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SCIENCE

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 16, 2013

    Cannabis consumption is associated with mitigated symptoms of opiate withdrawal in subjects undergoing methadone maintenance treatment, according to the findings of a new study published online in The American Journal on Addictions.

    Investigators at the Farber Institute for Neurosciences at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia assessed the use of cannabis in 91 opiate-dependent subjects undergoing methadone maintenance treatment. Researchers found that subjects seeking methadone treatment who acknowledged a history of cannabis use reported “significantly less daily expenditure on acquisition of opiates.”

    Authors additionally reported that subjects’ use of cannabis during treatment was associated with less severe symptoms of withdrawal on the clinical opiate withdrawal scale (COWS), an index designed to serve as an objective measure of opiate withdrawal. “[I]ncreased cannabis use was found to be associated with lower severity of [opiate] withdrawal in a subset of the sample with available chart data,” authors wrote. “These results suggested a potential role for cannabis in the reduction of withdrawal severity during methadone induction.”

    They concluded, “The present findings may point to novel interventions to be employed during treatment for opiate dependence that specifically target cannabinoid–opioid system interactions.”

    A 2009 study published in the same journal previously reported that moderate cannabis use and improved retention in naltrexone treatment among opiate-dependent subjects.

    Full text of the study, “Impact of cannabis use during stabilization on methadone maintenance treatment,” appears online in The American Journal on Addictions.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 9, 2013

    Pulmonary complications associated with the regular smoking of cannabis are “relatively small” and far lower than those associated with tobacco smoking, according to a recent review published in the June edition of the scientific journal Annals of the American Thoracic Society.

    The paper – authored by Donald P. Tashkin, MD, emeritus professor of medicine and medical director of the Pulmonary Function Laboratory at the David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles – is “the most comprehensive and authoritative review of the subject ever published,” according to an accompanying commentary. Donald Tashkin conducted US-government sponsored studies of marijuana and lung function for over 30 years.

    His review finds that although smoking cannabis may be associated with symptoms of chronic bronchitis, studies do not substantiate claims that it is positively associated with the development of lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, or bullous lung disease.

    “[H]abitual use of marijuana alone does not appear to lead to significant abnormalities in lung function,” Tashkin writes. “[F]indings from a limited number of well-designed epidemiological studies do not suggest an increased risk of either lung or upper airway cancer from light or moderate use. … Overall, the risks of pulmonary complications of regular use of marijuana appear to be relatively small and far lower than those of tobacco smoking.”

    Writing in an accompanying commentary, McGill University’s Dr. Mark Ware concludes: “Cannabis smoking is not equivalent to tobacco smoking in terms of respiratory risk. … [C]annabis smoking does not seem to increase risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or airway cancers. In fact, there is even a suggestion that at low doses cannabis may be protective for both conditions. … This conclusion will affect the way health professionals interact with patients, parents with teenagers, and policy makers with their constituents. … Efforts to develop cleaner cannabinoid delivery systems can and should continue, but at least for now, [those] who smoke small amounts of cannabis for medical or recreational purposes can breathe a little bit easier.”

    Full text of the study, “Effects of marijuana smoking on the lung,” appears in Annals of the American Thoracic Society.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 3, 2013

    The inhalation of the non-psychoactive cannabinoid CBD (cannabidiol) significantly mitigates tobacco smokers’ desire for cigarettes, according to clinical trial data published online in the journal Addictive Behaviors.

    Investigators at University College London conducted a double blind pilot study to assess the impact of the ad-hoc consumption of organic CBD versus placebo in 24 tobacco-smoking subjects seeking to quit their habit. Participants were randomized to receive an inhaler containing CBD (n=12) or placebo (n=12) for one week. Trial investigators instructed subjects to use the inhaler when they felt the urge to smoke.

    Researchers reported: “Over the treatment week, placebo treated smokers showed no differences in number of cigarettes smoked. In contrast, those treated with CBD significantly reduced the number of cigarettes smoked by [the equivalent of] 40 percent during treatment.” Moreover, participants who used CBD did not report experiencing increased cravings for nicotine during the study’s duration.

    Investigators concluded, “This is the first study, as far as we are aware, to demonstrate the impact of CBD on cigarette smoking. … These preliminary data, combined with the strong preclinical rationale for use of this compound, suggest CBD to be a potential treatment for nicotine addiction that warrants further exploration.”

    Previously published clinical trials on CBD have found cannabidiol to be “safe and well tolerated” in healthy volunteers.

    Separate investigations of CBD have documented the cannabinoid to possess a variety of therapeutic properties, including anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-epileptic, anti-cancer, and bone-stimulating properties.

    Full text of the study, “Cannabidiol reduces cigarette consumption in tobacco smokers: Preliminary findings,” appears online in the journal Addictive Behaviors.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 27, 2013

    Patients diagnosed with post-traumatic stress, Crohn’s disease, and other debilitating disorders will now be eligible for cannabis therapy, under legislation approved yesterday absent the Governor’s signature.

    The new law expands the list of qualifying conditions for which a Maine physician may legally recommend cannabis to include “post-traumatic stress disorder,” “inflammatory bowel disease” (such as Crohn’s and/or ulcerative colitis), and “dyskinetic and spastic movement disorders and other diseases causing severe and persistent muscle spasms” (such as Parkinson’s disease and/or Huntington’s disease). It is the second time that Maine legislators have acted to expand the pool of patients who may have access to medicinal cannabis.

    Under state law, qualified patients in Maine may either cultivate their own cannabis or obtain it from one of eight state-licensed dispensaries.

    Four states — Connecticut, Delaware, New Mexico, and Oregon — specifically allow for the use of cannabis to treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Clinical trial data published in the May issue of the journal Molecular Psychiatry theorized that cannabinoid-based therapies would likely comprise the “next generation of evidence-based treatments for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).”

    Survey data published in 2011 in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology reports the use of cannabis therapy is common among patients with inflammatory bowel disorders. Most recently, researchers at the Meir Medical Center, Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology in Israel reported that inhaling cannabis reduces symptoms of Crohn’s disease compared to placebo in patients non-responsive to traditional therapies. Investigators concluded, “Our data show that 8-weeks treatment with THC-rich cannabis, but not placebo, was associated with a significant decrease of 100 points in CDAI (Crohn’s Disease and activity index) scores.” (The CDIA is a research tool used to quantify the symptoms of Crohn’s disease patients.) Five of the eleven patients in the study group also reported achieving disease remission (defined as a reduction in patient CDAI score by more than 150 points).

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 20, 2013

    NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofren) are among the most widely used analgesic substances in the world. However, the consumption of these products is associated with various adverse and life-threatening side-effects such as heart-attack, stroke, and internal bleeding. In fact, according to a 2001 analysis, in the United States alone, “gastrointestinal complications induced by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) cause more than 100,000 hospitalizations and an estimated 16,500 deaths annually.”

    Could these adverse gastrointestinal effects be offset by cannabis? A just published study in the European Journal of Pharmacology indicates that the most likely answer is ‘yes.’

    Researchers at West Virginia University assessed the impact of THC administration in an animal model of NSAID-induced gastric inflammation. Investigators reported that low doses of THC provided gastroprotective effects, significantly attenuating gastric hemorrhages and lesions.

    They concluded: “The results of the present study suggest that delta-9-THC … may also possess gastroprotective effects in NSAID using patients. … As current antacid regimens may be associated with undesirable effects, such as reduced bone density, increased risk of bacterial infection, and vitamin deficiencies, other approaches to prevent NSAID-induced gastric ulcers are needed. In addition to their gastroprotective effects, cannabinoids produce other beneficial effects, including pain reduction. … Thus, cannabinoids may have the added benefit of reducing the effective analgesic dose of NSAIDs, as well as reducing the incidence of NSAID-induced gastric ulcers.”

    Full text of the study, “Acute delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol blocks gastric hemorrhages induced by the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac sodium in mice,” appears online in the European Journal of Pharmacology.

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