Posts Tagged ‘cannabis’

by Amy Schleunes

When Lilian Kloft stumbled across a 2015 study showing a connection between cannabis use and susceptibility to false memories, she found herself wondering about the legal implications of the results. The study had discovered that heavy users of cannabis were more likely than controls to form false memories—recollections of events that never occurred, for example, or warped memories of events that did—even when they were not at the moment “high.”

This kind of false remembering can pose difficulties for people gathering reliable testimony in the event of a crime, says Kloft, a PhD student in psychopharmacology and forensic psychology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Consequently, the growing acceptance of cannabis worldwide raises questions not only about how the drug affects memory, but also about how law enforcement officials should conduct interviews with suspects, victims, and witnesses who may be under the influence or regular users of the drug.

In order to further investigate the connection between cannabis and false memory formation, Kloft and collaborators recruited 64 volunteers for a series of experiments. Participants, who were occasional cannabis users, were given a vaporizer containing either cannabis or a hemp placebo and then told to inhale deeply and hold their breath for 10 seconds. After that, the researchers tested them in three different tasks designed to induce false memories.

In the first task, the team asked the volunteers to memorize lists of words, and then to pick out those words from test lists that also included dummy words. As expected, both the sober and the intoxicated participants falsely remembered some of the dummy words. But while the sober participants mostly falsely remembered words that were strongly associated with words on the original lists, the intoxicated participants also selected less-related and completely unrelated terms.

In the next two tasks, the researchers wanted to see if they could induce false memories by providing misinformation to the participants. Hoping to imbue these tests with more real-world relevance than a list of words, Kloft and colleagues designed two immersive virtual reality scenarios involving common crimes. In the first, the “eyewitness scenario,” participants observed a fight on a train platform, after which a virtual co-witness recounted the incident but with several errors, including falsely recalling a police dog that wasn’t part of the altercation. In the “perpetrator scenario,” participants entered a crowded bar and were instructed to commit a crime themselves—to steal a purse.

The researchers observed a range of effects associated with cannabis as the intoxicated subjects interacted in these virtual environments. Some participants laughed and talked to the virtual characters in the scenarios, Kloft reports, while others became paranoid and required assistance in stealing the purse. “One person even ran away so quickly that they ripped out the whole VR setup and it fell to the ground,” she says. When researchers interviewed the participants afterward using a combination of leading and non-leading questions, those who were intoxicated showed higher rates of false memory for both the eyewitness and perpetrator scenarios compared with controls.

To look for longer-term effects of cannabis, the experimenters called the subjects back a week later and tested them again on the word lists, this time with a few different dummy words thrown in. They also re-interviewed the subjects about the VR scenarios using a combination of old and new questions. As before, they found lower memory accuracy in the word-association test in those who had been intoxicated compared with sober participants. There were no statistically significant differences between the groups for the virtual reality scenarios, a result that Kloft says may indicate memory decay over time in all participants.

Cognitive neuropsychopharmacologist Manoj Doss, a postdoc at Johns Hopkins University who was not involved in the study, has used word association and other tasks in his own research to demonstrate that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, increases false memories when participants attempt to retrieve information they’d previously learned. Doss says that the study by Kloft and collaborators is novel not only because it employs virtual reality, but because it shows that both the real-world scenarios and the word association task can induce false memories.

For the tests administered after one week, however, Doss notes that it’s difficult to determine if the researchers were observing actual false memories, because participants might remember both the accurate and the dummy information they encountered in the original experiment. In the follow-up test, “people might say yes to the things they’re not supposed to just because they saw them in that first test,” says Doss. He suggests that increasing the number of items tested, as well as separately analyzing the new and previously used word tests and interview questions, could reveal a higher incidence of false memories in the delayed test for the participants who took cannabis.

Giovanni Marsicano, a neuroscientist at the University of Bordeaux in France who did not participate in the research, says that the new results match up with findings he’s made in mice: animals that receive injections of THC are more likely than controls to associate unrelated stimuli—itself a sort of false memory. His work has also shown that a cannabinoid receptor known as CB1 that is highly abundant in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex probably plays a key role in the formation of these incidental associations. One of this receptor’s main jobs is to decrease the release of neurotransmitters. Marsicano hypothesizes that when the CB1 receptor is activated, neural signaling is inhibited in such a way that the brain is less able to separate correct from incorrect information.

Roger Pertwee, a pharmacologist at the University of Aberdeen in the UK who was not involved in the research, says that the Dutch team’s results aren’t surprising given what’s known about how cannabinoids affect memory. Unlike endogenous cannabinoids, which tend to selectively activate some CB1 receptors and not others, compounds in cannabis activate all CB1 receptors at once; this indiscriminate activation may also somehow contribute to the formation of false memories, explains Pertwee, who works with GW Pharmaceuticals, a company that makes prescription medicines derived from cannabis.

In the future, Kloft says she’s interested in looking at how people regard the memories they form when high in order to find out whether they “trust” those memories. “Are they confident in them, and is there any strategy they pursue to correct for their probably impaired memory?”

Study coauthor Elizabeth Loftus, a cognitive psychologist and human memory expert at the University of California, Irvine, says that the team’s study should prompt people to think about best practices when it comes to intoxicated witnesses. “The law recognizes that there are vulnerable witnesses who need extra special care and attention when you’re interviewing them: young children, people with mental disabilities, sometimes the elderly are included in that category,” Loftus says. “Might not [people who are high] be another example of . . . vulnerable witnesses where you’ve got to be extra careful?”

https://www.the-scientist.com/notebook/cannabis-increases-propensity-for-false-memories-67473?utm_campaign=TS_DAILY%20NEWSLETTER_2020&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=87631437&_hsenc=p2ANqtz–3qIL8Nng2JbtXCj4SM5wciCtEP1dVQlCZ5bcSGcfOZ4lZ6v_Hyruet-yvSuzp2a67Xy5el2TdFX8Tpyb8oU7OBsMjdg&_hsmi=87631437


Scientists from Harvard University’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have found evidence that a chemical derived from cannabis may be capable of extending the life expectancy for those with pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer makes up just 3 percent of all cancers in America. But with a one-year survival rate of just 20 percent (and five-year survival rate of less than 8), it’s predicted to be the second leading cause of cancer-related death by 2020.

Headlines about the illness, as a result, tend to be discouraging. But this month scientists from Harvard University’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have released some much-needed good news. In their study, published in the journal Frontiers of Oncology on July 23, the researchers revealed that a chemical found in cannabis has demonstrated “significant therapy potential” in treatment of pancreatic cancer.

The specific drug, called FBL-03G, is a derivative of a cannabis “flavonoid” — the name for a naturally-occurring compound found in plants, vegetables and fruits which, among other purposes, provides their vibrant color. Flavonoids from cannabis were discovered by a London researcher named Marilyn Barrett in 1986, and were later found to have anti-inflammatory benefits.

But while scientists long suspected that cannabis flavonoids may have therapeutic potential, the fact that they make up just 0.14 percent of the plant meant that researchers would need entire fields of it to be grown in order to extract large enough quantities. That changed recently when scientists found a way to genetically engineer cannabis flavonoids — making it possible to investigate their benefits.

Enter the researchers at Dana-Farber, who decided to take the therapeutic potential of one of these flavonoids, FBL-03G, and test it on one of the deadliest cancers through a lab experiment. The results, according to Wilfred Ngwa, PhD, an assistant professor at Harvard and one of the study’s researcher, were “major.”

“The most significant conclusion is that tumor-targeted delivery of flavonoids, derived from cannabis, enabled both local and metastatic tumor cell kill, significantly increasing survival from pancreatic cancer,” Ngwa tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “This has major significance, given that pancreatic cancer is particularly refractory to current therapies.”

Ngwa says that the study is the first to demonstrate the potential new treatment for pancreatic cancer. But on top of successfully killing those cells, the scientist found FBL-03G capable of attacking other cancer cells — which was startling even to them. “We were quite surprised that the drug could inhibit the growth of cancer cells in other parts of the body, representing metastasis, that were not targeted by the treatment,” says Ngwa. “This suggests that the immune system is involved as well, and we are currently investigating this mechanism.”

The significance of that, says Ngwa, is that, because pancreatic cancer is often diagnosed in later stages, once it has spread, and the flavonoids seem to be capable of killing other cancer cells, it may mean the life expectancy of those with the condition could increase.

“If successfully translated clinically, this will have major impact in treatment of pancreatic cancer,” says Ngwa.

The next step for the Harvard researchers is to complete ongoing pre-clinical studies, which Ngwa hopes will be completed by the end of 2020. That could set the stage for testing the new treatment in humans, opening up a new window of hope for a group long in need of it.

https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/study-on-cannabis-chemical-as-a-treatment-for-pancreatic-cancer-may-have-major-impact-harvard-researcher-says-165116708.html?.tsrc=notification-brknews

Cannabis exposure during adolescence may interfere with the brain’s maturation, at least in rats, according to research presented at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego this week. Scientists find that a synthetic cannabinoid can throw dopamine signaling out of whack and alter the development of the prefrontal cortex.

As states continue to legalize both medical and recreational marijuana, more and more teens are using the drug. According to the Scripps Research Institute’s Michael Taffe, who moderated a press conference today (November 6), 35 percent of high school seniors in the US have smoked pot in the past year, and 14 percent say they have smoked it every day for a month at some point in their lives.

This has cannabis researchers interested in how marijuana use affects teens’ developing brains. In one study described during the event with reporters, José Fuentealba Evans of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and his colleagues injected adolescent rats with a synthetic cannabinoid and found that such exposure had a “huge increase” in dopaminergic activity in the nigrostriatal pathway of the striatum compared with rats that received a placebo, he explains. This excitatory circuit plays a role in reward processing and addiction, for example, and such changes may encourage risky behavior.

In another study presented today, Jamie Roitman’s group at the University of Illinois at Chicago found that rats given this same drug had fewer inhibitory neurons in regions of the prefrontal cortex, as well as reduced levels of the perineuronal nets that help stabilize those circuits, compared with control animals. This part of the brain, which matures late in development as excitatory synapses are pruned and inhibitory synapses proliferate, controls the highly active motivational circuits, such as the nigrostriatal pathway, that mature earlier, Roitman explains.

“Adolescence is much more dopamine controlled, as you’re waiting for the prefrontal cortex to come online and execute planning and control over behavior,” she tells The Scientist. Thus, adolescents who use cannabis may be “at risk of changing the structure of the brain while it’s maturing.”

https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/cannabinoid-exposure-during-adolescence-disrupts-neural-regulation-65047

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For what is thought to be the largest study of its kind, the researchers analyzed brain scans of 31,227 people aged 9 months–105 years.

In a paper that now features in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, they describe how they identified “patterns of aging” from the brain scans.

These were done using single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) and came from people with psychiatric conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. They were all attending a psychiatric clinic that was based at several locations.

Each participant underwent two SPECT brain scans — one during a resting state, and another during completion of “a concentration task” — giving a total of 62,454 scans.

The scientists found that they could predict a person’s age from the pattern of blood flow in their brain.

Brain circulation varied over lifespan
They observed that blood flow varied from childhood into older age throughout the lifespan. They also saw that brain aging was more visible in scans of men and those with schizophrenia, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and ADHD.

Brain aging was also more strongly associated with use of cannabis and alcohol.

“Based on one of the largest brain imaging studies ever done,” says lead study author Dr. Daniel G. Amen, a psychiatrist and founder of Amen Clinics in Costa Mesa, CA, “we can now track common disorders and behaviors that prematurely age the brain.”

He suggests that improving the treatment of these disorders could “slow or even halt the process of brain aging.”

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322852.php


Law enforcement officers uproot a large-scale illegal marijuana grow, one of several masquerading as legal operations in Okanogan County.

by Martin Kaste

On a big-sky plateau on the eastern slope of the Cascades, a 10-acre parcel of land has been trashed by illicit pot farmers. Abandoned equipment rusts and jugs of chemicals molder.

Marijuana legalization wasn’t supposed to look like this.

Five years into its experiment with legal, regulated cannabis, Washington state is finding that pot still attracts criminals.

Okanogan County Chief Criminal Deputy Steve Brown helped raid this farm last fall. What was striking, he says, is how brazen it was: located just off the road, within sight of neighbors. Before legalization, an operation like this would at least have been hidden up in the hills.

“Now it’s just out in the open, because everywhere you drive in the county you see the fencing, and everybody just assumes it must be just another legal grow going on.”

This particular grow was just a few hundred feet from licensed, state-regulated pot farms. Brown recalls how the growers tried to “blend in.”

“They acted like it was legal,” he says, and he says they even tried to fool the tax assessor, filing to pay agricultural property taxes at the rate for licensed pot growers.

After an investigation, it turned out the growers were part of a network with connections to California and Thailand, who had purchased six properties in the Okanogan area. They’d been growing pot illegally on five.

Legalization was also supposed to end pot smuggling, but that hasn’t worked out either.

Deputy Brown keeps track of the people from this area who’ve been arrested transporting big loads of marijuana through other states, such as Arkansas and Wyoming. At least one of them had ties to a licensed marijuana store in the Okanogan area, according to investigators.

The reason is simple economics. Overproduction in Washington and other states with legal pot, such as Oregon, has led to a market glut — and rock-bottom wholesale prices in the legal market.

“You’re going to get maybe $1,500 a pound — tops,” says Jeremy Moberg. He runs a licensed outdoor marijuana farm in Okanogan called CannaSol. “And a lot of people in farms around here are going to be lucky to get $250 a pound.”

In states where marijuana is still illegal, the same product would easily fetch three or four times that price, Moberg says. That’s a powerful temptation for licensed farmers who aren’t covering production costs right now.

“[For] those that are just totally underwater, and lost all their money, I think it’s a huge incentive to think that they could divert [legally-grown pot to the black market],” Moberg says. But he says he wouldn’t take that risk.

“I have a strong enough fear for prison and enforcement to not think about that too much,” he says.

A couple of licensed farms nearby have been caught not keeping proper track of their marijuana. Another is accused of using marijuana to pay a contractor. That’s a major violation of the state’s tracking rules for legally-grown pot.

“I could see where it’s definitely tempting for someone to take it out of state,” says Steve Morehead, an enforcement officer for the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. He does surprise inspections of licensed growers to make sure they’re keeping all their marijuana inside the tracking system, meant to prevent diversion.

“Every plant that is 8 inches or taller needs to have a [bar-coded] tag on it,” he says.

But he acknowledges the system isn’t foolproof, especially if someone decides to “set aside” some of the buds from those tagged plants.

“There is a lot of the honor system, of how many ounces or how many pounds did you take off these plants,” he says. “We’re trusting them to input good information.”

This may be the Achilles’ heel of Washington state’s marijuana tracing system. “The amount of product that a plant produces depends on lots of different things, it’s not a constant,” says Mark Kleiman. He’s a professor of public policy at New York University and his consulting company BOTEC studies the pot market for the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board.

“So it’s certainly possible that someone could ship some out the back door,” he says.

This matters for many reasons. Off-the-books pot feeds the glut, depressing prices further and tempting producers to sell more into the black market, tax-free.

Still, diversion is hard to prove, unless investigators are tipped off and know to check the thousands of hours of surveillance videos that licensed growers are required to keep.

Illegal grows are easier to catch. The Thai-California network operating in Okanogan was not unique.

Last November, law enforcement on the Washington coast said they’d discovered a large network of illegal marijuana grows run by Chinese nationals. Police in three counties served 50 search warrants, confiscated 32,000 pot plants, 26 vehicles and $400,000 in cash and gold. They also arrested 44 people.

Given the low wholesale prices in Washington, investigators believe the illegal grows are producing for other states where prices are higher, and are here simply to use the local legal pot industry as cover.

Raids like that are ominous for the supporters of Washington’s regulated pot system. Organized crime and cross-border trafficking are just the problems that the Justice Department said states with legalized marijuana should keep a lid on. Such incidents could give the feds a reason to crack down on the state’s licensed growers and retailers, which are still illegal in the eyes of federal law.

That worries licensed producers such as Moberg.

“If it’s organized crime, building operations made to look like [legal grows], in order to export out, I’m much more concerned,” he says. “Obviously this is what the feds are mostly concerned about. So if they are able to do this, and the attention is brought upon us that this is happening, then I don’t think that is great for all of us.”

https://www.npr.org/2018/05/16/610579599/despite-legalization-marijuana-black-market-hides-in-plain-sight

Many thanks to Ray Gaudette, for bringing this to the It’s Interesting community.

By Nala Rogers

Even drugs that clear the body quickly leave traces about when and where they were used. In fact, many traces get flushed down the toilet — and those traces can be surprisingly revealing.

In a study published last month in the journal Science of the Total Environment, researchers analyzed sewage from two towns in western Kentucky. By testing for active ingredients and metabolites of marijuana, cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamine, ecstasy and several opioids, they were able to estimate the average quantity of each drug consumed per 1,000 people in the population on any given day. This allowed them to infer how drug use changed during special events in the summer of 2017.

In both communities, significantly higher levels of amphetamine, methamphetamine, cocaine, morphine and methadone were found in the wastewater on July 4 than on a typical day. In particular, methamphetamine levels were high on Independence Day, with levels doubling in one town and rising by half in the other.

One of the towns was in the path of the total solar eclipse that crossed the country August 21. In that town, the eclipse brought a significant uptick in amphetamine, methamphetamine, cocaine, morphine and marijuana. The measurements suggested that 1,450 milligrams of amphetamine per 1,000 people was consumed on the day of the eclipse — enough to get about 2.9 percent of the town’s population high. That represented a roughly 60 percent increase over the amphetamine residues found on a typical day.

Of course, it’s likely that some people took more than one dose, said Bikram Subedi, an analytical chemist at Murray State University in Kentucky and one of the study’s authors. Moreover, he added, some of the drugs used on eclipse day likely came from visitors who came to see the eclipse, not the town’s regular population.

“This is an interesting study and provides valuable information on the magnitude of increase in the use of illicit drugs during specific holidays,” wrote Kurunthachalam Kannan, an environmental health researcher at the Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health in Albany, New York, in an email. “One interesting find is that meth usage in communities surveyed seems to be higher than in urban communities.” Kannan was not involved in the study.

Researchers have used sewage to track drug use in other parts of the world, but the technique has rarely been used in the United States, despite its potential to complement traditional data sources such as surveys and toxicology reports, said Subedi. Sewage can’t lie like a person on a survey, and it offers a relatively unbiased look at all drug use in a community, not just the extreme cases that end up in a hospital. And unlike traditional methods, sewage analysis can track changes from day to day.

“This will give the semi-real-time drug consumption in communities,” said Subedi. “That information could be really helpful for the authorities.”

https://www.livescience.com/62237-people-got-high-2017-solar-eclipse.html

By Christopher Ingraham

As acceptance of and usage of marijuana have become more widespread, a whole lot of interesting questions for public health researchers have been raised: How will legal marijuana affect our children? Our jobs? Our relationships?

Or how about our sex lives?

That latter question inspired a research project by Joseph Palamar and his colleagues at New York University. “Since the landscape is changing, and marijuana continues to increase in popularity, research is needed to continue to examine if and how marijuana use may influence risk for unsafe sexual behavior,” they write in the July issue of the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.

To that end, Mr. Palamar and his colleagues recruited 24 heterosexual adults to take part in a series of in-depth interviews about prior sexual experiences that happened under the influence of either alcohol or marijuana. This was not meant to be a national sample. Rather, the purpose was to obtain a rigorous qualitative assessment of the different effects of alcohol and marijuana on people’s sexual behaviors and to use this as a jumping-off point for future quantitative research.

Here are a few of the observations the researchers drew from the interviews.

1. Beer goggles are real.

Respondents “overwhelmingly reported that alcohol use was more likely to [negatively] affect the partners they chose,” the study found. Both men and women were fairly likely to say that alcohol had the effect of lowering their standards for whom they slept with, in terms of character and appearance. With marijuana, this seemed to be much less of an issue.

“With weed I know who I’m waking up with. With drinking, you don’t know. Once you start drinking, everybody looks good,” a 34-year-old female said.

Marijuana use also was more associated with sex with people the respondents already knew — girlfriends and boyfriends, for instance. But alcohol “was commonly discussed in terms of having sex with strangers [or someone new],” the study found.

2. Drunk sex often leads to regret. Stoned sex typically doesn’t.

“The most commonly reported feeling after sex on alcohol was regret,” the study found. “Both males and females commonly reported that regret, shame, and embarrassment were associated with alcohol use, but this was rarely reported for marijuana.”

“I want to cook the person something to eat [after sex] when I’m high,” one male respondent said. “When I’m drunk, it’s like, ‘I’m out of here.’ Or get away from me.”

These negative emotions are seen as at least partly due to drunk sex being associated more with strangers.

3. Drunk sex can make you sick. Stoned sex can make you distracted.

“Nausea, dizziness, feeling sick [and vomiting], and blacking out were commonly reported to be associated with alcohol use,” the study found. One male said he accidentally fell asleep during sex while drunk. Another told of multiple instances where sex had to be interrupted because “I’ve had to stop and go hurl.”

There were fewer adverse effects reported with marijuana, and these tended to be more mental. One respondent said that marijuana use lessened his motivation to have sex. Another reported that being high distracted her from the experience.

“You’re so high [on marijuana] … you start thinking sex is weird. ‘What is sex?’ ” a female respondent reported.

4. The pleasure is usually better on marijuana.

The study found that “alcohol tended to numb sensations and marijuana tended to enhance sensations.”

“Alcohol tends to be a lot more numb,” a male respondent said. “Everything is sort of blunted and muted, whereas with marijuana it’s intensified.”

This “numbness” was associated with a longer duration of sex while drunk. But that wasn’t necessarily a good thing.

It “sometimes lasts too long,” one female respondent said. “Compared to when you’re high — it feels so great and it might be a little shorter.”

The study found that both men and women reported longer and more intense orgasms on marijuana, with one woman reporting hers were “magnified at least by five times.”

Also, marijuana led to “more tender, slow, and compassionate sexual acts, and to involve more sensation and sensuality than alcohol,” the report found.

5. Drunk sex is riskier overall.

“With regard to sexual risk behavior, the majority of participants felt that alcohol was riskier, sexually, than marijuana,” Mr. Palamar and his colleagues found. People typically said they exercised poorer judgment when drunk than when stoned, and were more likely to black out and forget whom they were with, what they were doing or whether they used protection.

Participants generally didn’t note this type of behavior with marijuana and said that while under its effects, they felt more in control overall. “One participant interestingly pointed out that marijuana use decreased his likelihood of engaging in risk behavior because while high he was too paranoid to give in,” the study found.

There were some take-homes viewed as useful from a public health perspective. First, the findings confirm one thing that numerous other studies have shown: Alcohol use seems to be closely associated with high-risk sexual behavior.

Aside from the link with unprotected sex and the corresponding risk of unexpected pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, studies have also drawn disturbing parallels between alcohol use and sexual assault. That link appeared even in the very small sample in Mr. Palamar’s study: One out of the 12 women interviewed reported an instance of sexual assault while under the effects of alcohol.

These negative consequences appear to be less pronounced with marijuana. Research found significantly lower incidences of domestic violence among couples who smoke marijuana, for instance.

http://www.post-gazette.com/news/health/2016/08/08/Serious-researchers-studied-how-sex-is-different-when-you-re-high-vs-when-you-re-drunk/stories/201608080044

Thanks to Michael Moore for bringing this to the It’s Interesting community.