Posts Tagged ‘marijuana’

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

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Kent Hutchinson of the CU Change Lab is one of authors of this new research on the effects of Marijuana on the brain.

by Cay Leytham-Powell

Marijuana may not be as damaging to the brain as previously thought, according to new research from the University of Colorado Boulder and the CU Change Lab.

The research, which was published in the journal Addiction, examined the brains of more than 1,000 participants of varying ages, and found that long-term alcohol use is much more damaging to the brain than marijuana, contradicting years of research into the effects of marijuana and other cannabinoid products on the brain.

These findings, and other conclusions suggesting the potential public health benefits of marijuana, come amid the recent back-and-forth on federal marijuana policy and the nation’s opioid crisis.

Yet scientists are still hesitant to say that cannabinoid usage, specifically as it pertains to marijuana and its associated products, is beneficial.

“Particularly with marijuana use, there is still so much that we don’t know about how it impacts the brain,” said Rachel Thayer, a graduate student in clinical psychology at CU Boulder and the lead author of the study. “Research is still very limited in terms of whether marijuana use is harmful, or beneficial, to the brain.”

While the negative effects of alcohol on the brain have been known by researchers for years, it has been assumed that cannabinoids are as damaging to long-term brain health—if not more—given the immediate psychoactive effects of the THC (the chemical that gets a person high) in marijuana.

However, this may not necessarily be true.

“When you look at the research much more closely, you see that a lot of it is probably not accurate,” said study co-author Kent Hutchison, a professor of behavioral neuroscience at CU Boulder and co-director of the CU Change Lab, which explores the factors linked with health and risk behavior.

“When you look at these studies going back years, you see that one study will report that marijuana use is related to a reduction in the volume of the hippocampus. The next study then comes around, and they say that marijuana use is related to changes in the cerebellum or the whatever.”

“The point is that there’s no consistency across all of these studies in terms of the actual brain structures.”

To combat this misconception in the existing literature, the researchers gave a fresh look at some existing neurological imaging data from the MRIs of both adolescents and adults to see how, using the same variables and controls, the influence of cannabinoids on the brain compared to or contrasted with alcohol.
“With alcohol, we’ve known it’s bad for the brain for decades,” said Hutchison. “But for cannabis, we know so little.”

To see any potential difference, the researchers used the data to examine the most important neurological components: gray matter and white matter.

Gray and white matter are the two main types of tissue that make up the brain and central nervous system. Gray matter is the “stuff”—the cell bodies, dendrites and axon terminals—that enable functionality. White matter, then, is how the grey matter communicates between clusters. Any loss of size or integrity in either can make the brain not work quite like it should.

The study found that alcohol use was significantly associated with a decrease in gray matter size and white matter integrity, particularly for adults who may have decades of exposure. Marijuana and associated cannabinoid products, on the other hand, were not shown to have any long-term impact on the amount of gray matter in the brain or on the integrity of the white matter.

The research demonstrated that, “while marijuana may also have some negative consequences, it definitely is nowhere near the negative consequences of alcohol,” according to Hutchison.

Despite marijuana not being as harmful as once thought, and definitely not as damaging as other legal and illegal products, the research has not yet proved any possible benefits. This is particularly the case as it relates to the different products on the market (both THC and non-THC-containing cannabinoid products), their usage with pain and addiction treatment and the effect on different ages — especially as cannabinoid usage is on the rise among older populations.

“Considering how much is happening in the real world with the legalization movement, we still have a lot of work to do,” Hutchison said.

https://www.colorado.edu/asmagazine/2018/02/02/cannabinoids-are-easier-brain-booze-study-finds

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.

By Christopher Ingraham

There’s a body of research showing that painkiller abuse and overdose are lower in states with medical marijuana laws. These studies have generally assumed that when medical marijuana is available, pain patients are increasingly choosing pot over powerful and deadly prescription narcotics. But that’s always been just an assumption.

Now a new study, released in the journal Health Affairs, validates these findings by providing clear evidence of a missing link in the causal chain running from medical marijuana to falling overdoses. Ashley and W. David Bradford, a daughter-father pair of researchers at the University of Georgia, scoured the database of all prescription drugs paid for under Medicare Part D from 2010 to 2013.

They found that, in the 17 states with a medical-marijuana law in place by 2013, prescriptions for painkillers and other classes of drugs fell sharply compared with states that did not have a medical-marijuana law. The drops were quite significant: In medical-marijuana states, the average doctor prescribed 265 fewer doses of antidepressants each year, 486 fewer doses of seizure medication, 541 fewer anti-nausea doses and 562 fewer doses of anti-anxiety medication.

But most strikingly, the typical physician in a medical-marijuana state prescribed 1,826 fewer doses of painkillers in a given year.

These conditions are among those for which medical marijuana is most often approved under state laws. So as a sanity check, the Bradfords ran a similar analysis on drug categories that pot typically is not recommended for — blood thinners, anti-viral drugs and antibiotics. And on those drugs, they found no changes in prescribing patterns after the passage of marijuana laws.

“This provides strong evidence that the observed shifts in prescribing patterns were in fact due to the passage of the medical marijuana laws,” they write.

In a news release, lead author Ashley Bradford wrote, “The results suggest people are really using marijuana as medicine and not just using it for recreational purposes.”

One interesting wrinkle in the data is glaucoma, for which there was a small increase in demand for traditional drugs in medical-marijuana states. It’s routinely listed as an approved condition under medical-marijuana laws, and studies have shown that marijuana provides some degree of temporary relief for its symptoms.

The Bradfords hypothesize that the short duration of the glaucoma relief provided by marijuana — roughly an hour or so — may actually stimulate more demand in traditional glaucoma medications. Glaucoma patients may experience some short-term relief from marijuana, which may prompt them to seek other, robust treatment options from their doctors.

The tanking numbers for painkiller prescriptions in medical marijuana states are likely to cause some concern among pharmaceutical companies. These companies have long been at the forefront of opposition to marijuana reform, funding research by anti-pot academics and funneling dollars to groups, such as the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, that oppose marijuana legalization.

Pharmaceutical companies have also lobbied federal agencies directly to prevent the liberalization of marijuana laws. In one case, recently uncovered by the office of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), the Department of Health and Human Services recommended that naturally derived THC, the main psychoactive component of marijuana, be moved from Schedule 1 to Schedule 3 of the Controlled Substances Act — a less restrictive category that would acknowledge the drug’s medical use and make it easier to research and prescribe. Several months after HHS submitted its recommendation, at least one drug company that manufactures a synthetic version of THC — which would presumably have to compete with any natural derivatives — wrote to the Drug Enforcement Administration to express opposition to rescheduling natural THC, citing “the abuse potential in terms of the need to grow and cultivate substantial crops of marijuana in the United States.”

The DEA ultimately rejected the HHS recommendation without explanation.

In what may be the most concerning finding for the pharmaceutical industry, the Bradfords took their analysis a step further by estimating the cost savings to Medicare from the decreased prescribing. They found that about $165 million was saved in the 17 medical marijuana states in 2013. In a back-of-the-envelope calculation, the estimated annual Medicare prescription savings would be nearly half a billion dollars if all 50 states were to implement similar programs.

“That amount would have represented just under 0.5 percent of all Medicare Part D spending in 2013,” they calculate.

Cost-savings alone are not a sufficient justification for implementing a medical-marijuana program. The bottom line is better health, and the Bradfords’ research shows promising evidence that medical-marijuana users are finding plant-based relief for conditions that otherwise would have required a pill to treat.

“Our findings and existing clinical literature imply that patients respond to medical marijuana legislation as if there are clinical benefits to the drug, which adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that the Schedule 1 status of marijuana is outdated,” the study concludes.

One limitation of the study is that it only looks at Medicare Part D spending, which applies only to seniors. Previous studies have shown that seniors are among the most reluctant medical-marijuana users, so the net effect of medical marijuana for all prescription patients may be even greater.

The Bradfords will next look at whether similar patterns hold for Medicaid.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/07/13/one-striking-chart-shows-why-pharma-companies-are-fighting-legal-marijuana/

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

Marijuana may give relief to migraine sufferers, according to research published online in Pharmacotherapy.

The research included 121 patients diagnosed with migraines and treated with medical marijuana between January 2010 and September 2014. Patients in the study used both inhaled marijuana and edible marijuana. The researchers said inhaled marijuana seemed to be preferred for treating current headaches, and edibles seemed to be favored for headache prevention.

The researchers found that 103 study participants said they had a decrease in their monthly migraines. Fifteen patients said they had the same number of migraines, and 3 reported an increase in headaches. Overall, the patients’ number of migraines fell from 10.4 to 4.6 per month, which is statistically and clinically significant.

“There was a substantial improvement for patients in their ability to function and feel better,” senior author Laura Borgelt, PharmD, a professor in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, said in a university news release. “Like any drug, marijuana has potential benefits and potential risks. It’s important for people to be aware that using medical marijuana can also have adverse effects.”

Reference

Rhyne D, Anderson SL, Gedde M, Borgelt LM. Effects of Medical Marijuana on Migraine Headache Frequency in an Adult Population. Pharmacotherapy. 2016;

Maya Donnelly awoke to what sounded like thunder in the early morning hours, but dismissed it as a typical monsoon storm and went back to sleep. Later that morning, she looked in the carport at her home in Nogales, near the US-Mexico border, and saw pieces of wood on the ground.

She found a bulky bundle wrapped in black plastic. Inside was roughly 26lbs of marijuana – a package that authorities say was worth $10,000 and was likely dropped there accidentally by a drug smuggler’s aircraft.

Police are now trying to determine whether the bundle was transported by an aircraft or a pilotless drone. Such runs usually occur at night.

“It’s all right on top of our dog’s house,” Donnelly said of the incident, which occurred on 8 September and was first reported by the Nogales International newspaper. “It just made a perfectly round hole through our carport.”

Living near the border, Donnelly said she assumed the object contained drugs. She immediately called her husband, Bill, who told her to call 911. The couple said officers who responded told them an ultralight aircraft smuggling marijuana from Mexico had probably let part of its load go early by accident before dropping the rest farther north, the newspaper reported.

Nogales police chief Derek Arnson said it was the first time in his three-year tenure that he had seen a load of drugs hit a building.

“Someone definitely made a mistake, and who knows what the outcome of that mistake might be for them,” Arnson said.

Maya Donnelly said she thought it unlikely someone would come looking for the drugs, which are now in police custody. Arnson agreed but said police had boosted patrols in the neighbourhood.

The family will have to pay the estimated $500 in repairs, as well as pay for a new home for their German Shepherd, Hulk. But the scenario could have been much worse for the couple and their three teenage daughters.

“Where it landed was clear on the other side of the house from the bedrooms,” Maya Donnelly said. “We were lucky in that sense.”

Friends and family also have gotten a laugh. Several joked that the couple could have profited from the surprise package.

“That’s what everybody says: ‘Why did you call 911?”’ Maya Donnelly said. “But how can you have a clear conscience, right? We could have made lots of home repairs with that.”

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/27/10000-dollars-marijuana-falls-from-sky-arizona-dog-house?channel=us


An assortment of edible marijuana products. Most edibles in a recent study inaccurately described the amount of THC on their labels.

By CATHERINE SAINT LOUIS

An analysis of 75 edible marijuana products sold to patients in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles found that labels on just 17 percent accurately described their levels of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient, researchers reported Tuesday.

Sixty percent of the products had less THC than their packages advertised, and 23 percent of them had more THC than claimed.

“We need a more accurate picture of what’s being offered to patients,” said Dr. Donald Abrams, the chief of hematology and oncology at San Francisco General Hospital. He was not involved in the new study, which was published in JAMA.

“What we have now in this country is an unregulated medical marijuana industry, due to conflicts between state and federal laws,” Dr. Abrams said.

After ingesting marijuana, patients experience the maximal high one to three hours later. (It is felt within minutes after smoking.) Inaccurate labels complicate the consumption of marijuana for medical purposes.

Products with too little THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, may fail to deliver symptom relief to those with debilitating conditions like chronic pain, and those with too much may overwhelm users.

Some of Dr. Abrams’s older cancer patients have tried edibles, he said, because they do not want to smoke marijuana. But some have eaten too much THC, with unpleasant results such as severe anxiety.

In the new study, cannabis candy, drinks and baked goods from 47 brands were tested by the Werc Shop, a laboratory with outposts in California and Washington State.

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine paid for the study except for the cost of the testing, which was covered by the Werc Shop. The company’s chief executive, Jeffrey Raber, is a study author.

Some discrepancies were notably large: In one case, a product had just three milligrams of THC even though its label claimed 108, said Ryan Vandrey, the study’s lead author and an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The researchers declined to name specific manufacturers or products. “I didn’t want to get sued,” Dr. Vandrey said.

“The point is not to say, ‘Hey, X medical marijuana company, you’re bad,’ ” he added. The more serious issue is that “we don’t have the kind of quality assurance for edibles that we have for any other medicine.”

The analysis found some geographical differences: The likelihood of having edible medical marijuana with more THC than advertised was higher in Los Angeles, while the likelihood of having it with less THC than labeled was greater in Seattle.

The researchers also tested each product for cannabidiol, or CBD, a nonpsychoactive ingredient of marijuana that is being studied in purified form as a possible aid to children with intractable epilepsy.

Forty-four products had detectable levels of CBD, though only 13 disclosed CBD. Nine had less CBD than labeled; four had more.

One limitation was that just one laboratory performed the analysis, medical and lab experts cautioned. Methodologies and results vary from lab to lab.

Some variability in test results is routine in this sort of analysis, so the researchers classified labels as accurate if the THC content was within 10 percent of the claimed levels.

Still, Remy Kachadourian, a chemist who has analyzed edible marijuana, suggested that 10 percent variability was too narrow.

“Plus or minus 15 percent is acceptable, and not only in my lab, but other labs in Colorado,” said Dr. Kachadourian, a senior scientist at CMT Laboratories in Denver.

Even though 23 states and the District of Columbia have medical marijuana programs, the federal government does not recognize marijuana as medicine and considers it illegal.

“When that changes,” Dr. Abrams said, “we’ll see the industry rushing to standardize dosing, as well as laboratory testing of products.”

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/06/24/health/labels-for-edible-marijuana-often-err-on-potency-study-says.html?ref=health&_r=1&referrer=

Thanks to Mike Moore for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.