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SCIENCE

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director June 2, 2013

    Last week, the Oregon House of Representatives voted 36 to 23 in favor of Senate Bill 281, which adds Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition to the state’s medical marijuana program.

    Speaking in favor of the bill, Rep. John Lively (D-Springfield) stated, “Each person who suffers has different levels of how they’re impacted and what it takes to recover. This is about providing a legal avenue for people suffering from PTSD.”

    SB 281 was previously approved by the State Senate in April and now awaits Governor Kitzhaber’s signature.

    You can read local media coverage here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 24, 2013

    The consumption of legal hemp seed nutritional oil, in conjunction with the intake of evening primrose oils and a restricted diet high in Hot-natured foods (such as pepper) and low in saturated fats and sugars, is associated with “significant improvement” in symptom management and immunological characteristics in subjects with multiple sclerosis, according to clinical trial data published this month in the scientific journal BioImpacts.

    Researchers at Tabriz University of Medical Sciences in Iran assessed the impact of hemp seed oil, evening primrose oils, and a restricted diet for a period of six months in 23 patients diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS. Researchers reported that participants at the study’s completion “were healthier in comparison to baseline,” concluding that “clinical and immunological parameters showed improvement in the patients after the intervention.” They noted that hemp seed oil possesses potent antioxidative properties and also likely acts on specific signaling pathways that regulate inflammatory responses — two characteristics that would presumably make it beneficial in the treatment of MS.

    Authors concluded: “After 6 months, significant improvements in extended disability status score were found. … [O]ur study demonstrates for the first time in the literature a decrease in both clinical and pro- inflammatory disease activity in MS patients during periods of dietary intervention. Our data demonstrated that co-supplemented hemp seed and evening primrose oils with Hot-natured diet intervention may decrease the risk of developing MS.”

    Previously published clinical trials assessing the impact of inhaled cannabis and extracted organic cannabinoids in patients with MS have demonstrated that plant cannabinoids can alleviate disease symptoms — such as involuntary spasticity, neuropathy, and bladder dysfunction — and, in some subjects, may actually moderate disease progression. Nonetheless, the National MS Society shares little enthusiasm for cannabis or cannabis-derived products as a therapeutic option for MS patients, stating on its website: “[B]ased on the studies to date — and the fact that long-term use of marijuana may be associated with significant, serious side effects — it is the opinion of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Medical Advisory Board that there are currently insufficient data to recommend marijuana or its derivatives as a treatment for MS symptoms.”

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 21, 2013

    Brain imaging research published this month in the journal Molecular Psychiatry provides physiological evidence as to why cannabis may mitigate certain symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

    Post-traumatic stress syndrome is an anxiety disorder that is estimated to impact some eight million Americans annually. Yet, to date, there are no pharmaceutical treatments specifically designed or approved to target symptoms of PTSD.

    Investigators at the New York University School of Medicine and the New York University Langone Medical Center, Steven and Alexandra Cohen Veterans Center for the Study of Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury reported that subjects diagnosed with PTSD typically possess elevated quantities of endogenous cannabinoid receptors in regions of the brain associated with fear and anxiety. Investigators also determined that many of these subjects experience a decrease in their natural production of anandamide, an endogenous cannabinoid neurotransmitter, resulting in an imbalanced endocannibinoid regulatory system.

    Researchers speculated that an increase in the body’s production of cannabinoids would likely restore subjects’ natural brain chemistry and psychological balance. They affirmed, “[Our] findings substantiate, at least in part, emerging evidence that … plant-derived cannabinoids such as marijuana may possess some benefits in individuals with PTSD by helping relieve haunting nightmares and other symptoms of PTSD.”

    They concluded: “The data reported herein are the first of which we are aware of to demonstrate the critical role of CB1 (cannabinoid) receptors and endocannabinoids in the etiology of PTSD in humans. As such, they provide a foundation upon which to develop and validate informative biomarkers of PTSD vulnerability, as well as to guide the rational development of the next generation of evidence-based treatments for PTSD.”

    Anecdotal evidence and case study reports have increasingly indicated that cannabis may mitigate traumatic memories and anxiety. However, clinical trial data remains unavailable, in large part because US federal officials have blocked investigators’ efforts to study cannabis in PTSD subjects. In 2011 federal administrators halted efforts by investigators at the University of Arizona to complete an FDA-approved, placebo-controlled clinical trial to evaluate the use of cannabis in 50 veterans with treatment-resistant PTSD.

    PTSD is also seldom identified as a qualifying condition in states that allow for the physician authorized use of cannabis therapy. (To date, only New Mexico explicitly cites PTSD as a qualifying condition for cannabis treatment, although a handful of other states, like California, allow doctors the discretion to legally recommend marijuana for post-trauma subjects.) In Oregon, lawmakers in the House are considering Senate-approved legislation, SB 281, that would allow PTSD patients to legally consume cannabis under the state’s nearly 15-year-old medical marijuana program.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director May 17, 2013

    This afternoon, the Illinois State Senate voted 35 to 21 in favor of House Bill 1, which would establish a medical marijuana pilot program in the state. The measure had previously been approved by the House of Representatives and moves to the Governor Pat Quinn’s desk for his signature. While Governor Quinn hasn’t taken a firm stance on HB 1, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon has been open in regards to her support for this legislation.

    You can read the full text of the measure here.

    NORML will keep you updated as this story develops.

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

    Schools that institute student drug testing programs are likely to experience a rise in students’ consumption of ‘hard’ drugs, according to observational trial data published this week in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

    Researchers at the University of Michigan, Institute for Social Research analyzed the impact of student drug testing programs in some 250,000 high-school and middle-school students over a 14 year period. Investigators reported that random drug testing programs of the student body and programs specifically targeting student athletes were associated with “moderately lower marijuana use,” but cautioned that drug testing programs overall were “associated with increased use of illicit drugs other than marijuana.”

    An estimated 14 percent of middle school students and 28 per cent of US high school students are now subject to some form of drug testing.

    Urinalysis, the most common form of student drug testing, screens for the presence of inert drug metabolites (breakdown products), not the actual parent drug. Because marijuana’s primary metabolite, carboxy-THC, is fat soluble, it may be present in urine for days, weeks, or in some cases even months after past use. By contrast, most other illicit drug metabolites are water soluble and will exit the body within a matter of hours. Authors of the study speculated that students subjected to drug screens were switching from cannabis to other illicit drugs which possessed shorter detection times.

    “Random SDT (student drug testing) among the general high school student population, as well as middle and high school subgroups targeted for testing, was associated with moderately lower marijuana use; however, most forms of testing were associated with moderately higher use of other illicit drugs, particularly in high school,” the authors concluded. “These findings raise the question of whether SDT is worth this apparent tradeoff.”

    Commenting on the findings, the study’s lead author affirmed, “It is clear that drug testing is not providing the solution for substance-use prevention that its advocates claim.”

    Previous assessments of student drug testing programs have reported that those subjected to such programs are no less likely to report consuming illicit drugs, tobacco, or alcohol than their peers.

    The abstract of the study, “Middle and High School Drug Testing and Student Illicit Drug Use: A National Study 1998–2011,” is available online here.

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