bacteria contaminating intravenous drug preparations, shared needles can transmit viruses – Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV virus.  Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C both can lead to severe liver inflammation that causes scaring of the liver called cirrhosis. Eventually the liver fails resulting in ascites (filling of the abdominal cavity with fluid), dilatation and bleeding of the esophageal veins (esophageal varices) resulting in gastrointestinal bleeding, and difficulty detoxifying substances in the blood resulting in the loss of alertness and eventually coma (called Hepatic encephalopathy).

HIV is another dreaded and all too common complication of IV drug use.

What would you evaluate all IV addicts for?

All IV addicts should be screened for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV. They should also be screened for STDs.

What vaccinations would you suggest for patients with substance use disorders?

They should receive the influenza vaccine annually and the two pneumococcal vaccines. Also, if they are Hepatitis B antibody negative, they should receive the Hepatitis B vaccine.

Can you explain Hepatitis C. What is it? Who gets it? Why do so many addicts and abusers have it? What can you do to prevent it? Diagnose it? Treat it?

Hepatitis C is a virus that specifically infects the liver. This virus is transmitted by blood and blood products. Before the virus was recognized in the early 1990s, it contaminated our blood supply. Risk factors associated with an increased risk of Hepatitis C include:

  • persons receiving blood transfusions or transplanted organs before July of 1992
  • those who received clotting factors before 1987
  • anyone born to a mother with Hepatitis C virus
  • anyone who shared needles to inject drugs, or who had tattoos or body piercing with unsterile equipment

Addicts who use intravenous drugs and share needles are at very high risk, because the virus is transmitted by needles contaminated with virally infected blood. Individuals infected with Hep C have very high numbers of viral particles in their blood, and when they share a needle with an uninfected person, that person is at high risk of inadvertently injecting those viral particles intotheir own blood stream and infecting their liver. The best way to prevent the spread of Hep C is to avoid IV drug use.

Another alternative is to use a clean needle, and never share needles. In some areas of the country, needle exchange programs have been instituted to prevent the spread of Hep C, Hep B, and HIV. The diagnosis can be readily made with a blood test that measures antibodies directed against the virus. This is a very sensitive and specific test and anyone who falls into the above risk groups should undergo testing because we now have excellent antiviral therapy for this infection. Direct acting antiviral therapy offers high cure rates of over 95% in most cases. Treatment usually takes 8-12 weeks of a single pill once per day. In more complicated cases, treatment may be continued for 24 weeks. The cost of treatment is very high ($1,000/ pill) usually costing between $80,000-100,000 to achieve a cure.

Is there a new epidemic of STDs. Which? Who gets which? Why do so many addicts and abusers have it? What can you do to prevent it? Diagnose it? Treat it?

Drug abuse is associated with increased sexual activity and the more sexual partners one has the greater the risk of STDs. The incidence of syphilis in the U.S. has increased among women by 36% from 2015 to 2016 and 15% in men during this same period. Also, the incidence of newborn syphilis has increased by 28% as a consequence of transmission from mother to child.

The group with the highest incidence of this infection is men having sex with men (MSM), and about ½ of MSM who have syphilis also have HIV. The incidence of gonorrhea has also increased during this time period by 22%. This is a particularly worrisome development because strains of gonorrhea are increasingly becoming drug resistant meaning that we are at risk of running out of antibiotic treatments for this infection in the future. Condoms prevent the spread of these diseases; and should always be used given the high risk of STDs among drug abusers.

Public health workers try to identify contacts when a STD case is reported so that these contacts can be tested and treated to prevent the further spread of infection. All patients who have more than one sexual partner or who use illicit drugs should be screened for syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, Hepatitis B and HIV, particularly sexually active women under 25, pregnant women, and men having sex with men.

Syphilis, Hepatitis B and HIV are detected primarily through blood tests. Gonorrhea and chlamydia are tested using vaginal and urethral (opening of the penis) swabs. These tests are all very sensitive and specific. Syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia are treated with antibiotics and can be cured. Hepatitis B, like Hepatitis C, can now be cured using antiviral agents, but at great expense. HIV requires lifelong treatment.

Can you explain HIV? AIDS? What is it? Who gets it? Why do so many addicts and abusers have it? What can you do to prevent it? Diagnose it? Treat it?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and is caused by a retrovirus that is transmitted primarily through blood and through sexual contact as an STD. HIV is a lifelong infection that over time destroys immune cells and results in opportunistic infections (infections by organisms that rarely infect people with normal immune systems) including cryptococcal (fungal) meningitis, pneumocystis pneumonia, and toxoplasmosis brain infections.

When the immune system deteriorates to the point of allowing these infections to develop, HIV infection is said to have progressed to AIDS or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.  Anti-retroviral medications can lower the viral counts and reverse this immunodeficiency; however, these medications cannot completely eradicate the infection, and they must be taken for life. If anti-retroviral medications are discontinued, the infection reactivates.

Can you explain what is HPV?  Is it just a woman’s problem? Who gets it? Why do so many addicts and abusers have it? What can you do to prevent it? Diagnose it? Treat it?

Human papilloma virus (HPV) is a wart causing virus that is transmitted by close skin to skin contact and is most commonly transmitted by vaginal or anal sex. A high percentage of people become infected but our immune system often clears the virus; however, when the virus remains active it can cause genital warts that have a cauliflower like appearance. This virus can cause mouth and throat, penis, anal, vaginal and cervical cancer. The diagnosis of HPV is usually made based on examination. Cervical pap smears are recommended periodically for women to look for atypical precancerous cells. Treatment consists of removing the precancerous cells through surgical procedures. When cancer develops, chemotherapy and surgical resection are required.

There is no medical treatment for HPV. However, a very effective vaccine is now available that can prevent HPV induced cancer. The vaccine is recommended for all children at age 11-12 years and can be given up to age 21 for women and up to age 26 for men. This vaccine is strongly recommended for men who intend to have sex with men, transgenders, and adolescents who are immunocompromised, including patients with HIV.

For many years, we treated cigarette-related cancers rather than identifying smokers and helping people stop smoking. Is that still happening today with alcohol and drugs? With no drug testing or limited in Pediatrics and Medicine, how can asking the patient if they use or inject drugs identify and help treat the primary disease or users?

The newspapers and television news are now publicizing the worsening drug epidemic in our country. This epidemic has spread to people in every socioeconomic class. Given the many health risks of drug addiction, physicians and nurses have an obligation to ask questions about this potentially life-threatening behavior. Drug addiction is a disease, and to identify and treat this disease, medical caregivers are obligated to inquire about this important health issue. And those who suffer from drug addiction need not be ashamed. They should be open to help. The infectious disease risks of continuing addiction are real and potentially life threatening. Therapy for addiction is available and can be effective. Why wait until the damage has been done?

Source:

https://www.rivermendhealth.com/resources/qa-frederick-southwick-infections-and-addiction/  May 2018

It is no accident that in almost the same week both Australia and UK have decided that cannabis is to be recommended for a host of medical disorders mostly in advance of gold standard clinical trials. This is a direct product of the organized transnational global drug liberalization movement orchestrated from New York.

I wish to most respectfully disagree with the points made by BMJ editor Dr. Godlee. Diarrhoea and colic occur in cannabis withdrawal; Crohn’s disease has a prominent immune aspect, and cannabinoids are likely acting partly as immune modulators. Statements from patients are uninterpretable without understanding the treatments tried, their withdrawal symptomatology and their personal preferences.

Most importantly, as Dr Godlee states, cannabis is a mixture of 104 cannabinoids. The tide cannot be both out and in at the same time. Medicines in western nations are universally pure substances. This comprises a fundamental difficulty.

Medical research has confirmed that the body’s endocannabinoid system is a finely regulated and highly complex system which is involved in the detailed regulation of essentially all body systems including the brain and cardiovascular systems and stem cell niches.

Studies have shown that the rate of use of cannabis by expecting mothers closely parallels that in the wider community. In fact given the long half-life of cannabis in tissues even were a maternal habitual smoker to stop when she discovered her pregnancy, her infant would continue to be exposed to her on-board cannabinoid load for several months afterwards during critical periods of organogenesis. And other studies show that the father’s cannabis use is even more damaging than the mothers’.

Whilst much research has focussed on the effects of endocannabinoids in the adult brain relatively little research has looked at the impact of these same effects in the developing brain of the foetus and neonate. Whilst the brain stem is almost devoid of type 1 cannabinoid receptors (CB1Rs) they are in high concentration in many parts of the midbrain, limbic system, subcortical regions and cerebral and cerebellar cortices. Foetal CB1Rs have been shown to play key roles in virtually all aspects of brain development including neural stem cell function, determining the ratio of glial v neuronal differentiation, brain inflammation, axonal growth cone guidance, stem cell niche function and signalling, blood flow signalling, white matter and CNS tract formation, glial cell differentiation, myelination, dendrite formation, neural migration into the developing cortex, synapse formation and integration of newly formed neurons into the neural network. They are also found in high density on endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria from which latter they indirectly control major issues including cognition, DNA maintenance and repair systems both by supplying energy and by metabolite shuttle and RNA signalling.

Hence it is not surprising that gestational cannabis has been linked with a clear continuum of defects, including in protracted longitudinal studies from Pittsburgh, Ottawa and Netherlands impaired cortical and executive functioning; reduced spatial judgement; the need to recruit more brain to perform similar computational tasks; microcephaly; lifelong smaller heads and smaller brains; anencephaly (in two CDC studies), and increased foetal death. This progression clearly reflects a spectrum of congenital neurological impairment which is quite consistent with the known distribution of CB1Rs mainly across the foetal and adult forebrain and midbrain and its derivatives.

It is also consistent with a recent explosion of autism in Colorado, California, New Jersey and many other sites in USA and internationally in recent years. Moreover cannabis induced synpatopathy closely mimics that seen in autism, as do similar white matter disconnection endophenotypes.

A similar scenario plays out in the cardiovasculature. The American Heart Association and American Academy of Pediatrics issued a joint statement as long ago as 2007 noting that foetal cannabis exposure was linked with increased rates of ventricular septal defect and Ebstein’s anomaly (complex tricuspid valvopathy). This is consistent with recent Colorado experience where ventricular septal defect has risen from 43.9 to 59.4 / 10,000 live births, or 35.3% 2000-2013. Both of these structures are derivatives of the endocardial cushions which are rich in CB1Rs. Concerningly Colorado has also seen a 262% rise in atrial septal defects over the same period. Exposure to other drugs does not explain this change as they were falling across this period. It has also been reported that the father’s use of cannabis is the strongest environmental factor implicated in cardiovascular defects, here involving transposition of the great arteries, which is a derivative of the conoventricular ridges immediately distal and continuous with embryonic endocardial cushions, and also rich in CB1Rs.

Similar findings play out in gastroschisis. There is an impressive concordance amongst the larger studies of the relationship of gastroschisis and congenital cannabis exposure where senior Canadian authors concluded that cannabis caused a three-fold rise in gastroschisis, consistent with a high density of CB1Rs on the umbilical vessels.

And cannabis has also been implicated as an indirect chromosomal clastogen and indirect genotoxin through its effect to disrupt the mitotic spindle by microtubule inhibition, and likely DNA maintenance and repair by its effect on nuclear actin filaments.

Moreover cannabidiol has been shown to alter the epigenome, to be genotoxic, and to bind to CB1Rs at high doses, so the simplistic case that “Cannabidiol is good” – fails.

These considerations imply that if clinical trials continue to show efficacy for additional indications for cannabinoids, their genotoxic and teratogenic potential, from both mother and father, will need to be carefully balanced with their clinical utility. They also imply that these issues will need to be more widely canvassed and discussed in order to introduce more balance into the heavily biased present global media coverage of the highly misleading misnomer “medical cannabis”.

Only once before has a known teratogen been marketed globally: the thalidomide disaster is the proximate reason for modern pharmaceutical laws. With its widespread uptake, rising concentrations, asymptotic genotoxic dose-response curves and actions through the paternal line cannabis could be much worse.

Albert S Reece
Doctor
University of Western Australia and Edith Cowan University at Joondalup in Western Australia
Brisbane

Source: https://www.bmj.com/content/362/bmj.k3357/rr-0

 

Source:

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamasurgery/article-abstract/2689028

Childhood adversity permanently alters the peripheral and central immune systems, increasing the sensitivity of the body’s immune response to cocaine, reports a study by researchers at the IRCCS Santa Lucia Foundation and University of Rome “La Sapienza,” Italy.

The study, published in Biological Psychiatry, showed that exposure to psychosocial stress early in life altered the structure of immune cells and inflammatory signals in mice and led to increased drug-seeking behavior. Exposure to early psychosocial stress in mice, or a difficult childhood in humans, increased the immune response to cocaine in adulthood, revealing a shared mechanism in the role of immune response in the effects of early life stress on cocaine sensitivity in mice and humans.

The findings help explain why as many as 50 percent of people who experience childhood maltreatment develop addiction problems. The results in mice and humans suggest that exposure to adversity during childhood triggers activation of the immune system, leading to permanent changes that sensitize the immune system and increase susceptibility to the effects of cocaine in adulthood.

“This paper suggests the existence of an extraordinary degree of interplay between the neural and immune systems related to the impact of early life stress on later risk for cocaine misuse. It both highlights the complex impact of early life stress and suggests an immune-related mechanism for reducing later addiction risk,” said John Krystal, MD, Editor of Biological Psychiatry.

After inducing psychosocial stress in 2-week-old mice by exposing them to a threatening male, first author Luisa Lo Iacono, PhD, and colleagues examined brain immune cells, called microglia, in adulthood. Early social stress altered the structure of microglia in the ventral tegmental area, a brain region important for the reward system and drug-seeking, and increased the response of microglia to cocaine. In the peripheral immune system, early social stress increased the release of inflammatory molecules from white blood cells, which was further amplified by exposure to cocaine, compared with control mice.

“Remarkably, pharmacologically blocking this immune activation during early life stress prevents the development of the susceptibility to cocaine in adulthood,” said senior author Valeria Carola, PhD. Mice who received an antibiotic to prevent activation of immune cells during social stress did not have cellular changes or drug-seeking behavior.

The study also compared immune system function of 38 cocaine addicts and 20 healthy volunteers. Those who experienced childhood maltreatment had increased expression levels of genes important for immune system function. And the highest levels were found in cocaine addicts who had experienced a difficult childhood.

The findings add to the growing collection of evidence from the research group for the negative effects of early life trauma on brain development. “Our work emphasizes once again the importance of the emotional environment where our children are raised and how much a serene and stimulating environment can provide them with an extra ‘weapon’ against the development of psychopathologies,” said Dr. Carola.

Source:  https://medkit.info/2018/07/17/childhood-adversity-increases-susceptibility-to-addiction-via-immune-response/

Abstract
Core deficits in social functioning are associated with various neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders, yet biomarker identification and the development of effective pharmacological interventions has been limited. Recent data suggest the intriguing possibility that endogenous cannabinoids, a class of lipid neuromodulators generally implicated in the regulation of neurotransmitter release, may contribute to species-typical social functioning. Systematic study of the endogenous cannabinoid signaling could, therefore, yield novel approaches to understand the neurobiological underpinnings of atypical social functioning.

This article provides a critical review of the major components of the endogenous cannabinoid system (for example, primary receptors and effectors—Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol, anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol) and the contributions of cannabinoid signaling to social functioning. Data are evaluated in the context of Research Domain Criteria constructs (for example, anxiety, chronic stress, reward learning, motivation, declarative and working memory, affiliation and attachment, and social communication) to enable interrogation of endogenous cannabinoid signaling in social functioning across diagnostic categories. The empirical evidence reviewed strongly supports the role for dysregulated cannabinoid signaling in the pathophysiology of social functioning deficits observed in brain disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder. Moreover, these findings indicate that the endogenous cannabinoid system holds exceptional promise as a biological marker of, and potential treatment target for, neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by impairments in social functioning.

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5048207/

Introduction
Synaptic cell-adhesion molecules and their interactions with other molecular pathways affect both synapse formation and its function (Varoqueaux et al., 2006; Sudhof, 2008; Bemben et al., 2015a). Neurexins are presynaptic cell-adhesion molecules that interact with neuroligins and other postsynaptic partners. Neurexins are encoded by three genes, each of which encodes a long and short isoform, termed α- and β-neurexins, respectively (Sudhof, 2008). Interestingly, despite studies linking neurexins to autism and other neuropsychiatric disorders (Leone et al., 2010; Rabaneda et al., 2014), the precise cellular mechanisms underlying the role of neurexins in cognition remain poorly understood.

Since most biochemical studies of neurexins have focused on β-neurexins, investigating the synaptic actions of β-neurexins is particularly imperative. In their timely Cell article, Anderson et al. reported that β-neurexins selectively modulate synaptic strength at excitatory synapses by regulating postsynaptic endocannabinoid synthesis, describing an unexpected trans-synaptic mechanism for β-neurexins to control neural circuits via endocannabinoid signaling. 

Source: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2016.00203/full

See also:

https://drugprevent.org.uk/ppp/2018/08/%CE%B2-neurexins-control-neural-circuits-by-regulating-synaptic-endocannabinoid-signaling/

Abstract
α- and β-neurexins are presynaptic cell-adhesion molecules implicated in autism and schizophrenia. We find that although β-neurexins are expressed at much lower levels than α-neurexins, conditional knockout of β-neurexins with continued expression of α-neurexins dramatically decreased neurotransmitter release at excitatory synapses in cultured cortical neurons. The β-neurexin knockout phenotype was attenuated by CB1-receptor inhibition which blocks presynaptic endocannabinoid signaling or by 2-arachidonoylglycerol synthesis inhibition which impairs postsynaptic endocannabinoid release. In synapses formed by CA1-region pyramidal neurons onto burst-firing subiculum neurons, presynaptic in vivo knockout of β-neurexins aggravated endocannabinoid-mediated inhibition of synaptic transmission and blocked LTP; presynaptic CB1-receptor antagonists or postsynaptic 2-arachidonoylglycerol synthesis inhibition again reversed this block. Moreover, conditional knockout of β-neurexins in CA1-region neurons impaired contextual fear memories. Thus, our data suggest that presynaptic β-neurexins control synaptic strength in excitatory synapses by regulating postsynaptic 2-arachidonoylglycerol synthesis, revealing an unexpected role for β-neurexins in the endocannabinoid-dependent regulation of neural circuits.

Source:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4709013/

See also:

https://drugprevent.org.uk/ppp/2018/08/endocannabinoid-mediates-excitatory-synaptic-function-of-%ce%b2-neurexins-commentary-%ce%b2-neurexins-control-neural-circuits-by-regulating-synaptic-endocannabinoid-signaling/

Submitted by Livia Edegger 

As support for decriminalising and legalising marijuana is growing, several new studies highlight the potentially harmful effects of the drug on its user’s brain and heart. The findings are particularly revealing in the field of recreational cannabis use. While studying the brains of a group of twenty occasional cannabis smokers, researchers from Harvard University found that as few as one or two uses a week can change the brain. Smoking marijuana was found to primarily affect the areas involved in decision making, emotions and motivations. Along the same lines, a group of French researchers found that marijuana use ups the risk of developing heart problems (i.e. strokes, heart attacks and circulation problems). More research is needed to better understand the health risks associated with marijuana.

Links:

Source:

http://preventionhub.org/en/prevention-update/even-casual-cannabis-use-can-affect-health

Psychology of Addictive Behaviors journal makes corrections, SAM calls on media to correct stories

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 19, 2015

Contact: Jeffrey Zinsmeister

jeff@learnaboutsam.org

+1 (415) 680-3993

[WASHINGTON, DC] – A prominent journal article about marijuana and health which resulted in media outlets reporting on marijuana’s harmlessness has now been corrected. A recheck of the statistics has now found that the incidence of psychotic disorders trended toward a 2.5-fold increase in marijuana users, a difference that went beyond a trend to reach significance in a one-tailed statistical test. This degree of impact matches very well the results of many prior studies involving marijuana use and psychosis though falls short of the five-fold increase in psychosis risk for marijuana users seen with the high strength strains that are more recently available.

Dr. Christine Miller, a former schizophrenia researcher from Johns Hopkins University and now Director of SAM Maryland, first alerted the journal, Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, last December. Some media outlets have already corrected their original story.

“We commend the Washington Post’s Ariana Cha for now updating her story, and hope many more will follow her lead,” remarked Dr. Miller. “The flaw in the original University of Pittsburgh report were certain correction factors applied to the raw data, factors which are strongly affected by psychosis rather than being causes of such a disorder. These inappropriate corrections overpowered the marijuana effect. We’re glad the corrections have been made.”

SAM urges other media outlets to correct their headlines and stories.

The new data comes on the heels of a major report released by the State of Vermont’s Health Department which found that marijuana worsened conditions ranging from mental illness to motor vehicle accidents to negative pregnancy effects – and almost all of them are found to be worsened by marijuana:

For more information about marijuana use and its effects, see http://www.learnaboutsam.org.

###

About SAM

Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) is a nonpartisan, non-profit alliance of physicians, policy makers, prevention workers, treatment and recovery professionals, scientists, and other concerned citizens opposed to marijuana legalization who want health and scientific evidence to guide marijuana policies. SAM has affiliates in 31 states.

www.learnaboutsam.org

Source:

http://psycnet.apa.org/record/2015-58335-001

Submitted by Livia Edegger

A study conducted by the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that individuals who had started taking drugs early on in life were more likely to develop mental disorders and become polydrug users. At the time of clinical admission, three quarters of drug users between 18 and 30 years of age had started taking drugs at age 17 or younger. A tenth of drug users had started at an even earlier age. 78.1% of drug users that had started taking drugs at age 11 or younger were taking more than one drug compared to 30.4% of individuals that had initiated drug use after the age of 25. 38.6% of drug users that had begun taking drugs at age 11 or under had developed some form of mental disorder. These results underline the importance of prevention programmes in childhood and early adolescence, phases that are critical for young people’s development.

Links:

Source:

http://preventionhub.org/en/prevention-update/early-onset-drug-use-linked-mental-disorders-and-multi-drug-use

Submitted by Livia Edegger

While the dangers of frequent binge drinking have been widely studied, the potentially harmful effects of a single alcohol binge have not yet been explored in detail. According to a new study, even a single binge can be harmful. Excessive drinking can lead to the release of toxins in the blood that can cause fever, inflammation or tissue damage. Research into how a single episode of binge drinking can affect the drinker’s health is still in its early stage and needs to develop further to determine its harms.

Links:

Source:

http://preventionhub.org/prevention-update/single-alcohol-binge-may-be-harmful

3rd June 2014

Filed under: Alcohol,Health :

Public health officials say the nerve pain medication gabapentin is being found in an increasing number of overdose deaths, according to CBS News.

Gabapentin is a non-narcotic drug used to treat seizures and pain associated with shingles. Doctors have been prescribing it for a growing number of other conditions, as a way to offer pain relief without opioids. A study published last year found that for people who use heroin, the combination of opioids with gabapentin potentially increases the risk of overdose death.

“Unfortunately, we now need to worry about it because people are abusing it,” Dr. James Patrick Murphy, a pain and addiction specialist in Kentucky, told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “Alone, it’s not something that will stop your breathing or your heart,” he said. “But if you take it along with a drug like heroin or fentanyl, together it might be enough to make you stop breathing and put you over the edge.”

Source: https://drugfree.org/learn/drug-and-alcohol-news/nerve-pain-medication-gabapentin April 5th 2018

A growing number of drug overdose deaths are due to cocaine laced with fentanyl, NPR reports. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin. The image above shows two potentially fatal dosages of fentanyl and heroin

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), 7 percent of cocaine seized in New England in 2017 included fentanyl, up from 4 percent the previous year. In Connecticut, the number of deaths involving fentanyl-laced cocaine has increased 420 percent in the last three years. Massachusetts officials say an increasing amount of fentanyl-laced cocaine is changing hands on the streets. The DEA, in its National Drug Threat Assessment, says people typically add fentanyl to cocaine for the purpose of “speedballing,” which combines the rush of cocaine with a drug that depresses the nervous system, such as heroin. Some experts told NPR fentanyl may be mixed with cocaine accidentally during packaging. Others say drug cartels are adding fentanyl to cocaine to expand the market of people who are addicted to opioids.

How Can I Protect My Child from Fentanyl? 5 Things Parents Need to Know

Deaths from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids (not including methadone), rose a staggering 72 percent in just one year, from 2014 to 2015. Government agencies and officials of all types are rightly concerned by what some are describing as the third wave of our ongoing opioid epidemic.

As a concerned parent, whose top priority is keeping your child safe — and alive — the following are the most important things to understand about fentanyl.

1. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin or morphine. It is a schedule II prescription drug typically used to treat patients with severe pain or to manage pain after surgery. It is also sometimes used to treat patients with chronic pain who are physically tolerant to other opioids. In its prescription form, fentanyl is known by such names as Actiq®, Duragesic® and Sublimaze®.

2. It is relatively cheap to produce, increasing its presence in illicit street drugs. Dealers use it to improve their bottom line. According to a report from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, evidence suggests that fentanyl is being pressed into pills that resemble OxyContin, Xanax, hydrocodone and other sought-after drugs, as well as being cut into heroin and other street drugs. A loved one buying illicit drugs may think they know what they’re getting, but there’s a real risk of it containing fentanyl, which can prove deadly.

3. Naloxone (Narcan) will work in case of overdose, but extra doses may be needed. Because fentanyl is far more powerful than other opioids, the standard 1-2 doses of naloxone may not be enough. Calling 911 is the first step in responding to any overdose, but in the case of a fentanyl-related overdose the help of emergency responders, who will have more naloxone, is critical. Learn more about naloxone and responding to opioid overdose >>

4. Even if someone could tell a product had been laced with fentanyl, it may not prevent their use. Some individuals claim they can tell the difference between product that has been laced with fentanyl and that which hasn’t, but overdose statistics would say otherwise. Some harm reduction programs are offering test strips to determine whether heroin has been cut with fentanyl, but that knowledge may not be much of a deterrent to a loved one who just spent their last dollar to get high.

5. Getting a loved one into treatment is more critical than ever. If you need help in determining a course of action, please reach out to one of our parent counselors on our free Parent Helpline. Learn more about all the ways you can connect with our free and confidential services and begin getting one-on-one help.

Source: https://drugfree.org/parent-blog April 2017

Abstract

Background

Marijuana is a widely used recreational substance. Few cases have been reported of acute myocardial infarction following marijuana use. To our knowledge, this is the first ever study analyzing the lifetime odds of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) with marijuana use and the outcomes in AMI patients with versus without marijuana use.

Methods

We queried the 2010-2014 National Inpatient Sample (NIS) database for 11-70-year-old AMI patients.

Pearson Chi-square test for categorical variables and Student T-test for continuous variables were used to compare the baseline demographic and hospital characteristics between two groups (without vs. with marijuana) of AMI patients. The univariate and multivariate analyses were used to assess and compare the clinical outcomes between two groups. We used Cochran–Armitage test to measure the trends. All statistical analyses were executed by IBM SPSS Statistics 22.0 (IBM Corp., Armonk, NY). We used
weighted data to produce national estimates in our study.

Results

Out of 2,451,933 weighted hospitalized AMI patients, 35,771 patients with a history of marijuana and 2,416,162 patients without a history of marijuana use were identified. The AMI-marijuana group consisted more of younger, male, African American patients. The length of stay and mortality rate were lower in the AMI-marijuana group with more patients being discharged against medical advice.

Multivariable analysis showed that marijuana use was a significant risk factor for AMI development when adjusted for age, sex, race (adjusted OR 1.079, 95% CI 1.065-1.093, p<0.001); adjusted for age, female, race, smoking, cocaine abuse (adjusted OR 1.041, 95% CI 1.027-1.054, p<0.001); and also when adjusted for age, female, race, payer status, smoking, cocaine abuse, amphetamine abuse and alcohol abuse (adjusted OR: 1.031, 95% CI: 1.018-1.045, p<0.001). Complications such as respiratory failure (OR 18.9, CI 15.6-23.0, p<0.001), cerebrovascular disease (OR 9.0, CI 7.0-11.7, p<0.001), cardiogenic shock (OR 6.0, CI 4.9-7.4, p<0.001), septicemia (OR 1.8, CI 1.5–2.2, p<0.001), and dysrhythmia (OR 1.8, CI 1.5-2.1, p<0.001) were independent predictors of mortality in AMI-marijuana group.

Conclusion

The lifetime AMI odds were increased in recreational marijuana users. Overall odds of mortality were not increased significantly in AMI-marijuana group. However, marijuana users showed higher trends of AMI prevalence and related mortality from 2010-2014. It is crucial to assess cardiovascular effects related to marijuana overuse and educate patients for the same.

Source: Desai R, Patel U, Sharma S, et al. (November 03, 2017) Recreational Marijuana Use and Acute Myocardial Infarction: Insights from Nationwide Inpatient Sample in the United States . Cureus 9(11): e1816. DOI 10.7759/cureus.1816

Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Kode Sammarco released 2017 drug statistics Tuesday.

Last fall, the coroner said overdoses in Hamilton County had surpassed the total of last year, with 427 suspected deaths – and three months remaining in 2017, making the toll the worst since the heroin epidemic began. in the Tri-State.

Most overdose deaths have been due to fentanyl or chemically similar drugs, Sammarco said.

The county reported 403 overdose deaths in 2016 – up 30 percent, overdose deaths were totalled at 529 for 2017.

Sammarco described the increasing number of cases as “scary.” She said drug prevention efforts can only do so much without the help of the public.

“We can’t do this alone. Everybody here is busting their butt to try to get a handle on not just the supply, but to get help for the addicts and families. But we need the communities to step up, we need every neighborhood to keep an eye on their neighborhood. To try and help us get the dealers off the street, to try and get help to the addicts. You see something, say something.”

Sammarco noted the death toll was reduced by Narcan.

“The number of lives being saved is huge,” she said. “There’s no doubt they would’ve been double or triple what they were without Narcan.”

The coroner said 30,000 items were turned into the office’s drug section in 2017. Hfour drug analysts each processed well over 7,000 items, which 2.5 times higher than any other lab in Ohio.

Prevention First, a local non-profit aimed at reducing substance abuse released their findings from this year’s student drug-use survey.

They said of the more than 30,000 students grades 7 through 12 surveyed, nearly 14 percent have admitted to using alcohol in the past 30 days.

Tobacco use was only reported in five percent of students. Marijuana usage was slightly higher at more than eight percent.

Prescription drug abuse was reported in only 2.4 percent of students.

Commissioners said aside from marijuana use, the statistics have been trending downward since 2000.

“Hats off to Prevention First for leading the charge on that and for providing all of this really important information when it comes to prevention and what young people are doing in this community because this is the tip of the spear,” Commissioner Denise Driehaus said.

The survey, which is given every two years by Prevention First, was distributed to 80 public and private schools in six southwest Ohio counties.

To try to top overdoses before they happen, the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition is launching a Quick Response Teams early next month, on April 3.

The coalition is uniting with fire departments, law enforcement and social workers to create a team that follows up with overdose victims and offers them same-day addiction treatment. according to a prepared statement.

Modelled on an effort in Colerain Twp., the team will try to find overdose survivors using a database maintained by the Greater Cincinnati Fusion Center, a public safety data collecting agency.

Heroin Coalition commander and Norwood Police Lt. Tom Fallon told Hamilton County commissioners Monday the database would help locate overdose survivors who are otherwise hard to find.

The team will also use “predictive analysis” to track drug activity to target potential overdoses in with the help of University of Cincinnati’s Institute of Crime Science.

The effort is funded by a $400,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice funded through the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.

Source: http://www.fox19.com/story/37764381/hamilton-county-coroner

Filed under: Cannabis/Marijuana,Health,USA :

The Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area released its third annual report this week. The organization has been tracking the impact of marijuana legalization in Colorado since the state first legalized the drug for medical use in 2000, passed legislation to allow dispensaries beginning in 2009–which spawned a commercial marijuana industry–and legalized pot for recreational use in 2012. The 2015 report shows that by 2013, Colorado marijuana use was nearly double the national usage rate. The state ranked 3rd in the nation for youth use in 2013, up from 14th in 2006; 2nd in the nation for young adult use in 2013, up from 8th in 2006; and 5th in the nation for adults, up from 8th in 2006.

Drug-related school expulsions, most of which are marijuana-related, far exceed school expulsions for alcohol use. Note the sudden jump in drug expulsions that began in 2009 when Colorado allowed a commercial marijuana industry to emerge. Total school suspensions and expulsions rose from 3,736 by the end of the 2008-2009 school year to 5,249 by the end of the 2013-2014 school year.

Marijuana-related traffic fatalities in Colorado also began rising with the introduction and growth of the commercial marijuana industry in 2009. While total State wide fatalities decreased between 2006 and 2014, marijuana-related fatalities increased over that time.

Colorado marijuana-related emergency room visits increased to 18,255 in in 2014.

Marijuana-related hospitalizations have nearly quintupled since Colorado first legalized marijuana for medical use. Again, note the surge starting in 2009 when growers, processors, and dispensaries were first authorized, and a commercial industry began developing extensive marijuana products such as edibles, vape pens, and butane hash oils (BHO) to attract new customers. BHO has elevated THC levels to the highest seen in the nation; some contain 75 percent to 100 percent THC.

Although there is no data to document whether the increase in homelessness in Denver and other Colorado cities is marijuana-related, those who provide services to the homeless report that many say they relocated to Colorado because of marijuana’s legality.

In Colorado, marijuana is not available in about three-fourths of the state. Of a total 321 local jurisdictions, 228 (71 percent) ban all forms of marijuana businesses; 67 (21 percent) allow both medical and recreational marijuana businesses; and 26 (8 percent) allow only medical or recreational marijuana businesses.

Read report here.
Source: www.themarijuanareport.org  16th September 2015

One in five Canadians between 15 and 24 years of age reports daily or almost daily use of cannabis prior to legalization. They see it as “much safer than alcohol and tobacco” and “not as dangerous as drunk driving.”

Author 1. Paul W Bennett

Research Associate in Education, Saint Mary’s University

Disclosure statement

Paul W Bennett does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Partners

The Conversation UK receives funding from Hefce, Hefcw, SAGE, SFC, RCUK, The Nuffield Foundation, The Ogden Trust, The Royal Society, The Wellcome Trust, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and The Alliance for Useful Evidence, as well as sixty five university members.

One of the enduring myths about marijuana is that it is “harmless” and can be safely used by teens.

Many high school teachers would beg to disagree, and consider the legalization of marijuana to be the biggest upcoming challenge in and around schools. And the evidence is on their side.

As an education researcher, I have visited hundreds of schools over four decades, conducting research into both education policy and teen mental health. I’ve come to recognize when policy changes are going awry and bound to have unintended effects. As Canadian provinces scramble to establish their implementation policies before the promised marijuana legalization date of July 2018, I believe three major education policy concerns remain unaddressed.

These are that marijuana use by children and youth is harmful to brain development, that it impacts negatively upon academic success and that legalization is likely to increase the number of teen users.

‘Much safer than alcohol’

Across Canada, province after province has been announcing its marijuana implementation policy, focusing almost exclusively on the control and regulation of the previously illegal substance. This has provoked fierce debates over who will reap most of the excise tax windfall and whether cannabis will be sold in government stores or delegated to heavily regulated private vendors.

All of the provincial pronouncements claim that their policy will be designed to protect “public health and safety” and safeguard “children and youth” from “harmful effects.”

Still, one in five young people between 15 and 24 years of age, according to a recent national study, report daily or almost daily use of cannabis.

They also see marijuana as “much safer than alcohol and tobacco” and “not as dangerous as drunk driving.”

Few either know about or seem concerned over the clear linkage between heavy use and early-onset psychosis.

Early-onset paranoid psychosis

So what does the evidence say? First, heavy marijuana use can, and does, damage brain development in youth aged 13 to 18. A 2015 Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse study confirmed the direct link between cannabis use and loss of concentration and memory, jumbled thinking and early onset paranoid psychosis.

One of the leaders in the medical field, Dr. Phil Tibbo, initiator of Nova Scotia’s Weed Myths campaign targeting teens, has seen the evidence, first hand, of what heavy use can do as director of Nova Scotia’s Early Psychosis Program. His brain research shows that regular marijuana use leads to an increased risk of developing psychosis and schizophrenia and effectively explodes popular and rather blasé notions that marijuana is “harmless” to teens and “recreational use” is simply “fun” and “healthy.”

Damaging to academic performance Second, marijuana negatively impacts neurocognitive performance in teens and users perform more poorly in quantitative subjects requiring precision — like mathematics and senior science.

In 2017, Dutch researchers Olivier Marie and Ulf Zolitz found that the academic performance of Maastricht University students increased substantially when they were no longer legally permitted to buy cannabis. The effects were stronger for women and low performers and academic gains were larger for courses needing numerical or mathematical skills.

Third, legalization of marijuana is likely to increase the number of teen users. Research from Oregon Research Institute conducted in 2017 showed that teenagers who were already using marijuana prior to legalization increased their frequency of use significantly afterwards. Research from New York University, published in 2014, indicated that many high school students normally at low risk for marijuana use (e.g., non-cigarette-smokers, religious students, those with friends who disapprove of use) reported an intention to use marijuana if it were legal. Medical researchers and practitioners have warned us that legalization carries great dangers, particularly for vulnerable and at-risk youth between 15 and 24 years of age.

Age of restriction

Marijuana legalization policy across Canada is a top-down federal initiative driven largely by changing public attitudes and conditioned by the current realities of the widespread use of marijuana, purchased though illicit means.

Setting the age of restriction, guided by the proposed federal policy framework, has turned out to be an exercise in “compromise” rather than one focused on heeding the advice of leading medical experts and the Canadian Medical Association (CMA). In a 2016 submission to the government, the CMA argued that 25 would be the ideal age for legal access to marijuana, as the brain is still developing until then, but that a lower minimum age of 21 should be considered — to discourage children from purchasing marijuana from organized crime groups.

The report argued that: “Marijuana use is linked to several adverse health outcomes, including addiction, cardiovascular and pulmonary effects (e.g., chronic bronchitis), mental illness, and other problems, including cognitive impairment and reduced educational attainment. There seems to be an increased risk of chronic psychosis disorders, including schizophrenia, in persons with a predisposition to such disorders.” In fact, the minimum age for purchasing and possessing marijuana is going to be age 18 in Alberta and Quebec, and 19 in most other provinces. Getting it “out of high schools” was a critical factor in bumping it up to age 19 in most provinces.

Every Canadian province is complying with the federal legislation, but — in our federal system – it’s “customized” for each jurisdiction.

The Canadian Western provinces — Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan —have opted for regulating private retail stores, while Ontario and the Maritime provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I.) are expanding their liquor control commissions to accommodate retail sales of cannabis. High school teachers, as of September 2018, may be battling a spike in marijuana use and greater peer pressure to smoke pot on the mistaken assumption that it is “harmless” at any age.

Clamping down in schools

For high school principals and staff, this will be a real test.

By September 2018, the old line of defence that using marijuana is illegal will have disappeared. Recreational marijuana will be more socially acceptable. The cannabis industry will be openly marketing its products. High school students who drive to school will likely get caught under new laws prohibiting motor vehicle use while impaired by drugs or alcohol. Fewer students are likely to abstain when it is perfectly legal to smoke pot when you reach university, college or the workplace. We have utterly failed, so far, in getting through to the current generation of teens, so a much more robust approach is in order.

“Be firm at the beginning” is the most common sage advice given to beginner teachers. Clamping down on teen marijuana use during and after school hours will require clarity and firm resolve in the year ahead — and the support of engaged and responsible parents.

Legalization of recreational marijuana is bound to complicate matters for Canadian high schools everywhere. Busting the “Weed Myths” should not be left to doctors and health practitioners. Pursuing research-based, evidence-informed policy and practice means getting behind those on the front lines of high school education.

Source: https://theconversation.com/marijuana-at-school-loss-of-concentration-risk-of-psychosis-90374 January 25th 2018

Human cells mutated faster than expected after exposure to e-cigarettes

· Previous studies have found e-cigarette smoke causes less cancerous damage than tobacco

· New York University exposed human cells and mice to e-cigarette smoke compared to filtered air

· They found the cells mutated much faster than expected

· The team warns this shows vaping is not as risk-free as we may think By MIA DE GRAAF HEALTH EDITOR FOR DAILYMAIL.COM

PUBLISHED: 16:16, 29 January 2018 | UPDATED: 10:21, 30 January 2018 Vaping causes DNA mutations which lead to cancer, a new study warns.

Researchers subjected cultured human bladder and lung cells to e-cigarette vapor which is designed to avoid the carcinogenic by products of tobacco.

They found the cells mutated and became cancerous at a much higher rate than expected, and mice exposed to the smoke also suffered significant DNA damage.

The New York University team warns their findings, published today, bring into question the popular belief that vaping nicotine is a safe alternative to smoking it in cigarettes.

It comes just days after the Food and Drug Administration rejected Philip Morris’s ‘healthy’ iQOS electronic vaping product, saying it is not healthier than tobacco.

New York University exposed human cells and mice to e-cigarette smoke compared to filtered air, and they found vaping did increase the rate of cancerous DNA mutations

E-cigarette smoke (ECS) delivers nicotine through aerosols without burning tobacco.

While tobacco smoke contains nitrosamines and many carcinogenic chemicals from burning, ECS contains nicotine and some relatively harmless organic solvents.

As a result, ‘vaping’, as it is colloquially called, has been promoted as not carcinogenic; a safer substitute for tobacco.

A recent study even found that e-cigarette smokers had 97 percent less lung carcinogens in their body fluids compared to tobacco smokers.

However, experts warn that does not mean it is safe and void of cancer risk.

The new study by Moon-shong Tang, of the environmental medicine department, was an investigation into the belief that other products in tobacco – not nicotine – are the ones that cause cancer and other health woes.

They subjected mice and human cells to the vapor.

They concluded that although vaping delivers fewer carcinogens than tobacco smoke, e-cigarette smokers might have a higher risk than non-smokers of developing lung and bladder cancers and heart diseases.

Last week the FDA voted unanimously against Philip Morris International’s claims that its e-cigarette could predict lower rates of diseases and death in humans.

The penlike device heats Marlboro-branded sticks of tobacco but stops short of burning them.

It is already sold in more than 30 countries and Philip Morris aims to make it the first ‘reduced risk’ tobacco product ever sanctioned by the US.

FDA clearance would mark a major milestone in efforts by both the industry and government officials to provide alternative tobacco products to US smokers.

The adult smoking rate has fallen to an all-time low of 15 percent, though smoking remains the nation’s leading preventable cause of illness and death.

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-5325945/Vaping-causes-cancer-new-study-warns.html 29th Jan 2018

Filed under: Health,Nicotine :

For more than four decades, marijuana has been synonymous with Jamaica. It was traditionally associated with the Rastafarian community in Jamaica and is regarded as a herb of religious significance by the Rastafarians and is widely used as a sacrament in their religious ceremonies.

However, the use of marijuana has transcended its traditional use from that of a sacrament for Rastafarians and it is now being used as a recreational drug in mainstream society. It has assumed both cultural and religious significance and is regarded as a harmless “holy herb” that bestows wisdom on its users.

Marijuana has permeated the society to such an extent that the taboo once associated with its use has her diminished, and this has led to it being more available. As a result of such availability, the “weed” is easily accessible and can be found in the palms of many of the countries’ youth (12 to 19 years old), especially those in the lower socioeconomic communities.

With the amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act decriminalising the use and possession of small quantities of marijuana, it is projected that more youth will be using the drug.

Given Jamaica’s history with marijuana use and it’s so, called powers of wisdom, persons are unwilling to accept the fact that this herb can have any ill affect on one’s mental health, and persons who admit to suffering ill effects from its use are seen as weak.

This policy seeks to address the effect marijuana usage has on the mental health of adolescents and outlines options for preventing marijuana usage and reducing ganja- related harms.

THE PROBLEM FACING JAMAICA

1) Smoking marijuana increases the risk of mental disorders such as depression and schizophrenia in adolescents.

2) The decriminalising of small quantities of marijuana will only serve to increase the availability and usage of marijuana among the nation’s youth, resulting in increased ganja-related mental illnesses.

3) The focus on marijuana is largely on the criminal justice perspective. However, there is insufficient attention being placed on the issue of health, especially the mental health of young persons who consume the drug.

4) Marijuana is the most commonly used drug in Jamaica. Some of the active ingredients in marijuana have been shown to be harmful to the user. they can induce hallucinations, change thinking, and cause delusions.

5) The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) reports that the majority of marijuana users in Jamaica are between the ages of 13-25 years, implying that marijuana use is occurring in the most productive years of individuals’ lives.

6) The World Health Organisation (WHO) and (others) have reported that the most prevalent disorder in Jamaica is schizophrenia, which has been increasing yearly between 2009 and 2013. These studies have also highlighted the connection with early usage of marijuana and the increase in mental illness.

7) The National Secondary Schools Survey (2013) conducted islandwide from a sample of 3,365 grades 8, 10, 11, and 12 students, revealed the following:

a) 43.2% reported that marijuana was the easiest illicit drug to access.

b) One in five students who were current marijuana users were at high risk for marijuana misuse

c) Age of first use of marijuana was 12.9 years

d) 30.8% reported that drugs(including marijuana) were available at their school

e) 50.4% believed that drugs, including marijuana were available near school. Students who believed that drugs were available reported significantly higher use than those who did not believe drugs were available in and around school.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) is opposed to the use of marijuana. Its position is based the following on:

i. There is no current scientific evidence that marijuana is in any way beneficial for the treatment of any psychiatric disorder. In contrast, current evidence supports, at minimum, a strong association of cannabis use with the onset of psychiatric disorders. Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to harm, given the effects of cannabis on neurological development.

ii. The use of marijuana/ganja in young people has been examined in many major studies worldwide. Results on the findings of these studies have differed. Some have found little or no association between marijuana use and mental disorders. Others have found deleterious effects of marijuana usage on mental health.

iii. Longitudinal studies conducted in New Zealand and Denmark suggest that the effects on the brain caused by marijuana probably explains higher rates of psychose.

The findings highlighted above suggest that the effects on the brain caused by marijuana usage can lead to mental disorders.

OPTIONS

a) A public education/media campaign (digital, print, radio, and TV) to develop and disseminate effective drug information for youth, parents, and caregivers. At the core of the strategy is essential information about the harmful effects of marijuana use.

i. To bring awareness to the fact that the teen brain continues to develop to age 25, therefore, it is vitally important that teens refrain from marijuana use as this use will affect brain development.

ii. Once youth perceive that marijuana use is harmful and risky, marijuana use dramatically declines.

iii. The longer a child delays drug use, addiction and substance abuse disorders are significantly reduced.

b) Teach life skills and drug-refusal skills focusing on critical thinking, communication, and social competency. This strategy will take on the following options:

i. Engaging families to strengthen these skills by setting rules, clarifying expectations, monitoring behaviour, communicating regularly, providing social support, and modelling positive behaviours.

ii. Encouraging social bonding and caring relationships, with people holding strong standards against substance abuse in families, schools, peer groups, mentoring programmes, religious and spiritual contexts, and structured recreational activities.

The campaign will have an enhanced focus on marijuana use and abuse. In addition to new national-level prevention and demand reduction messaging, the education-media campaign will work directly with communities to amplify the effects of the campaign and to encourage youth participation in the initiative through the help of on-the-ground partner organisations such as uniform groups, youth clubs, and national non-profit organisation devoted solely to the education and development of young people through policy and programme creation.

Since marijuana use has become ingrained in Jamaica’s social and cultural psyche, then any policy directed at marijuana reduction must be geared at behaviour modification.

Public education campaigns, whether they are used as a drug-prevention or health-promotion tool, tend to be based on their ability to affect behavioural change.

They have been successfully applied to the reduction of tobacco use and the promotion of road safety and have shown moderately positive results in a number of areas, including the promotion of healthier nutrition, physical activity, participation in screening for breast and cervical cancer, disease prevention, and other health related concerns.

EXPECTED OUTCOMES

i. First 12 months – 42 per cent improvement in perception of risks of marijuana use by both youth and adults; 50 per cent improvement in the disapproval rates of marijuana use by 12 to 19 year-olds;

ii.Year 3-4 – 70 per cent decrease in marijuana use by youth ages 12 to 19 years; 30 per cent decline in ganja-related mental illnesses.

iii. Year 5-7 – 91 per cent reduction in marijuana use by youth ages 12-19 years old; 75 per cent decline in ganja-related mental illnesses.

Despite the best efforts, some teens will use drugs invariably. Legislative and law enforcement methods offer an alternative to prevent and/or reduce adolescent marijuana usage. At the core of this option are the following strategies:

i. Mandatory counselling and treatment for adolescent found using marijuana.

ii. Mandated community service if adolescent continues to offend.

iii. Mandated prison sentence after the offender has done community service on two previous occasions.

Marijuana is the most widely consumed illicit (pre-decriminalisation in some nation states) drug. It is targeted in one way or another by most prevention interventions. However, few interventions have targeted marijuana specifically. Prevention is typically delivered in the context of wider informational activities and shares a platform with prevention for other substances such as other illicit drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. This policy will be geared specifically at marijuana.

The recommended option of a public education campaign marijuana prevention and reduction programme offers the best alternatives for achieving the stated objectives of the policy.

– This is a heavily edited presentation by Sophia Simpson-Wickham who recently completed an MSc in International Public and Development Management in the Department of Government, UWI, Mona. Feedback: mozzass@hotmail.com or editorial

Source: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/news/20171210/target-ganja-babies-urgent-focu

THE PUBLIC HEALTH BENEFITS AND SOCIAL EFFECTS OF NEEDLE EXCHANGE PROGRAMS ARE AT BEST UNCERTAIN, AND AT WORST ARE DEVASTATING TO BOTH ADDICTS AND THEIR COMMUNITIES

A. NEEDLE EXCHANGE PROGRAMS ARE NOT SCIENTIFICALLY

PROVEN TO REDUCE THE EPIDEMIC OF HIV OR HCV INFECTION

AMONG INJECTION DRUG USERS

B. NEEDLE EXCHANGE PROGRAMS DO NOT REDUCE SUBSTANCE

ABUSE, BUT IN FACT FACILITATE AND ENCOURAGE SUBSTANCE

ABUSE

C. NEEDLE EXCHANGE PROGRAMS ARE DESTRUCTIVE TO THE

COMMUNITIES IN WHICH THEY ARE USED

D. NEEDLE EXCHANGE SENDS A BAD MESSAGE TO SCHOOL CHILDREN.

PROVISION OF NEEDLES TO ADDICTS WILL ENCOURAGE DRUG USE.

THE MESSAGE IS INCONSISTENT WITH THE GOALS OF OUR

NATIONAL YOUTH-ORIENTED ANTI-DRUG CAMPAIGN.

A. NEEDLE EXCHANGE PROGRAMS ARE NOT SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN TO REDUCE THE EPIDEMIC OF HIV OR HCV INFECTION AMONG INJECTION DRUG USERS

(i) The New Haven Study

NEP activists frequently cite the results of a New Haven, Conn., study, published in the American Journal of Medicine, which reported a one-third reduction of HIV among NEP participants. However, the New Haven researchers tested needles from anonymous users, rather than the addicts themselves, for HIV. They never measured “seroconversion rates,” which determine the portion of participants who become HIV positive during the study. Also, sixty percent of the New Haven study participants dropped out; those who remained were presumably more motivated to protect themselves, while the dropouts likely continued their high risk behavior.1

Essentially, the New Haven study merely reported a one-third decrease in HIV-infected needles themselves, which, considering the fact that the NEP flooded the sampling pool with a huge number of new needles, is hardly surprising. Even Peter Lurie, a University of Michigan researcher and avid NEP advocate, admits that “the validity of testing syringes is limited.”2

Furthermore, the New Haven study was based on a mathematical model of anonymous needles using six independent variables to predict the rate of infection. The unreliability of any of the variables invalidates the result. The New Haven study also assumed that any needle returned by a participant other than the one to whom it had been given had been shared, and that any needle returned by the original recipient had not been shared. Both assumptions are suspect.3

Also, the role of HIV transmission through sexual activity is downplayed. Prostitution often finances a drug habit. Non-needle using crack addicts have high incidence of HIV. Recent studies reveal that the greatest HIV threat among heterosexuals is from sexual conduct, not from dirty needles.4
Less than one-third of the New Haven subjects practiced safe sex. In the New Haven study, sampling
error alone could account for the 30 percent decline.5

(ii) The HHS / NAS Study

In 1992, Congress directed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to study NEPs. HHS in turn commissioned the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), an independent, congressionally chartered, non-government research center, to conduct the study. According to the Congressional directive, if the NAS could show that NEPs worked and did not increase drug use, the Surgeon General could lift the ban on federal funding. The study was completed in 1995, and it concluded that well run NEPs could be effective in preventing the spread of HIV, and do not increase the use of illegal drugs. The NAS panel further recommended lifting the ban on federal funding for NEPs and legalization of injection paraphernalia.

 

Now, seven years after the NAS study, Congress has yet to lift the NEP funding ban, clearly indicating that Congress maintains serious doubts as to the validity of the NAS/HHS conclusions regarding NEPs. Of note is that study chairman Dr. Lincoln E. Moses cites the dubious New Haven study as a basis for the NAS findings.6

The NAS panel admitted that its conclusions were not based on reviews of well-designed studies, and the authors admitted that no such studies exist. Incredibly, the panel reported that “[t]he limitations of individual studies do not necessarily preclude us from being able to reach scientifically valid conclusions.”7

Two of the physicians on the NAS panel, Herbert D. Kleber, M.D. and Lawrence S. Brown, M.D., say the news media exaggerated the NAS’s findings. “NEPs are not the panacea their supporters hope for…We personally believe that the spread of HIV is better combated by the expansion and improvement of drug abuse treatment rather than NEPs, and any government funds should be used instead for that purpose.”8

Dr. Kleber, executive vice president for medical research at Columbia University, added: “The existing data is flawed. NEPs may, in theory, be effective, but the data doesn’t prove that they are.”9

This questionable NAS study represents the cornerstone research data used by the notoriously-politicized U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The pro-NEP advocacy of HHS, and its supporting data, has yet to convince Congress that NEPs are scientifically proven to reduce HIV infection while not increasing drug usage.

(iii) The CDC Study

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) conducted a study whose chief architect, Dr. Peter Lurie, recommended NEPs. The CDC report calls for federal funds for NEPs and the repeal of drug paraphernalia laws.

However, although the CDC study endorses NEPs, Dr. Lurie, the study’s author, acknowledges numerous problems: None of the studies were randomized, and self-reported behavior was often the basis for outcomes. Poor follow up and rough measurement of risk behavior also present problems, and he notes that syringe studies have limited validity. The report concludes: “Studies of needle exchange programs on HIV infection rates do not, and in part due to the need for large sample sizes and the multiple impediments to randomization, probably cannot provide clear evidence that needle exchange programs decrease HIV infection rates.”10 randomization, probably cannot provide clear evidence that needle exchange programs decrease HIV infection rates.”11

 

(iv) The Montreal Study

A 1995 Montreal study, published in the American Journal of epidemiology, showed that IDUs who used the NEP were more than twice as likely to become infected with HIV as IDUs who did not use the NEP. Thirty three percent of NEP users and 13 percent of nonuser became infected. There was an HIV seroconversion rate of 7.9 per 100 person years among NEP participants, and a rate of 3.1 per 100 person years among non-participants.12

A high percentage of both groups shared intravenous equipment in the last six months: 78 percent of NEP users and 72 percent of non-NEP users. Risk factors identified as predictors of HIV infection included previous imprisonment, needle sharing and attending an exchange in the last six months. The study authors stated: “We caution against trying to prove directly the causal relation between NEP use and reduction in HIV incidence. Evaluating the effect of NEPs per se without accounting for other interventions and changes over time in the dynamics of the epidemic may prove to be a perilous exercise.” The study concluded: “Observational epidemiological studies…are yet to provide unequivocal evidence of benefit for NEPs.”13

(v) The Vancouver Study

Vancouver has the largest NEP in North America, and was praised in the 1993 CDC report. It is financed by public funds, and by 1996 was distributing over 2 million needles per year. A 1997 evaluation of the needle exchange program in Vancouver showed that since the program began in 1988, AIDS prevalence in intravenous users rose from approximately 2% to 27%. This occurred despite the fact that 92% of the intravenous addicts in that jurisdiction participated in the needle exchange program.14

The Vancouver study also found that 40% of the HIV-positive addicts who participated in the program had lent a used syringe in the previous six months, and that 60% of HIV-negative addicts had borrowed a used syringe in the previous six months. Despite the enormous number of clean needles provided free of charge, active needle sharing continued at an alarming rate. After only eight months, 18.6 percent of those initially HIV negative became HIV positive.15

The Vancouver study corroborates a previous Chicago study which also demonstrated that its NEP did not reduce needle-sharing and other risky injecting behavior among participants. The Chicago study found that 39% of program participants shared syringes, compared to 38% of non-participants; 39% of program participants, and 38% of non-participants “handed off” dirty needles; and 68% of program participants displayed injecting risks vs. 66% of non-participants.16

The Vancouver report noted that “it is particularly striking that 23 of the 24 seroconverters reported NEP as their most frequent source of sterile syringes, and only five reported having any difficulty accessing sterile syringes.”17

The authors continue: “Our data are particularly disturbing in light of two facts: first, Vancouver has the highest volume NEP in North America; second, HIV prevalence among this city’s IDU population was relatively low until recent years. The fact that sharing of injection equipment is normative, and HIV prevalence and incidence are high in a community where there is an established and remarkably active NEP is alarming.”18

What should be obvious from all of the studies above is that there is no conclusive scientific evidence that NEP’s arrest HIV infection. Indeed, there is evidence that NEP’s breed HIV infection.

Some claim that the federal government supports NEPs. While the previous administration’s Department of Health and Human Services actively favored NEPs, those who were actually in charge of our national drug policy do not. General Barry McCaffrey, then director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), when addressing the issue of NEPS stated “we have a responsibility to protect our children from ever falling victim to the false allure of drugs. We do this, first and foremost, by making sure that we send them one clear, straightforward message about drugs: They are wrong and they can kill you.” McCaffrey’s strong views influenced President Clinton not to approve federal aid money for NEPs.19

A further elaboration of the ONDCP’s policy was provided by James R. McDonough, Director of Strategic Planning for ONDCP, who wrote:

The science is uncertain. Supporters of needle exchange frequently gloss over gaping holes in the data — holes which leave significant doubt regarding whether needle exchanges exacerbate drug use and whether they uniformly lead to decreases in HIV transmission. It would be imprudent to take a key policy step on the basis of yet uncertain and insufficient evidence.

The public health risks may outweigh potential benefits. Each day, over 8,000 young people will try an illegal drug for the first time. Heroin use rates are up among youth. While perhaps eight persons contract HIV directly or indirectly from dirty needles, 352 start using heroin each day, and more than 4,000 die each year from heroin/morphine-related causes (the number one drug-related cause of death).Even assuming that NEWS can further accelerate the already declining rate of HIV transmission, the risk that such programs might encourage a higher rate of heroin use clearly outweighs any potential benefit.

Treatment should be our priority. Treatment has a documented record of reducing drug use as well as HIV transmission. Our fundamental obligation is to provide treatment for those addicted to drugs. NEPS should not be funded at the expense of treatment.

Supporting NEPS will send the wrong message to our children. Government provision of needles to addicts may encourage drug use. The message sent by such government action would be inconsistent with the goals of our national youth-oriented anti-drug campaign.

NEPS do nothing to ameliorate the impact of drug use on disadvantaged neighborhoods. NEPS are normally located in impoverished neighborhoods. These programs attract addicts from surrounding areas and concentrate the negative consequences of drug use, including of criminal activity.20

(vi) Among IV drug users, HIV is transmitted primarily through high-risk sexual contact

Another reason why NEPs may not retard the spread of HIV is that HIV is transmitted primarily through high-risk sexual contact, even among IV drug users. Contrary to prior assumptions, recent studies on the efficacy of NEPs have discovered that it is not needle exchange, but instead, high-risk sexual behavior which is the main factor in HIV infection for men and women who inject drugs, and for NEP participants. A recently released 10-year study has found that the biggest predictor of HIV infection for both male and female injecting drug users (IDUs) is high-risk sexual behavior and not sharing needles. High-risk homosexual activity was the most significant factor in HIV transmission for men and high-risk heterosexual activity the most significant for women. The study noted that in the past the assumption was that IDUs who were HIV positive had been infected with the virus through needle sharing.21

The researchers collected data every 6 months from 1,800 IDUs in Baltimore from 1988 to 1998. Study participants were at least 18 years of age when they entered the study, had a history of injection drug use within the previous 10 years, and did not have HIV infection or AIDS. More than 90 percent of them said they had injected drugs in the 6 months prior to enrolling in the study. In their interviews, the participants reported their recent drug use and sexual behavior and submitted blood samples to determine if they had become HIV POSITIVE since their last visit. The study showed that sexual behaviors, which were thought to be less important among IDUs, are the major risk for HIV seroconversion for both men and women.22

If the above conclusions are correct, the very presumption of NEP efficacy becomes suspect. Indeed, the use of needle exchange programs to address a problem which is caused primarily by high-risk sexual behavior would seem to be highly misguided.

Another reason that Needle Exchange Programs do not effectively address the issue of “saving lives” is that HIV (regardless of how it is contracted) is not the primary cause of death for IVUs. A study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania followed 415 IV drug users in Philadelphia over four years. Twenty eight died during the study. Only five died from causes associated with HIV. Most died of overdose, homicide, suicide, heart or liver disease, or kidney failure.23

Clean needles, even if they in fact prevent HIV, will do nothing to protect the addict from numerous more imminent fatal consequences of his addiction. It is both misleading and unethical to give addicts the idea that they can live safely as IV drug abusers. Only treatment and recovery will save the addict. The myth of “safe IV drug use” is a lie which is perpetuated by NEPs, and it is a lie which will tend to kill the addict, although his corpse may be free of HIV, for whatever consolation that will provide to the NEP proponent.

B. NEEDLE EXCHANGE PROGRAMS DO NOT REDUCE SUBSTANCE ABUSE, BUT IN FACT FACILITATE AND ENCOURAGE SUBSTANCE ABUSE.

The rise of NEPs, with their inherent facilitation of drug use (coupled with the provision of needles in large quantities), may also explain the rapid rise in binge cocaine injection which may be injected up to 40 times a day. Some NEPs encourage cocaine and crack injection by providing “safe crack kits” with instructions on how to inject crack intravenously. Crack cocaine can be, and generally had been, ingested through smoking. But the easy and plentiful availability of needles facilitates crack injection, creating a new segment of IV drug users, subject to health dangers they would otherwise have been spared exposure to. In some NEPS, needles are provided in huge batches of 1000, and although there is supposed to be a one-for-one exchange, the reality is that more needles are put out on the street than are taken in.24

NEPs also facilitate drug use through lax law enforcement policies. Police are instructed not to harass addicts in areas surrounding NEPs. Addicts are exempted from arrest because they are given an anonymous identification code number. Since police in these areas must ignore drug use, and obvious and formidable disincentive to drug use disappears. As the presence of law enforcement declines in these areas, the supply of drugs rises, with increased purity and lower prices, attracting new and younger consumers.25

Many drug prevention experts have warned that the proliferation of NEPS would result in a rise in heroin use, and indeed, this has come to pass. (However, the increase in drug use was ignored by the federally-funded studies which recommended federally funding NEPS). The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University reported August 14, 1997 that heroin use by American teens doubled from 1991 to 1996. In the past decade, experts estimate that the number of US heroin addicts has risen from 550,000 to 700,000. 26

In 1994, a San Francisco study regarding a local NEP falsely concluded that there was no increase in community heroin use because there was no increase in young users frequenting the NEP. The actual rate of heroin use in the community was not measured, and the lead author, needle provider John Watters, was found dead of an IV heroin overdose in November 1995. According to the Public Statistics Institute, hospital admissions for heroin in San Francisco increased 66% from 1986 to 1995.27

In Vancouver, site of the largest NEP in North America, heroin use has risen sharply. In 1988 when the NEP started, 18 deaths were attributed to drugs. In 1993, 200 deaths were attributed to drugs. A 1998 report notes that drug deaths were averaging 10 per week. Now Vancouver has the highest heroin death rate in North America, and is referred to as Canada’s “drug and crime capital.”28

The 1997 National Institutes of Health Consensus Panel Report on HIV Prevention praised the NEP in Glasgow, Scotland, but the report failed to note Glasgow’s massive resultant heroin epidemic. Subsequently, as revealed in an article entitled “Rethinking Harm Reduction for Glasgow Addicts,” Glasgow took the lead in the United Kingdom in deaths from heroin overdose, and its incidence of AIDS continues to rise.29

Boston’s NEP opened in July 1993, and the city became a magnet for heroin. Logan Airport has been branded the country’s “heroin port.” Boston soon led the nation in heroin purity (average 81%), and heroin samples of 99.9% are found on Boston streets. Subsequently, Boston developed the cheapest, purest heroin in the world and a serious heroin epidemic among the youth. The Boston NEP was supposed to be a “pilot study,” but there was no evaluation of seroconversion rates in the addicts nor of the rising level of heroin use in the Boston area.30

Similarly, the Baltimore NEP is praised by those who run it, but the massive drug epidemic in the city is overlooked. The National Institute of Health reports that heroin treatment and ER admission rates in Baltimore have increased steadily from 1991 to 1995. At one open-air drug supermarket (open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.) customers were herded into lines sometimes 20 or 30 people deep. Guarded by persons armed with guns and baseball bats, customers are frisked for weapons, and then allowed to purchase $10 capsules of heroin.31

One thing should be clear from the foregoing: since the implementation of NEPs, heroin use in our country has boomed. It is obvious: a public policy of giving needles to heroin addicts facilitates and encourages heroin use.

C. NEEDLE EXCHANGE PROGRAMS ARE DESTRUCTIVE TO THE COMMUNITIES IN WHICH THEY ARE USED.

Most citizens oppose NEPs in their communities, and are concerned about the prospect of dirty needles being discarded in public places. These fears are not without merit. NEPs distribute millions of needles every year, and there is little or no accountability for needles once they have been distributed. A survey conducted in 1998 revealed that in million needles unaccounted for.32

Carelessly discarded needles create a well-documented public hazard:

* On February 11, 2001, a six-year old from Glade View, Florida, stabbed five children with a discarded syringe. (Kellie Patrick/Scott Davis, “Playground Attack Raises Health Worries,” Sun Sentinal, 2/9/00, p 1B).

* On February 2, 2001, a nine year old from the Bronx stabbed four children with a discarded needle. (Diane Cardwell, “Boy Accused of Needle Attack,” The New York Times, 2/2/01, p. A17.)

* On February 13, 2001, a syringe left at a bus station stuck a four year old boy. (Mike Hast, “Big Fines for Syringe Litterers,” Frankson & Hastings Independent, February 13, 2001,www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n304/ a08.html.)33

Besides the physical hazard created by discarded needles, there is a commonsense perception that NEPs bring an air of decay to the communities that host them. After several years of operation, 343 Massachusetts towns and cities (out of a total of 347) continue to decline the option of approving a local NEP, although of the 10 available slots, only 4 are taken.

In March 1997, accompanied by a New York Times reporter, a member of the Coalition for a Better Community, a New York City group opposed to NEPs, visited the Lower East Side Needle Exchange. She was not asked for identification and was promptly given 40 syringes (without having to produce any to exchange). She was also given alcohol wipes and “cookers” for mixing the drugs, and she was given an exchange ID card that would exempt her from arrest for possession of drug paraphernalia. She was then shown how to inject herself.34

Community opposition to the Lower East Side Needle Exchange arose soon after implementation of the local NEP due to an increase in dirty syringes on neighborhood streets, in school yards and in parks. There was observed to be a dramatic increase in the public display of injecting drugs. NEP users were seen selling their syringes to buy more drugs. Exchange workers themselves were photographed selling needles offsite. Neighbors perceived the Lower East Side NEP as little more than a wholesale distribution center for clean needles and a social club for addicts. Pro-needle activist Donald Grove concurred: “Most needle exchange programs actually provide a valuable service to users beyond sterile
injection equipment. They serve as sites of informal organizing and coming together. A user might be able to do the networking to find good drugs in the half an hour he spends at the street based needle exchange site networking that might otherwise have taken half a day. [Grove, D. The Harm Reduction Coalition, N.Y.C., Harm Reduction Communication, Spring 1996].35

In 1998, a U.S. Government official was sent to Vancouver, site of the largest NEP in North America, to assess the high incidence of HIV among NEP participants, and the skyrocketing death rate due to drug overdose. He reported that the highest rates of property crime in Vancouver were within two blocks of the needle exchange. He also observed, pursuant to a tour with the Vancouver Police, that there was a 24 hour drug market and plain view injection activity in the area immediately adjacent to the needle exchange. Most poignantly, he was told, in a private interview with an elementary school teacher, that the children at area schools are not allowed outside at recess for fear of needles.36

CONCLUSION

There is ample evidence to suggest that very fundamental premises used to justify and support NEPs are seriously flawed.

First, NEP participants routinely continue to share needles, and large percentages of the NEP participants are HIV positive, meaning that NEPs do nothing more than continue the spread of HIV (and HCV). Significantly, no one has been able to explain satisfactorily why enhanced needle availability in and of itself would discourage needle sharing: needle sharing is an intrinsic aspect of IV drug use, and a NEP-issued needle will transmit HIV as well as any other needle.

Second, NEP studies have discovered (inadvertently) that needle sharing is not even the primary cause of HIV infection for IVUs. It is primarily through high-risk sexual behavior that IVUs contract HIV; free needles do nothing to prevent sexually transmitted disease.

Furthermore, HIV (regardless of how it is contracted) is not even the primary cause of death for IVUs. Most die of overdose, homicide, suicide, heart or liver disease, or kidney failure. Clean needles may protect an addict from HIV, but they do nothing to protect him from the more numerous, and more imminent fatal threats of his addiction. Several key NEP proponents have died of heroin overdose; no doubt their needles were very clean.

Third, the science is inconclusive. Although the proponents of NEPs uniformly aver that the scientific debate regarding the efficacy of NEPs is over, in truth, even the reports favoring NEPs are burdened with imprecise methodology, and many of the authors of those reports caution that their results should not be deemed conclusive. Today, there is still no conclusive scientific evidence: (1) that NEPs reduce the spread of HIV and HCV, or (2) that NEPs do not encourage IV drug use. Indeed, the correlation between the rise of NEPs and the explosion of IV drug use, if it is a coincidence, is a remarkable one.

Dispassionate observers will look at the current epidemic of heroin and IV cocaine use as a tragedy which might have been averted, or mitigated, but for the misguided mercies of the NEP concept.

Fourth, while the benefits of NEPs may be in doubt, the costs to the surrounding communities are very real. The overwhelming majority of communities dread the prospect of a local NEP, for self-evident and well-documented reasons.

Notes

1New Jersey Family Policy Council, Needle Exchange Programs – Panacea or Peril, New Jersey Family Policy Council, POB 6011, Parsippany, NJ 07054, 973-263-5258, www.njfpc.org/research-papers/needle.htm 2. Loconte, Joe, Killing Them Softly,” Policy Review, The Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002, p. 19 (August, 1998) 3. See New Jersey Family Policy Council, Needle Exchange Programs – Panacea or Peril, supra, note 1. 4.Mathias, Robert, high-Risk Sex Is Main Factor in HIV Infection for Men and Women Who Inject Drugs@, NIDA NOTES Staff Writer, NIDA Notes, (National Institute on Drug Abuse, Washington, DC) Volume 17, Number 2 (May 2002) (Source: Strathdee, S.A., et al.

Sex differences in risk factors for HIV seroconversion among injection drug users.@ Archives of Internal Medicine 161:1281-1288, 2001)

1

See New Jersey Family Policy Council, Needle Exchange Programs- Panacea or Peril, supra, note 1.

1 Id.

1See Loconte, Joe, Policy Review, supra, note 2.

1

See New Jersey Family Policy Council, ANeedle Exchange Programs – Panacea or Peril, supra, note 1.

1

See New Jersey Family Policy Council, Needle Exchange Programs- Panacea or Peril, supra, note 1.

4 Id.

4See Loconte, Joe, Policy Review, supra, note 2.

4 See New Jersey Family Policy Council, Needle Exchange Programs – Panacea or Peril, supra, note 1. 4 Sex differences in risk factors for HIV seroconversion among injection drug users.@ Archives of Internal Medicine 161:1281-1288, 2001) 5 See New Jersey Family Policy Council, Needle Exchange Programs- Panacea or Peril, supra, note 1.

6 Id.

7See Loconte, Joe, Policy Review, supra, note 2.

8 See New Jersey Family Policy Council, Needle Exchange Programs – Panacea or Peril, supra, note 1.

9 See Loconte, Joe, Policy Review, supra, note 2.

10See New Jersey Family Policy Council, Needle Exchange Programs – Panacea or Peril, supra, note 1. 11See New Jersey Family Policy Council, Needle Exchange Programs – Panacea or Peril, supra, note 1.

12 Bruneau J, Lamothe F, Franco E, Lachance N, Desy M, Soto J, et al. High rates of HIV infection among injection drug users participating in needle exchange programs in Montreal: results of a cohort study. Am J Epidemiol 1997;146(12):994-1002.

13 Id.

14Strathdee SA, Patrick DM, Currie SL, Cornelisse PG, Rekart ML, Montaner JS, et al. Needle exchange is not enough: lessons from the Vancouver Injecting Drug Use Study. AIDS 1997;11(8):F59-F65. British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

15 Id.

16 National Research Council/ Institute of Medicine, Preventing HIV Transmission: the Role of Sterile Needles and Bleach, National Academy Press, Washington DC, p. 302-304, 1995.

17 See: Strathdee SA,et, al., supra, note 14.

18Id.

19Drug Czar Statement on Administration Decision to Continue Ban on Use of Federal Funds for Needle Exchange Programs,” Press Release, Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Washington, D.C., April 24, 1998.

20 James R. McDonough, Director of Strategic Planning, Executive Office of the President, Office of National, Drug Control Policy, Washington, DC. 20503 to Ms. Elizabeth Edwards, Arizonans for a Drug-Free Workplace, P.O. Box 13223, Tucson, AZ 85732; Letter dated April 14, 1998.

21Mathias, Robert, High-risk Sex Is Main Factor in HIV Infection for Men and Women Who Inject Drugs@, NIDA NOTES Staff Writer, NIDA Notes, (National Institute on Drug Abuse, Washington, DC) Volume 17, Number 2 (May 2002) (Source: Strathdee, S.A., et al. Sex differences in risk factors for HIV seroconversion among injection drug users. Archives of Internal Medicine 161:1281-1288, 2001.

22 Id.

23 See Loconte, Joe, Policy Review, supra, note 2.

24Janet D. Lapey, MD, Needle Exchange Programs: 1998 Report, April 1998, Drug Watch, P.O. Box 45218, Omaha, Nebraska 68145-0218

25 Id. 26Id. 27 Id.

28 Id. 29 Id. 30Id. 31Id.

32Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, HHS, Washington, DC 2001;50:384-388.

33Maginnis, Robert L., 2001 Update On The Drug Needle Debate, Insight, Number 235, July 16, 2001, Family Research Council, 801 G. St. NW, Washington, DC 2001.

34See New Jersey Family Policy Council, ANeedle Exchange Programs – Panacea or Peril, supra, note 1.

35D.B. Des Roches, Information, Memorandum for the Director, Through: the Deputy Director, Subject: Vancouver Needle Exchange Trip Report, Executive Office of the President, Office of National Drug Control Policy, Washington, D.C. 20503, April 6, 1998.

 

Source: Testimony of David G. Evans, Esq.

Executive director, Drug-free Schools Coalition before the Health and Human Services

Committee of the New Jersey Assembly, Trenton, NJ in opposition to a-3256

September 20, 2004

“No One Has Died of an Overdose”

This remains the most outrageous claim of the pro-legalization movement. It is not only dangerously misleading, it is a slap in the face to the families who have lost children, spouses and parents. Everyone admits that people are dying in traffic crashes because of stoned drivers, and that some people have died in butane hash oil explosions, but too many people are turning a blind eye to the other deaths caused by what can only be called an overdose. Tachycardia – a racing heart – is a common, well-known side effect of using marijuana. So is increased blood pressure. A growing body of evidence, here and in other countries, is revealing that marijuana has caused previously overlooked deaths through heart attack and stroke. In Colorado last fall, an 11-month-old infant brought to the ER after being exposed to marijuana died from an inflamed heart muscle (myocarditis) caused by the exposure.

Marijuana can also overwhelm the emotional centers of the brain causing paranoia, delusions, and acute psychosis. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report released last January states, “There is substantial evidence of a statistical association between cannabis use and the development of schizophrenia or other psychoses, with the highest risk among the most frequent users.” (The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids, Chapter Highlights NAS 2017)

Emergency rooms in Colorado reported a 44 percent increase in marijuana-related visits between 2012 and 2014. Many of these were cases of acute psychosis, particularly in young men, who had to be restrained to keep from harming themselves or others.

Other evidence of marijuana overdose

A growing body of evidence indicates that marijuana is not just associated with suicide but can be a causative factor. The NAS report cited above found an “Increased incidence of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts with a higher incidence among heavier users” and an “Increased incidence of suicide completion.” One of the studies they listed found a seven-fold increase in risk for suicide even after controlling for a prior history of mood disorders.

In 2014, a young man in Colorado either jumped or unwittingly tumbled to his death from a fourth-floor balcony during a psychotic outburst. In July this year, a Vermont father clutching his son to his chest jumped out of a fourth-floor window shortly after smoking marijuana. He said it was God who made him jump.

When a drug drives all sense of reality from your brain, it’s an overdose. In marijuana’s case, these overdoses can and do lead to death.

Dean Whitlock is a freelance writer whose book, Finn’s Clock, a historical fantasy will be coming this fall in paperback. www.deanwhitlock.com.Read the full article in Vermont Digger. Also read why Vermont physicians propose caution with legalization.

Source: http://www.poppot.org/2017/10/18/truth-deaths-by-marijuana-overdose/

A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Key Points

Question What is the prevalence of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder among children and youth in the general population?

Findings In this meta-analysis of 24 unique studies and 1416 unique children and youth with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, approximately 8 of 1000 in the general population had foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and 1 of every 13 pregnant women who consumed alcohol during pregnancy delivered a child with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder. The prevalence of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder was found to be notably higher among special populations.

Meaning The prevalence of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder among children and youth in the general population exceeds 1% in 76 countries, which underscores the need for universal prevention initiatives targeting maternal alcohol consumption, screening protocols, and improved access to diagnostic services, especially in special populations.

Abstract

Importance Prevalence estimates are essential to effectively prioritize, plan, and deliver health care to high-needs populations such as children and youth with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). However, most countries do not have population-level prevalence data for FASD.

Objective To obtain prevalence estimates of FASD among children and youth in the general population by country, by World Health Organization (WHO) region, and globally.

Data Sources MEDLINE, MEDLINE in process, EMBASE, Education Resource Information Center, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Web of Science, PsychINFO, and Scopus were systematically searched for studies published from November 1, 1973, through June 30, 2015, without geographic or language restrictions.

Study Selection Original quantitative studies that reported the prevalence of FASD among children and youth in the general population, used active case ascertainment or clinic-based methods, and specified the diagnostic guideline or case definition used were included.

Data Extraction and Synthesis Individual study characteristics and prevalence of FASD were extracted. Country-specific random-effects meta-analyses were conducted. For countries with 1 or no empirical study on the prevalence of FASD, this indicator was estimated based on the proportion of women who consumed alcohol during pregnancy per 1 case of FASD. Finally, WHO regional and global mean prevalence of FASD weighted by the number of live births in each country was estimated.

Main Outcomes and Measures Prevalence of FASD.

Results A total of 24 unique studies including 1416 unique children and youth diagnosed with FASD (age range, 0-16.4 years) were retained for data extraction. The global prevalence of FASD among children and youth in the general population was estimated to be 7.7 per 1000 population (95% CI, 4.9-11.7 per 1000 population).

The WHO European Region had the highest prevalence (19.8 per 1000 population; 95% CI, 14.1-28.0 per 1000 population), and the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region had the lowest (0.1 per 1000 population; 95% CI, 0.1-0.5 per 1000 population).

Of 187 countries, South Africa was estimated to have the highest prevalence of FASD at 111.1 per 1000 population (95% CI, 71.1-158.4 per 1000 population), followed by Croatia at 53.3 per 1000 population (95% CI, 30.9-81.2 per 1000 population) and Ireland at 47.5 per 1000 population (95% CI, 28.0-73.6 per 1000 population).

Conclusions and Relevance

Globally, FASD is a prevalent alcohol-related developmental disability that is largely preventable. The findings highlight the need to establish a universal public health message about the potential harm of prenatal alcohol exposure and a routine screening protocol. Brief interventions should be provided, where appropriate.

Source: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/article-abstract/2649225

Abstract

IMPORTANCE:

Over the last 25 years, illicit cannabis use and cannabis use disorders have increased among US adults, and 28 states have passed medical marijuana laws (MML). Little is known about MML and adult illicit cannabis use or cannabis use disorders considered over time.

OBJECTIVE:

To present national data on state MML and degree of change in the prevalence of cannabis use and disorders.

DESIGN, PARTICIPANTS, AND SETTING:

Differences in the degree of change between those living in MML states and other states were examined using 3 cross-sectional US adult surveys: the National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey (NLAES; 1991-1992), the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC; 2001-2002), and the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions-III (NESARC-III; 2012-2013). Early-MML states passed MML between NLAES and NESARC (“earlier period”). Late-MML states passed MML between NESARC and NESARC-III (“later period”).

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES:

Past-year illicit cannabis use and DSM-IV cannabis use disorder.

RESULTS:

Overall, from 1991-1992 to 2012-2013, illicit cannabis use increased significantly more in states that passed MML than in other states (1.4-percentage point more; SE, 0.5; P = .004), as did cannabis use disorders (0.7-percentage point more; SE, 0.3; P = .03).

In the earlier period, illicit cannabis use and disorders decreased similarly in non-MML states and in California (where prevalence was much higher to start with). In contrast, in remaining early-MML states, the prevalence of use and disorders increased.

Remaining early-MML and non-MML states differed significantly for use (by 2.5 percentage points; SE, 0.9; P = .004) and disorder (1.1 percentage points; SE, 0.5; P = .02). In the later period, illicit use increased by the following percentage points: never-MML states, 3.5 (SE, 0.5); California, 5.3 (SE, 1.0); Colorado, 7.0 (SE, 1.6); other early-MML states, 2.6 (SE, 0.9); and late-MML states, 5.1 (SE, 0.8). Compared with never-MML states, increases in use were significantly greater in late-MML states (1.6-percentage point more; SE, 0.6; P = .01), California (1.8-percentage point more; SE, 0.9; P = .04), and Colorado (3.5-percentage point more; SE, 1.5; P = .03).

Increases in cannabis use disorder, which was less prevalent, were smaller but followed similar patterns descriptively, with change greater than never-MML states in California (1.0-percentage point more; SE, 0.5; P = .06) and Colorado (1.6-percentage point more; SE, 0.8; P = .04).

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE:

Medical marijuana laws appear to have contributed to increased prevalence of illicit cannabis use and cannabis use disorders. State-specific policy changes may also have played a role. While medical marijuana may help some, cannabis-related health consequences associated with changes in state marijuana laws should receive consideration by health care professionals and the public.

Source: JAMA Psychiatry. 2017 Jun 1;74(6):579-588. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.0724.

Researchers from the McGill Group for Suicide Studies, based at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and McGill University’s Department of Psychiatry, have just published research in the American Journal of Psychiatry that suggests that the long-lasting effects of traumatic childhood experiences, like severe abuse, may be due to an impaired structure and functioning of cells in the anterior cingulate cortex. This is a part of the brain which plays an important role in the regulation of emotions and mood.

The researchers believe that these changes may contribute to the emergence of depressive disorders and suicidal behaviour.

Crucial insulation for nerve fibres builds up during first two decades of life

For the optimal function and organization of the brain, electrical signals used by neurons may need to travel over long distances to communicate with cells in other regions. The longer axons of this kind are generally covered by a fatty coating called myelin. Myelin sheaths protect the axons and help them to conduct electrical signals more efficiently. Myelin builds up progressively (in a process known as myelination) mainly during childhood, and then continue to mature until early adulthood.

Earlier studies had shown significant abnormalities in the white matter in the brains of people who had experienced child abuse. (White matter is mostly made up of thousands of myelinated nerve fibres stacked together.) But, because these observations were made by looking at the brains of living people using MRI, it was impossible to gain a clear picture of the white matter cells and molecules that were affected.

To gain a clearer picture of the microscopic changes which occur in the brains of adults who have experienced child abuse, and thanks to the availability of brain samples from the Douglas-Bell Canada Brain Bank (where, as well as the brain matter itself there is a lot of information about the lives of their donors) the researchers were able to compare post-mortem brain samples from three different groups of adults: people who had committed suicide who suffered from depression and had a history of severe childhood abuse (27 individuals); people with depression who had committed suicide but who had no history of being abused as children (25 individuals); and brain tissue from a third group of people who had neither psychiatric illnesses nor a history of child abuse (26 people).

Impaired neural connectivity may affect the regulation of emotions

The researchers discovered that the thickness of the myelin coating of a significant proportion of the nerve fibres was reduced ONLY in the brains of those who had suffered from child abuse. They also found underlying molecular alterations that selectively affect the cells that are responsible for myelin generation and maintenance. Finally, they found increases in the diameters of some of the largest axons among only this group and they speculate that together, these changes may alter functional coupling between the cingulate cortex and subcortical structures such as the amygdala and nucleus accumbens (areas of the brain linked respectively to emotional regulation and to reward and satisfaction) and contribute to altered emotional processing in people who have been abused during childhood.

The researchers conclude that adversity in early life may lastingly disrupt a range of neural functions in the anterior cingulate cortex. And while they don’t yet know where in

the brain and when during development, and how, at a molecular level these effects are sufficient to have an impact on the regulation of emotions and attachment, they are now planning to explore this in further research.

Source: http://www.mcgill.ca/newsroom/channels/news/child-abuse-affects-brain-wiring-270024

NEW REPORT BY NATIONAL FAMILIES IN ACTION RIPS THE VEIL OFF THE MEDICAL MARIJUANA INDUSTRY

Research Traces the Money Trail and Reveals the Motivation Behind Marijuana as Medicine

  • Tracking the Money That’s Legalizing Marijuana and Why It Matters documents state-by-state financial data, exposing the groups and the amount of money used either to fund or oppose ballot initiatives legalizing medical or recreational marijuana in 16 U.S. states.
  •  NFIA report reveals three billionaires—George Soros, Peter Lewis and John Sperling—who contributed 80 percent of the money to medicalize marijuana through state ballot initiatives during a 13-year period, with the strategy to use medical marijuana as a runway to legalized recreational pot.
  •  Report shows how billionaires and marijuana legalizers manipulated the ballot initiative process, outspent the people who opposed marijuana and convinced voters that marijuana is medicine, even while most of the scientific and medical communities say marijuana is not medicine and should not be legal.
  •  Children in Colorado treated with unregulated cannabis oil have had severe dystonic reactions, other movement disorders, developmental regression, intractable vomiting and worsening seizures.
  •  A medical marijuana industry has emerged to join the billionaires in financing initiatives to legalize recreational pot.

Atlanta, Ga. (March 14, 2017)—A new report by National Families in Action (NFIA) uncovers and documents how three billionaires, who favour legal recreational marijuana, manipulated the ballot initiative process in 16 U.S. states for more than a decade, convincing voters to legalize medical marijuana. NFIA is an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization, founded in 1977, that has been helping parents prevent children from using alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. NFIA researched and issued the paper to mark its 40th anniversary.

The NFIA study, Tracking the Money That’s Legalizing Marijuana and Why It Matters, exposes, for the first time, the money trail behind the marijuana legalization effort during a 13-year period. The report lays bare the strategy to use medical marijuana as a runway to legalized recreational pot, describing how financier George Soros, insurance magnate Peter Lewis, and for-profit education baron John Sperling (and groups they and their families fund) systematically chipped away at resistance to marijuana while denying that full legalization was their goal.

The report documents state-by-state financial data, identifying the groups and the amount of money used either to fund or oppose ballot initiatives legalizing medical or recreational marijuana in 16 states. The paper unearths how legalizers fleeced voters and outspent—sometimes by hundreds of times—the people who opposed marijuana.

Tracking the Money That’s Legalizing Marijuana and Why It Matters illustrates that legalizers lied about the health benefits of marijuana, preyed on the hopes of sick people, flouted scientific evidence and advice from the medical community and gutted consumer protections against unsafe, ineffective drugs. And, it proves that once the billionaires achieved their goal of legalizing recreational marijuana (in Colorado and Washington in 2012), they virtually stopped financing medical pot ballot initiatives and switched to financing recreational pot. In 2014 and 2016, they donated $44 million to legalize recreational pot in Alaska, Oregon, California, Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine. Only Arizona defeated the onslaught (for recreational marijuana).

Unravelling the Legalization Strategy: Behind the Curtain In 1992, financier George Soros contributed an estimated $15 million to several groups he advised to stop advocating for outright legalization and start working toward what he called more winnable issues such as medical marijuana.

At a press conference in 1993, Richard Cowen, then-director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said, “The key to it [full legalization] is medical access. Because, once you have hundreds of thousands of people using marijuana medically, under medical supervision, the whole scam is going to be blown. The consensus here is that medical marijuana is our strongest suit. It is our point of leverage which will move us toward the legalization of marijuana for personal use.”

Between 1996 and 2009, Soros, Lewis and Sperling contributed 80 percent of the money to medicalize marijuana through state ballot initiatives. Their financial contributions, exceeding $15.7 million (of the $19.5 million total funding), enabled their groups to lie to voters in advertising campaigns, cover up marijuana’s harmful effects, and portray pot as medicine—leading people to believe that the drug is safe and should be legal for any use.

Today, polls show how successful the billionaires and their money have been. In 28 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, voters and, later, legislators have shown they believe marijuana is medicine, even though most of the scientific and medical communities say marijuana is not medicine and should not be legal. While the most recent report, issued by the National Academies of Sciences (NAS), finds that marijuana may alleviate certain kinds of pain, it also finds there is no rigorous, medically acceptable documentation that marijuana is effective in treating any other illness. At the same time, science offers irrefutable evidence that marijuana is addictive, harmful and can hinder brain development in adolescents. At the distribution level, there are no controls on the people who sell to consumers. Budtenders (marijuana bartenders) have no medical or pharmaceutical training or qualifications.

One tactic used by legalizers was taking advantage of voter empathy for sick people, along with the confusion about science and how the FDA approves drugs. A positive finding in a test tube or petri dish is merely a first step in a long, rigorous process leading to scientific consensus about the efficacy of a drug. Scientific proof comes after randomized, controlled clinical trials, and many drugs with promising early stage results never make it through the complex sets of hurdles that prove efficacy and safety. But marijuana legalizers use early promise and thin science to persuade and manipulate empathetic legislators and voters into buying the spin that marijuana is a cure-all.

People who are sick already have access to two FDA-approved drugs, Dronabinol and Nabilone, that are not marijuana, but contain identical copies of some of the components of marijuana. These drugs, available as pills, effectively treat chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and AIDS wasting. The NAS reviewed 10,700 abstracts of marijuana studies conducted since 1999, finding that these two oral drugs are effective in adults for the conditions described above. An extract containing two marijuana chemicals that is approved in other countries, reduces spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis. But there is no evidence that marijuana treats other diseases, including epilepsy and most of the other medical conditions the states have legalized marijuana to treat. These conditions range from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Crohn’s disease to Hepatitis-C, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and even sickle cell disease.

Not So Fast – What about the Regulations?

Legalizers also have convinced Americans that unregulated cannabidiol, a marijuana component branded as cannabis oil, CBD, or Charlotte’s Web, cures intractable seizures in children with epilepsy, and polls show some 90 percent of Americans want medical marijuana legalized, particularly for these sick children. In Colorado, the American Epilepsy Society reports that children with epilepsy are receiving unregulated, highly variable artisanal preparations of cannabis oil recommended, in most cases, by doctors with no training in paediatrics, neurology or epilepsy. Young patients have had severe dystonic reactions and other movement disorders, developmental regression, intractable vomiting and worsening seizures that can be so severe that their physicians have to put the child into a coma to get the seizures to stop. Because of these dangerous side effects, not one paediatric neurologist in Colorado, where unregulated cannabidiol is legal, recommends it for these children.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta further clouded the issue when he produced Weed in 2013, a three-part documentary series for CNN on marijuana as medicine. In all three programs, Dr. Gupta promoted CBD oil, the kind the American Epilepsy Society calls artisanal. This is because not one CBD product sold in legal states has been purified to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards, tested, or proven safe and effective. The U.S. Congress and the FDA developed rigid processes to review drugs and prevent medical tragedies such as birth defects caused by thalidomide. These processes have facilitated the greatest advances in medicine in history.

“By end-running the FDA, three billionaires have been willing to wreck the drug approval process that has protected Americans from unsafe, ineffective drugs for more than a century,” said Sue Rusche, president and CEO of National Families in Action and author of the report. “Unsubstantiated claims for the curative powers of marijuana abound.” No one can be sure of the purity, content, side effects or potential of medical marijuana to cause cancer or any other disease. When people get sick from medical marijuana, there are no uniform mechanisms to recall products causing the harm. Some pot medicines contain no active ingredients. Others contain contaminants. “Sick people, especially children, suffer while marijuana medicine men make money at their expense,” added Ms. Rusche.

Marijuana Industry – Taking a Page from the Tobacco Industry The paper draws a parallel between the marijuana and tobacco industries, both built with the knowledge that a certain percentage of users will become addicted and guaranteed lifetime customers. Like tobacco, legalized marijuana will produce an unprecedented array of new health, safety and financial consequences to Americans and their children.

“Americans learned the hard way about the tragic effects of tobacco and the deceptive practices of the tobacco industry. Making another addictive drug legal unleashes a commercial business that is unable to resist the opportunity to make billions of dollars on the back of human suffering, unattained life goals, disease, and death,” said Ms. Rusche. “If people genuinely understood that marijuana can cause cognitive, safety and mental health problems, is addictive, and that addiction rates may be three times higher than reported, neither voters nor legislators would legalize pot.” NDPA recommends readers to read the whole report Tracking the Money That’s Legalizing Marijuana and Why It Matters

Source: www.nationalfamilies.org. 2017

· Trials on mice found THC – which causes the ‘high’ in weed, can induce seizures

· The same was shown for JWH-018 – the main part of the synthetic cannabis spice

· Japanese researchers have described their findings are being ‘quite important’

· Skunk, made mostly of THC, dominates the illegal British market of marijuana

Smoking super-strength cannabis or spice may trigger life-threatening seizures, researchers have warned.

Trials on mice showed seizures can be induced by both THC – which causes the ‘high’ in marijuana, and JWH-018 – the main component of spice. The rodents also suffered from a shortness of breath and impaired walking after being given both compounds, the scientists discovered.

Japanese researchers warned the results should act as a wake-up call, given how widely high-potency and synthetic weed is used.

The findings contradicts pro-cannabis campaigners who have long argued that cannabis can help to tackle seizures and highlighted research which shows weed can prevent and control seizures in epileptic patients.

However, lead researcher Dr Olga Malyshevskaya, based at the University of Tsukuba, said the latest findings show cannabis is not a soft drug and warned of its dangers.

She said: ‘Our study is quite important. Unaware of the particularly severe effect by those cannabinoids, people see marijuana as a soft drug, without dangerous health effects.’

She added: ‘It is critically important for health-care professionals and policy makers to be aware of the serious adverse effects, as shown in this report. Clinicians in the emergency departments should always suspect seizure activity in patients who have a history of cannabinoid intoxication.

WHAT IS THC?

THC is found in all forms of cannabis, but is abundant in skunk – a super-strength form of the drug that dominates Britain’s illegal market.

Some 80 per cent of what is available on the streets is believed to be skunk, which is created by growers aiming to make the most potent strain of the drug possible in order to maximise their profits.

They remove high amounts of CBD from the plant, allowing the modified herb to contain only THC. It is unsure how much THC was in the strain of cannabis used in the new study.

Over the years, a host of previous research has pointed to a link between the popular recreational drug and mental health conditions. Last October, University College London researchers found that skunk may be twice as addictive as normal strains of cannabis.

Similar health concerns have been raised about synthetic cannabis spice, which can slump users and turn them into ‘zombies’.

It was previously known as a legal high before it was banned last year following a surge in its use. Now it has reached epidemic levels in prison.

‘The number of clinical cases involving marijuana intoxication has been steadily increasing due to increase in cannabis potency over the last two decades.’

What do other experts think?

Ian Hamilton, a cannabis researcher at York University, cautioned the results, which are published in Scientific Reports.

He told MailOnline: ‘We don’t know if people who use cannabis are using something as potent as this.’ For the study, researchers measured the brain activity of the mice after giving them both compounds and recorded them.

Research that claims to show cannabis can control seizures

The findings contradict a body of research which shows weed can prevent and control seizures in epileptic patients. Campaigners have long argued that cannabis has the opposite effect to the new findings and can help to tackle seizures.

Researchers have previously suggested that CBD – the other compound in cannabis which produces no ‘high’, binds to a receptor in the brain that calms down the electrical activity in the brain which causes a seizure.

First Briton to be prescribed liquid cannabis oil on the NHS

Their case was strengthened when an 11-year-old on the brink of death from a severe form of epilepsy made an ‘incredible’ recovery from taking marijuana.

Billy Caldwell, from Castlederg, Northern Ireland, made headlines in April when he became the first Briton to be prescribed such a drug on the NHS.

And 10 months since he was first given the liquid cannabis oil, he hasn’t had any seizures. He used to suffer up to 100 a day.

THE MAN WHO SUFFERS SEIZURES FROM SYNTHETIC CANNABIS

The news comes just a week after DailyMail.com reported on a disturbing video which shows a man from Des Moines, Iowa, having a seizure as an effect of years smoking synthetic marijuana.

Coby O’Brien-Emerick, 27, has experienced chronic seizures every three months for the past five years, putting him in the hospital for weeks on end.

In the video uploaded in December, Coby is seen on the floor convulsing for about nine minutes while paramedics are being called.

The father-of-two told Dailymail.com he asked for his seizure to be recorded in order to understand the severity of it.

The video was posted to YouTube by his mother-in-law to warn others about the dangerous effects of smoking synthetic marijuana .

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-4917100/Smoking-super-strength-cannabis-trigger-seizures.html 26 Sept. 2017

A recent review published in the scientific journal Addiction has shed much needed light on an important but rarely discussed condition associated with Substance Use Disorders. Advanced dental disease, including tooth decay and periodontal conditions, are common comorbid conditions among persons with Substance Use Disorders.

To determine the prevalence, investigators conducted an exhaustive systematic search for studies from the past 35 years germane to oral health among substance abusers. Medline, PsycInfo, Ovid, Google Scholar, Embase and article bibliographies were reviewed and analyzed. The results were compared with the general population of non-substance using controls. Parameters of oral health were defined in terms of tooth decay and periodontal disease by comparing the percent of decayed, missing and filled teeth (DMFT) or surfaces (DMFS) and probing gum pocket depth. In total, this review culled the results of 28 studies yielding comparative data on 4,086 dental patients with substance use disorder and 28,031 controls.

Drugs and Dental Disease

Drug abuse affects oral health via direct physiological routes including dry mouth, craving and consumption of sugary sweets and processed carbohydrate snacks (munchies), and most recently processed cannabis sweets, such as gummy bears, candy, cookies and of course…brownies. Cocaine, methamphetamine and other drugs of abuse may interfere with the blood supply to teeth and gums. Teeth clenching and grinding (bruxism), is associated with the chronic use of stimulants and Ecstasy as well as anxiety and depression, which are common comorbidities of Substance Use Disorders. Chemical erosion resulting from excessive use of alcohol, coffee or from applying highly acid drugs such as cocaine to one’s teeth and gums are causative of oral disease. Lastly, given the choice between drug self-administration and flossing or brushing regularly, abusers and addicts pick drugs of abuse.

Why Does This Matter?

As we age, oral health has increasingly significant consequences on our quality of life and overall health. At its best, persons with serious dental and periodontal disease suffer difficulty masticating and observable aesthetic problems that negatively impact self-esteem. At its worse, dental and oral disease cause chronic inflammation and bacteremia, which are risk factors for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and compromised respiratory function. The findings from this study are similar to the outcomes associated with severe mental illness and eating disorders.

The addition of 2.8 million new drug users each year is unsustainable for our current healthcare system. It is difficult to get many users primary medical or addiction care. It is almost impossible to get Substance Use Disorders patients to the dentist. Health disparities and access to care are ongoing public health crises. We will either need a lot more doctors and dentists or a lot fewer drug addicts.

In the clinical setting, we can make a difference. Clinicians who evaluate and treat people with substance use disorders should make certain to include a mouth, gum, and dental history and oral exam. We should routinely screen for oral diseases, arrange for dental care as needed, and educate patients of the oral health risks associated with Substance Use Disorders, dry mouth and cravings for foods with high sugar content.

Source: https://www.rivermendhealth.com/resources/dental-disease-common-serious-seldom-discussed-comorbidity-sud/ September 2017

There is current research into the probable genotoxicity of marijuana and this has been likened to the harm to the foetus in the womb from the drug Thalidomide in the 1960’s.

In the annals of modern medicine, it was a horror story of international scope: thousands of babies dead in the womb and at least 10,000 others in 46 countries born with severe deformities. Some of the children were missing limbs. Others had arms and legs that resembled a seal’s flippers. In many cases, eyes, ears and other organs and tissues failed to develop properly. The cause, scientists discovered by late 1961, was thalidomide, a drug that, during four years of commercial sales in countries from Germany to Australia, was marketed to pregnant women as a miracle cure for morning sickness and insomnia.

The tragedy was largely averted in the United States, with much credit due to Frances Oldham Kelsey, a medical officer at the Food and Drug Administration in Washington, who raised concerns about thalidomide before its effects were conclusively known. For a critical 19-month period, she fastidiously blocked its approval while drug company officials maligned her as a bureaucratic nitpicker. Dr. Kelsey, a physician and pharmacologist later lauded as a heroine of the federal workforce, died Aug. 7 at her daughter’s home in London, Ontario. She was 101. Her daughter, Christine Kelsey, confirmed her death but did not cite a specific cause.

Dr. Kelsey did not single-handedly uncover thalidomide’s hazards. Clinical investigators and health authorities around the world played an important role, as did several of her FDA peers. But because of her tenacity and clinical training, she became the central figure in the thalidomide episode.

In July 1962, The Washington Post directed national attention on the matter — and on Dr. Kelsey — with a front-page article reporting that her “scepticism and stubbornness … prevented what could have been an appalling American tragedy.” [From 1962: ‘Heroine’ of FDA keeps bad drug off the market].

 

The global thalidomide calamity precipitated legislation signed by President John F. Kennedy in October 1962 that substantially strengthened the FDA’s authority over drug testing. The new regulations, still in force, required pharmaceutical companies to conduct phased clinical trials, obtain informed consent from participants in drug testing, and warn the FDA of adverse effects, and granted the FDA with important controls over prescription-drug advertising.

As the new federal law was being hammered out, Kennedy rushed to include Dr. Kelsey in a previously scheduled White House award ceremony honouring influential civil servants, including an architect of NASA’s manned spaceflight program.“In a way, they tied her to the moonshot in showing what government scientists were capable of,” said Stephen Fried, a journalist who investigated the drug industry in the book “Bitter Pills.” “It was an act of incredible daring and bravery to say we need to wait longer before we expose the American people to this drug.”

Dr. Kelsey became, Fried said, “the most famous government regulator in American history.”

‘I was the newest person there and pretty green’

Dr. Kelsey had landed at the FDA in August 1960, one of seven full-time medical officers hired to review about 300 human drug applications per year.The number of women pursuing careers in science was minuscule, but Dr. Kelsey had long been comfortable in male-dominated environments. Growing up in Canada, she spent part of her childhood in an otherwise all-boys private school. She had two daughters while shouldering the demands of medical school in the late 1940s.

In Washington, she joined a corps of reform-minded scientists who, although not yet empowered by the 1962 law that required affirmative FDA approval of any new drug, demanded strong evidence of effectiveness before giving their imprimatur.At the time, a drug could go on the market 60 days after the manufacturer filed an application with the FDA. If the medical officer determined that the submission was incomplete, the drug company could provide additional information, and the clock would start anew.

Meanwhile, pharmaceutical drug companies commonly supplied doctors with new drugs and encouraged them to test the product on patients, an uncontrolled and dangerous practice that relied almost entirely on anecdotal evidence. Thalidomide, which was widely marketed as a sedative as well as a treatment for pregnancy-related nausea during the first trimester of pregnancy, had proven wildly popular in Europe and a boon for its German manufacturer, Chemie Grünenthal.

By the fall of 1960, a Cincinnati-based drug company, William S. Merrell, had licensed the drug and began to distribute it under the trade name Kevadon to 1,200 U.S. doctors in advance of what executives anticipated would be its quick approval by the FDA.The government later estimated that more than 2.5 million tablets were given to about 20,000 patients, several hundred of whom were pregnant.

The Merrell application landed on Dr. Kelsey’s desk within weeks of her arrival at the agency. “I was the newest person there and pretty green,” she later said in an FDA oral history, “so my supervisors decided, ‘Well, this is a very easy one. There will be no problems with sleeping pills.’ ” Immediately the application alarmed her. Despite what she called the company’s “quite fulsome” claims, the absorption and toxicity studies were so incomplete as to be almost meaningless.

Dr. Kelsey rejected the application numerous times and requested more data. Merrell representatives, who had large potential profits riding on the application, began to complain to her bosses and show up at her office, with respected clinical investigators in tow, to protest the hold-up. Dr. Kelsey’s FDA superiors backed her as she conducted her research. By February 1961, she had found more evidence to support her suspicions, including a letter in the British Medical Journal by an English doctor who reported that his patients on thalidomide experienced a painful “tingling” in the arms and feet.

 

Dr. Kelsey also discovered that, despite warnings of side effects printed on British and German drug labels, Merrell had not notified the FDA of any adverse reactions.  Another reason for her concern was that the company had apparently done no studies on pregnant animals. At the time, a prevailing view among doctors held that the placental barrier protected the foetus from what Dr. Kelsey once called “the indiscretions of the mother,” such as abuse of alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs. Earlier in her career, however, she had investigated the ways in which drugs did in fact pass through the placenta from mother to baby.

While Dr. Kelsey stood her ground on Kevadon, infant deaths and deformities were occurring at an alarming rate in places where thalidomide had been sold. The development of seal-like flippers, a condition known as phocomelia that previously affected an estimated 1 in 4 million infants, began to crop up by the dozens in many countries.

Clinical investigators, because of a variety of complications including spotty tracking systems, only belatedly made the link to thalidomide.  Grünenthal began pulling the drug from the market in Germany in late 1961. Health authorities in other countries issued warnings. Merrell waited until March 1962 to withdraw its U.S. application. By then, at least 17 babies were born in the United States with thalidomide-related defects, according to the FDA

Influence beyond thalidomide

Dr. Kelsey might have remained an anonymous bureaucrat if not for the front-page story in The Post. The newspaper had received a tip about her from staffers working for Sen. Estes Kefauver, a Tennessee Democrat who had been stalled in his years-long battle with the pharmaceutical industry to bolster the country’s drug laws. The coverage of Dr. Kelsey gave her — and Kefauver — a lift. As thousands of grateful letters flowed in to Dr. Kelsey from the public, the proposed legislation became hard to ignore or to water down. The new law was widely known as the Kefauver-Harris Amendments.

“She had a huge effect on the regulations adopted in the 1960s to help create the modern clinical trial system,” said Daniel Carpenter, a professor of government at Harvard University and the author of “Reputation and Power,” a definitive history of the FDA. “She may have had a bigger effect after thalidomide than before.”

In 1963, Dr. Kelsey was named chief of the FDA’s investigational drug branch. Four years later, she was named director of the new Office of Scientific Investigations, a position she held until 1995.  She spent another decade, until her retirement at 90, working at the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. In that role, she advised the director of its compliance office on scientific and medical issues and analyzed historical drug review issues.

According to historians of the FDA, she was instrumental in establishing the institutional review boards — a cornerstone of modern clinical drug development — that were created after abusive drug testing trials were exposed in prisons, hospitals and nursing homes. For decades, Dr. Kelsey played a critical role at the agency in enforcing federal regulations for drug development — protocols that were credited with forcing more rigorous standards around the world.

Name mistaken for a man’s

Frances Kathleen Oldham was born near Cobble Hill, on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, on July 24, 1914. Her father was a retired British army officer, and her mother came from a prosperous Scottish family.  The young “Frankie,” as she was called, grew up exploring the woods and shorelines, sometimes bringing home frogs for dissection. At McGill University in Montreal, she studied pharmacology — the effects of drugs on people — and received a bachelor’s degree in 1934 and a master’s degree in 1935.

A McGill professor urged her to apply for a research assistant job at the University of Chicago, where pharmacology professor Eugene Geiling accepted her without an interview. Geiling, who had mistaken the names Frances for the masculine Francis, addressed her by mail as “Mr. Oldham.”

“When a woman took a job in those days, she was made to feel as if she was depriving a man of the ability to support his wife and child,” Dr. Kelsey told the New York Times in 2010. “But my professor said: ‘Don’t be stupid. Accept the job, sign your name and put “Miss” in brackets afterward.’ ”

In Chicago, she helped Geiling investigate the 107 deaths that occurred nationwide in 1937 from the newly marketed liquid form of sulfanilamide, a synthetic antibacterial drug used to treat streptococcal infections. In tablet form, it had been heralded as a wonder-drug of the age, but it tasted unpleasant.Because the drug was not soluble in water or alcohol, the chief chemist of its manufacturer, S.E. Massengill Co. of Bristol, Tenn., dissolved the sulfanilamide with an industrial substance that was a chemical relative of antifreeze. He then added cherry flavouring and pink colouring to remedy the taste and appearance.

Massengill rushed the new elixir to market without adequately testing its safety. Many who took the medicine — including a high number of children — suffered an agonizing death.  At the time, the FDA’s chief mandate, stemming from an obsolete 1906 law, was food safety. At the agency’s request, Geiling joined the Elixir Sulfanilamide investigation and put Dr. Kelsey to work on animal testing of the drug. She recalled observing rats as they “shrivelled up and died.”

Amid national outrage over Elixir Sulfanilamide, Congress passed the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938, legislation that vastly expanded federal regulatory oversight over drugs and set a new benchmark for drug safety before marketing. Massengill’s owner ultimately was fined a maximum penalty of $26,000 for mislabelling and misbranding; by technical definition, an elixir contains alcohol.

‘We need to take precautions’

Dr. Kelsey received a doctorate from Chicago in 1938, then joined the faculty. In 1943, she wed a pharmacology colleague, Fremont Ellis Kelsey.  After graduating from Chicago’s medical school in 1950, Frances Kelsey taught pharmacology at the University of South Dakota medical school and was a fill-in doctor at practices throughout the state. She also became a U.S. citizen before arriving in Washington in 1960 when her husband was hired by the National Institutes of Health. He died in 1966 after a heart attack.

Survivors include their daughters, Susan Duffield of Shelton, Wash., and Christine Kelsey of London, Ontario; a sister; and two grandchildren. Dr. Kelsey moved to Ontario from suburban Maryland in 2014.

Babies who suffered from the effects of thalidomide and survived grew up with a range of impairment. Some required lifelong home care. Others held jobs and were not severely hindered by their disabilities. Many legal settlements were reached between drug companies and the victims of thalidomide, and new claims continue to surface. Grünenthal formally apologized to victims of thalidomide in 2012.

The drug, however, never disappeared entirely. Researchers have investigated thalidomide’s effects on H.I.V. and Crohn’s disease and have conducted clinical trials for on its use for rheumatoid arthritis and macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness.

In 1998, the FDA approved the drug for the treatment of lesions from leprosy. In 2006, thalidomide was cleared for use with the medicine dexamethasone for certain cases of multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow.

The agency enforced strict safeguards, including pregnancy testing, for such new uses. “We need to take precautions,” Dr. Kelsey told an interviewer in in 2001, “because people forget very soon.”

Source:https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/frances-            oldham-kelsey-heroine-of-thalidomide-tragedy-dies-at-101/2015/08/07

Louise Stanger is a speaker, educator, licensed clinician, social worker, certified daring way facilitator and interventionist who uses an invitational intervention approach to work with complicated mental health, substance abuse, chronic pain and process addiction clients.

In the mid-to-late 2000s, Red Bull, an energy drink high on energy and low on nutritional value, made its North American debut with the famous “Red Bull gives you wings” campaign. The tag line, a nod to the “pick me up” qualities it gives to drinkers of the product, set the stage for the way in which teens and young adults relate to the nascent product category.

In essence, advertising birthed energy drinks as the way to find uplift, fight fatigue, and give that extra boost. Regrettably, no one was paying attention to the drinks’ negative side effects.

Red Bull has since spawned its own grocery store aisle of knock-offs – Monster, Rockstar, Full Throttle, Amp – to name a few. In 2016, U.S. retail sales of energy drinks topped $11 billion (Red Bull generated $5.1B in revenue in 2010). By comparison, that number is roughly how much Hollywood makes on movie tickets in a year.

Paradoxically, energy drinks’ meteoric rise in popularity and consumption has coincided with major health risks and the onslaught of addiction to other harmful substances. How did a drink that tastes like cough syrup land with such a huge impact?

Long before Red Bull “gave us wings,” Chaleo Yoovidhya, a Southeast Asian pharmacist, developed energy “tonics” aimed at labourers and truck drivers in the 1960s, according to The Dragonfly Effect, a book that looks at successful branding campaigns for products like energy drinks.

Then in the 1980s, an Austrian billionaire businessman named Dietrich Mateschitz discovered the tonics and married them with innovative guerrilla marketing to launch in North America. The aim was to put cans of Red Bull, the syrupy concoction of sugar and caffeine, in the hands of their target market: young adult males and teens who are oblivious to the drinks’ ingredients. The ad campaign struck like a lightning bolt and a multibillion dollar industry took ro

The key ingredient in energy drinks that gives the consumer energizing effects is caffeine. Though caffeine, found in commonly consumed drinks like coffee, tea and sodas, isn’t outright bad for you, the serving size, frequency and consumption patterns are cause for alarm.

Most energy drinks contain 70-200 milligrams of caffeine; for example, Rockstar 2X has 250 mg per 12 ounces, a 12 ounce can of Red Bull has 111 mg, and a 5-Hour Energy shot, a variation of the energy drink craze, is a whopping 207 mg of caffeine in just 2 ounces.

To put these concentration levels into perspective, the American Academy of Paediatrics maintains adolescents must not consume more than 100 mg of caffeine per day (it’s 500 mg for adults).

And more alarming than the serving sizes are the rates at which teens consume energy drinks. When young adults and teenagers get with their friends, they’ll consume 3-4 drinks in a short period of time or even chug (i.e. “shotgun”) whole cans in an instant. Despite this binge-style consumption, teens remain oblivious to the high caffeine content and unaware of the effects energy drinks have on the body. Other studies and researchers have observed energy drinks become the chaser for alcohol consumption in certain situations.

At these high levels of consumption, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reports serious health risks associated with energy drinks. These include:

· Increased heart rate, irregularities and palpitations

· Increased blood pressure

· Sleep disturbances, insomnia

· Diuresis or increased urine production

· Hyperglycaemia (increased blood sugar), due to the high levels of sugar content, which may be harmful for people at risk for diabetes or already diabetic

Perhaps most dangerous are the serious side effects caused when energy drinks are consumed with alcohol. According to University Health News Daily, “the dangers of energy drinks mixed with alcohol are related to reduced sensation of intoxication and impaired judgment.”

Here’s how it goes: the user gets a burst of energy and alertness (increased heart rate and dilated blood vessels) from the high content of caffeine in the energy drink, prompting the person to feel less intoxicated and therefore drinking more alcohol and putting themselves at risk for alcohol poisoning and severely impaired judgment.

Teens, young adults and college-aged students who play drinking games or drink in high-risk environments such as parties, boating, swimming, beach days, etc. put themselves at greater risk of injury and bodily harm with these combinations.

In addition to high-risk environments and dangerous situations, energy drink and alcohol mixing lowers inhibitions, making room for engaging in high-risk behaviours such as unwanted sexual encounters, driving vehicles, boats and jet skis under the influence, and other behaviours that may lead to hospitalization or encounters with law enforcement.

We need look no further than the case of Four Loko, an energy drink that comes ready made with alcohol and caffeine for proof that mixing the two is dangerous. The drink gets its name from its four signature ingredients: alcohol, caffeine, taurine and guarana.

According to a report in The Week, the company that produced Four Loko, Phusion Projects of Chicago aka Drink Four Brewing Company, came under ethical fire for marketing to adolescents under the age of 21 (as most energy drink companies do – though this was the first to pre-mix alcohol and caffeine).

Four Loko also caught fire with college students and it didn’t take long for reports of blackouts and other alcohol overdose related incidents to take hold of its users. University campuses across the nation including the University of Rhode Island, Central Washington University and Worcester State University began to ban the beverage and companies with similar beverages have since reformulated its drinks and reduced its marketing toward underage students and young adults. In 2014, the company reached a settlement to stop production and distribution of Four Loko in the United States, according to a report in The Atlantic.

Moreover, the University of Maryland’s research on the topic has found a link between high energy drink consumption and developing addiction to other harmful substances later on. Researchers looked at the health and risk-taking habits of 1,099 college students over a four year period.

Their analysis of the study found that participants who consumed highly caffeinated drinks (energy drinks, sodas, etc.) are more likely to develop an addiction to cocaine, alcohol, or other substances when compared to students who did not consume such beverages. “The results suggest that energy drink users might be at heightened risk for other substance use, particularly stimulants,” says Amelia Arria, an associate professor and lead author of the study.

New research from Purdue University found that mixing alcohol and highly caffeinated drinks could significantly change the brain activity of a teenager. Dr. Richard van Rijn, the lead researcher, says “it seems the two substances (energy drinks and alcohol) together push [teenagers] over a limit that causes changes in their behaviour and changes the neurochemistry in their brains.”

Although energy drinks are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, little oversight is given to labelling cans and packages with the risks related to consumption. As an educator, I believe the FDA must first do a better job of labelling. Just as cigarettes and alcohol have warning labels, so too must energy drinks.

Grocery stores should move energy drink products to areas where alcohol is sold – away from wandering young eyes. Public health discussions in high schools and middle schools need to take place. Youth and young adult sports teams must reconsider energy drink sponsorships and greater oversight concerning marketing practices toward under-aged youth.

As a young adult, if you do choose to consume these beverages, be sure to read the labels for serving sizes, caffeine content, and try to avoid mixing with alcohol. Parents, teachers, sports coaches, and community leaders must communicate to teenagers and young adults the harm energy drinks may cause. Together we must work together to be educated and informed against aggressive advertising to keep our teens and young adults healthy and engaged.

To learn more about Louise Stanger and her interventions and other resources, visit her website.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/red-bull-monster-four-loko-rockstar-the-downside_us_59b021cce4b0bef3378cdcee    6th Sept.2017

 

 

 

by  Elizabeth Stuyt, MD

For the past 27 years, working as an addiction psychiatrist, I have struggled with big industries that push their products more for their financial gain rather than the best interests of the clients they serve. The most disconcerting piece occurs when physicians or other treatment providers or governmental entities appear to be influenced by big industry, touting the party line and minimizing any downsides to the product. I have experienced this with the tobacco industry, the pharmaceutical industry and now with the marijuana industry.

It is clear to me that wherever it happens, the push to legalize medical marijuana is simply a back-door effort, by industry, to legalize retail marijuana. However, the lack of any regulations on the potency of THC in marijuana or marijuana products in Colorado has allowed the cannabis industry to increase the potency of THC to astronomical proportions, resulting in a burgeoning public health crisis.

The potency of THC in currently available marijuana has quadrupled since the mid-1990s. The marijuana of the 1980s had <2% THC, 4.5% in 1997, 8.5% in 2006 and by 2015 the average potency of THC in the flower was 17%, with concentrated products averaging 62% THC.

Sadly, the cannabidiol (CBD) concentrations in currently available marijuana have remained the same or decreased. CBD is the component of marijuana that appears to block or ameliorate the effects of THC. Plants that are bred to produce high concentrations of THC cannot simultaneously produce high CBD. Higher-potency THC has been achieved by genetically engineering plants to product more THC and then preventing pollination so that the plant puts more energy into producing cannabinoids rather than seeds. This type of cannabis is referred to as sinsemilla (Spanish for without seed). (It has also been referred to as “skunk” due to its strong smell.)

In my view, this is no different than when the tobacco industry increased the potency of nicotine by genetically engineering tobacco plants to produce more nicotine and then used additives like ammonia to increase the absorption of nicotine. Industry’s efforts to increase the potency of an addictive substance seem to be done purely with the idea of addicting as many people as possible to guarantee continued customers. This certainly worked for the tobacco industry. And we have increasing evidence that high potency THC cannabis use is associated with an increased severity of cannabis dependence, especially in young people.12

Although marijuana has been used for thousands of years for various medical conditions, we have no idea if the benefit comes from the THC or CBD or one of the other multiple cannabinoids present in marijuana, or a combination. And we have no idea how much is needed or how often. Most of the research indicates that it is likely the CBD that is more helpful but we obviously need research on this. There is no evidence that increasing the potency of THC has any medical benefits. In fact, a study on the benefits of smoked cannabis on pain actually demonstrated that too high a dose of THC can cause hyperalgesia – similar to what is seen with high dose opiates – meaning that the person becomes more sensitive to pain with continued use. They found that 2% THC had no effect on pain, 4% THC had some beneficial effects on chronic pain and 8% resulted in hyperalgesia.3

The discovery of the “active component” in marijuana that makes it so desirable is a fairly recent phenomenon. THC and CBD were first discovered in 1963 in Israel.4

Because cannabis was made a DEA schedule I drug in 1970, very little research has been done on cannabis in the United States and most of the indications for medical marijuana have very little good research backing up the use. The chemical that is made by the body and fits the receptor which accommodates THC was discovered in 1992.5

The researcher named the chemical anandamide which means “supreme joy” in Sanskrit.  However, it turns out that the endocannabinoid system plays a very significant role in brain development that occurs during childhood and adolescence. It controls glutamate and GABA homeostasis and plays a role in strengthening and pruning synaptic connections in the prefrontal motor cortex. The consequences of using the high potency THC products during this period, especially without the protective benefits of CBD, are multifaceted and include disturbance of the endocannabinoid system, which can result in impaired cognitive development, lower IQ and increased risk of psychosis.

There is also evidence that marijuana use contributes to anxiety and depression. A very large prospective study out of Australia tracked 1600 girls for 7 years and found that those who used marijuana every day were 5 times more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than non-users.6

Teenage girls who used the drug a least once a week were twice as likely to develop depression as those who did not use. In this study, cannabis use prior to age 15 also increased the risk of developing schizophrenia symptoms.

While there definitely are people who can use marijuana responsibly without any untoward effects, similar to how some people can drink alcohol responsibly and not have any problems, there are people who are very sensitive to the effects of THC, and its use can precipitate psychosis. The higher the potency of THC the more likely this may happen and we have no idea how to predict who will be affected. In one of the first double blind randomized placebo controlled trials on smoked cannabis (maximum of 8% THC) for the treatment of pain, a cannabis naïve participant had a psychotic reaction to the marijuana in the study and this then required that all future study participants have some experience with smoking marijuana.7

This kind of makes it difficult to have “blind” unbiased participants.

A 2015 study out of London analyzed 780 people ages 18-65, 410 with first episode psychosis and 370 healthy controls, and found that users of high potency (“skunk-like”) cannabis (THC > 15%) are three times as likely to have a psychotic episode as people who never use cannabis, and the risk is fivefold in people who smoke this form of the drug every day.89 There was no association of psychosis with THC levels < 5%. Most of the marijuana in the U.S. is of the high-THC variety. Many retailers in Colorado sell strains of weed that contain 25 percent THC or more.

Sadly, Colorado has now joined several other states in approving PTSD as an indication for the use of medical marijuana. Marijuana does not “treat” PTSD any more than benzodiazepines or opiates “treat” PTSD. All these addictive drugs do is mask the symptoms, allowing the person to continue life unaffected by the memory of the trauma. However, the psychological trauma is never resolved and the individual has to continue to use the substance in order to cope. This sets the individual up for the development of addiction to the substance or the use of other addictive substances. There is absolutely no good research to support the use of marijuana for PTSD, and there is observational data that this would be a bad idea unless this use was supported by a lot more (and better-designed) longitudinal research.

In an excellent longitudinal, observational study from 1992 to 2011, 2,276 Veterans admitted to specialized VA treatment programs for PTSD had their symptoms evaluated at intake and four months after discharge.10

They found that those who never used marijuana or quit using while in treatment had the lowest levels of PTSD symptoms, while those who continued to use or started using marijuana after treatment had worse symptoms of PTSD. Those who started using the drug during treatment had higher levels of violent behavior too.

Those of us working in the trenches in Colorado are seeing the downsides of what our governor has called “one of the great social experiments of the 21st century.” Emergency room physicians are seeing a significant increase in people experiencing consequences from marijuana use since it was legalized. One such physician wrote a very poignant piece about his experience returning to his home town of Pueblo, Colorado where he is now practicing.11

His experiences are totally supported by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Report, volume 4 from September 2016 which documents significant increases in marijuana related emergency department visits (49%) and hospitalizations related to marijuana (32%) compared to rates prior to retail legalization. This report also documents significant increases in the use of marijuana by youth, with Colorado youth “past month marijuana use” for 2013/2014 being 74% higher than the national average, compared with 39% higher in 2011/2012.

 

In Pueblo, Colorado, where I practice, it has developed into a perfect storm. According to the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey in 2015, we have the highest incidence of youth marijuana use in the state, with 30.1% reporting using marijuana in the last 30 days. The legalization of retail marijuana seems to be reflected in the increased abuse of opiates and heroin too. In addition to the highest rates of marijuana use by youth, Pueblo has the highest rates of heroin-related deaths in the state.

 

This is a very disturbing correlation that needs attention. I have definitely seen in my practice that marijuana acts as a gateway drug to opiates, and to relapse to opiates after treatment if the person goes back to using marijuana. The Smart Approaches to Marijuana status report, which assesses state compliance with federal marijuana enforcement policy, following what is known as the Cole memo, documents that Colorado, four years after legalization, has failed to meet the specific DOJ requirements on controlling recreational marijuana production, distribution and use. This report documents a significant increase in drugged driving crashes, youth marijuana use, a thriving illegal black market and unabated sales of alcohol, which supports the idea that people are not using marijuana instead of alcohol but rather in addition to alcohol.

In spite of all this information, powerful people in the government of Colorado have publicly minimized the consequences. Larry Wolk, MD, the Chief Medical Officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, has reported that he has “not seen any significant problems” with the legalization of marijuana.

Governor Hickenlooper’s response to Attorney General Sessions recent questions about compliance with the Cole Memo minimized the adolescent use of marijuana by saying that youth marijuana use in Colorado has “remained stable since legalization.” This is not true for Pueblo, but in any event, any use of marijuana by youth in Colorado should not be minimized and should be a major concern for future generations.

While there are people who believe we need to enforce federal law and go back to making marijuana illegal, I am afraid the horse is already out of the barn and cannot be put back in as we already have several states with “legal” retail marijuana and multiple more with “medical marijuana.” I cannot conceive of any way this could be reversed at this point, when the majority of society supports the legalization of marijuana.

Solutions to our marijuana problems have to be realistic to our current situation/environment. The number one solution is more education. Many people seem to lack a true understanding of the drug and all the potential negative consequences of the higher-potency THC. This is why education is so important. Adults should have the right to make their own decisions but they need informed consent, just like with any drug.

The biggest concern is with adolescent use and the developing brain. This requires a lot more education and increased efforts at prevention, early intervention and treatment. I believe society would be truly served by a federal ban on all advertising of addicting drugs including alcohol, tobacco and marijuana, as well as all pharmaceutical drugs. The decision to use a pharmaceutical medication should be between the patient and the medical professional, not influenced by big industry. We clearly have the big industries— alcohol, tobacco and marijuana—doing everything they can to influence the public and convince them to use their product.

Since we only have anecdotal evidence at this point that marijuana can aid any medical condition, I recommend eliminating “medical marijuana” and just have retail marijuana with limits on THC and regulations similar to alcohol and tobacco. This could help take away the perception, which adolescents and others have, that because is it “medical” it must be “safe.” In order to be able to say it is medical, it should go through the same standards for testing the safety and efficacy of any prescription drug.

In this vein, I believe we do need more research and that marijuana should be reclassified as a schedule II drug so this can occur. Since marijuana has been used medicinally for thousands of years, I believe that the plant deserves some true research to determine if and what parts of the plant are helpful medicinally. The reports that marijuana use resulted in less than 10% becoming addicted to it were done back in the 1990s when THC levels were <5%. Since we are seeing significant increases in people developing marijuana use disorder with the higher doses of THC, perhaps the limits on THC should be <5%. Editor’s note: for more information, see the pdf of the author’s talk on this topic.     Show 11 footnotes

Source:  https://www.madinamerica.com/2017/09/unintended-consequences-colorado-social-experiment/  11th September 2017

And Addiction-Connected Carcinogenicity, Congenital Toxicity And Heritable Genotoxicity

Albert Stuart Reece, Gary Kenneth Hulse

Extracts from the above research.  Recommend readers go to source for complete study.

A B S T R A C T

The recent demonstration that massive scale chromosomal shattering or pulverization can occur abruptly due to errors induced by interference with the microtubule machinery of the mitotic spindle followed by haphazard chromosomal annealing, together with sophisticated insights from epigenetics, provide profound mechanistic insights into some of the most perplexing classical observations of addiction medicine, including cancerogenesis, the younger and aggressive onset of addiction-related carcinogenesis, the heritability of addictive neurocircuitry and cancers, and foetal malformations.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other addictive agents have been shown to inhibit tubulin polymerization which perturbs the formation and function of the microtubules of the mitotic spindle. This disruption of the mitotic machinery perturbs proper chromosomal segregation during anaphase and causes micronucleus formation which is the primary locus and cause of the chromosomal pulverization of chromothripsis and downstream genotoxic events including oncogene induction and tumour suppressor silencing.

Moreover the complementation of multiple positive cannabis-cancer epidemiological studies, and replicated dose-response relationships with established mechanisms fulfils causal criteria. This information is also consistent with data showing acceleration of the aging process by drugs of addiction including alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, stimulants and opioids. THC shows a non-linear sigmoidal dose-response relationship in multiple pertinent in vitro and preclinical genotoxicity assays, and in this respect is similar to the serious major human mutagen thalidomide. Rising community exposure, tissue storage of cannabinoids, and increasingly potent phytocannabinoid sources, suggests that the threshold mutagenic dose for cancerogenesis will increasingly be crossed beyond the developing world, and raise transgenerational transmission of teratogenicity as an increasing concern.

CONCLUSION

As mentioned above high dose cannabis and THC test positive in many genotoxicity assays, albeit often with a highly non-linear threshold like effects above low doses. As long ago as 2004 it was said that 3–41% of all neonates born in various North American communities had been exposed to cannabis [172]. Since cannabis is addictive [187], is becoming more potent [77,83,86], quickly builds up in adipose tissues [62,82] and seems generally to becoming more widely available under fluid regulatory regimes [187,188], real concern must be expressed that the rising population level of cannabinoid exposure will increasingly intersect the toxic thresholds for major genotoxicity including chromosomal clastogenicity secondary to interference and premature aging of the mitotic apparatus.

Under such a conceptualization, it would appear that the real boon of restrictive cannabis regimes [189] is not their supposed success in any drug war, but their confinement in the populations they protect, to a low dose exposure paradigm which limits incident and transgenerational teratogenicity, ageing, mental retardation and cancerogenicity.

Source:   Mutation Research/Fundamental and Molecular Mechanisms of Mutagenesis Journal Homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/molmut    January 2016

Mathias B. Forrester and Ruth D. Merz

Hawaii Birth Defects Program, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

Extracts from Study 

The literature on the association between prenatal illicit drug use and birth defects is inconsistent. The objective of this study was to determine the risk of a variety of birth defects with prenatal illicit drug use.

Data were derived from an active, population based adverse pregnancy outcome registry. Cases were all infants and foetuses with any of 54 selected birth defects delivered during 1986–2002.

The prenatal methamphetamine, cocaine, or marijuana use rates were calculated for each birth defect and compared to the prenatal use rates among all deliveries.

Among all deliveries, the prenatal use rate was 0.52% for methamphetamine,0.18% for cocaine, and 0.26% for marijuana.

Methamphetamine rates were significantly higher than expected for 14 (26%) of the birth defects.

Cocaine rates were significantly higher than expected for 13 (24%) of the birth defects.

Marijuana rates were significantly higher than expected for 21 (39%) of the birth defects. Increased risk for the three drugs occurred predominantly among birth defects associated with the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, oral clefts, and limbs. There was also increased risk of marijuana use among a variety of birth defects associated with the gastrointestinal system. Prenatal uses of methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana are all associated with increased risk of a variety of birth defects.

The affected birth defects are primarily associated with particular organ systems.

DISCUSSION

Using data from a Statewide, population-based registry that covered over 300,000 births and a 17-yr period, this investigation examined the association between over 50 selected birth defects and maternal use of methamphetamine, cocaine, or marijuana during pregnancy. Much of the literature on prenatal illicit drug use and birth defects involved case reports, involved a small number of cases, were not population-based, or focused on only one or a few particular birth defects.

There are various limitations to this investigation. The number of cases for many of the birth defects categories was relatively small, limiting the ability to identify statistically significant differences and resulting in large confidence intervals.

In spite of this, a number of statistically significant analyses were identified. Some statistically significant results might be expected to occur by chance. If 1 in every 20 analyses is expected to result in statistically significant differences solely by chance, then among the 162 analyses performed in this study, 8 would be expected to be statistically significant by chance. However, 48 statistically significant differences were identified. Thus, not all of the statistically significant results are likely to be due to chance.

This study included all pregnancies where methamphetamine, cocaine, or marijuana use was identified through either report in the medical record or positive toxicology test. This was done because neither self-report nor toxicology testing is likely to identify all instances of prenatal illicit drug use (Christmas et al., 1992).

In spite of using both methods for determining prenatal illicit drug use, all pregnancies involving methamphetamine, cocaine, or marijuana were not likely to have been identified. The degree of under ascertainment is unknown. A previous study examined the maternal drug use rate around the time of delivery in Hawaii during 1999 (Derauf et al., 2003). This study found 1.4% of the pregnancies involved methamphetamine use and 0.2% involved marijuana use. Among 1999 deliveries, the HBDP identified a prenatal methamphetamine use rate of 0.7% and a marijuana use rate of 0.4%. However, comparisons between the 2 studies should be made with caution because the previous study collected data from a single hospital during only a 2-mo period.

Another limitation is that the present study did not control for potential confounding factors such as maternal demographic characteristics, health behaviors, and prenatal care. Increased risk of birth defects has been associated with inadequate prenatal care (Carmichael et al., 2002), maternal smoking (Honein et al., 2001), and maternal alcohol use (Martinez-Frias et al., 2004).

These factors are also found with maternal illicit drug use (Cosden et al., 1997; Hutchins, 1997; Norton-Hawk, 1997). Thus the increased risk of selected birth defects with illicit drug use in this study might actually be due to one of these other underlying factors. Unfortunately, informationon some of the potential confounding factors such as socioeconomic status are not collected by the HBDP. Information collected on some other factors such as smoking and alcohol use is suspect because of negative attitudes toward their use during pregnancy. Moreover, the small number of cases among many of the birth defects groups would make controlling for these factors difficult.

Finally, this investigation included use of the illicit drugs at any time during the pregnancy. Most birth defects are believed to occur at 3–8 wk after conception (Makri et al., 2004; Sadler, 2000). In a portion of the cases, the drug use might have occurred at a time when it could not have caused the birth defect. Furthermore, this study does not include information on dose; however, teratogenicity of a substance may depend on its dose (Werler et al., 1990). In spite of the various potential concerns of the present study, data may suggest future areas of investigation where the limitations inherent in the present one are excluded.

This investigation found significantly higher than expected rates for prenatal use of methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana among a number of specific birth defects. Although not identical, there were general similarities between the three illicit drugs and the birth defects with which they were associated. Increased rates for methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana occurred predominantly among birth defects affecting the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, oral clefts, and limbs. There were also increased rates of marijuana use with a variety of birth defects associated with the gastrointestinal  system. With the exception of marijuana and encephalocele, none of illicit drugs were associated with neural-tube defects (anencephaly, spina bifida, encephalocele). The rates of use for the three illicit drugs were not significantly elevated with eye defects other than anophthalmia/microphthalmia, genitourinary defects, and musculoskeletal defects aside from limb defects.

In the majority of instances, the associations between particular illicit drugs and birth defects were found whether or not those cases involving use of multiple types of drugs were included.

Of the 14 significant associations between methamphetamine and specific birth defects, 10 (71.4%) remained once multiple drug cases were excluded. Corresponding rates were 61.5% (8 of 13) for cocaine and 81.0% (17 of 21) for marijuana.

The similarities in the patterns of birth defects with which methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana are associated might suggest that the three drugs exert similar effects on embryonic and foetal development. This might not be expected, considering that the three illicit drugs differ in their mechanisms of action and clinical effects (Leiken & Paloucek, 1998).

Some of the associations between methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana observed in the present investigation were previously reported. Other studies observed similar associations, or lack thereof, of methamphetamine or amphetamine with neural-tube defects (Shaw et al., 1996) and cardiovascular and musculoskeletal defects (McElhatton et al., 2000); cocaine with neural-tube defects (Shaw et al., 1996), cardiovascular defects (Lipshultz et al., 1991), ventricular septal defect and atrial septal defect (Ferencz et al., 1997c; Martin & Edmonds, 1991), tricuspid atresia (Ferencz et al., 1997d), craniosynostosis (Gardner et al., 1998), and situs inversus (Kuehl & Loffredo, 2002); and marijuana with neural-tube defects (Shaw et al., 1996), single ventricle (Steinberger et al., 2002), ventricular septal defect (Williams et al., 2004), tricuspid atresia (Ferencz et al., 1997d), and gastroschisis (Torfs et al., 1994).

In contrast, this study differed from other research with respect to their findings regarding methamphetamine or amphetamine and gastroschisis (Torfs et al., 1994); cocaine and microcephaly (Martin & Edmonds, 1991), conotruncal defects (Adams et al., 1989), endocardial cushion defect (Ferencz et al., 1997b), situs inversus (Ferencz et al., 1997a), oral clefts (Beatyet al., 2001), and genitourinary defects (Abe et al., 2003; Battin et al., 1995; Martin & Edmonds, 1991); and marijuana and conotruncal defects (Adams et al., 1989), Ebstein anomaly (Ferencz et al., 1997e; Correa-Villasenor et al., 1994), and oral clefts (Beaty et al., 2001).

The inconsistent findings between this and the other studies could be due to differences in study methodology, case classification, or number of cases. The mechanisms by which methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana might contribute to the rates for birth defects is currently unknown. Any potential explanation would have to take into account the observation that each of the illicit drugs was associated with a variety of specific birth defects affecting different organ systems. This might suggest that these three drugs would need to influence a basic, common factor involved in embryonic development.

Folic acid is involved in nucleic acid synthesis and cellular division (Scholl & Johnson, 2000) and thus would play an important role in the early growth and cellular proliferation of the embryo. Folic acid has been found to prevent a variety of birth defects (Forrester & Merz, 2005). Thus, anything that interferes with the activity of folic acid might be expected to increase the risk for these birth defects. Many of these birth defects were associated with methamphetamine, cocaine, and/or marijuana in the present study.

However, two of the birth defects most closely affected by folic acid—anencephaly and spina bifida—were not associated with any of the three illicit drugs. Vascular disruption has been suggested as a potential cause for a variety of different birth defects such as intestinal atresia/stenosis, limb reduction defects, and gastroschisis.

Since cocaine is a vasoconstrictor, it has been hypothesized that cocaine use could increase the risk of these vascular disruption defects (Hume et al., 1997; Martin et al., 1992; Hoyme et al., 1983; de Vries, 1980). Although this investigation found an association between cocaine and limb reduction deformities, no association was found with intestinal atresia/stenosis or gastroschisis.

In conclusion, this study found that prenatal use of methamphetamine, cocaine, or marijuana were associated with increased risk of a variety of birth defects. The affected birth defects were primarily associated with particular organ systems. Because of various limitations of the study, further research is recommended.

Source:  Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A, 70: 7–18, 2007

Women who inject drugs are about 39% more likely to become infected with hepatitis C virus than men who inject drugs, research suggests.

A range of factors could account for the disparity, the researchers wrote in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

“Our findings provide important evidence that sex disparities in  exist independent of selected behavioral risk and demographic factors,” researcher Kimberly Page, PhD, MPH, division chief of the department of internal medicine at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, and colleagues wrote. “When considering HCV risk differential among women, multiple factors including biological, social and network factors — as well as differential access to prevention services — need to be considered.”

The researchers assessed data from seven of the 10 InC3 Collaborative studies of HIV and HCV among PWID ((people who inject drugs ), which included locations in the United States, Europe and Australia.

Page and colleagues included data from 1,868 PWID, 590 (31.58%) of whom were women. No data from participants who reported being transgender were assessed. In all, the researchers found 511 PWID with incident HCV during follow-up. Of those, 182 (31.5%) were female.

The unadjusted female-to-male HR for HCV infection was 1.38 (95% CI, 1.15-1.65). The disparity remained significant after adjustment for behavioral and demographic risk factors, the researchers said, slightly rising to 1.39 (95% CI, 1.12-1.72).

Page and colleagues cited previous studies suggesting biological and social factors that may help to explain the difference.

“All of these factors should be studied further to better understand sex-related differences in risk and to maximize prevention effects of drug treatment programs and their potential to reduce acquisition of blood-borne viruses, including HCV and HIV,” they wrote.

Disclosure: Esmaeili reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.

Source: https://www.healio.com/infectious-disease/hepatitis-c/news/in-the-journals/%7Be0c3d409-03c9-4d3b-a277-13edeb16b8e6%7D/women-injecting-drugs-at-higher-risk-for-hcv-than-men 2nd Sept.2017

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is a common condition that affects a substantial number of children, adolescents, and adults. Individuals can manifest FASD in a variety of ways, with many co-morbidities. They can present with birth defects, learning difficulties, intellectual disability, academic struggles, behavioral and psychiatric issues (e.g. attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder, depression, and drug and alcohol addiction), and difficulties with the law, with a risk for incarceration, unemployment, poverty, and dependency. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is important because it can potentially be prevented, and early recognition and diagnosis can lead to earlier interventions and supports that are associated with improved outcomes. Prevention is important because FASD is associated with a high cost to affected individuals, families, systems of care, and communities.

Source:   http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/article-abstract/2649222

See also:

Taylor & Francis. “Fathers drinking: Also responsible for fetal disorders?.” ScienceDaily,   www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140214075405.htm.

Am J Stem Cells 2016;5(1):11-18 www.AJSC.us /ISSN:2160-4150/AJSC0030217 Review Article Influence of paternal preconception exposures on their offspring: through epigenetics to phenotype

St. Petersburg, FL – Thursday, August 31, 2017 – Drug Free America Foundation today introduced a first-of-its-kind Opioid Tool Kit in an effort to help address the opioid epidemic gripping the United States.

The Opioid Tool Kit was unveiled in conjunction with International Overdose Awareness Day, a global event held on August 31st each year that aims to raise the awareness of the problem of drug overdose-related deaths.

“With more than 142 people dying each day, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50,” according to Calvina Fay, Executive Director of Drug Free America Foundation. “Moreover, deaths from drug overdose are an equal opportunity killer, with no regard to race, religion or economic class,” she said.

“While alcohol and marijuana still remain the most common drugs of abuse, the nonmedical use of prescription painkillers and other opioids has resulted in a crisis-level spike in drug overdose deaths,” said Fay.

The Opioid Tool Kit has been designed to educate people about the opioid epidemic and offer strategies that can be used to address this crisis. “The Tool Kit is also intended to encourage collaboration with different community sectors and stakeholders to make successful and lasting change,” Fay continued.

The Opioid Tool Kit is a comprehensive guide that defines what an opioid is, examines the scope of the problem, and addresses why opioids are a continuing health problem.  The Tool Kit also provides strategies for the prevention of prescription drug misuse and overdose deaths and includes a community advocacy and action plan, as well as additional resources.

Fay emphasized that the best way to prevent opioid and other drug addiction is not to abuse drugs in the first place.  “The chilling reality is that the long-term use and abuse of opioids and other addictive drugs rewire the brain, making recovery a difficult and often a life-long struggle,” she concluded. The Opioid Tool Kit can be found on Drug Free America Foundation’s website at https://dfaf.org/Opioid%20Toolkit.pdf.

Source:   https://dfaf.org/Opioid%20Toolkit.pdf..  August 2017

Background

On August 29, 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued guidelines to Federal prosecutors and law enforcement officials regarding where to focus their drug enforcement efforts in states that have passed laws legalizing the retail sales of marijuana. The so-called “Cole Memo” directs enforcement officials to focus resources, including prosecutions, “on persons and organizations whose conduct interferes with any one or more of [eight] priorities, regardless of state law.”

Per the memorandum, the eight DOJ priorities are:

● Preventing distribution of marijuana to minors

● Preventing marijuana revenue from funding criminal enterprises, gangs or cartels

● Preventing marijuana from moving out of states where it is legal

● Preventing use of state-legal marijuana sales as a cover for illegal activity

● Preventing violence and use of firearms in growing or distributing marijuana

● Preventing drugged driving or exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use

● Preventing growing marijuana on public lands

● Preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property

According to the Department of Justice, the Federal “hands-off” approach to marijuana enforcement enumerated in the Cole Memo is contingent on its expectation that “states and local governments that have enacted laws authorizing marijuana-related conduct will implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems that will address the threat those state laws could pose to public safety, public health, and other law enforcement interests.

A system adequate to that task must not only contain robust controls and procedures on paper, it must also be effective in practice.”

Unfortunately, since Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize the recreational sale of marijuana in 2012, evidence has emerged that regulations intended to control the sale and use of marijuana have failed to meet the promises made by advocates for legalization.

For example, states with legal marijuana are seeing an increase in drugged driving crashes and youth marijuana use. States that have legalized marijuana are also failing to shore up state budget shortfalls with marijuana taxes, continuing to see a thriving illegal black market, and are experiencing an unabated sales of alcohol, despite campaign promises from advocates promising that marijuana would be used as a “safer” alternative instead.

Moreover, state regulatory frameworks established post-legalization have failed to meet each of the specific DOJ requirements on controlling recreational marijuana production, distribution, and use.

While long-term studies and research on the public health and safety impacts of marijuana legalization are ongoing, this report provides a partial census of readily available information that demonstrates how Colorado, Oregon, and Washington State –

the jurisdictions with the most mature regulatory markets and schemes – have not fulfilled the requirements of the Cole Memo.

DOJ Guideline 1: “Preventing distribution of marijuana to minors”

● According to the nation’s largest and most comprehensive survey of drug use trends in the nation, past-month use of marijuana among 12 to 17-year-olds in Colorado increased significantly – from 9.82% to 12.56% after marijuana retail sales began (Colorado legalized marijuana in 2012 and implemented legal marijuana stores in 2014).

The same study notes that teens and adults in Colorado now use marijuana at a higher rate than the rest of the country. No other representative sample of drug users in Colorado has contradicted this sample.

● A 2017 study from the University of Colorado found that marijuana-related emergency room visits and visits to its satellite urgent care centers by teens in Colorado more than quadrupled after the state legalized marijuana.

● In Colorado, a new report from the state’s public safety agency reveals that after the state legalized the drug, marijuana-related arrests for black and Hispanic youth rose by 58% and 29% respectively, while arrest rates for white kids dropped by eight percent. School Resource Officers in Colorado have reported a substantial increase in marijuana-related offenses in Colorado schools after the state commercialized the drug.

● According to data from the State of Washington, there have been over 240 violations of legal marijuana sales to minors and of minors frequenting restricted marijuana sales areas as of July 2017. ● Youth use – among 8th and 10th graders at least – is increasing in Washington State. According to a special analysis of teenage drug use published in the peer-reviewed, highly regarded Journal of American Medical Association Pediatrics, the perceived  harmfulness of marijuana in Washington declined 14.2% and 16.1% among eighth and 10th graders, respectively, while marijuana use increased 2.0% and 4.1% from 2010-2012 to 2013-2015.

● According to the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction during 2013-2014, 48 percent of statewide student expulsions were for marijuana in comparison to alcohol, tobacco, and other illicit drugs. During the 2014-2015 school year, statewide student expulsions for marijuana increased to 60 percent. Marijuana related suspensions for the 2013-2014 school year reported 42 percent and for the 2014-2015 school year, suspensions increased to 49 percent.

● In Washington State, youth (12-17) accounted for 64.9% of all state marijuana seizures in 2015 as compared to 29.9% in 2010, according to data from the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS).

● From 2012 to 2016, reported exposure calls for marijuana increased 105 percent in Washington. According to the 2016 Annual Cannabis Toxic Trends Report, of exposures related to children under the age of five, 73 percent occurred in those one to three years of age. The counties with the highest reported exposures for both 2015 and 2016 were: King, Spokane, Snohomish, and Pierce.

DOJ Guideline 2: “Preventing revenue of the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels”

● In June 2017, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman announced a takedown of a massive illegal marijuana trafficking ring in Colorado. The bust is the largest since legalization and indicted 62 individuals and 12 businesses in Colorado. The operation stretched into other states including Kansas, Texas, Nebraska, Ohio and Oklahoma.

● In March 2017, a leaked report from the Oregon State Police uncovered evidence from state officials that the black market for marijuana continues to thrive in the state. The 39-page report noted that, “The illicit exportation of cannabis must be stemmed as it undermines the spirit of the law and the integrity of the legal market…it steals economic power from the market, the government, and the citizens of Oregon, and furnishes it to criminals, thereby tarnishing state compliance efforts.”

Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Instruction. (2016, Jan. 26). Behavior Report. http://www.k12.wa.us/SafetyCenter/Behavior/default.aspx

Washington State Poison Center – Toxic Trends Report: 2016 Annual Cannabis Report

● In 2016, Seattle Police spokesman Sean Whitcomb noted that “large-scale illegal grow operations… are still prevalent in Seattle, and we do come across those with a degree of frequency.” DOJ Guideline 3: “Preventing the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states”

● In 2014, two states – Nebraska and Oklahoma – sued their neighbor state of Colorado by citing evidence of increased marijuana flowing into those states. Law enforcement officials have reported a substantial increase in marijuana flow across state borders into neighboring states.

● In 2016, there were multiple raids conducted by state law enforcement in Colorado, leading authorities to seize more than 22,0000 pounds of marijuana intended for sales outside of Colorado.

● According to the Oregon State Police, the state has an “expansive geographic footprint” on marijuana exports across the U.S. Several counties in Oregon including Jackson, Multnomah, Josephine, Lane, Deschutes and Washington “lead the way” in supplying marijuana to states where it is not legal.

● According to the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force, “there were 360 seizures of marijuana in Colorado destined for other states. This is nearly a 600% increase in the number of individual stops in a decade, seizing about 3,671 pounds in 2014. Of the 360 seizures reported in 2014, 36 different states were identified as destinations, the most common being Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Oklahoma and Florida.”

● Law enforcement officials report that since legalization in 2012, Washington State marijuana has been found to be destined for 38 different states throughout the United States. Between 2012 and 2017, 8,242.39 kilograms (18,171.35 pounds) have been seized in 733 individual seizure events across 38 states. From 2012 to 2016, 470 pounds of marijuana have been seized on Washington State highways and interstates. Since 2012, 320 pounds of Washington State-origin marijuana have been seized during attempted parcel diversions. DOJ Guideline 4: “Preventing state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity”

● According to Jorge Duque from the Colorado Department of Law, cartels operating in Colorado are now “trading drugs like heroin for marijuana,” and the trade has since opened the door to drug and human trafficking. Duque also explains that money 5 laundering is a growing problem as “cartels are often disguising their money through legally purchasing marijuana or buying houses and growing marijuana in it.”

● In June 2017, a former Colorado marijuana enforcement officer and a Denver-based marijuana entrepreneur were indicted for running a statewide marijuana trafficking ring that illegally produced and sold “millions of dollars worth of marijuana across state lines.” This trafficking organization obtained 14 marijuana licenses in order to present their activities as protected business endeavors, despite “never ma[king] a single legal sale of cannabis in their two years of operation.”

● In Oregon, State Police officials report that criminals are exploiting Oregon’s legal marijuana industry for financial crimes and fraud. In one example, according to the Oregon State Police report, “Tisha Silver of Cannacea Medical Marijuana Dispensary falsified licensing to solicit investors and worked with Green Rush Consulting to locate unwitting investors. Silver exploited the burgeoning cannabis industry in the state to entice investors to back an illegitimate company, securing a quarter of a million dollars in fraudulent gains. According to some analysts, cannabis investors fell prey to ‘pump and dump’ schemes and lost up to $23.3 billion in 2014 alone.”

● Officials in Oregon note that the U.S. Postal Service is being exploited to ship marijuana products and revenue. According to former Attorney General Eric Holder, “The Postal Service is being used to facilitate drug dealing,” a clear violation of federal law and a violation of the sanctity of the U.S. mailing system.

DOJ Guideline 5: “Preventing violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana”

● While crime rates dropped or remained stable in many of the nation’s largest cities, Colorado’s crime rate increased. There has been an increase in rape, murder, robbery and auto thefts. While it is not possible to link legalization to a direct change in crime rates, officials in Colorado cited marijuana legalization as one of the reasons behind the rise.

● In Colorado, prosecutors are reporting an increase in marijuana-related homicides since the state legalized the drug.  This situation is detailed here: http://www.oregonlive.com/marijuana/index.ssf/2016/07/state_slaps_portland_dispensar.h tml.

Other instances of fraud have been discussed here: Sapient Investigations Newsletters (2015, Feb. 10) “High Times for Fraud,” available online at https://sapientinvestigations.com/spi-news/high-times-for-fraud/

● In Oregon, state police report that, “Cannabis is a lucrative target for robbery. As recently as December 2016, a state-licensed cannabis producer was targeted for a violent armed robbery. In the aforementioned case, a well-known cannabis grower in Jackson County was assaulted, bound, and his harvest was taken by armed assailants.”

● In Prince George’s County Maryland, Police Chief Henry Stawinski noted a significant rise in marijuana-related homicides since neighboring D.C. legalized the drug. Stawinski said 19 homicides in 2016 were related to marijuana.

DOJ Guideline 6:  “Preventing drugged driving and the exacerbation of other public health consequences associated with marijuana use”

● Drugged driving has increased in states with legal marijuana sales. According to a study published by the American Automobile Association, fatal drugged driving crashes doubled in Washington State after the state legalized marijuana. The Governors Highway Safety Association also notes a disturbing rise in drugged driving crashes even as alcohol-related crashes are declining.

● A Denver Post analysis found the number of marijuana-impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes in Colorado more than doubled since 2013, the year after the state voted to legalize recreational marijuana use. Colorado saw a 145 percent increase in the number of marijuana-impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes between 2013 and 2016. Marijuana is also figuring into more of Colorado’s fatal crashes overall: in 2013, marijuana-impaired drivers accounted for 10 percent of all fatal crashes, but by 2016 it reached 20 percent.

● According to a study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, poison control calls for children more than tripled after marijuana legalization. Much of this is linked to a boom in the sale of marijuana “edibles.” THC concentrate is mixed into almost any type of food or drink, including gummy candy, soda, and lollipops. Today, these edibles comprise at least half of Colorado’s marijuana market.

● In Washington State, the number of marijuana-involved DUIs are increasing with 38 percent of total cases submitted in 2016 testing above the five nanogram per milliliter of blood legal limit for those over the age of twenty-one. In addition, 10 percent of drivers involved in a fatal accident from 2010 to 2014 were THC-positive.

● A study by the Highway Loss Data Institute reveals that Colorado, Oregon, and Washington have experienced three percent more collision claims overall than would ( NWHIDTA Drug Threat Assessment For Program Year 2018)  have been expected without legalization.

Colorado witnessed the largest jump in claims. The state experienced a rate 14 percent higher than neighboring states.

● In Washington State, from 2012 to 2016, calls to poison control centers increased by 79.48%. Exposures increased 19.65% from the time of marijuana commercialization in 2014 to 2016. Of the marijuana calls answered by the Poison Center in 2016, youth under the age of 20 accounted for almost 40% of all calls.

According to the 2016 Annual Cannabis Toxic Trends Report, 42% of the calls reported were for persons aged 13 to 29. Additionally, among exposures related to children under the age of five, 73% involved children one to three years of age. The counties with the highest reported number of exposures for 2015 remained in the top four for 2016: King, Spokane, Snohomish, and Pierce.

DOJ Guideline 7: “Preventing the growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana on public lands”

● In Washington State, 373,778 marijuana plants were found growing illegally on public and private lands between 2012 and 2016. Of the illegal marijuana plants eradicated in 2016, 60% were being cultivated on state land, and the 58,604 illegal marijuana plants eradicated in 2016 consumed an estimated 43.2 million gallons of water over a full growing season (120-day cycle).

More than 400 pounds of fertilizers, chemicals, and pesticides were removed from illegal marijuana growing operations in 2016, and Furadan, a neurotoxin that is extremely dangerous to humans, was found in an illegal marijuana growing operation the same year.

● In June 2017, Colorado officials found more than 7,000 illegal plants on federal land in the state’s San Isabel National Forest. This was the fifth illegal grow found in that area alone since the year marijuana legalization passed, demonstrating legalization has not curbed the problem of grows exploiting public lands.

● In Oregon, the legalization of marijuana in the state has failed to eliminate illegal growing operations and public lands continue to be exploited despite a legal market. According to a report from state officials, “To date in Oregon, cannabis legalization has not had a noticeable influence on Mexican National [Drug Trafficking Organizations] illicit cannabis cultivation operations on public lands… leaving a lasting scar on Oregon’s unique ecosystems.

Illicit cannabis grows employ excessive amounts of pesticides, rodenticides, and herbicides, thereby threatening local wildlife habitats. Additionally, many illicit grow sites clear-cut timber, furthering soil erosion and water contamination. Research on the environmental impact of illicit cannabis grows indicates that grows tend to be bunched near water sources, resulting in disproportionate impacts on ecologically important areas…

Oregon is robbed of roughly 122 Olympic swimming pools 8 worth of water annually, or roughly 442,200 gallons of water daily during the growth season.”

DOJ Guideline 8: “Preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property”

● Advocates for legal marijuana frequently flout federal laws by possessing and using marijuana on federal properties purportedly in acts of civil disobedience. In January 2017, one group gave away free marijuana in Washington, D.C. to smoke on the National Mall during the inauguration of President Trump. On April 24, 2017, four activists were arrested after purposely flouting federal law and publicly using marijuana on U.S. Capitol grounds.

Conclusion and Key Recommendations

Federal resources should target the big players in the marijuana industry. Individual marijuana users should not be targeted or arrested, but large-scale marijuana businesses, several of which now boast of having raised over $100 million in capital, and their financial backers, should be a priority. These large businesses are pocketing millions by flouting federal law, deceiving Americans about the risks of their products, and targeting the most vulnerable.

They should not have access to banks, where their financial prowess would be expanded significantly, nor should they be able to advertise or commercialize marijuana.

These businesses target many of the marijuana products they sell toward kids, such as pot candies, cookies, and ice cream. And despite state regulations, these products continue to have problems with contamination. Recently, one of the largest, most sophisticated manufacturers of these pot “edibles” was forced to recall a number of products because they contained non-food-grade ingredients.

Additionally, the black market continues unabated in legalized states. A leaked report from Oregon police showed that at least 70 percent of that state’s marijuana market is illegal, despite legalization. In June 2017, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said, “The black market for marijuana has not gone away since recreational marijuana was legalized in our state, and in fact continues to flourish.”

Further, state-legal businesses have acted as top cover for these illegal operations, as recent large-scale arrests in Colorado have shown. These large marijuana operations, which combine the tactics of Big Tobacco with black marketeering, should form the focus of federal law enforcement, not individual users.  Recalls are becoming more commonplace because of pesticides, moulds, and other issues.

See The Denver Post for news stories related to these recalls in legalized states: http://www.thecannabist.co/tag/marijuana-recall/

At the same time, the federal government along with non-government partners should implement a strong, evidence-based marijuana information campaign, similar to the truth ® campaign for tobacco, which alerts all Americans about the harms of marijuana and the deceitful practices of the marijuana industry.

Background:

Cannabis is increasingly available for the treatment of chronic pain, yet its efficacy remains uncertain.

Purpose: 

To review the benefits of plant-based cannabis preparations for treating chronic pain in adults and the harms of cannabis use in chronic pain and general adult populations.

Data Sources:

MEDLINE, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, and several other sources from database inception to March 2017.

Study Selection: 

Intervention trials and observational studies, published in English, involving adults using plant-based cannabis preparations that reported pain, quality of life, or adverse effect outcomes.

Data Extraction: Two investigators independently abstracted study characteristics and assessed study quality, and the investigator group graded the overall strength of evidence using standard criteria.

Data Synthesis: From 27 chronic pain trials, there is low-strength evidence that cannabis alleviates neuropathic pain but insufficient evidence in other pain populations. According to 11 systematic reviews and 32 primary studies, harms in general population studies include increased risk for motor vehicle accidents, psychotic symptoms, and short-term cognitive impairment. Although adverse pulmonary effects were not seen in younger populations, evidence on most other long-term physical harms, in heavy or long-term cannabis users, or in older populations is insufficient.

Limitation: Few methodologically rigorous trials; the cannabis formulations studied may not reflect commercially available products; and limited applicability to older, chronically ill populations and patients who use cannabis heavily.

Conclusion: 

Limited evidence suggests that cannabis may alleviate neuropathic pain in some patients, but insufficient evidence exists for other types of chronic pain. Among general populations, limited evidence suggests that cannabis is associated with an increased risk for adverse mental health effects.

Source:  http://annals.org/aim/article/2648595/effects-cannabis-among-adults-chronic-pain-overview-general-harms-systematic#.WZXJbYbta0I.email

Key Points

Question  Are US state medical marijuana laws one of the underlying factors for increases in risk for adult cannabis use and cannabis use disorders seen since the early 1990s?

Findings  In this analysis using US national survey data collected in 1991-1992, 2001-2002, and 2012-2013 from 118 497 participants, the risk for cannabis use and cannabis use disorders increased at a significantly greater rate in states that passed medical marijuana laws than in states that did not.

Meaning  Possible adverse consequences of illicit cannabis use due to more permissive state cannabis laws should receive consideration by voters, legislators, and policy and health care professionals, with appropriate health care planning as such laws change.

Abstract

Importance  Over the last 25 years, illicit cannabis use and cannabis use disorders have increased among US adults, and 28 states have passed medical marijuana laws (MML). Little is known about MML and adult illicit cannabis use or cannabis use disorders considered over time.

Objective  To present national data on state MML and degree of change in the prevalence of cannabis use and disorders.

Design, Participants, and Setting  Differences in the degree of change between those living in MML states and other states were examined using 3 cross-sectional US adult surveys: the National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey (NLAES; 1991-1992), the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC; 2001-2002), and the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions–III (NESARC-III; 2012-2013). Early-MML states passed MML between NLAES and NESARC (“earlier period”). Late-MML states passed MML between NESARC and NESARC-III (“later period”).

Main Outcomes and Measures  Past-year illicit cannabis use and DSM-IV cannabis use disorder.

Results  Overall, from 1991-1992 to 2012-2013, illicit cannabis use increased significantly more in states that passed MML than in other states (1.4–percentage point more; SE, 0.5; P = .004), as did cannabis use disorders (0.7–percentage point more; SE, 0.3; P = .03).

In the earlier period, illicit cannabis use and disorders decreased similarly in non-MML states and in California (where prevalence was much higher to start with). In contrast, in remaining early-MML states, the prevalence of use and disorders increased.

Remaining early-MML and non-MML states differed significantly for use (by 2.5 percentage points; SE, 0.9; P = .004) and disorder (1.1 percentage points; SE, 0.5; P = .02). In the later period, illicit use increased by the following percentage points: never-MML states, 3.5 (SE, 0.5); California, 5.3 (SE, 1.0); Colorado, 7.0 (SE, 1.6); other early-MML states, 2.6 (SE, 0.9); and late-MML states, 5.1 (SE, 0.8). Compared with never-MML states, increases in use were significantly greater in late-MML states (1.6–percentage point more; SE, 0.6; P = .01), California (1.8–percentage point more; SE, 0.9; P = .04), and Colorado (3.5–percentage point more; SE, 1.5; P = .03).

Increases in cannabis use disorder, which was less prevalent, were smaller but followed similar patterns descriptively, with change greater than never-MML states in California (1.0–percentage point more; SE, 0.5; P = .06) and Colorado (1.6–percentage point more; SE, 0.8; P = .04).

Conclusions and Relevance

Medical marijuana laws appear to have contributed to increased prevalence of illicit cannabis use and cannabis use disorders. State-specific policy changes may also have played a role. While medical marijuana may help some, cannabis-related health consequences associated with changes in state marijuana laws should receive consideration by health care professionals and the public.

Source:  JAMA Psychiatry. 2017;74(6):579-588. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.0724

LONDON (Reuters) – People who smoke marijuana have a three times greater risk of dying from hypertension, or high blood pressure, than those who have never used the drug, scientists said on Wednesday. The risk grows with every year of use, they said.

The findings, from a study of some 1,200 people, could have implications in the United States among other countries. Several states have legalized marijuana and others are moving toward it. It is decriminalized in a number of other countries.

“Support for liberal marijuana use is partly due to claims that it is beneficial and possibly not harmful to health,” said Barbara Yankey, who co-led the research at the school of public health at Georgia State University in the United States.

“It is important to establish whether any health benefits outweigh the potential health, social and economic risks. If marijuana use is implicated in cardiovascular diseases and deaths, then it rests on the health community and policy makers to protect the public.”

Marijuana is also sometimes used for medicinal purposes, such as for glaucoma.

The study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, was a retrospective follow-up study of 1,213 people aged 20 or above who had been involved in a large and ongoing National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. In 2005–2006, they were asked if they had ever used marijuana.

For Yankey’s study, information on marijuana use was merged with mortality data in 2011 from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, and adjusted for confounding factors such as tobacco smoking and variables including sex, age and ethnicity.

The average duration of use among users of marijuana, or cannabis, was 11.5 years.

The results showed marijuana users had a 3.42-times higher risk of death from hypertension than non-users, and a 1.04 greater risk for each year of use.

There was no link between marijuana use and dying from heart or cerebrovascular diseases such as strokes.

Yankey said were limitations in the way marijuana use was assessed — including that researchers could not be sure whether people had used the drug continuously since they first tried it.

But she said the results chimed with plausible risks, since marijuana is known to affect the cardiovascular system.

“Marijuana stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, leading to increases in heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen demand,” she said.

Experts not directly involved in the study said its findings would need to be replicated, but already raised concerns.

“Despite the widely held view that cannabis is benign, this research adds to previous work suggesting otherwise,” said Ian Hamilton, a lecturer in mental health at Britain’s York University. Source:  https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-marijuana-hypertension-idUSKBN1AP0JS   9th Aug.201

A string of recent deaths in New Zealand is being attributed to the rise of so-called synthetic cannabis is made to look like normal cannabis

A man in his 20s died on Tuesday night, bringing the number of fatalities this month linked to the illegal substance to eight.  The drug consists of dried plants sprayed with synthetic drugs – it triggers effects similar to cannabis but is more powerful and dangerous.  Synthetic cannabis has already caused huge concerns in the US and Europe.

In each of the eight deaths this month, the victim was thought to have used the drug before dying or was found with the drug on them.  The actual substance in the drug responsible for the deaths is not yet known.

All eight deaths have occurred in Auckland and authorities say there is a much higher number of non-fatal cases where people had to be taken to hospital.

Earlier this month, the Auckland City District Police issued a warning on Facebook over the drug use and the apparent link to the rising number of victims.

“This is not an issue unique to Auckland,” the statement warned. “Police are also concerned at the impact of synthetic cannabis in other communities in New Zealand.”

Auckland police also took the rare step of releasing CCTV footage of a man violently ill and barely able to stand after smoking synthetic cannabis.

“We have grave concerns as users don’t know what poisonous chemicals they are potentially putting into their bodies when they’re smoking this drug,” Det Insp Lendrum said.

 

What is synthetic cannabis?

§ Actual cannabis contains an active ingredient which interacts with certain receptors in the brain.

§ Synthetic cannabis is dried plant matter sprayed with chemicals that interact with the same receptors.

§ Produced and sold illegally, the chemicals used vary a lot. That means the effect of the drug is a lot less predictable, so a lot more dangerous.

§ Effects can be extreme, including increased heart rates, seizures, psychosis, kidney failure and strokes.

Cannabis-simulating substances – or synthetic cannabinoids – were developed more than 20 years ago in the US for testing on animals as part of a brain research programme.  But in the last decade or so they’ve become widely available to the public.

In the UK, synthetic cannabis was also temporarily legal, being sold under a variety of names most prominently Spice and Black Mamba.  The drugs were banned in 2016 but continue to cause widespread problems in the country.

Synthetic cannabis has also been banned in the US but continues to be widely available as an illegal drug.

Source:   http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-40724390      26 July 2017

MS Society says there is sufficient evidence of drug’s effectiveness to relax ban for patients with no other options

Ten thousand people with multiple sclerosis in the UK should be allowed to use cannabis legally in order to relieve their “relentless and exhausting” symptoms, experts in the disease have told ministers.

The MS Society claims the one in 10 sufferers of the condition whose pain and spasticity cannot be treated by medication available on the NHS should be able to take the drug without fear of prosecution.

The evidence on cannabis’s effectiveness, while not conclusive, is now strong enough that the government should relax the ban on the drug for MS patients who have no other treatment options, the society says in a report.

Doctors who treat MS patients have backed the society’s call, as have the Liberal Democrats and the Green party. Legalisation would ease “the extremely difficult situation in which many people with MS find themselves”, the charity said.

The society is calling for the first time for the 10,000 patients – one in 10 of the 100,000 people in Britain with MS – to be able to access cannabis without fear of arrest. It has changed its position after reviewing the evidence, consulting its medical advisers and seeking the views of 3,994 people who have the condition.

“We think cannabis should be legalised for medicinal use for people with MS to relieve their pain and muscle spasms when other treatments haven’t worked,” said Genevieve Edwards, the MS Society’s director of external affairs.

“The level of clinical evidence to support cannabis’s use for medicinal purposes is not conclusive. But there is sufficient evidence for our medical advisers to say that on the balance of probability, cannabis could benefit many people with MS experiencing pain and muscle spasms.” The charity is also urging NHS bosses to make Sativex, a cannabis-based drug used by some people with MS, available on prescription across the UK so that patients who can afford it no longer have to acquire it privately, at a cost of about £2,000 a year. Wales is the only home nation to provide the mouth spray through the NHS.

Patients’ inability to access Sativex on the NHS in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland “has resulted in many people with MS turning to illegal forms of cannabis as an alternative. It’s simply not right that some people are being driven to break the law to relieve their pain and spasticity. It’s also really risky when you’re not sure about the quality or dosage of what you’re buying,” Edwards said.

Norman Lamb, the Lib Dem health spokesman, said: “This is the strongest proof yet that the existing law on cannabis is a huge injustice that makes criminals of people whose only crime is to be in acute pain. This draconian law is potentially opening anything up to 10,000 MS sufferers to prosecution, and underlines why the Liberal Democrats have braved a tabloid backlash to campaign for the legalisation of cannabis. It is about time the government listened to the science.”

One in five (22%) MS patients who took part in a survey by the society said they had used cannabis to help manage their symptoms, but only 7% were still doing so. A quarter (26%) of those who had stopped taking it said they had done so out of fear of

prosecution. Another 26% of respondents had considered trying cannabis but had not done so for the same reason and also because they were concerned about the drug’s safety.

Doctors are divided over cannabis’s potential role in treating MS. Some are supportive while others are anxious about endorsing the use of a drug that can cause psychiatric problems. The Royal College of GPs said it was currently drawing up policy on the issue and could not comment. The Royal College of Physicians, which represents hospital doctors, said it had no policy on the issue.

Dr Willy Notcutt, a pain management specialist at the James Paget hospital in Norfolk, who has been treating MS patients for more than 20 years, said: “Every week I come across patients wishing to use cannabis to control their symptoms but who are unable to get proven drugs like Sativex from the NHS. Many patients seek illegal cannabis to get help. They can’t be sure of its origin but are being forced to commit a criminal act in order to obtain relief.”

Dr Waqar Rashid, a consultant neurologist at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS trust, said: “[Cannabis is] not a cure-all, and there are other treatments that should be tried first. But it makes sense for criminality not be a barrier to a treatment which could reduce the debilitating impact of symptoms and transform someone’s quality of life.”

Caroline Lucas, the Green party co-leader and its sole MP, said: “The MS Society’s new position is a big step forward, and recognises the fact that thousands of people with MS could benefit from the the use of medicinal cannabis. By rigidly sticking to criminalising cannabis the government drives MS sufferers to illegally acquire the drugs, thus putting themselves as risk of prosecution simply for searching for pain relief.” The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), which advises the government, has told the NHS not to prescribe Sativex for spasticity because it is not cost-effective. The Home Office said: “This government has no plans to legalise cannabis. Cannabis is controlled as a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and, in its raw form, currently has no recognised medicinal benefits in the UK.”

Case study: Steven Colborn, 55, from Seaham, County Durham

Imagine running a marathon while sharp pain darts up and down your legs. This is what multiple sclerosis feel like for me. When muscle spasticity kicks in my legs just twist and turn and bend back on themselves and it’s excruciatingly painful.

But three years ago I was offered a treatment that could help. During a regular appointment, a specialist nurse said they had managed to get a month’s supply of Sativex, a drug derived from cannabis, from the manufacturer.

The results were incredible. My muscle tension eased and I started to feel my legs moving better. I was able to get a good night’s sleep. I could exercise without getting as tired as quickly. For the first time in a long time I felt that I was managing my condition.

My month’s supply ran out and the drug wasn’t available free on the NHS. I was offered a muscle relaxer called Baclofen which hadn’t worked for me in the past.

I have been forced to pay for this drug myself. I can’t work any more so I rely on disability benefits. I have to save up a lot of money to be able to afford it – it costs £412 a month. Over the past four years I’ve only managed to buy about seven months’ worth.

I take Sativex but other people get similar relief from cannabis in its pure form. I don’t like taking this myself because of the narcotic effect, which you don’t get with Sativex. But for those it helps, it should be made legal.

I have had this illness for 36 years and every day I wake up and think ‘maybe there has been a breakthrough’. I know there will never be a cure, but I am just looking for a way to make things easier. Now I have been presented with something that offers me hope and the NHS say they cannot afford it. My question is: can you afford people like me getting worse?

Source:  https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jul/27/legalise-cannabis-as-treatment-of-last-resort-for-multiple-sclerosis-says-charity

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Comments by  NDPA:

UK  is 1st world nation with 1st world medicine approval system, even then we get things wrong e.g Thalidomide.

Cannabis based medicine is no problem if it goes through that system.

Sadly, ill people have been and are being exploited by the drug legalisation lobby, in furtherance of their nirvana of recreational cannabis for all.

Cannabis is a very harmful psychoactive drug, it induces dependency in around 1 in 9 or 10 users. It has numerous bad effects.

Smoking is obviously not a sensible delivery system for medication, yet a lot of those complaining want to smoke cannabis.

Cannabis based drugs like Sativex are in the pharmacopeia thanks to the wise licensing of the research on them by successive UK governments.

The mechanisms by which those cannabis based drugs are made available to  specific MS sufferers are a matter for the relevant authorities who deal with all pharmaceutical drugs. They must show efficacy and they must satisfy NICE.

There are no grounds at all for making cannabis any sort of special case, in fact the recreational user base and the legalisation lobby distort the arguments and would be better remaining silent.

In his last article for Pro Talk, Renaming and Rethinking Drug Treatment, psychologist Robert Schwebel, Ph.D., author and developer of The Seven Challenges program, expressed his views about problems in typical drug and alcohol treatment. In this interview, he focuses on changes that he thinks would better meet the needs of individuals with substance problems.

The Seven Challenges Program

The Seven Challenges is described as “a comprehensive counselling program for teens and young adults that incorporates work on alcohol and other drug problems.” The program addresses much more than substance issues because it also helps young people develop better life skills, as well as manage their situational and psychological problems. Although there is an established structure for each session and a framework for decision-making (see website for the youth version of “The Seven Challenges”), it is not pre-scripted as in many traditional programs. Rather it is “exceptionally flexible, in response to the immediate needs of the clients.”

Independent studies funded by The Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and published in peer-reviewed journals have provided evidence that The Seven Challenges significantly decreases substance use of adolescents and greatly improves their overall mental health status. The program has been shown to be especially effective for the many young people with drug problems who also have trauma issues.

Just recently, a new version of The Seven Challenges program was introduced for adults and is being piloted in a research project. Soon, a book geared toward the general public by Dr. Schwebel that incorporates much of the philosophy of the program, as well as many of the decision-making and behavior change strategies, will be available.

Q&A: What Should Treatment Look Like?

Q: In your last article for Pro Talk, you argued strongly against the word “treatment” and suggested that we use the word “counselling” instead. Will you reiterate why you prefer using “counselling” when talking about professional help for people with substance problems?

Dr. S.: Counselling is an active and interactive process that’s responsive to the needs of individuals. It may include education, but it’s more than that because the information is personalized and offered in the context of a discussion about what’s happening in a person’s life. Effective counsellors help clients become aware of their options, expand those options, and make their own informed choices.

Treatment, on the other hand, sounds like something imposed and passive that an authority (say a doctor) does to someone else or tells them to do. It also implies recipients receive a standardized protocol or regime with a preconceived goal, usually abstinence when we’re talking about addiction. It doesn’t suggest autonomy of choice or collaboration.

 

Q: You stress the importance of choice and collaboration, suggesting both are important in addiction counselling. Please tell us more.

Dr. S.: In collaborative counselling that allows choices, clients get to identify the issues they want to work on. They make the decisions. We make it clear that we’re not there to make them quit using drugs…and couldn’t even if we tried. We tell them, “We’re here to support you in working on your issues, things that are important to you; things that are not going well in your life or as well you would like them to be going.”

We also support clients in decision-making about drugs. They set their own goals about using. One person might want to quit using, while another might want to set new limits. For those who want to change their drug use behavior, we check in with them about how they’re doing regarding their decision on a session-by-session basis. If they have setbacks, we’ll provide individualized support to help them figure out why, We’re not doubting them or trying to “catch” them. Rather, we’re helping them succeed with their own decisions to change. This type of check-in would not apply to individuals who have not yet decided to make changes.

 

Q: Many addiction programs feel that dealing with addiction should be the first priority and that other issues are secondary. What are your thoughts about this?

Dr. S.: I’ll start by saying that they have equal importance. Drug problems have everything to do with what is going on in a person’s life. And, a person’s life is very much affected by drug problems. I do want to say, however, that not everyone who winds up in an addiction program has an addiction. That’s a ridiculous generalization. They may be having problems with binge drinking, issues with family or jobs because of substance misuse, or legal problems because they were unlucky and got caught. (For instance they got arrested for another crime and tested positive for drugs.) They often wind up in places that require abstinence and wonder, “What am I doing here?” Then they’re told they’re “in denial.”

Traditional treatment tends to focus narrowly on drug problems, usually pushing an agenda of immediate abstinence. However, drug problems – whether or not they qualify as “addiction,” are very much connected to the rest of life. Therefore, clients need comprehensive counselling that addresses what’s happening in their overall lives and helps clients make their lives better. So it’s not all about use of substances and making the individual quit. The goal is to support clients and to help them make their own decisions about life and substance use.

We use the term “issues” – not “problems.” Whatever is most important to the individual that day is what we work on. A client might say, “I have an issue with my mother.” We don’t just want to have a discussion about the issue; we want to set a session goal so that a client gets practical help with an issue each time. Ideally we try to facilitate a next step, some sort of action that can be taken between sessions. We want to support our clients in making their own lives better. We like to reassure clients that we won’t be harping on drugs all the time: At least half of what we do is about everything else besides drugs. This means that counsellors need to know how to help people with their other problems. Unfortunately, many have a narrow background in drug treatment and don’t yet know how to do that.

 

Q: How do you address the issue of “powerlessness” which a number of young people have told me they struggled with in12-step treatment programs they’ve attended? Don’t adolescents by nature resist anything that threatens to take away their autonomy?

Dr. S.: One of our main messages is “You are powerful; people do take control over their drug use. You have that power within you.” We also say, “You don’t need to do it alone. You are entitled to support. We’re behind you. We’re not saying it’s easy and

there won’t be setbacks along the way. If there are, we’ll help you figure out why and how to handle it differently the next time. At the same time we’ll help you with other issues in your life so you’ll have less need for drugs.”

I think there is great harm in the all-or-nothing approach to drug and alcohol problems and that more people would come for help if they were not told that they’re powerless. Also, many more would come if they felt they could make a choice about drugs and did not expect to be coerced.

 

A New Version of The Seven Challenges

Following is the new adult version of Dr. Schwebel’s The Seven Challenges program:

· Challenging Yourself to Make Thoughtful Decisions About Your Life, Including Your Use of Alcohol and Other Drugs

· Challenging Yourself to Look at Your Responsibility and the Responsibility of Others for Your Problems

· Challenging Yourself to Look at What You Like About Alcohol and Other Drugs, and Why You Use Them

· Challenging Yourself to Honestly Look at Your Life, Including Your Use of Alcohol and Other Drugs

· Challenging Yourself to Look at Harm That Has Happened or Could Happen From Your Use of Alcohol and Other Drugs

· Challenging Yourself to Look at Where You Are Headed, Where You Would Like to Go, and What You Would Like to Accomplish

· Challenging Yourself to Take Action and Succeed With Your Decisions About Your Life and Use of Alcohol and Other Drugs

Source:  http://www.rehabs.com/pro-talk-articles/what-drug-and-alcohol-treatment-should-look-like-an-interview-with-dr-robert-schwebel/     17th July 2017

Werewolf in London? Or maybe it’s a Skunk.

Cannabis is now the most popular illicit drug in the world. Several US states have legalized cannabis for medical or recreational use and more are in the process of doing the same. Numerous prospective epidemiological studies have reported that use of cannabis is a modifiable risk factor for schizophrenia-like psychosis. In 2012, the Schizophrenia Commission in the UK concluded that research to quantify the link between cannabis use and serious mental illness should be pursued.

Between May 1, 2005, and May 31, 2011, researchers culled data from 410 patients with first-episode psychosis and 370 controls. The risk of individuals having a psychotic disorder was approximately three-fold higher among users of “skunk-like” cannabis, compared with those who never used cannabis (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 2•92, 95% CI 1•52–3•45, p=0•001). Further, daily use of skunk-like cannabis resulted in the highest risk of psychotic disorders, compared with no use of cannabis (adjusted OR 5•4, 95% CI 2•81–11•31, p=0•002).

The population attributable fraction of first episode psychosis for skunk use for the geographical area of south London was 24% (95% CI 17–31), possibly because of the high prevalence of high-potency cannabis (218 [53%] of 410 patients) in the study.

Clearly, and as seen elsewhere, availability of high potency cannabis in south London most likely resulted in a greater proportion of first onset psychosis than in previous studies where the cannabis is less potent.

Why Does this Matter?

Changes in marijuana potency and the increased prevalence of use by adolescents and young adults increases the risk of serious mental illness and the burden on the mental health system.

Chronic, relapsing psychotic illness produced by cannabis is similar to that produced naturally in Schizophrenia. However, treatment responses are not the same. Indeed, skunk use appears to contribute to 24% of cases of first episode psychosis in south London. Our findings show the importance of raising awareness among young people of the risks associated with the use of high-potency cannabis. The need for such public education is emphasized by the worldwide trend of liberalization of the constraints on cannabis and the fact that high potency varieties are becoming increasingly available.

Finally, in both primary care and mental health services, developing a simple screening instrument as simple as yes-or-no questions of whether people use skunk or other drugs will aid public health officials to identify epidemiological maps and “hot spots” of increased drug use and to develop interdiction, education and prevention efforts.

Source:  https://www.rivermendhealth.com/resources/cannabis-induced-psychosis-now-spreading-uk     July 2017

Cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug in the United States, and trends show increasing use in the general population. As cannabis consumption rises, there has been significant emerging evidence for cannabis-related risks to health.1

Numerous lines of evidence suggest a correlation between cannabis consumption and a variety of psychiatric conditions, including cannabis-induced psychosis (CIP). While it can be difficult to differentiate CIP from other psychoses, CIP holds distinguishing characteristics, which may aid in its diagnosis. Given the increasing push toward cannabis legalization, assessing CIP and employing timely treatments is critical.

Specifically in youth, there is a direct relationship between cannabis use and its risks. The lack of knowledge surrounding its detrimental effects, combined with misunderstandings related to its therapeutic effects, has potential for catastrophic results.

CASE VIGNETTE

Ms. J, a 19-year-old college sophomore, was admitted to the Early Psychosis Unit at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) displaying signs of agitation and acute psychosis. Her roommates had noted that her behavior had become increasingly bizarre, and she had isolated herself over the past month. She began smoking marijuana at the age of 17 and since starting college used it daily.

Ms. J exhibited signs of paranoia, believing other students in her dorm were stealing from her and trying to poison her. She remained adamant that all her problems were rooted in the competitive environment of the university and that smoking marijuana aided in keeping her sanity. In a sense, she was self-medicating. Her clinical presentation was consistent with a diagnosis of CIP.

After the hospitalization, she received outpatient case management services in the Early Psychosis Program at CAMH, which included motivational interviewing to raise her awareness about the importance of abstaining from cannabis use. She has been abstinent from cannabis for more than a year with no evidence of psychosis; she recently returned to school to finish her degree.

Epidemiology of CIP

Reports have shown a staggering increase in cannabis-related emergency department (ED) visits in recent years. In 2011, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) estimated a total of 1.25 million illicit-drug–related ED visits across the US, of which 455,668 were marijuana related.2 A similar report published in 2015 by the Washington Poison Center Toxic Trends Report showed a dramatic increase in cannabis-related ED visits.3 In states with recent legalization of recreational cannabis, similar trends were seen.4

States with medicinal marijuana have also shown a dramatic rise in cannabis-related ED visits. Moreover, states where marijuana is still illegal also showed increases.5 This widespread increase is postulated to be in part due to the easy accessibility of the drug, which contributes to over-intoxication and subsequent symptoms. Overall, from 2005 to 2011, there has been a dramatic rise in cannabis-related ED visits among all age groups and genders.

Neurobiology of CIP

Cannabis is considered an environmental risk factor that increases the odds of psychotic episodes, and longer exposure is associated with greater risk of psychosis in a dose-

dependent fashion. The drug acts as a stressor that leads to the emergence and persistence of psychosis. While a number of factors play a role in the mechanism by which consumption produces psychosis, the primary psychoactive ingredient is considered to be delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta9-THC). Properties of delta9-THC include a long half-life (up to 30 days to eliminate the long-acting THC metabolite carboxy-THC from urine) and high lipophilicity, which may contribute to CIP.

During acute consumption, cannabis causes an increase in the synthesis and release of dopamine as well as increased reuptake inhibition, similar to the process that occurs during stimulant use. Consequently, patients with CIP are found to have elevated peripheral dopamine metabolite products.

Findings from a study that examined presynaptic dopaminergic function in patients who have experienced CIP indicate that dopamine synthesis in the striatum has an inverse relationship with cannabis use. Long-term users had reduced dopamine synthesis, although no association was seen between dopaminergic function and CIP.6 This observation may provide insight into a future treatment hypothesis for CIP because it implies a different mechanism of psychosis compared with schizophrenia. As cannabis may not induce the same dopaminergic alterations seen in schizophrenia, CIP may require alternative approaches—most notably addressing associated cannabis use disorder.

Polymorphisms at several genes linked to dopamine metabolism may moderate the effects of CIP. The catechol-o-methyltransferase (COMT Val 158Met) genotype has been linked to increased hallucinations in cannabis users.7Homozygous and heterozygous genetic compositions (Met/Met, Val/Met, Val/Val) for COMT Val 158Met have been studied in patients with CIP and suggest that the presence of Val/Val and Val/Met genotypes produces a substantial increase in psychosis in relation to cannabis use. This suggests that carriers of the Val allele are most vulnerable to CIP attacks.

There has been much controversy surrounding the validity of a CIP diagnosis and whether it is a distinct clinical entity or an early manifestation of schizophrenia. In patients being treated for schizophrenia, those with a history of CIP had an earlier onset of schizophrenia than patients who never used cannabis.8Evidence suggests an association between patients who have received treatment for CIP and later development of schizophrenia spectrum disorder. However, it has been difficult to distinguish whether CIP is an early manifestation of schizophrenia or a catalyst. Nonetheless, there is a clear association between the 2 disorders.

Assessment of CIP

DSM-5 categorizes cannabis-induced psychotic disorder as a substance-induced psychotic disorder. However, there are distinguishing characteristics of CIP that differentiate it from other psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. Clear features of CIP are sudden onset of mood lability and paranoid symptoms, within 1 week of use but as early as 24 hours after use. CIP is commonly precipitated by a sudden increase in potency (eg, percent of THC content or quantity of cannabis consumption; typically, heavy users of cannabis consume more than 2 g/d). Criteria for CIP must exclude primary psychosis, and symptoms should be in excess of expected intoxication and withdrawal effects. A comparison of the clinical features of idiopathic psychosis versus CIP is provided in the Table.

When assessing for CIP, careful history taking is critical. Time of last drug ingestion will indicate if a patient’s psychotic symptoms are closely related to cannabis intoxication/withdrawal effects. While acute cannabis intoxication presents with a range of transient positive symptoms (paranoia, grandiosity, perceptual alterations), mood symptoms (anxiety), and cognitive deficits (working memory, verbal recall, attention), symptoms that persist beyond the effects of intoxication and withdrawal are better categorized as CIP, regardless of the route of administration (smoke inhalation, oral, intravenous). CIP has historically been associated with fewer negative symptoms than schizophrenia; however, without a clear timeline of use, distinguishing schizophrenia from CIP may prove difficult.

A diagnosis of primary psychosis (eg, schizophrenia) is warranted in the absence of heavy cannabis use or withdrawal (for at least 4 weeks), or if symptoms preceded onset of heavy use. The age at which psychotic symptoms emerge has not proved to be a helpful indicator; different studies show a conflicting median age of onset.

Clinical features of schizophrenia and CIP share many overlapping characteristics. However, compared with primary psychoses with concurrent cannabis abuse, CIP has been established to show more mood symptoms than primary psychosis. The mood symptom profile includes obsessive ideation, interpersonal sensitivity, depression, and anxiety. Of significance is the presence of social phobia: 20% of patients with CIP demonstrate phobic anxiety compared with only 3.8% of patients with primary psychosis with cannabis abuse.

Hypomania and agitation have also been found to be more pronounced in cases of CIP.9 Visual hallucinations are more common and more distinct in CIP than in other psychoses such as schizophrenia. Perhaps the most discriminating characteristic of CIP is awareness of the clinical condition, greater disease insight, and the ability to identify symptoms as a manifestation of a mental disorder or substance use. The presence of much more rapidly declining positive symptoms is another distinctive factor of CIP.

Finally, family history may help distinguish CIP from primary psychosis. Primary psychosis has a strong association with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders in first- or second-degree relatives, whereas CIP has a weaker family association with psychosis.

Treatment of CIP

As with all substance-induced psychotic states, abstinence from cannabis may be the definitive measure to prevent recurrence. With limited research surrounding CIP, achieving symptomatic treatment during acute phases of CIP has proved to be difficult. The Figure suggests possible treatment progression for CIP.

Pharmacotherapeutic interventions include the second-generation antipsychotic drug olanzapine and haloperidol. While both are equally effective, their different adverse- effect profiles should be taken into consideration when treating a patient; olanzapine is associated with significantly fewer extrapyramidal adverse effects.

One report indicates that antipsychotics worsened the condition in some patients.10 Conventional antipsychotics failed to abate the symptoms of CIP in one 20-year old man. Trials of olanzapine, lithium, and haloperidol had little to no effect on his psychosis. Risperidone was tried but elicited temporal lobe epilepsy with auditory, somatic, and olfactory hallucinations. However, the use of valproate sodium markedly improved his symptoms and cognition, returning him to baseline.

Carbamazepine has also been shown to have rapid effects when used as an adjunct to antipsychotics.11 Use of anti-seizure medication in CIP treatment has been hypothesized to reduce neuroleptic adverse effects, resulting in better tolerance of antipsychotics.10,11 These results suggest the use of adjunctive anti-epileptics should be considered in CIP treatment strategies, although further studies in a broad range of patients with CIP are needed.

Abstaining from cannabis is the most beneficial and effective measure for preventing future CIP events; however, it is likely to be the most difficult to implement.

Psychosocial intervention has a significant impact on early-phase psychosis, and when the intervention is initiated plays a role in disease outcomes. A delay in providing intensive psychosocial treatment has been associated with more negative symptoms compared with a delay in administrating antipsychotic medication.12 Employing cannabis- focused interventions with dependent patients who present with first-episode psychosis can decrease use in a clinically meaningful way and subjectively improve patient quality of life.

Compared with the standard of care, motivational interviewing significantly increases number of days abstinent from cannabis and aids in decreasing short-term consumption.13 Patients who are treated with motivational interviewing in addition to standard of care (combination of antipsychotic medication, regular office-based psychiatric contact, psychoeducation) are reported to also have more confidence and willingness to reduce cannabis use.

Patients with CIP who are unwilling or unable to decrease cannabis consumption may be protected from psychotic relapse with aripiprazole (10 mg/d). Its use suppresses the re-emergence of psychosis without altering cannabis levels. However, no direct comparison has been made with aripiprazole and other antipsychotics in treating CIP. Clearly, well-controlled large studies of putative treatments for CIP are needed.

Conclusions

As more countries and states approve legalization, and marijuana becomes more accessible, CIP and other cannabis-related disorders are expected to increase. Efforts should be made by physicians to educate patients and discourage cannabis use. Just as there was an era of ignorance concerning the damaging effects of tobacco, today’s conceptions about cannabis may in fact be judged similarly in the future. The onus is on psychiatrists to take an evidence-based approach to this increasing problem.

Source:  http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/substance-use-disorder/cannabis-induced-psychosis-review  14th July

An UdeM study confirms the link between marijuana use and psychotic-like experiences in a Canadian adolescent cohort. Credit: © Syda Productions / Fotolia

Going from an occasional user of marijuana to a weekly or daily user increases an adolescent’s risk of having recurrent psychotic-like experiences by 159%, according to a new Canadian study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

The study also reports effects of marijuana use on cognitive development and shows that the link between marijuana use and psychotic-like experiences is best explained by emerging symptoms of depression.

“To clearly understand the impact of these results, it is essential to first define what psychotic-like experiences are: namely, experiences of perceptual aberration, ideas with unusual content and feelings of persecution,” said the study’s lead author, Josiane Bourque, a doctoral student at Université de Montréal’s Department of Psychiatry. “Although they may be infrequent and thus not problematic for the adolescent, when these experiences are reported continuously, year after year, then there’s an increased risk of a first psychotic episode or another psychiatric condition.”

She added: “Our findings confirm that becoming a more regular marijuana user during adolescence is, indeed, associated with a risk of psychotic symptoms. This is a major public-health concern for Canada.”

What are the underlying mechanisms?

One of the study’s objectives was to better understand the mechanisms by which marijuana use is associated with psychotic-like experiences. Bourque and her supervisor, Dr. Patricia Conrod at Sainte Justine University Hospital Research Centre hypothesized that impairments in cognitive development due to marijuana misuse might in turn exacerbate psychotic-like experiences.

This hypothesis was only partially confirmed, however. Among the different cognitive abilities evaluated, the development of inhibitory control was the only cognitive function negatively affected by an increase in marijuana use. Inhibitory control is the capacity to withhold or inhibit automatic behaviours in favor of a more contextually appropriate behaviour. Dr. Conrod’s team has shown that this specific cognitive function is associated with risk for other forms of substance abuse and addiction.

“Our results show that while marijuana use is associated with a number of cognitive and mental health symptoms, only an increase in symptoms of depression — such as negative thoughts and low mood — could explain the relationship between marijuana use and increasing psychotic-like experiences in youth,” Bourque said.

What’s next

These findings have important clinical implications for prevention programs in youth who report having persistent psychotic-like experiences. “While preventing adolescent marijuana use should be the aim of all drug strategies, targeted prevention approaches are particularly needed to delay and prevent marijuana use in young people at risk of psychosis,” said Patricia Conrod, the study’s senior author and a professor at UdeM’s Department of Psychiatry.

Conrod is optimistic about one thing, however: the school-based prevention program that she developed, Preventure, has proven effective in reducing adolescent marijuana use by an overall 33%. “In future programs, it will be important to investigate whether this program and other similar targeted prevention programs can delay or prevent marijuana use in youth who suffer from psychotic-like experiences,” she said. “While the approach seems promising, we have yet to demonstrate that drug prevention can prevent some cases of psychosis.”

A large youth cohort from Montreal

The study’s results are based on the CIHR-funded Co-Venture project, a cohort of approximately 4,000 adolescents aged 13 years old from 31 high schools in the Greater Montreal area. These teens are followed annually from Grade 7 to Grade 11. Every year they fill out computerized questionnaires to assess substance use and psychiatric symptoms. The teens also complete cognitive tasks to allow the researchers to evaluate their IQ, working memory and long-term memory as well as their inhibitory control skills.

To do their study, the research team first confirmed results from both the United Kingdom and Netherlands showing the presence of a small group of individuals (in Montreal, 8%) among the general population of adolescents who report recurrent psychotic-like experiences. Second, the researchers explored how marijuana use between 13 and 16 years of age increases the likelihood of belonging to the 8%. Finally, they examined whether the relationship between increasing use of marijuana and increasing psychotic-like experiences can be explained by emerging symptoms of anxiety or depression, or by the effects of substance use on developing cognitive abilities.

Source:  University of Montreal. “Marijuana and vulnerability to psychosis.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 July 2017. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170705104042.htm.

 

A study by researchers from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) that followed a sample of almost 2000 Victorian school children from the age of 14 until the age of 35 found that social disadvantage, anxiety, and licit and illicit substance use (in particular cannabis), were all more common in participants who had reported self-harm during adolescence.

The longitudinal study, the Victorian Adolescent Health Cohort Study, was the first in the world to document health-related outcomes in people in their 30s who had self-harmed during their adolescence. Until now, very little has been known about the longer-term health and social outcomes of adolescents who self-harm.

Published in the new Lancet Child and Adolescent Health journal, the study found the following common elements:

· People who self-harmed as teenagers were more than twice as likely to be weekly cannabis users at age 35

· Anxiety, drug use, and social disadvantage were more common at age 35 among participants who had self-harmed during their teenage years. While most of these associations can be explained by things like mental health problems during adolescence and substance use during adolescence, adolescent self-harm was strongly and independently associated with using cannabis on a weekly basis at age 35 years

· Self-harm during the adolescent years is a marker for distress and not just a ‘passing phase’

The findings suggest that adolescents who self-harm are more likely to experience a wide range of psychosocial problems later in life, said the study’s lead author, Dr Rohan Borschmann from MCRI. “Adolescent self-harm should be viewed as a conspicuous marker of emotional and behavioural problems that are associated with poor life outcomes,” Dr Borschmann said.

The study found that anxiety, drug use, and social disadvantage were more common at age 35 among participants who had self-harmed during their teenage years. “While most of this can be explained partly by things like mental healthduring adolescence and substance use during adolescence, adolescent self-harm was strongly and independently associated with using cannabis on a weekly basis at age 35 years,” Dr Borschmann said.

Interventions during adolescence which address multiple risk-taking behaviours are likely to be more successful in helping this vulnerable group adjust to adult life.

More information: Rohan Borschmann et al. 20-year outcomes in adolescents who self-harm: a population-based cohort study, The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health (2017). DOI: 10.1016/S2352-4642(17)30007-X

Source:  https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-07-twenty-year-outcomes-adolescents-self-harm-substance.htm

Residential treatment has received a lot of criticism and scepticism over the last several years, especially for opioid use disorders. (Some of it is deserved. Too many providers are hustlers and others provide little more than detox with inadequate follow-up. Of course, many of the same criticisms have been directed at medication-assisted treatment. But, that’s not what this post is about.)

At any rate, the Recovery Research Institute recently posted about a study looking at completion rates for outpatient and residential treatment.   The study looked at A LOT of treatment admissions, 318,924.  Residential completion rates appear to have surprised a lot of people:

Results: Residential programs reported a 65% completion rate compared to 52% for outpatient settings. After controlling for other confounding factors, clients in residential treatment were nearly three times as likely as clients in outpatient treatment to complete treatment.

But, what really surprised some readers was this:

Compared to clients with a primary alcohol use disorder:
Clients with marijuana use disorder were only 74% as likely to complete residential treatment.
Clients with an opioid use disorder were 1.29x MORE likely to complete residential treatment.

So opioid users were much more likely to benefit from residential treatment compared to alcohol users. . . .

We speculate that for opioid abusers, the increased structure and cloistering of residential treatment provide some protection from the environmental and social triggers for relapse or that otherwise lead to the termination of treatment that outpatient treatment settings do not afford. Indeed, environmental risk characteristics in drug abusers’ residential neighbourhoods, such as the presence of liquor stores and indicators of concentrated disadvantage at the neighbourhood level, have been found to be associated with treatment non-continuity and relapse.

Such environmental triggers may play a particularly substantial role for those addicted to opioids compared to those seeking treatment for marijuana abuse. Since opioid users have the lowest raw completion rates in general, this finding that residential treatment makes a greater positive difference for opioid users than it does for any of the other substances represents an important result that merits further investigation. Given the current epidemic of opioid-related overdoses in the U.S., our results suggest that greater use of residential treatment should be explored for opioid users in particular.

For the differences between residential and outpatient, they say the following:

In general, residential treatment completion rates are usually higher compared to outpatient settings, but what is particularly noteworthy is that even after controlling for various client characteristics and state level variations, the likelihood of treatment completion for residential programs was still nearly three times as great as for outpatient settings. Given the more highly structured nature and intensity of services of residential programs compared to outpatient treatment, it is understandable that residential treatment completion rates would be higher. It requires far less effort to end treatment prematurely in outpatient settings com-pared to residential treatment.

Given the strong association between treatment completion and positive post-treatment outcomes such as long term abstinence, the large magnitude of difference between outpatient and residential treatment represents a potentially important consideration for the choice of treatment setting for clients.

Source:  https://addictionandrecoverynews.wordpress.com/2017/07/13/opioid-users-complete-residential-at-higher-rates

Canada’s Liberal government has stated that marijuana will be decriminalized by July 2018. This means the removal, or at the least, a lessening of laws and restrictions related to marijuana use and associated pot services.

While people on both sides of the debate have strongly held and differing opinions, the protection of youth is an area of agreement.

Marijuana, also known as cannabis, has been illegal in Canada for close to 100 years. Marijuana can’t be produced, sold or even possessed. If caught, one faces fines, jail time or both.

Despite this, Canada has one of the highest rates of cannabis use in the world. Over 40 per cent of Canadians have used cannabis during their lifetime. Furthermore, studies conducted by Health Canada indicate that between 10.2 and 12.2 per cent of Canadians use cannabis at least once a year.

As changes in cannabis regulation occur, new research has been conducted. The findings are, in a word, alarming. According to published research, someone who uses marijuana regularly has, on average, less grey matter in the orbital frontal cortex of the brain. Other research has found increasing evidence of a link between pot and schizophrenia symptoms.

A major factor is the potency of cannabis, which has gone through the roof for the last two decades. In the 1960s, THC levels were reported to have been in the one-to-four-per-cent range. Research reported in the science journal, Live Science, in 21014 indicates that marijuana’s main psychoactive ingredient, THC, in random marijuana samples, rose from about four per cent in 1995 to about 12 per cent in 2014. In a more-recent article, the leader of the American Chemical Society stated: “We’ve seen potency values close to 30-per-cent THC, which is huge.”

Despite these clear and increasing dangers, the Government of Canada’s stated objective is to “legalize, strictly regulate and restrict access to cannabis for non-medical purposes.” Unfortunately, the government’s approach has serious flaws.  Most importantly, their approach lacks protections for youth, despite this being another specifically stated objective of the Canadian government’s new law.

While supporters of cannabis often compare it with alcohol, a legal, but carefully controlled substance in Canada, there is an important difference. Cannabis is commonly consumed by smoking, which leads to significant, second-hand affects and, as a result, second-hand structural changes in the brain.

In my neighbourhood, cannabis-users in one house, taking advantage of the decreasing legal response to cannabis in B.C. these days, happily smoke the substance on their back deck, only to have the blue smoke waft across to the trampoline next door, where my younger brother and his friends often play.

The government’s proposed new policy actually encourages youth exposure by making it legal for citizens to grow cannabis in their homes. There is no mention of the protection of children living in those residences, where cannabis is grown, consumed and potentially sold.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police makes this point well. They warn that allowing home-grown cultivation will fuel the cannabis black market and that the four-plant limit proposed under the legislation is impossible to enforce. The chiefs further note that home cultivation is a direct contradiction to the government’s promise to create a highly regulated environment that minimizes youth access to the drug.

The biggest concern that the youth of Canada should have about the government’s approach to decriminalization is, however, drug quality — potentially with deadly results. The opportunity for tampering is obvious. A high school friend and classmate of mine casually uses cannabis and landed in the hospital for a few weeks. She believes that some of the cannabis she used was laced with another substance. I often wonder how close my friend came to dying like another of our fellow students at New Westminster Secondary School.

Canada isn’t ready for the decriminalization of cannabis. The Canadian government, and our health-care and legal systems, aren’t fully prepared for the problems and long-term effects that’ll have serious consequences for our youth. Important issues, including second-hand effects and basic safety, not to mention enforcement and legal implications, have yet to be fully defined and planned for. The federal government’s plan to decriminalize pot, as it stands now, doesn’t provide enough protection for Canada’s young people.

Mitchell Moir is a Grade 12 student at New Westminster Secondary.

Source:  http://vancouversun.com/opinion/op-ed/opinion-proposed-cannabis-policy-doesnt-do-enough-to-protect-youth   23rd June 2017

Today’s Reality

Even if you smoked pot 20+ years ago without harm, today’s situation is different.  We want our children to avoid marijuana because they care about the risks in marijuana itself.

Here’s the facts for raising your children today:

* Marijuana has been modified since 1994. The THC, which gives the high, is 3-10x stronger in the plants of today.  If a child begins using today’s pot , it’s like to learning to drink with grain alcohol, instead of beer or wine.  Also, youth today frequently use the potent “dabs” “wax” and “budder.”  These are extractions can have 40-80% THC.

* Marijuana is addictive, contrary to a popular myth, particularly with today’s stronger strains of pot.

* In states with medical marijuana, teen usage is much higher than in other states, and many teens who use pot get it from some marijuana cardholders.

* Those who begin in adolescence or their teens, have an addiction rate of 17 percent, as opposed to 9 percent for those who begin using marijuana as an adult. *Emergency Department hospitalizations from marijuana rose from 281,000 to 455,000 between 2004 and 2011, making it 2nd amongst the illegal drugs causing ER treatment.

* Individuals responses to marijuana can be vary greatly, and the potential for paranoia and psychotic reactions are real side effects, omitted in the pot propaganda.

* Marijuana is fat soluble and stays in the body for weeks, which is why some people have flashbacks.

* The  brain, which is 1/3 fat, isn’t fully developed until age 25 or later, and until it is, marijuana can cause irreversible damage.

* Marijuana is not as widely used as alcohol,  6-7% of the adult population, vs.  66% who drink, one reason the comparison doesn’t work. * Marijuana usage causes traffic deaths and it is not safe to combine with driving.

* More teens seek substance abuse treatment for pot than any other legal or illegal substance. * Marijuana is a gateway drug,  because nearly every young person who develops a drug addiction begins with marijuana.  Early pot users such as Robert Downey, Jr. (age 9), and Cameron Douglas  (age 13), prove that the stranglehold of drug addiction lasts for years.

* A multi-year study out of New Zealand, tracking marijuana users and through their mid-30s showed IQs decrease an 6-8 percentage points over time.  Again, we point to the medical studies summarized on this webpage.

* In a recent study, schizophrenics who have used marijuana had an onset of the disease 2-1/2 years earlier than those who did not use marijuana. * Marijuana can trigger psychotic symptoms and/or mental illness, and cognitive decline in youth, more quickly than alcohol, while tobacco does not.

* Since marijuana usage increases the odds of developing a mental illness, expansion of pot will expand mental health treatment needs.

* Efforts to legalize for age 21+  hide the motivation to attract young users and build big profits.  Legal pot mean more young users.

* Marijuana usage is associated with greater risk for testicular cancer in males.

* With universal health care, all of us will pay for the increase in medical care for those needing help from pot abuse.

* The number of pot-related hospitalizations in Colorado accelerated in 2009 and went out of control in the first half of 2014.

* Existing mental health issues, such as ADHD, anxiety and depression, greatly increase the use of drugs for self-medication.

Mental Health, Physical Health Alike

“We cannot promote a comprehensive system of mental health treatment and marijuana legalization, which increases permissiveness for a drug that directly contributes to mental illness,”  states former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, who fought tirelessly on behalf of parity for mental health treatment. Kennedy and policy expert Kevin Sabet promote  Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

* The National Alliance for Mental Illness lists four illegal drugs which cause psychosis: cannabis, LSD, methamphetamine and heroin and two classes of legal drugs, amphetamines and steroids. Pharmaceutical drugs are sold with warnings, while marijuana isn’t.

Sharon Levy, Chairwoman of the American Academy of Paediatrics committee on substance abuse, said “We’re losing the public health battle” and policy is being made by legalization advocates who might be misinformed about marijuana’s dangers.”

Source:  http://www.poppot.org/2016/08/08/latest-child-dangers-marijuana-edibles/

In The Lancet Psychiatry, Schoeler and colleagues present a study1 describing the mediating effect of medication adherence on the association between continued cannabis use and relapse risk in patients with first-episode psychosis.

They have previously reported a relapse rate of 36% in this patient group over a 2-year period.2 Acknowledging the potential risk of psychosis relapse related to the high proportion of patients continuing cannabis use after the onset of psychosis, the current study1 investigates the same patient group consisting of 245 patients, obtaining retrospective data on active cannabis use and medication adherence shortly after illness onset, as well as risk of relapse at 2-year follow-up. The authors find that relapse of psychosis associated with continued cannabis use is partly mediated through non-adherence to prescribed antipsychotic medication.

It is well established that cannabis use increases the risk of schizophrenia, not only from the early Swedish conscript studies3 but also from studies on people who use sinsemilla in London, UK, showing that high potency cannabis increases the risk of schizophrenia.4

Twin studies from Norway have shown that cannabis increases the risk of psychosis, even when controlling for genetic factors.5There has been discussion on the direction of the association, as none of these studies can rule out reverse causality, but it seems reasonable to conclude that cannabis is one of many stressors that can precipitate schizophrenia, at least in susceptible individuals.

The association between cannabis use and psychosis continues to interest clinicians and researchers. Cannabis does not precipitate psychosis in most users.3 What are the risk factors in the pathway from cannabis use to psychosis?

The use of cannabis in patients with psychosis can be divided into three groups: those not using cannabis, those using cannabis with few negative consequences, and those in whom cannabis use is followed by relapse and worsening of the disease. Too little effort has been put into studying people with psychosis who can use cannabis without many negative consequences.

Further research should also be put into different variants of cannabis. Strains cultured to produce high content of D-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are probably associated with higher risk for psychosis than those strains with less THC.4 In healthy participants, cannabidiol has been shown to inhibit THC-elicited paranoid symptoms and hippocampal-dependent memory impairment.6 The use of more balanced forms of cannabis could possibly be less detrimental to mental health.

Genetic predisposition is one factor that is related to the development of psychosis after the use of cannabis.5 However, there is still a long way to go in clarifying the interplay between genes and environmental factors in the cannabis–psychosis association. Therefore, we support the request for doing more studies to investigate the possible interaction between polygenic risk score for schizophrenia and cannabis use in causing psychosis.7

Furthermore, there is a need to examine the use of antipsychotic medication and investigate if some medications are particularly useful for patients with psychotic disorders who intend to continue to use cannabis. In a randomised trial comparing the effects of different antipsychotics,8 clozapine seemed to stand out in reducing craving for cannabis, a finding that is in need of replication.

Previous research has shown that stopping cannabis use after a first episode of psychosis has beneficial outcomes compared with continued use.9 A meta-analysis of observational studies published in 201710 compared adherence to antipsychotic medication between cannabis users and non-users, and found that cannabis use increases the risk of non-adherence to anti-psychotic medication and quitting cannabis may help adherence to antipsychotics. In the current study by Schoeler and colleagues,1 the authors found that adherence to medication was a possible mediator in the association between cannabis use and risk of psychosis relapse when taking potential confounders into account. They found that medication adherence partly mediated the effect of continued cannabis use on outcome, including risk of relapse (proportion mediated=26%, pindirecteffects=0·040, 95% CI 0·004–0·16), number of relapses (36%, pindirect effects=0·040, 0·003–0·14), time to relapse (28%, pindirect effects=0·051, −0·53 to 0·001), and care intensity (20%, pindirect effects=0·035, 0·004–0·11), but not length of relapse (6%, pindirect effects=0·35, −0·030 to 0·09).

Acknowledging the complexity of psychosis relapse prevention, the current findings point to reduction in cannabis use as an intervention target to improve medication adherence, thereby preventing psychosis relapse. The understanding of a triangular association of ongoing cannabis use with medication adherence and psychosis relapse may be a step forward in counteracting further psychotic episodes in some patients.

Source:   DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2215-0366(17)30254-7   Published: 10/7/17

Investigating the proposition that cannabis is worth bothering with, this hot topic looks at reports that stronger cannabis on the market is increasing harms to users, prospects of recovery from disorders and dependence, and the emerging response to synthetic forms of cannabis like ‘spice’.

CANNABIS IN THE LAW

A controlled ‘Class B’ substance, cannabis carries legal penalties for possession, supply, and production. Between 2004–2009 cannabis was reclassified as a ‘Class C’ substance, meaning for a brief period of time it carried lesser penalties for possession. In 2009, the Association of Chief Police Officers issued new guidance, advising officers to take an escalating approach to the policing of cannabis possession for personal use: • A warning • A penalty notice for disorder (PND) • Arrest

This three-tiered approach was designed to be “ethical and non-discriminatory”, but also reinforce the “national message that cannabis is harmful and remains illegal”.

In 1990s Britain a common reaction to allocating resources to treating cannabis users was, ‘Why bother? We have more than enough patients with problems with serious drugs like heroin.’ The typically calming use of the drug by adults was seen as preferable to the main alternative – alcohol and its associated violence and disorder. Calls for a treatment response were seen as pathologising what in many societies is both normal and in some ways desirable youth development: trying new experiences, challenging conventions, and exposing the hypocrisy of alcohol-drinking adults. In 1997 the Independent on Sunday launched a campaign to decriminalise cannabis, culminating in a mass ‘roll-up’, and 16,000-strong pro-cannabis march from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square. Its Editor Rosie Boycott wrote in the paper about her own coming-of-age experience smoking cannabis, telling readers:

“I Rolled my first joint on a hot June day in Hyde Park. Summer of ’68. Just 17. Desperate to be grown-up. … My first smoke, a mildly giggly intoxication, was wholly anti-climatic. The soggy joint fell apart. I didn’t feel changed. But that act turned me – literally – into an outlaw. I was on the other side of the fence from the police – or the fuzz, as we used to call them. So were a great many of my generation.”

The campaign was explosive, but short-lived, apparently subsiding when Boycott left to take up her role as Editor of the Daily Express. A decade later, the Independent issued an apology for the campaign. ‘If only they had known then, what they knew now’, was the message of the article, referring to the reportedly damaging impact of the more potent strains of cannabis and its links to “mental health problems and psychosis for thousands of teenagers”.

Are stronger strains creating more problems?

There has been a long-standing, but controversial, association between cannabis strength and harm. Reading newspaper articles on the subject, it wouldn’t be unusual to see a headline drawing a straight line between ‘super-strength skunk’ and addiction, violence, deaths, or psychosis. In 2008, then Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke in a similar vein, telling a breakfast-television viewing audience:

I have always been worried about cannabis, with this new skunk, this more lethal part of cannabis.

I don’t think that the previous studies took into account that so much of the cannabis on the streets is now of a lethal quality and we really have got to send out a message to young people – this is not acceptable.

Brown was warning of a dangerous new strain of cannabis on the market, that caused very severe harms to users – contrasting starkly with the common perception of cannabis as a ‘low harm’ or ‘no harm’ drug. The strength or potency of cannabis is determined by the amount of ‘THC’ it contains. THC produces the ‘high’ associated with cannabis, and another major component ‘CBD’ produces the sedative and anti-anxiety effects. As well as potency, the relative amounts of THC and CBD are important for understanding the effects of cannabis – something explored in a University College London study during the programme Drugs Live: Cannabis on Trial. The research team compared two different types of cannabis: the first had high levels of THC (approx. 13%) but virtually no CBD; and the second had a lower level of THC (approx. 6.5%) and substantial amounts of CBD (approx. 8%). They found that CBD had a moderating or protective effect on some of the negative effects of THC, and that “many of the effects that people enjoy are still present in low-potency varieties without some of the harms associated with the high-potency varieties”. At least in the US over the last two decades (between 1995–2014), potency has increased from around 4% to 12%, and the protective CBD content of cannabis has decreased, from around 28% to less than 15%, significantly affecting the ratio of THC to CBD, and with it, the nature and strength of the psychoactive effect of cannabis. Until the 1990s, herbal cannabis sold in the UK was predominantly imported from the Caribbean, West Africa, and Asia. After this time, it was increasingly produced in the UK, being grown indoors using intensive means (artificial lighting, heating, and control of day-length). A study funded by the Home Office analysed samples of cannabis confiscated by 23 police forces in England and Wales in 2008, and found that over 97% of herbal cannabis had been grown by intensive methods; its average potency of 16% compared with just 8% for traditional imported herbal cannabis. This matched other reports of home-grown cannabis being consistently (around 2–3 times) stronger than imported herbal cannabis and cannabis resin.

In 2015, observing a decrease in the use of cannabis in England and Wales, but parallel increase in demand for treatment, a UK study examined whether the trend could be explained by an increase in the availability of higher-potency cannabis. Over 2500 adults were surveyed about their use of different types of cannabis, severity of dependence, and cannabis-related concerns. The researchers found that higher potency cannabis was associated with a greater severity of dependence, especially in young people, and was rated by participants as causing more memory impairment and paranoia than lower potency types. However at the same time, it was reported to produce the best ‘high’, and to be the preferred type.

By definition cannabis is a psychoactive substance, which means it can change people’s perceptions, mood, and behaviour. Higher potency cannabis contains more of the psychoactive component, so it makes sense that higher potency cannabis could increase the risk of temporary or longer-term (adverse) problems with perceptions, mood, and behaviour. However, there is a particular concern that cannabis use could be linked to ‘psychosis’, a term describing a mental illness where a person perceives or interprets reality in a very different way to those around them, which can include hallucinations or delusions.

Whether cannabis causes psychosis, precipitates an existing predisposition, aggravates an existing condition, or has no impact at all on psychotic symptoms, has for decades been hotly contested. With our focus on evaluations of interventions, Drug and Alcohol Findings is in no position to pronounce on this issue, nor on the possibility that the drug might sometimes improve mental health, but some examples of research informing this debate are included below. A 2009 UK study examined whether daily use of high-potency cannabis was linked to an elevated risk of psychosis, comparing 280 patients in London presenting with a first episode of psychosis with a healthy control group. The patients were found to be more likely to smoke cannabis on a daily basis than the control group, and to have smoked for more than five years. Among those who used cannabis, 78% of the patients who had experienced psychosis used higher-potency cannabis, compared with 37% of those in the control group. The findings indicated that the risk of psychosis was indeed greater among the people who were using high potency cannabis on a frequent basis, but couldn’t show that the cannabis use caused the psychosis, or even that the cannabis use made the group more susceptible to psychosis. The wider literature on mental health and substance use would suggest that the association is more complex than this. A recently published paper from the University of York has demonstrated the complications of attributing any association between cannabis use and psychosis to a causal effect of cannabis use rather than other factors or a reverse causal effect. A calculation based on data from England and Wales helped to put this into perspective, indicating that even if cannabis did cause psychosis more than 20,000 people would need to be stopped using cannabis to prevent just one case of psychosis. The apparent steady increase in cannabis potency in the UK since the 1990s is important context for further research. Where higher potency cannabis is increasingly becoming the norm, and is the preference for cannabis users, it would be relevant to generate more evidence of the health-related problems with high potency cannabis, and the treatment and harm reduction solutions based around these health-related problems.

Cannabis accounts for half of all new drug treatment patients

The most widely used illegal drug in Europe, many seemingly enjoy cannabis without it leading to any significant negative social or health effects. However, numbers entering treatment for cannabis use problems have been on the rise (both in the UK, and the rest of Europe), while heroin treatment numbers have fallen  chart. According to Public Health England, this is not because more people are using cannabis, but perhaps because services relieved of some of the recent pressure of opiate user numbers are giving more priority to cannabis, because they are making themselves more amenable to cannabis users, and because of emerging issues with stronger strains of the drug. Whatever the causes, across the UK figures submitted to the European drug misuse monitoring centre show that the proportion of patients starting treatment for drug problems who did so primarily due to their cannabis use rose steadily from 11% in 2003/04 to 22% in 2011/12. With the caveat that data from 2013 onwards is not directly comparabledue to changes in methodology, in 2014 and 2015 the proportion of patients who entered treatment primarily because of a cannabis issue hovered above previous years at 26% (25,278 and 26,295 respectively). Among first ever treatment presentations, the increase from 2003/04 was more pronounced, from 19% to 37%. By 2013, cannabis use had become the main prompt for half the patients who sought treatment for the first time (at 49%), and stayed relatively constant at 47% in 2014, and 48% in 2015.

Showing that more users was not the reason for more starting treatment, over about the same period, in England and Wales the proportion of 16–59-year-olds who in a survey said they had used cannabis in the past year fell from about 11% to 7% in 2013/14, then stayed at that level in 2014/15 and 2015/16. The treatment figures largely reflect trends in England, where in 2013/14 the number of patients starting treatment with cannabis use problems had risen to 30,422, 21% of all treatment starters, up from 23,018 and 19% in 2005/06. Subsequently the number dropped to 27,965 in 2015/16, still around a fifth of all treatment starters. Among the total treatment population – starting or continuing in treatment – cannabis numbers rose from 40,240 in 2005/06 to peak at 64,407 in 2013/14 before falling back to 59,918 in 2015/16; corresponding proportions again hovered around a fifth. As a primary problem substance among under-18s cannabis dominated, accounting for three-quarters of all patients in treatment in 2015/16 and in numbers, 12,863. The dominance of cannabis increased from 2008/09 as numbers primarily in treatment for drinking problems fell.

‘All treatments appear to work’

According to the two main diagnostic manuals used in Europe and the USA, problem cannabis use can develop into a cannabis use disorder or cannabis dependence, identifiable by a cluster of symptoms including: loss of control; inability to cut down or stop; preoccupation with use; neglecting activities unrelated to use; continued use despite experiencing problems; and the development of tolerance and withdrawal. This level of clinical appreciation for cannabis use problems didn’t exist when researcher and writer William L. White entered the addictions field half a century ago:

“When I first entered the rising addiction treatment system in the United States nearly half a century ago, there existed no clinical concept of cannabis dependence and thus no concept of recovery from this condition. In early treatment settings, cannabis was not consider[ed] a “real” drug, the idea of cannabis addiction was scoffed at as remnants of “Reefer Madness,” and casual cannabis use was not uncommon among early staff working in addiction treatment programs of the 1960s. Many in the field remain sceptical of the idea of cannabis dependence, specifically whether problem users at the severe end experience physiological withdrawal. However, reviewing what they believe is mounting evidence, these authors suggest there can be confidence in the existence of a “true withdrawal syndrome” – albeit one that differs qualitatively from the “significant medical or psychiatric problems as observed in some cases of opioid, alcohol, or benzodiazepine withdrawals”. In the case of cannabis, the main symptoms are primarily emotional and behavioural, although appetite change, weight loss, and some physical discomfort are reported. A brief review aimed at practitioners in UK primary care provides guidance on how to manage symptoms of withdrawal among patients trying to stop or reduce their cannabis use.

Research has come a long way, says William L. White, with now “clear data supporting the dependency producing properties of cannabis, a clear conceptualization of cannabis use disorders (CUD) and cannabis dependence (CD)”, but until recently, very little evidence about the prospects of long-term recovery. Yet, key papers – found here and here – indicate that:

• Full remission from cannabis use disorders is not only possible, but probable.

• Stable remission takes time – an average of 33 months.

• Abstinence may not be initially realistic for heavy cannabis users – but those in  remission are usually able to reduce the intensity of their use and its  consequences.

At least in the United States, it seems dependence is more quickly overcome from cannabis than the main legal drugs. A survey of the US general adult population found that within a year of first becoming dependent, 3% each of smokers and drinkers were in remission and remained so until they were surveyed. For cannabis the figure was nearly 5% and for cocaine, nearly 9%. After ten years the proportions in remission had risen to 18% for nicotine, 37% for alcohol, 66% for cannabis and 76% for cocaine. About 26 years after first becoming dependent, half the people at some time dependent on nicotine were in remission, a milestone reached for alcohol after 14 years, for cannabis six years, and for cocaine, five.

Specialised treatment programmes for cannabis users in European countries

Generally for people with cannabis use problems, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction concluded in 2015, and before that in 2008, that “all treatments appear to work”. For adults, effective treatments include motivational interviewing, motivational enhancement therapy and cognitive-behavioural therapy, and for younger people, family-based therapies seem most beneficial. Less important than the type of treatment is the treatment context and the individual’s determination to overcome their problems through treatment. And there is “no firm basis for a conclusion” that cannabis-specific interventions (designed around the risks and harms associated with cannabis) are more effective than general substance use treatment tailored to the individual needs of the cannabis user seeking treatment chart. In some studies brief interventions have been found to work just as well as more intensive treatment, but when the patients are heavily dependent, and the most difficult cases are not filtered out by the research, longer and more individualised therapies can have the advantage. When the World Health Organization trialled its ASSIST substance use screening and brief advice programme in Australia, India, the United States, and Brazil, just over half the identified patients (all had to be at moderate risk of harm but probably not dependent) were primarily problem cannabis users. Among these, risk reduction in relation to this drug was significantly greater among patients allocated to a brief advice session than among those placed on a three-month waiting list for advice. In each country too, risk reduction was greater among intervention patients, except for the USA, where the order was reversed. Suggesting that severity of use was not a barrier to reacting well to brief intervention, only patients at the higher end of the moderate risk spectrum further reduced their cannabis use/risk scores following intervention. The ASSIST study was confined to adults, but young people in secondary schools in the USA whose problem substance use focused mainly on cannabis also reacted well to brief advice.

The relative persistence of opiate use problems versus the transitory nature of those primarily related to cannabis seemed reflected in an analysis of treatment entrants in England from 1 April 2005 to the end of 2013/14, the last time this particular analysis was published. At the end of this period just 7% of primary cannabis users were still in or back in treatment compared to the 30% overall figure and 36% for primary opiate users. The figure peaked at 43% for users of opiates and crack. Over half – 53% – of primary cannabis users had left treatment as planned, apparently having overcome their cannabis problems, compared to 27% of primary opiate users and just 20% with dual opiates and crack use problems. Another 40% of cannabis users had left treatment in an unplanned manner, a slightly higher proportion than among opiate users. The figures tell a tale of relatively high level of success which enables cannabis users to leave treatment, though even in the absence of recorded success, few stay long-term.

However, the forms patients in England complete with their keyworkers while in treatment seem to tell a different story. Compared to how they started treatment, around six months later 45% of primary cannabis users were assessed as using just as often (including a few using more), compared to 30% of opiate users and 42% whose main problem drugs were both opiates and crack, suggesting more rapid and/or more complete remission for opiate users than for cannabis users. One interpretation is that the widespread use of substitute drugs like methadone more reliably reduced the illegal opiate use of opiate users and also helped retain them in treatment, while cannabis users tended quickly to leave treatment, having done well or not. However, these figures relate only to patients who completed the forms at their six-month review, which in practice could have happened anywhere from about one to six months after their assessment for treatment. What proportion of primary cannabis users were still in treatment at that point and available to complete the forms is not clear, but they may have been the patients whose problems were deep seated enough to require extended treatment.

Enjoyable and trouble-free for many, but not without harms Harm reduction – the “set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use” – is mostly associated with ‘harder’ drugs like heroin, for which blood-borne viruses and drug-related deaths are clear and severe risks. Yet while “many people experience cannabis as enjoyable and trouble free”, there are also varying degrees of harm with this drug depending on the characteristics of the person using, the type of the cannabis, and the way they consume it. Many formal cannabis harm reduction programmes borrow from the fields of alcohol and tobacco. Advice includes:

• safer modes of administration (eg, on the use of vaporisers, on rolling safer joints, on less risky modes of inhaling) Many people experience cannabis as enjoyable and trouble free … some people require help to reduce or stop

• skills to prevent confrontation with those who disapprove of use

• encouraging users to moderate their use

 

• discouraging mixing cannabis with other drugs

• drug driving prevention and controls

• reducing third-party exposure to second-hand smoke

• education about spotting signs of problematic use

• self-screening for problematic use

In some parts of the UK, National Health Service tobacco smoking cessation services incorporated cannabis into their interventions with adults; and Health Scotland, also addressing the risks of tobacco and cannabis smoking, published a booklet for young people titled Fags ‘n’ Hash: the essential guide to cutting down the risks of using tobacco and cannabis.

Vaporising or swallowing cannabis offers a way to avoid respiratory risks, but only a minority of cannabis do this, most choosing to smoke cannabis joints (or cannabis and tobacco joints). While not all will know about the different health risks, cannabis users may choose against safer consumption methods anyway for a range of reasons (including their own thoughts about safe use):

• Users may find it easier to control the effects (eg, severity, length of effect) of cannabis when inhaling in the form of a joint or spliff

• Preparing and sharing joints can be an enjoyable part of the routine, or part of a person’s social activities

• Alternative methods of smoking (eg, bongs and vaporisers) may be inconvenient to use, or expensive to buy

 

Most harm reduction advice is delivered informally long before users come into contact with drugs professionals – for example through cannabis magazines, websites, and headshops – highlighting the importance of official sources engaging with non-official sources to promote the delivery of accurate, evidence-based harm reduction messages.

A new high

In May 2016 the Psychoactive Substances Act placed a ‘blanket ban’ on new psychoactive substances (previously known as ‘legal highs’), including synthetic cannabinoids (synthetic forms of cannabis). Prior to this, in 2014, there had been 163 reported deaths from new psychoactive substances in the UK, and 204 the year after. The average age was around 28, younger than the average age for other drug misuse deaths of around 38. The fact that these psychoactive substances – which produced similar effects to illicit drugs like cannabis, cocaine, and ecstasy – could be bought so easily online or on the high street, appeared inconsistent; and each fatality prompted “an outcry for something to be done to prevent further tragedies”. This was the context (and arguably the political trigger) for the introduction of the Psychoactive Substances Act. While possession of a psychoactive substance as such wasn’t criminalised;, production, supply, offer to supply, possession with intent to supply, import or export were – with a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment.

Just seven months after the Act came into effect, the Home Office labelled it a success, with a press release stating that nearly 500 people had been arrested, 332 shops around the UK had been stopped from selling the substances, and four people had been sent to prison. But did the Psychoactive Substances Act have the presumably desired effect of limiting access to psychoactive substances (and reducing deaths), or did it just push the drugs the way of dealers? It is perhaps too early to tell, but former chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs Professor Nutt had warned before the Act came into effect that the ‘blanket ban’ would make it harder (not easier) to control drugs. And while Chief executive of DrugWise Harry Shapiro had said the new law would make new psychoactive substances harder to obtain, he also agreed that sale of the drugs would not cease, but merely be diverted to the illicit market: “The same people selling heroin and crack will simply add this to their repertoire.” The paper “From niche to stigma” examined the changing face of the new psychoactive substance user between 2009 and 2016, focusing on people using the synthetic cannabis known as ‘spice’. It looked at the transition of (then) ‘legal highs’ from an “experimental and recreational” scene associated with a “niche middle class demographic”, to “those with degrees of stigma”, especially homeless, prison, and socially vulnerable youth populations (including looked after children, those involved in or at risk of offending, and those excluded or at risk of exclusion from mainstream education). In 2014, the DrugScope Street Drug Survey also observed a problem among these particular groups, recording a “rapid rise in the use of synthetic cannabinoids such as Black Mamba and Exodus Damnation by opiate users, the street homeless, socially excluded teenagers and by people in prison”.

‘SPICE’ AND OTHER SYNTHETICS

Cannabis contains two key components:

• ‘THC’ (tetrahydrocannabinol), which produces the ‘high’

• ‘CBD’ (cannabidiol), which produces the sedative and anti-anxiety effects

Synthetic forms of cannabis contain chemicals that aim to copy the effects of ‘THC’ in cannabis. But the effects of synthetic cannabis can be quite different (and often stronger): firstly, because synthetic production makes it easier to manipulate the amount of the THC-like chemical; and secondly, because of the absence of the moderating equivalent of ‘CBD’. Some synthetics are purposely designed to resemble herbal cannabis, and can be consumed in the same ways (eg, smoked or inhaled). The names also often have deliberate cannabis connotations. The risk of this is that people wishing to take cannabis may be initially unaware that they have been sold the synthetic form, or may believe from the look of it that it will produce similar sought-after effects. The greater intensity of synthetic cannabis at lower dose levels ( box) ensures that it has an appeal in terms of potency and affordability, but may put those with fewer resources at greater harm.

In 2014, the prison inspectorate for England and Wales raised concerns about the rise in the use of psychoactive substances in prisons, in particular synthetic cannabis. A study set in an English adult male prison found that the nature of the market was posing significant challenges to the management of offenders. There, the primary motivation for consumption was being able to take a substance without it being detected. Given this motivation, and the greater likelihood of harms from synthetic versus natural cannabis, the researchers concluded that it was imperative for mandatory drug-testing policies to be revised, and instead rooted in harm reduction – something which would also apply to people on probation subject to mandatory drug-testing.

Cannabis throws up a range of issues rather different from those associated with the drugs treatment in the UK has normally focused on. If current trends continue, understanding the findings will become yet more important to British treatment services.

Source:   http://findings.org.uk/PHP/dl.php?file=cannabis_treat.    Last revised 10 July 2017. 

Cannabis has recently been legalised in many US states

Cannabis itself is harmful to cardiovascular health and increases the chance of early death regardless of related factors such as smoking tobacco, new research reveals.

Data taken from more than 1,000 US hospitals found that people who used the drug had a 26 per cent higher chance of suffering a stroke than those who did not, and a 10 per cent higher chance of having a heart attack.

The findings held true after taking into account unhealthy factors known to affect many cannabis smokers, such as obesity, alcohol misuse and smoking.

‘This leads us to believe that there is something else going on besides just obesity or diet-related cardiovascular side effects’ Dr Aditi Kalla, Einstein Medical Center, Philadelphia

They indicate there is something intrinsic about cannabis which can damage the proper functioning of the human heart.

“Even when we corrected for known risk factors, we still found a higher rate of both stroke and heart failure in these patients, so that leads us to believe that there is something else going on besides just obesity or diet-related cardiovascular side effects,” said Dr Aditi Kalla, Cardiology Fellow at the Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia and the study’s lead author.

“It’s important for physicians to know these effects so we can better educate patients.”

Previous research in cell cultures has shown that heart muscle cells have cannabis receptors relevant to contractility, or squeezing ability, suggesting that those receptors might be one mechanism through which marijuana use could affect the cardiovascular system.

The research team analysed more than 20 million records of young and middle-aged patients aged between 18 and 55 who were discharged from 1,000 hospitals in 2009 and 2010, when marijuana use was illegal in most states.

It identified 316,000 patients – 1.5 per cent – where marijuana use was diagnosed in the notes.  Their cardiovascular disease rates were compared to those who shunned the drug.

The research was published yesterday at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology in Washington DC.

Source:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/03/09/cannabis-boosts-risk-stroke-heart-attack-independent-tobacco/  

Ketamine Continues to Impress and Confound Researchers

A novel glutamatergic hypothesis of depression, using a 50-year-old anaesthesia medicine, has had a remarkable run as of late. First an anaesthetic, then a popular club drug in the 90s known as “Special K” (and currently still popular in Hong Kong as a “Rave Drug”), and now a novel, fast acting antidepressant, ketamine is a N-Methyl D-Aspartame (NMDA) receptor antagonist. Ketamine was FDA-approved in the U.S. as an anaesthetic nearly 50 years ago. It is used primarily by anaesthesiologists in both hospital and surgical settings. As an N-Methyl D-Aspartame (NMDA) receptor antagonist with dissociative properties, NMDA receptors possess high calcium permeability, which allows ketamine to reach its target quickly. Increasing clinical evidence has shown that a single sub-anaesthetic dose (0.5 mg/kg) of IV-infused ketamine exerts impressive antidepressant effects within hours of administration. These effects have stabilized suicidality in severely depressed, treatment-resistant individuals. The effects of low-dose ketamine infusion therapy can last up to seven days, although the dosing and patient characteristics regarding its optimal effectiveness have not been established.

In my book, “The Good News About Depression: Cures And Treatments In The New Age of Psychiatry”–Revised (1996), I said there was never a better time to be depressed, due in part to recent breakthroughs in understanding of the underlying biology of depression, plus the discovery of novel therapeutics e.g., the SSRIs. Today that book might be called the “Better News About Depression” as a result of the effectiveness of novel treatments such as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) and now ketamine, which has illuminated and broadened our understanding and view of treating depression.

Why Is This Better News?

New clinical and preclinical studies suggest that dysfunction of the glutamatergic system is perhaps more relevant and important than the current catecholamine hypothesis and therapy that targets serotonin, norepinephrine and sometimes dopamine. These medications often take four to six weeks to exert any therapeutic benefit, whereas rapid reductions in depressive symptoms have been observed in response to a single dose of ketamine. This is a vast departure from the SSRIs and SSNRIs that have occupied the mainstream of pharmacological therapy for depression and anxiety disorders for more than 30 years.

Lastly, the mechanism of action of NDMA antagonists are comparatively underexplored but vitally important to our understanding of depression, reversal of suicidality, as well as the debilitating, depressive symptoms induced by abuse of alcohol and other drugs. This review highlights the current evidence supporting the antidepressant effects of ketamine as well as other glutamatergic modulators, such as D-cycloserine, riluzole, CP-101,606, CERC-301 (previously known as MK-0657), basimglurant, JNJ-40411813, dextromethorphan, nitrous oxide, GLYX-13, and esketamine. This all adds up to some very good news for depressed persons and especially those who do not respond to previous SSRI or SSNRI treatments.

Source: http://www.rivermendhealth.com/resources/ketamine-fast-acting-antidepressant/  June2017

 

It comes as no surprise that the prevalence of marijuana use has significantly increased over the last decade. With marijuana legal for recreational use in four states and the District of Columbia and for medical use in an additional 31 states, the public perception about marijuana has shifted, with more people reporting that they support legalization. However, there is little public awareness, and close to zero media attention, to the near-doubling of past year marijuana use nationally among adults age 18 and older and the corresponding increase in problems related to its use. Because the addiction rate for marijuana remains stable—with about one in three past year marijuana users experiencing a marijuana use disorder—the total number of Americans with marijuana use disorders also has significantly increased. It is particularly disturbing that the public is unaware of the fact that of all Americans with substance use disorders due to drugs other than alcohol; nearly 60 percent are due to marijuana. That means that more Americans are addicted to marijuana than any other drug, including heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and the nonmedical use of prescription drugs.

Stores in Colorado and Washington with commercialized marijuana sell innovative marijuana products offering users record-high levels of THC potency. Enticing forms of marijuana, including hash oil used in discreet vaporizer pens and edibles like cookies, candy and soda are attractive to users of all ages, particularly those underage. The legal marijuana producers are creatively and avidly embracing these new trends in marijuana product development, all of which encourage not only more users but also more intense marijuana use.

Yet despite the expansion of state legal marijuana markets, the illegal market for marijuana remains robust, leaving state regulators two uncomfortable choices: either a ban can be placed on the highest potency—and most enticing—marijuana products which will push the legal market back to products with more moderate levels of THC, or the current evolution to ever-more potent and more attractive products can be considered acceptable despite its considerable negative health and safety consequences. If tighter regulations are the chosen option, the illegal market will continue to exploit the desire of marijuana users to consume more potent and attractive products. If state governments let the market have its way, there will be no limit to the potency of legally marketed addicting marijuana products.

The illegal marijuana market thrives in competition with the legal market by offering products at considerably lower prices because it neither complies with regulations on growth and sale, nor pays taxes on sales or their profits. Unsurprisingly, much of the illegal marijuana in the states with legalized marijuana is diverted from the local legal marijuana supply. It is troubling that in response to the decline in demand for Mexican marijuana, Mexican cartels are increasing the production of heroin, a more lucrative drug.

When alcohol prohibition ended in 1933, bootlegged alcohol gradually and almost completely disappeared. Those who favour drug legalization are confident that the same will occur in the market for drugs; they argue that legalizing drugs will eliminate the illegal market with all its negative characteristics including violence and corruption. The initial experience with marijuana legalization shows that this is dangerous, wishful thinking. Why doesn’t legalization now work for marijuana as it did for alcohol 80 years ago? One obvious reason is that there is little similarity between the bootleg industry of alcohol production that existed during prohibition and contemporary drug trafficking organizations. Today’s illegal drug production and distribution system is deeply entrenched, highly sophisticated, and powerfully globalized. Traffickers are resourceful and able to rapidly to adjust to changes in the market, including competing with legal drugs.

The legalization of marijuana or any other drug is making a bargain with the devil. All drugs of abuse, legal and illegal, including marijuana, produce intense brain reward that users value highly—so highly that they are willing to pay high prices and suffer serious negative consequences for their use. Marijuana users’ brains do not know the difference between legal and illegal marijuana, but, as with other drugs, the brain prefers higher potency products. Drug suppliers, legal and illegal, are eager to provide the drugs that users prefer.

The challenge of drug policy today is to find better ways to reduce drug use by using strategies that are cost-effective and compatible with modern values. Legalization fails this test because it encourages drug use. Most of the costs of drug use are the result of the drug use itself and not from efforts to curb that use. It is hard to imagine a drug user who would be better off with having more drugs available at cheaper prices. Supply matters. More supply means more use. Drug legalization enhances drug supply and reduces social disapproval of drugs.

Our nation must prepare itself for the serious negative consequences both to public health and safety from the growth of marijuana use fuelled by both the legal and the illegal marijuana markets.

Source: http://www.rivermendhealth.com/resources/marijuana-legalization-led-use-addiction-illegal-market-continues-thrive/    June 2017  Author: Robert L. DuPont, M.D.

Author: Mark Gold, MD

Mortality resulting from opioid use (over 33,000 in 2015) is now epidemic in the U.S., exceeding drug-related deaths from all other intoxicants. Dr. Ted Cicero of Washington University, Dr. William Jacobs, Medical Director of Bluff Plantation, and I discussed the opioid over-prescribing and switch to heroin at DEA Headquarters on November 17, 2015. Things have gone from bad to worse. In a recent JAMA article (March 2017), Dr. Bertha Madras, Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, offers compelling analysis and recommendations to rein in this crisis.

Physicians have increasingly prescribed opioids for pain since the AMA added pain as the “fifth vital sign,” which, like blood pressure, mandated assessment during each patient encounter. As a result of this and acceptance of low-quality evidence touting opioids as a relatively benign remedy for managing both acute and chronic pain, prescriptions for opioids have risen threefold over the past two decades.

Addiction, overdose and mortality resulting directly from opioid misuse increased rapidly. In addition, the influx of cheap heroin, often combined with homemade fentanyl analogues, became increasingly popular as prescription opioids became harder to attain and cost prohibitive on the streets. Consequently, a proportion of prescription opioid misusers transitioned to cheaper, stronger and more dangerous illicit opioids.

Opioid Mortality

The breakdown in mortality was confirmed by surveys (2015) revealing a disproportionate rise in deaths specifically attributable to: fentanyl/analogs (72.2%) and heroin (20.6%) compared with only prescription opioids, at less than eight percent. The unprecedented rise in overdose deaths and association with the heroin trade catalyzed the formation of federal and state policies to reduce supply and increase the availability of treatment and of a life saving opioid antagonist overdose medication Naloxone, a short-acting, mu 1, opioid receptor antagonist. Naloxone quickly reverses the effect of opioids and acute respiratory failure provoked by overdose.

Yet, according to Dr. Madras, the current federal and state response is woefully inadequate. She writes: “Of more than 14,000 drug treatment programs in the United States, some funded by federal block grants to states, many are not staffed with licensed medical practitioners. An integrated medical and behavioral treatment system, under the supervision of a physician and substance abuse specialist, would foster comprehensive services, provide expedient access to prescription medicines, and bring care into alignment with current medical standards of care.”

Why Does This Matter?

As baby boomers age and live longer, chronic non-cancer pain is highly prevalent. Opioids for legitimate non-cancer pain are not misused or abused by most patients under proper medical supervision. Yet there is no effective, practical means in this managed care climate whereby Primary Care Physicians (PCPs) can determine who is at risk for abuse and addiction and who is not. And frankly, addicts lie to their doctors to get opioids. Without proper training, physicians, who genuinely want to help their patients, get in over their heads and don’t know how to respond.

Further complicating the issue is that many of the affordable treatment programs do not employ medical providers who are trained and Board Certified in Addiction and Pain

Medicine, not to mention addiction psychiatry, or addiction medicine physicians. Thus the outcomes are dismal, which fosters doubt and mistrust of treatment.

Lastly, the lack of well-trained providers is due, in part, to the lack of training for medical doctors in addiction and behavioral medicine. At the University of Florida, we developed a mandatory rotation for all medical students in “the Division of Addiction Medicine.” We also started Addiction as a sub-specialty within psychiatry, where residents and post-doctoral fellows were immersed in both classroom and clinical training.

Since 1990, many other similar fellowship programs have started, yet few are training all medical students in the hands-on, two-week clerkship experience in Addiction Medicine like they have in obstetrics. We took this a step further when we developed a jointly run Pain and Addiction Medicine evaluation and treatment program which focused on prevention and non-opioid treatments. Many more are needed, as well as increased CME in addictive disease for physicians in any specialty.

Source:   http://www.rivermendhealth.com/resources/chronic-pain-opioid-use-consequences   June 2017

SPOKANE, Wash. – The release of more data on the effects of marijuana on a baby has led researchers to the conclusion that moms should think twice before using pot during and after pregnancy.

Many moms turn to marijuana for relief of symptoms such as nausea and anxiety, yet scientific research is emerging that identifies associated risks.

Confusion over the safety of these products prompted multiple agencies, including the Spokane Regional Health District, to launch a new component to its Weed to Know campaign: Weed to Know for Baby and You.

The campaign educates families and caregivers about harms associated with marijuana use while pregnant, breastfeeding, or caring for children. The campaign stresses the results of several peer-reviewed studies, which revealed: Marijuana use before pregnancy could:  -Cause a baby to be born before his or her body and brain are ready. This  could mean serious health problems at birth and throughout life.

-Change how a baby’s brain develops. These changes may cause life-long  behavior problems like trouble paying attention or following rules.  for them to do well in school. Marijuana use during breastfeeding is associated with these risks:  -Feeding problems, as THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, can lower milk  supply.

-Increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome

Using marijuana can affect a person’s ability to safely care for a baby or other children. Marijuana use decreases a person’s ability to concentrate, impairs judgment, and slows response time.

“We hear all the time from mothers who feel they used marijuana ‘successfully’ in previous pregnancies, or know someone who did, but it is also likely the child is not old enough yet to exhibit the long-term health consequences,” said Melissa Charbonneau, a public health nurse in the health district’s Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs program. “To be on the safe side, your best bet is to avoid marijuana altogether while you’re expecting.”

Source: http://www.kxly.com/news/local-news/marijuana-use-during-pregnancy-associated-with-many-risks-studies-reveal/531202931

Marijuana sales have created an economic boom in U.S. states that have fully or partially relaxed their cannabis laws, but is the increased cultivation and sale of this crop also creating escalating environmental damage and a threat to public health?

In an opinion piece published by the journal Environmental Science and Technology, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Lancaster University in the U.K. have called on U.S. federal agencies to fund studies that will gather essential environmental data from the legal cultivation farms and facilities.

This information could then be used to help U.S. states minimize any environmental and public health damage caused by this burgeoning industry and aid legal marijuana growers in making their business environmentally sustainable.

State-by-state legalization is effectively creating a new industry in U.S., one that looks set to rival all but the largest of current businesses. In Colorado alone, sales revenues have reached $1 billion, roughly equal to that from grain farming in the state. By 2020 it is estimated that country-wide legal marijuana sales will generate more annual revenue than the National Football League.

But the article, titled “High Time to Assess the Environmental Impacts of Cannabis Cultivation” co-authored by William Vizuete, associate professor of environment sciences and engineering at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public health and Kirsti Ashworth, research fellow at Lancaster University’s Lancaster Environment Centre say that this expanded cultivation carries with it serious environmental effects.

Their article points out that cannabis is an especially needy crop requiring high temperatures (25-30 °C for indoor operations), strong light, highly fertile soil and large volumes of water — around twice that of wine grapes. In addition, the authors state that the few available studies of marijuana cultivation have uncovered potentially significant environmental impacts due to excessive water and energy demands and local contamination of water, air, and soil.

For example, a study of illegal outdoor grow operations in northern California found that rates of water extraction from streams threatened aquatic ecosystems. High levels of growth nutrients, as well as pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, also found their way back into the local environment, further damaging aquatic wildlife.

Controlling the indoor growing environment requires considerable energy with power requirements estimated to be similar to that of Google’s massive data centers. No significant data has been collected on the air pollution impacts on worker’s public health inside these growing facilities or the degradation of outdoor air quality due to emissions produced by the industrial scale production of marijuana.

The authors emphasize, however, much of the data on marijuana cultivation to date has come from monitoring illegal cannabis growing operations.

Dr Ashworth of Lancaster Environment Centre said: “The illegal status of marijuana has prevented us from understanding the detrimental impacts that this industrial scale operation has on the environment and public health.”

“This is an industry undergoing a historic transition, presenting an historic opportunity to be identified as a progressive, world-leading example of good practice and environmental stewardship.”

The continued expansion of legalization by the states does offer significant opportunities for the US Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National

Institutes of Health (NIH, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to fund research into legal cannabis cultivation to protect the environment.

“Generating accurate data in all the areas we discussed offers significant potential to reduce energy consumption and environmental harm, protect public health and ultimately, improve cultivation methods,” said Dr Vizuete . “There are also significant potential public health issues caused by emissions from the plants themselves rather than smoking it. These emissions cause both indoor and outdoor air pollution.”

Story Source: Materials provided by Lancaster University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

K. Ashworth, W. Vizuete. High Time to Assess the Environmental Impacts of Cannabis Cultivation. Environmental Science & Technology, 2017; 10.1021/acs.est.6b06343DOI:

Source:   ScienceDaily, 21 February 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170221081736.htm>.

Warfarin. A single published case report describes an interaction with a patient taking warfarin who also regularly smoked tobacco and marijuana. The patient had multiple comorbidities and was taking at least 10 other medications. On at least two occasions, the patient’s international normalized ratio (INR) increased to values over 10 with episodes of bleeding. The only change reported for both occasions was an increase in the amount and frequency of marijuana smoking.[24] Patients who take warfarin and use marijuana regularly should receive close INR monitoring for any potential interaction.

Antiepileptic drugs (AEDs). A recent study examined baseline serum AED levels to identify drug-drug interactions between CBD and 19 AEDs during an open-label safety study in 81 patients (39 adults, 42 children) with refractory epilepsy.[25] As doses of CBD were increased, the researchers noted an increase in the serum levels of topiramate (P<.01), rufinamide (P<.01), and desmethylclobazam (P<.01) and a decrease in the levels of clobazam (P<.01) in both adult and pediatric patients. In adult patients, a significant increase in the serum levels of zonisamide (P=.02) and eslicarbazepine (P=.04) was observed with increasing CBD dose. No other drug interactions among the 19 AEDs were noted.   The authors recommended monitoring serum AED levels in patients receiving CBD, as drug-drug interactions may be correlated with adverse events and laboratory abnormalities.

Patients using marijuana should be educated to avoid drugs that affect associated CYP450 enzymes. When these drugs cannot be avoided, and marijuana use is expected to continue, the patient should be monitored closely for potential drug interactions.   Be Aware and Educate Patients

Smoking more than two joints weekly is likely to increase the risk for drug-related interactions.[5,10] No data exist monitoring large-scale marijuana use in the United States. However, in Washington, a state in which marijuana use is legal, the average user is estimated to smoke two to three joints per week.[26]  With growing legalization and use throughout the nation, healthcare professionals must exercise heightened caution in the situation of concomitant use of medications and marijuana.

Source:: Stirring the Pot: Potential Drug Interactions With Marijuana – Medscape – Jun 08, 2017.  http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/881059#vp

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said on Tuesday morning. Rosenstein, along with acting head of the Drug Enforcement Agency, Chuck Rosenberg, and other prominent officials in law enforcement addressed the media at the DEA’s headquarters in Arlington, VA to discuss the ongoing response to the nation’s staggering opioid epidemic.

“We’re not talking about a slight increase. There’s a horrifying surge of drug overdoses in the United States of America. Some people say we should be more permissive, more tolerant, more understanding about drug use. I say we should be more honest and forthcoming with the American people on the clear and present danger that we know face,” opened Rosenstein.

“Fentanyl is especially dangerous. It is 40 to 50 times more deadly than heroin. Just two milligrams, a few grains of salt, an amount you could fit on the tip of your finger, can be lethal. Fentanyl exposure can injure or kill innocent law enforcement officers and first responders. Inhaling a few airborne particles can have dramatic effects,” he continued.

Rosenstein, Rosenberg, and their colleagues used the event to roll out new precautions for first responders in dealing with fentanyl. Such measures predominately featured hazmat suits as a means of avoiding airborne inhalation.

“Fentanyl’s everywhere and it’s killing people,” Rosenberg solemnly remarked.

Despite such a bleak update, Rosenberg claimed reasons for careful optimism in the midst of this epidemic. He has spoken extensively with his Chinese counterparts in law enforcement, given that China is the major source of Fentanyl that enters America. According to Rosenberg, the Chinese government banned 116 synthetic opioids for export and 4 more after his trip to China this March. Additional synthetics are scheduled to be banned as well.

“I do not want to understate such gains, nor do I want to overstate them,” he cautioned. More progress in international cooperation, he said, still has to be made in cutting off fentanyl shipments from China.

Rosenberg and other law enforcement officials such as Jonathan Thompson of the National Sheriffs’ Association assessed the difficulty associated with training first responders in such new duties and admitted that such efforts would strain already stretched resources in fighting what is an overwhelming epidemic.

Rosenberg’s daunting assessment of fentanyl put in perspective the existential danger of the ongoing opioid crisis that, according to Rosenstein, has contributed to the largest yearly increase in overdose deaths on record in America.

Rosenberg pointed out that such statistics tend to “wash over you.” To grasp the enormity of the epidemic he claimed that if three mass-shootings as deadly as the Pulse Nightclub Attack occurred three times every day for 365 days, then the death toll would roughly reach that of drug overdoses in 2015.

Source:   http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/06/07/doj-drug-overdose-now-leading-cause-of-death-for-americans-under-50/

Study Finds Users Are 26 Times More Likely To Turn To Other Substances By The Age Of 21

Study is first clear evidence that cannabis is gateway to cocaine and heroin

Teen marijuana smokers are 37 times more likely to be hooked on nicotine

Findings from Bristol University provide authoritative support for those warning against the liberalisation of drugs laws

Teenagers who regularly smoke cannabis are 26 times more likely to turn to other drugs by the age of 21.

The study of the lives of more than 5,000 teenagers produced the first resounding evidence that cannabis is a gateway to cocaine, amphetamines, hallucinogens and heroin.

It also discovered that teenage cannabis smokers are 37 times more likely to be hooked on nicotine and three times more likely to be problem drinkers than non-users of the drug.

The findings from Bristol University provide authoritative support for those warning against the liberalisation of drugs laws.

Medical researchers have argued for years that cannabis is far from harmless and instead carries serious mental health risks.

Dr Michelle Taylor, who led the study, said: ‘It has been argued that cannabis acts as a gateway to other drug use. However, historically the evidence has been inconsistent.

‘The most important findings from this study are that one in five adolescents follow a pattern of occasional or regular cannabis use and that those individuals are more likely to be tobacco dependent, have harmful levels of alcohol consumption or use other illicit drugs in early adulthood.

‘Our study does not support or refute arguments for altering the legal status of cannabis use.

‘This study and others do, however, lend support to public health strategies and interventions that aim to reduce cannabis exposure in young people.’

The Bristol evidence was gathered from a long-term survey of the lives of young people around the city, the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children.

The survey, which was published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, examined 5,315 teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18. One in five used cannabis.

Dr Tom Freeman of King’s College London said: ‘This is a high quality study using a large UK cohort followed from birth. It provides further evidence that early exposure to cannabis is associated with subsequent use of other drugs.’

The study of the lives of more than 5,000 teenagers produced the first resounding evidence that cannabis is a gateway to cocaine amphetamines, hallucinogens and heroin .

Ian Hamilton, who is a mental health researcher at York University, said: ‘It adds to evidence that cannabis acts as a gateway to nicotine dependence, as the majority of people using cannabis in the UK combine tobacco with cannabis when they roll a joint.

‘This habit represents one of the greatest health risks to the greatest number of young people who use cannabis.  It suggests that adolescent cannabis use serves as a gateway to a harmful relationship with drugs as an adult.’

The report said: ‘After taking account of other influential factors, those who used cannabis in their teens were at greater risk of problematic substance misuse by the age of 21.

‘Teens who regularly used cannabis were 37 times more likely to be nicotine dependent and three times more likely to have a harmful drinking pattern than non-users by the time they were 21. And they were 26 times more likely to use other illicit drugs.

‘Both those who used cannabis occasionally early in adolescence and those who started using it much later during the teenage years had a heightened risk of nicotine dependence, harmful drinking, and other illicit drug use.

‘And the more cannabis they used the greater was the likelihood of nicotine dependence by the age of 21.’

Source:  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4582548/Proof-cannabis-DOES-lead-teenagers-harder-drugs.html   8th June 2017

 

DATE: June 1, 2017

DISTRIBUTION: All First Responders

ANALYST: Ralph Little/904-256-5940

SUBJECT: Grey Death compound in Jacksonville & Florida

NARRATIVE:  The compound opioid known as Grey Death has been detected for the first time in North Florida. Although Purchased in March in St. Augustine, the basic drugs were from Jacksonville and may have been purchased pre-mixed.  Other  samples have occurred from March through May. Delays are due to testing requirements.  Grey Death has been detected in Florida since November 2016 in four counties south of NFHIDTA. Palm Beach reported a related death on May 19th.  Grey Death has been reported in the Southeast, with overdoses and at least  two deaths in Alabama and Georgia. It has  also been found in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana. The compound is  a mixture of U-47700, heroin and fentanyl. Overall, different fentanyls, including carfentanil, have been detected and the amount of each ingredient varies.  The substance’s appearance is similar to concrete mixing powder with a varied texture from fine powder to rock-like. While grey is most common and is the color seen in St. Augustine, pictures indicate tan as well. The potency is much higher than heroin and can be administered via injection, ingestion, insufflation and smoking.

DANGER: Grey Death ingredients and their concentrations are unknown to users, making it particularly lethal. Because these strong drugs can be absorbed through the skin, touching or the accidental inhalation of these drugs  can result in absorption. Adverse effects, such as disorientation, sedation, coughing, respiratory distress or cardiac  arrest can occur very rapidly, potentially within minutes of exposure. Any concoction containing U-47700 may not respond to Narcan, depending on its relative strength in the mix.   Light grey powder in a test tube.

CONCLUSION: Responders are advised to employ protective gear to prevent skin absorption or inhalation. Miniscule (grains) of this substance are dangerous. Treat any particles in the vicinity of scene or potentially adhering to your or victim outer clothing or equipment as hazardous.

Source:  HIDTA Intelligence brief.   1st June 2017

Changes may increase risk of continued drug use and addiction

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Most people would get a little ‘rush’ out of the idea that they’re about to win some money. In fact, if you could look into their brain at that very moment, you’d see lots of activity in the part of the brain that responds to rewards.

But for people who’ve been using marijuana, that rush just isn’t as big – and gets smaller over time, a new study finds.

And that dampened, blunted response may actually open marijuana users up to more risk of becoming addicted to that drug or others.

The new results come from the first long-term study of young marijuana users that tracked brain responses to rewards over time. It was performed at the University of Michigan Medical School.

Published in JAMA Psychiatry, it shows measurable changes in the brain’s reward system with marijuana use – even when other factors like alcohol use and cigarette smoking were taken into account.

“What we saw was that over time, marijuana use was associated with a lower response to a monetary reward,” says senior author and U-M neuroscientist Mary Heitzeg, Ph.D. “This means that something that would be rewarding to most people was no longer rewarding to them, suggesting but not proving that their reward system has been ‘hijacked’ by the drug, and that they need the drug to feel reward — or that their emotional response has been dampened.”

Watching the reward centers

The study involved 108 people in their early 20s – the prime age for marijuana use. All were taking part in a larger study of substance use, and all had brain scans at three points over four years. Three-quarters were men, and nearly all were white.

While their brain was being scanned in a functional MRI scanner, they played a game that asked them to click a button when they saw a target on a screen in front of them. Before each round, they were told they might win 20 cents, or $5 – or that they might lose that amount, have no reward or loss.

The researchers were most interested at what happened in the reward centers of the volunteers’ brains – the area called the nucleus accumbens. And the moment they cared most about was that moment of anticipation, when the volunteers knew they might win some money, and were anticipating performing the simple task that it would take to win.

In that moment of anticipating a reward, the cells of the nucleus accumbens usually swing into action, pumping out a ‘pleasure chemical’ called dopamine. The bigger the response, the more pleasure or thrill a person feels – and the more likely they’ll be to repeat the behavior later.

But the more marijuana use a volunteer reported, the smaller the response in their nucleus accumbens over time, the researchers found.

While the researchers didn’t also look at the volunteers’ responses to marijuana-related cues, other research has shown that the brains of people who use a high-inducing drug repeatedly often respond more strongly when they’re shown cues related to that drug.

The increased response means the drug has become associated in their brains with positive, rewarding feelings. And that can make it harder to stop seeking out the drug and using it.

If this is true with marijuana users, says first author Meghan Martz, doctoral student in developmental psychology at U-M, “It may be that the brain can drive marijuana use, and that the use of marijuana can also affect the brain. We’re still unable to disentangle the cause and effect in the brain’s reward system, but studies like this can help that understanding.

Change over time

Regardless, the new findings show that there is change in the reward system over time with marijuana use. Heitzeg and her colleagues also showed recently in a paper in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience that marijuana use impacts emotional functioning.

The new data on response to potentially winning money may also be further evidence that long-term marijuana use dampens a person’s emotional response – something scientists call anhedonia.

“We are all born with an innate drive to engage in behaviors that feel rewarding and give us pleasure,” says co-author Elisa Trucco, Ph.D., psychologist at the Center for Children and Families at Florida International University. “We now have convincing evidence that regular marijuana use impacts the brain’s natural response to these rewards. In the long run, this is likely to put these individuals at risk for addiction.”

Marijuana’s reputation as a “safe” drug, and one that an increasing number of states are legalizing for small-scale recreational use, means that many young people are trying it – as many as a third of college-age people report using it in the past year.

But Heitzeg says that her team’s findings, and work by other addiction researchers, has shown that it can cause effects including problems with emotional functioning, academic problems, and even structural brain changes. And, the earlier in life someone tries marijuana, the faster their transition to becoming dependent on the drug, or other substances.

“Some people may believe that marijuana is not addictive or that it’s ‘better’ than other drugs that can cause dependence,” says Heitzeg, who is an assistant professor of psychiatry at the U-M Medical School and member of the U-M Addiction Research Center. “But this study provides evidence that it’s affecting the brain in a way that may make it more difficult to stop using it. It changes your brain in a way that may change your behavior, and where you get your sense of reward from.”

She is among the neuroscientists and psychologists leading a nationwide study called ABCD, for Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development. That study will track thousands of today’s pre-teens nationwide over 10 years, looking at many aspects of their health and functioning, including brain development via brain scans. Since some of the teens in the study are likely to use marijuana, the study will provide a better chance of seeing what happens over time.

Source: JAMA Psychiatry, doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.1161

A new study suggests smoking high-potency marijuana may cause damage to nerve fibers responsible for communication between the brain’s two hemispheres.

The study included MRI scans of 99 people, including some who were diagnosed with psychosis, HealthDay reports.  The researchers found an association between frequent use of high-potency marijuana and damage to the corpus callosum, which is responsible for communication between the brain’s left and right hemispheres.

The corpus callosum is especially rich in cannabinoid receptors. THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, acts on these receptors.

Today’s high-potency marijuana has been shown to contain higher proportions of THC compared with a decade ago. Scientists have known that the use of marijuana with higher THC content has been associated with greater risk and earlier onset of psychosis, the researchers noted. This study is the first to examine the effect of marijuana potency on brain structure, according to a news release from Kings’s College London.

Frequent use of high-potency marijuana significantly affected the structure of the corpus callosum in patients with or without psychosis, the researchers report in Psychological Medicine.    The more high-potency marijuana a person smoked, the greater the damage.

“There is an urgent need to educate health professionals, the public and policymakers about the risks involved with cannabis use,” said senior researcher Dr. Paola Dazzan of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London. “As we have suggested previously, when assessing cannabis use it is extremely important to gather information on how often and what type of cannabis is being used.

These details can help quantify the risk of mental health problems and increase awareness on the type of damage these substances can do to the brain.’

Source:  https://www.ncadd.org/about-addiction   Dec. 2015

In this guest blog, Kate Fleming, Senior Lecturer, Public Health Institute, Liverpool John Moores University, and Raja Mukherjee, Consultant Psychiatrist, Lead Clinician UK National FASD clinic, Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust consider the context and future for Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders in the UK.

A recent opinion piece in The Guardian entitled Nothing prepared me for pregnancy- apart from the never ending hangover of my 20s took a, presumably, humorous take on the tiredness, vomiting, dehydration, and secrecy that so many women live through in early pregnancy, likening this to days spent hungover after excessive drinking in the author’s early 20s.

In an article that was entirely about alcohol and pregnancy there was reassuringly no mention of the author consuming alcohol during pregnancy, indeed quite the reverse “I don’t actually want booze in my body”.  But neither was there explicit reference to the harms that alcohol can cause in pregnancy.

The harms caused by consuming alcohol in pregnancy

Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is an umbrella term that encompasses the broad range of conditions that are related to maternal alcohol consumption.  The most severe end of the spectrum is Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) associated with distinct facial characteristics, growth restriction and permanent brain damage.  However, the spectrum includes conditions displaying mental, behavioural and physical effects on a child which can be difficult to diagnose.  Confusingly, these conditions also go under several other names including Neuro-developmental Disorder associated with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure (ND-PAE) the preferred term by the American Psychiatric Association’s fifth version of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (APA DSM-V), alcohol-related birth defects, alcohol-related neuro-developmental disorder, and partial foetal alcohol syndrome.

How common is FASD? A recent study which brought together information from over 300 studies estimates the prevalence of drinking in pregnancy to be close to 10%, and around 1 in 4 women in Europe drinking during pregnancy. Their estimates of FAS (the most severe end of the spectrum) were 14.6 per 10000 people worldwide or 37.4 per 10000 people in Europe, corresponding to 1 child in every 67 women who drank being born with FAS.

Given the figure for alcohol consumption in pregnancy is even higher in the UK, with some studies suggesting up to 75% of women drink at some point in their pregnancy, conservatively in the UK we might expect a prevalence of FASD of at least 1%.  We also know that it is highly unlikely that anything close to this number of individuals have formally had a diagnosis.  This lack of knowledge of the prevalence in the UK is hampering efforts to ensure the required multi-sector support for those affected by FASD and their families.

Current policy

For some time a significant focus of alcohol in pregnancy research was to try and identify a safe threshold of consumption, without demonstrable success.  No evidence of harm at low levels does not however equate to evidence of no harm and as such in 2016 the Chief Medical Officer revised guidance on alcohol consumption in pregnancy to recommend that women should avoid alcohol when trying to conceive or when pregnant.  Though this clarity of guidelines has been well received by the overwhelming majority of health professionals there are barriers to its implementation with few professionals “very prepared to deal with the subject”.  In addition, knowledge of the guideline amongst the general public has yet to be evaluated.

As part of the 2011 public health responsibility deal a commitment to 80% of products having labels which include warnings about drinking when pregnant forms part of the alcohol pledges. A study in 2014 showed that 90% of all labels did indeed include this information. However, it has also been shown that this form of education is amongst the least effective in terms of alcohol interventions, and the pledge is no longer in effect.

Pregnancy is recognised as a good time for the initiation of behaviour change yet in the context of alcohol consumption it is arguably too late. An estimated half of all pregnancies are unplanned and there remains therefore a window of early pregnancy before a woman is likely to have had contact with a health professional and before the guidelines can be explained during which unintentional damage to her unborn baby could occur.  The same argument can be used when considering the suggestion of banning the sale of alcohol to pregnant women – visible identification of pregnancy tends only to be possible at the very latest stages.

How then to address consumption of alcohol during pregnancy? 

Consumption of alcohol is doubtless shaped by the culture and context of the society in which one is living.  Highest levels of alcohol consumption in pregnancy are, unsurprisingly, seen in countries where the population consumption of alcohol is also highest.  Current UK policy that is directed to reducing population consumption of alcohol will likely have a knock-on effect of reducing alcohol consumption in pregnancy.

Many women will however be familiar with the barrage of questions that they encounter when not drinking on a night out.  From the not-so-subtle “Not drinking, eh… Wonder why that is? <nudge, nudge, wink, wink>” to the more overt “Are you pregnant?”.  The road to conception and pregnancy is littered with enough stumbling blocks and pressures that the additional unintentional announcement of either fact of conception or intention to conceive is an unnecessary cause of potential further anxiety. Until society accepts that not drinking is an acceptable choice, without any need for clarification or explanation, then pregnant women or those hoping to conceive who are adhering to guidelines will continue to identify themselves, perhaps before they want to.

What next?

The UK’s All Party Parliamentary Group for FASD had its inaugural meeting in June 2015.  This group calls for an increased awareness of FASD particularly regarding looked

after children and individuals within the criminal justice system, sectors where the prevalence of FASD is particularly high. Concerted efforts need to be made to identify children with FASD to ensure that the appropriate support pathways are in place. Alongside this, efforts to ensure the best mechanisms for education of the dangers of alcohol consumption in pregnancy need to be increased, including training for midwives, and other health professionals who may be able to offer brief intervention and advice to women both before and after conception.

The views expressed by the authors are theirs alone and do not represent the views of Liverpool John Moores University, the UK National FASD clinic at Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. NOFAS run a national FASD helpline on on 020 8458 5951 as do the FASD Trust on 01608 811 599.

Source:  http://www.alcoholpolicy.net/2017/05/drinking-in-pregnancy-where-next-for-fasd-in-the-uk.html

As Cpl. Kevin Phillips pulled up to investigate a suspected opioid overdose, paramedics were already at the Maryland home giving a man a life-saving dose of the overdose reversal drug Narcan.

Drugs were easy to find:  a package of heroin on the railing leading to a basement; another batch on a shelf above a nightstand.

The deputy already had put on gloves and grabbed evidence baggies, his usual routine for canvassing a house.  He swept the first package from the railing into a bag and sealed it; then a torn Crayola crayon box went from the nightstand into a bag of its own.  Inside that basement nightstand:  even more bags, but nothing that looked like drugs.

Then—moments after the man being treated by paramedics come to—the overdose hit.

“My face felt like it was burning.  I felt extremely lightheaded.  I felt like I was getting dizzy,” he said.  “I stood there for two seconds and thought, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t just get exposed to something.’ I just kept thinking about the carfentanil.”

Carfentanil came to mind because just hours earlier, Phillips’ boss, Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler, sent an e-mail to deputies saying the synthetic opioid so powerful that it’s used to tranquilize elephants had, for the first time ever, showed up in a toxicology report from a fatal overdose in the county.  The sheriff had urged everyone to use extra caution when responding to drug scenes.

Carfentanil and fentanyl are driving forces in the most deadly drug epidemic the United States has ever seen.  Because of their potency, it’s not just addicts who are increasingly at risk—it’s those tasked with saving lives and investigating the illegal trade.  Police departments across the U.S. are arming officers with the opioid antidote Narcan.  Now, some first responders have had to use it on colleagues, or themselves.

The paramedic who administered Phillips’ Narcan on May 19 started feeling sick herself soon after;  she didn’t need Narcan but was treated for exposure to the drugs.

Earlier this month, an Ohio officer overdosed in a police station after bushing off with a bare hand a trace of white powder left from a drug scene.  Like Phillips, he was revived after several doses of Narcan.  Last fall, SWAT officers in Hartford, Connecticut, were sickened after a flash-bang grenade sent particles of heroin and fentanyl airborne.

Phillips’ overdose was eye-opening for his department, Gahler said.  Before then, deputies didn’t have a protocol for overdose scenes; many showed up without any protective gear.

Gahler has since spent $5,000 for 100 kits that include a protective suit, booties, gloves, and face masks.  Carfentanil can be absorbed through the skin and easily inhaled. and a single particle is so powerful that simply touching it can cause an overdose, Gahler said.  Additional gear will be distributed to investigators tasked with cataloguing overdose scenes—heavy-duty gloves and more robust suits.

Gahler said 37 people have died so far this year from overdoses in his county, which is between Baltimore and Philadelphia.  The county has received toxicology reports on 19 of those cases, and each showed signs of synthetic opioids.

“This is all a game-changer for us in law enforcement,” Gahler said.  “We are going to have to re-evaluate daily what we’re doing.  We are feeling our way through this every single day . . . we’re dealing with something that’s out of our realm.  I don’t want to lose a deputy ever, but especially not to something the size of a grain of salt.”

Source:  – Erie Times-News, Erie, Pa. – May 28, 2017 – www.goerie.com  The Associated Press

Ohio had the most overdose fatalities in the United States in 2014 and 2015.

A newspaper’s survey of county coroners has painted a grim picture of fatal overdoses in Ohio: more than 4,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2016 in the state badly hit by a heroin and opioid epidemic.

At least 4,149 died from unintentional overdoses last year, a 36 percent climb from the previous year, or a time when Ohio had the most overdose fatalities in the United States so far.

“They died in restaurants, theaters, libraries, convenience stores, parks, cars, on the streets and at home,” wrote The Columbus Dispatch in its report revealing the findings.

Survey Findings

It’s likely getting worse, too, as coroners warned that overdose deaths this year are fast outpacing these figures brought on by overdoses from heroin, synthetic opioids fentanyl and carfentanil, and other drugs.

The Dispatch obtained the number by getting in touch with coroners’ offices in all 88 Ohio counties. Coroners in six smaller counties, according to the paper, did not provide the requested figures.

Leading the counties in rapid drug overdose rises are counties such as Cuyahoga, where there were 666 deaths in 2016, as well as Franklin, Hamilton, Lucas, Montgomery, and Summit.

The devastation, added the survey, did not discriminate against big or small cities and towns, urban or rural areas, and rich and poor enclaves.

“It’s a growing, breathing animal, this epidemic,” said Medina County coroner and ER physician Dr. Lisa Deranek, who has sometimes revived the same overdose patients a few times each week.

Fentanyl Overdoses

Cuyahoga County, which covers Cleveland, had its death toll largely blamed on fentanyl use. Heroin remains a leading killer, but the autopsy reports reflected the major role of fentanyl, a synthetic opiate 50 times stronger than morphine, and animal tranquilizer carfentanil.

“We’ve done so much, but the numbers are going the other way. I don’t see the improvement,” said William Denihan, outgoing CEO of Cuyahoga County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board.

Cuyahoga County had 400 fentanyl-linked deaths from Nov. 21 in 2015 to Dec. 31 last year, more than double related deaths of all previous years in combination. The opioid crisis, too, no longer just affected mostly white drug users, but also minority communities.

Dr. Thomas Gilson, medical examiner of Cuyahoga County, warned that cocaine is now getting mixed into the fentanyl distribution and fentanyl analogs in order to bring the drugs closer to the African-American groups.

Plans And Prospects

The state’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services stated that the overdose death toll back in 2015 would have been higher if not for the role of naloxone, an antidote use for opioid overdose cases. It has been administered by family members, other drug users, and friends to revive dying individuals.

State legislature moved to make naloxone accessible in pharmacies without a prescription. Ohio topped the nation’s drug overdose death numbers in 2014 and 2015. In the latter year, it was followed by New York, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation using statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Experts are pushing for expanding drug prevention as well as education initiatives from schoolkids to young and middle-aged adults, which also make up the bulk of dying people.

And while the state pioneered in crushing “pill mills” that issue prescription painkillers, health officials warned that this sent addicts to heroin and other stronger substances.

Naloxone, too, is merely an overdose treatment and not a cure for the growing addiction. Last May 22 in Pennsylvania, two drug counselors working to help others battle their drug addiction were found dead from opioid overdose at the addiction facility in West Brandywine, Chester County.

Source:  http://www.techtimes.com/articles/208540/20170529/ohio-leads-in-nations-fatal-drug-overdoses-with-4-000-dead-in-2016-survey.htm  29.05.17

SAN FRANCISCO – Visits by teens to a Colorado children’s hospital emergency department and its satellite urgent care centers increased rapidly after legalization of marijuana for commercialized medical and recreational use, according to new research being presented at the 2017 Paediatric Academic Societies Meeting in San Francisco.

The study abstract, “Impact of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado on Adolescent Emergency Visits” on Monday, May 8 at the Moscone West Convention Center in San Francisco.

Colorado legalized the commercialization of medical marijuana in 2010 and recreational marijuana use in 2014. For the study, researchers reviewed the hospital system’s emergency department and urgent care records for 13- to 21-year-olds seen between January 2005 and June 2015.

They found that the annual number of visits with a cannabis related diagnostic code or positive for marijuana from a urine drug screen more than quadrupled during the decade, from 146 in 2005 to 639 in 2014.

Adolescents with symptoms of mental illness accounted for a large proportion (66%) of the 3,443 marijuana-related visits during the study period, said lead author George Sam Wang, M.D., FAAP, with psychiatry consultations increasing from 65 to 442. More than half also had positive urine drug screen tests for other drugs. Ethanol, amphetamines, benzodiazepines, opiates and cocaine were the most commonly detected.

Dr. Wang, an assistant professor of paediatrics at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, said national data on teen marijuana use suggest rates remained roughly the same (about 7%) in 2015 as they’d been for a decade prior, with many concluding no significant impact from legalization. Based on the findings of his study, however, he said he suspects these national surveys do not entirely reflect the effect legalization may be having on teen usage.

“The state-level effect of marijuana legalization on adolescent use has only begun to be evaluated,” he said. “As our results suggest, targeted marijuana education and prevention strategies are necessary to reduce the significant public health impact of the drug can have on adolescent populations, particularly on mental health.”

Dr. Wang will present the abstract, “Impact of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado on Adolescent Emergency Department (ED) Visits,” from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Numbers in this news release reflect updated information provided by the researchers. The abstract is available at https://registration.pas-meeting.org/2017/reports/rptPAS17_abstract.asp?abstract_final_id=3160.11.

The Paediatric Academic Societies (PAS) Meeting brings together thousands of individuals united by a common mission: to improve child health and well-being worldwide. This international gathering includes paediatric researchers, leaders in academic paediatrics, experts in child health, and practitioners. The PAS Meeting is produced through a partnership of four organizations leading the advancement of paediatric research and child advocacy: Academic Paediatric Association, American Academy of Paediatrics, American Paediatric Society, and Society for Paediatric Research. For more information, visit the PAS Meeting online at www.pas-meeting.org, follow us on Twitter @PASMeeting and #pasm17, or like us on Facebook. For additional AAP News coverage, visit http://www.aappublications.org/collection/pas-meeting-updates.

Source:   http://www.aappublications.org/news/2017/05/04/PASMarijuana050417

 A New Agenda to  Turn Back the Drug Epidemic

Robert L. DuPont, MD, President , Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc.

A. Thomas McLellan, PhD, Senior Strategy Advisor , Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc.  May 2017

Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc. , 6191 Executive Blvd , Rockville, MD 20852 , www.IBHinc.org 1

Background 

The Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc. (IBH) is a 501(c)3 non-profit substance use policy and research organization that was founded in 1978. Non-partisan and non-political, IBH develops new ideas and serves as a force for change.

Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health was published in November 2016. Four months later, in March 2017, IBH held a meeting of 25 leaders in addiction treatment, health care, insurance, government and research to discuss the scope and implications of this historic document. The US Surgeon General, VADM Vivek H. Murthy, MD, was an active participant in the meeting. The significance of this new Surgeon General’s Report is analogous to the historic 1964 Surgeon General’s report, Smoking and Health, a document that inspired an extraordinarily successful public health response in the United States that has reduced the rates of cigarette smoking by over 64% and continues its impact even today, more than 50 years following its release.

The following is a summary of the discussion at the March 2017 meeting and the conclusions and recommendations that were developed.

Introduction: The 2016 Surgeon General’s Report 

The two primary objectives of the US Surgeon General’s Report of 2016 are first to provide scientific evidence that shows that in addition to nicotine, other substance misuse and addiction issues (e.g., alcohol, opioids, marijuana, etc.) also are best understood and addressed as public health problems; and second to encourage the inclusion of addiction – its prevention, early recognition and intervention, treatment and active long-term recovery management – into the mainstream of American health care. At present these elements are not integrated either as a stand-alone continuum or within the general medical system. As is true for other widespread illnesses, addiction to nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, opioids, cocaine and other substances is a serious chronic illness. This perspective is contrary to the common perception that addiction reflects a moral failing, a personal weakness or poor parenting. Such opinions have stigmatized individuals who are suffering from these often deadly substance use disorders and have led to expensive and ineffective public policies that segregate prevention and treatment outside of mainstream medical care. A better public health approach encourages afflicted individuals and their family members to seek and receive help within the current health care system for these serious health problems.

An informed public health approach to reducing the prevalence and the harms associated with substance use disorders requires more than the brief treatment of serious cases. Particularly important are substance use prevention programs in schools, healthcare and in all other parts of the community to protect adolescents (ages 12 – 21), the group most at risk for the initiation of substance-related harms and substance use disorders.  Importantly, abundant tragic experience and accumulating science show that substance use disorders are not effectively treated with only short-term care. Because substance use disorders produce 2 significant long-lasting changes in the brain circuits responsible for memory, motivation, inhibition, reward sensitivity and stress tolerance, addicted individuals remain vulnerable to relapse years following specialized treatment.1, 2, 3 Thus, as is true for all other chronic illnesses, long periods of personalized treatment and monitoring are necessary to assure compliance with care, continued sobriety, and improved health and social function. In combination, science-based prevention, early intervention, continuing care and monitoring comprise a modern continuum of public health care. The overall goals of this continuum comport well with those of other chronic illnesses:

1 US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the Surgeon General. (2016). Chapter 2. The Neurobiology of Substance Use, Misuse, and Addiction. In: Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. Washington, DC: HHS. Available: https://addiction.surgeongeneral.gov/

2 US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the Surgeon General. (2016). Chapter 5. Recovery: The Many Paths to Wellness. In: Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. Washington, DC: HHS. Available: https://addiction.surgeongeneral.gov/

3 Betty Ford Institute Consensus Panel. (2007). What is recovery? A working definition from the Betty Ford Institute. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 33(3), 221-228.

4 White, W. L. (2012). Recovery/remission from substance use disorders: An analysis of reported outcomes in 415 scientific reports, 1868-2011. Philadelphia, PA: Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services.

· sustained reduction of the cardinal symptom of the illness, i.e., substance use;

· improved general health and function; and,

· education and training of the patient and the family to self-manage the illness and avoid relapses.

In the addiction field achieving these goals is called “recovery.” This word is used to describe abstention from the use of alcohol, marijuana and other non-prescribed drugs as well as improved personal health and social responsibility.3,4 Over 25 million formerly addicted Americans are in stable, long-term recovery of a year or longer.4 Understanding how to consistently accomplish the life-saving goal of recovery must inform health care decisions.

The 2016 Surgeon General’s Report offers a science-informed vision and path to recovery in response to the nation’s serious addiction problem, including specifically the opioid overdose epidemic. Research shows that it is possible to prevent or delay most cases of substance misuse; and to effectively treat even the most serious substance use disorders with recovery as an expectable result of comprehensive, continuous care and sustained monitoring. To do this, substance use disorders must be recognized as serious, chronic health conditions that are both preventable and treatable. The nation must integrate the short-term siloed episodes of specialty treatment that now are isolated from mainstream healthcare into a fully integrated continuum of care comparable to that currently available to those with other chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma and chronic pain.

Meeting Discussion and Conclusions 

The Surgeon General’s Report and the meeting convened by the Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc. (IBH) to promote its recommendations are significant responses to the expanding epidemic of opioid 3 and other substance use disorders, an epidemic that struck nearly 21 million Americans aged 12 and older in 2015 alone.5 That year saw more than 52,000 overdose deaths.6 This drug epidemic has devastated countless families and communities throughout the US. Unlike earlier and smaller drug epidemics, the current opioid epidemic is not limited to a few regions or communities or a narrow range of ethnicities or incomes in the United States. Instead it afflicts all communities and all socioeconomic groups; its impacts include smaller communities and rural areas as well as suburban areas and inner cities. Fuelled by the suffering of countless grieving families, the nation is in the early stages of confronting the new epidemic. A growing national determination to turn back this deadly epidemic has opened the door to innovation that is sustained by strong bipartisan political support for new and improved efforts in both prevention and treatment of substance use disorders.

5 Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2015). Behavioral health trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 15-4927, NSDUH Series H-50). Available: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/

6 Rudd, R. A., Seth, P., David, F., & Scholl, L. (2016, December 30). Increases in drug and opioid-involved overdose deaths – United States. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 65(50-51), 1445-1452. Available: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm655051e1.htm

7 Levy, S. J., Williams, J. F., & AAP Committee on Substance Use and Prevention. (2016). Substance use screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment. Pediatrics, 138(1), e20161211. Available: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/138/1/e20161211

8 US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the Surgeon General. (2016). Chapter 3. Prevention Programs and Policies. In: Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. Washington, DC: HHS. Available: https://addiction.surgeongeneral.gov/

Abstinence is an Achievable Goal, both for Prevention and for Treatment 

Embracing and synthesizing the 30 years of science supporting the findings of the 2016 Surgeon General’s Report, the group discussed a single goal for the prevention of addiction: no use of alcohol, nicotine, marijuana or other non-prescribed drugs by youth for reasons of health. This goal should be the core prevention message to all children from a very young age. Health care professionals, educators and parents should understand the importance of this simple, clear health message. They should continue to reinforce this message of no-use for health as children grow to adulthood. Even when prevention fails, it is possible for parents, other family members, friends, primary care clinicians, educators and others to identify and to intervene quickly to stop youth substance use from becoming addiction.7

The science behind this ambitious but attainable prevention goal is clear. Alcohol, nicotine products, marijuana and other non-prescribed drug use is uniquely harmful to the still-developing brains of adolescents. Thus any substance “use” among youth must be considered “misuse” – use that may harm self or others. The goal of no substance use is not just for the purpose of preventing addiction, though that is one clear and important by product of successful prevention. Addiction is a biological process that can take years to develop. In contrast, even a single episode of high-dose use of alcohol or other substance could immediately produce an injury, accident or even death. While it is true that most episodes of substance misuse among adults do not produce serious problems, it is also true that substance misuse is associated with 70% or more of the injuries, disabilities and deaths of young people.8 These figures are even higher for minority youth. Many adolescent deaths are preventable 4 because most are related to substance use – including substance-related motor vehicle crashes and overdose.9

9 Subramaniam, G. A., & Volkow, N. D. (2014). Substance misuse among adolescents. To screen or not to screen? JAMA Pediatrics, 168(9), 798-799. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4827336/

10 Data analyzed by the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. CBHS. (2015). Behavioral health trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 15- 4927, NSDUH Series H-50).

11 2014 data obtained by IBH from the Monitoring the Future study. For discussion of data through 2013 see DuPont, R. L. (2015, July 1). It’s time to re-think prevention; increasing percentages of adolescents understand they should not use any addicting substances. Rockville, MD: Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc. Available: https://www.ibhinc.org/s/IBH_Commentary_Adolescents_No_Use_of_Substances_7-1-15.pdf

Youth who use any one of the three most common “gateway” substances, i.e., alcohol, nicotine and marijuana, are many times more likely than those who do not use that single drug to use the other two substances as well as other illegal drugs.10 The use of any drug opens the door to an endless series of highly risky decisions about which drugs to use, how much to use, and when to use them. This perspective validates the public health goal for youth of no use of any drug.

Complete abstinence from the use of alcohol or any other drug among adolescents is not simply an idealistic goal – it is a goal that can be achieved. Data were presented at the meeting from the nationally representative Monitoring the Future study showing that 26% of American high school seniors in 2014 reported no use of alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana or other non-prescribed drugs in their lifetimes. 11 This is a remarkable increase from only 3% reported by American high school seniors in 1983. Moreover, in the same survey, 50% of high school seniors had not used any alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana or other non-prescribed substance in the past 30 days, up from 16% in 1982. These largely overlooked and important findings show that youth abstinence from any substance use is alr