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Research

  • by NORML August 20, 2019

    The self-reported use of marijuana by teenagers continues to decline nationally, according to federal data reported by the United States Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

    The agency’s 2018 report finds that past-year marijuana use by those ages 12 to 17 has fallen consistently since 2002, from 15.8 percent to 12.5 percent. Since 2012, when Colorado and Washington became the first states to regulate adult use access, past-year youth use has fallen eight percent.

    By contrast, self-reported cannabis use by older Americans has risen during this same time period.

    The federal data also reports a consistent year-over-year decline in the prevalence of so-called “marijuana use disorder” among teens – a finding that is consistent with other studies.

    Commenting on the data, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said, “Regulation and education is a more effective and a more preferable tool to discourage youth use and access than is criminalization.” He added: “A pragmatic regulatory framework that allows for the legal, licensed commercial production and retail sale of marijuana to adults but restricts its use among young people – coupled with a legal environment that fosters open, honest dialogue between parents and children about cannabis’ potential harms – best reduces the risks associated with the plant’s use or abuse. By contrast, advocating for the marijuana’s continued criminalization only compounds them.”

    Separate evaluations of marijuana use patterns specifically in cannabis legalization states show little if any change in cannabis use or access by teenagers. Data published online in JAMA Pediatrics in July reported that states with “recreational marijuana laws were associated with an eight percent decrease in the odds of marijuana use and a nine percent decrease in the odds of frequent marijuana use” among teens.

    For more information, see the NORML fact-sheet, “Marijuana Regulation and Teen Use Rates.”

  • by NORML July 30, 2019

    The use of cannabis during adolescence is not associated with structural brain differences in adulthood, according to longitudinal data published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

    Investigators from Arizona State University and the University of Pittsburgh assessed the impact of adolescent cannabis exposure on brain morphology in adulthood. Researchers tracked differing adolescent use patterns – from no cannabis use (defined as four days of use or less) to heavy use (defined as, on average, 782 days of use) – in a cohort of 1,000 teenage boys. A subset of participants subsequently underwent structural brain imaging in adulthood (between the ages of 30 to 36). Scientists examined 14 brain regions of interest, including the amygdala and the hippocampus.

    Authors reported, “We found that adolescent cannabis use was not associated with adult brain structure in a sample of boys followed prospectively to adulthood.”

    They added: “Boys were classified into one of four prototypical adolescent cannabis trajectory subgroups based on prospective assessments of cannabis use frequency from age 13–19: infrequent use/no use, desisting use, escalating use, or chronic-relatively frequent use. … We found no differences in adult brain structure for boys in the different adolescent cannabis trajectory subgroups. Even boys with the highest level of cannabis exposure in adolescence showed subcortical brain volumes and cortical brain volumes and thickness in adulthood that were similar to boys with almost no exposure to cannabis throughout adolescence.”

    They concluded, “[T]he patterns of cannabis use typically seen in community-dwelling adolescents does not appear to have lasting effects on brain structure.”

    The findings are consistent with those of several prior brain imaging studies, such as those here, here, here, and here. A recent meta-analysis published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry similarly reported that youth cannabis exposure does not appear to be associated with any sustained cognitive deficits in adulthood.

    Commenting on the new study, NORML Advisory Board Member Mitch Earleywine – Professor of Psychology at the State University of New York at Albany – said: “These data replicate previous work to reveal that even some of the most frequent users of cannabis do not show changes later in brain structure. The measures are very sensitive and the researchers looked throughout the brain very thoroughly. Let’s hope that these findings mitigate some of the alarmist cries that have too often persisted and dominated this narrative.”

    The abstract of the study, “Associations between adolescent cannabis use frequency and adult brain structure: A prospective study of boys followed to adulthood,” appears online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 26, 2019

    Marijuana FieldFederal officials have approved plans for the University of Mississippi to grow 2,000 kilograms (4,409 pounds) of cannabis to provide to investigators for clinical trial research. Since 1968, the University of Mississippi farm, which is governed by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, has held the only available federal license to legally cultivate cannabis for FDA-approved research in the United States.

    According to reporting by the Associated Press, marijuana crops will include plants of varying THC and CBD potencies, including strains high in cannabidiol. As per the program’s current marijuana menu, no available samples contain more than seven percent THC and all samples contain less than one percent CBD.

    Clinicians wishing to conduct FDA-approved clinical trials on cannabis have long complained that federally-provided samples are of inferior quality. A research analysis published earlier this year reported that strains currently available from NIDA shared genetics typically associated with industrial hemp, not commercially available cannabis.

    The crop will be the largest grown by the University of Mississippi in several years.

  • by NORML July 8, 2019

    The enactment of laws regulating the use of cannabis by adults is associated with short-term declines in self-reported marijuana use by young people, according to findings published today in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

    “Ensuring the safety of our kids is always a top priority,” said NORML State Policies Coordinator Carly Wolf. “And the best way to do that is to regulate cannabis, bring products behind a counter, and phase out the illicit market.”

    A team of researchers from Montana State University, the University of Oregon, the University of Colorado, and San Diego State University assessed teen marijuana use rates, as reported by the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, in states that had legalized either the medical or the recreational use of cannabis.

    After adjusting for individual- and state-level covariates, authors reported that states with “recreational marijuana laws were associated with an eight percent decrease in the odds of marijuana use and a nine percent decrease in the odds of frequent marijuana use.” By contrast, states with medical cannabis laws only were not associated with any statistical changes in youth use.

    They concluded: “Consistent with the results of previous researchers, there was no evidence that the legalization of medical marijuana encourages marijuana use among youth. Moreover, the estimates reported … showed that marijuana use among youth may actually decline after legalization for recreational purposes. This latter result is consistent … with the argument that it is more difficult for teenagers to obtain marijuana as drug dealers are replaced by licensed dispensaries that require proof of age.”

    An abstract of the study, “Association of marijuana laws with teen marijuana use,” appears online here. Additional information is available from the NORML fact-sheet, “Marijuana Regulation and Teen Use Rates,” here.

  • by NORML May 21, 2019

    The administration of oral CBD reduces cue-induced cravings and anxiety in subjects with a history of heroin use, according to clinical data published in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

    Investigators at The Mount Sinai Health System in New York City assessed the effect of CBD versus placebo in 42 drug-abstinent participants with a history of heroin use. In contrast to placebo, CBD dosing of either 400mg or 800mg “significantly reduced both the craving and anxiety induced by drug cues … in the acute term. CBD also showed significant protracted effects on these measures seven days after the final short-term exposure.”

    Researchers concluded, “CBD’s potential to reduce cue-induced craving and anxiety provides a strong basis for further investigation of this phytocannabinoid as a treatment option for opioid use disorder.”

    In observational models, patients with legal access to cannabis typically reduce or eliminate their use of opioids. In clinical models, CBD administration has been shown to reduce cravings for tobacco. CBD dosing has also been associated with reduced cravings for methamphetamine in preclinical models.

    Commenting on the study’s findings, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said, “These conclusions add to the growing body of evidence that cannabis and its constituents represent an exit away from the use or abuse of other controlled substances rather than a supposed ‘gateway.'”

    The abstract of the study, “Cannabidiol for the reduction of cue-induced craving and anxiety in drug-abstinent individuals with heroin use disorder: A double-blind randomized placebo controlled trial,” appears online here. Additional information is available in NORML’s fact-sheet, “Relationship between marijuana and opioids.”

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