Doctors Perform Double Lung Transplant On Patient With Vaping Illness
A medical breakthrough—and a warning to the public.
Doctors at Henry Ford Health System say they just completed the first-ever double lung transplant on a patient suffering from vaping-related lung injuries. While the operation is a breakthrough, many health experts are also using it to warn the public about the potential dangers of vaping.
Recently, the U.S. and other countries have seen a spate of lung injuries—many of which have turned fatal—that experts believe are directly linked to vaping.
Yesterday, the Henry Ford Health System, located in Detroit, Michigan, published a brief press release about the operation.
“A team of Henry Ford Health System medical experts performed what we believe is the first double lung transplant in the United States for a patient whose lungs were irreparably damaged from vaping,” the release stated.
According to the hospital, the patient has asked for his identity not to be released. However, the patient did give permission for the hospital to share updates and photos. According to the press release, the patient wants this information to help “warn others.”
So far, there has not been additional information besides this initial press release. But the hospital is scheduled to hold a press conference later today. At the conference, the hospital will likely provide updates on the patient’s status.
Lung Epidemic Linked to Vaping
This is the latest piece of news related to the ongoing epidemic of vaping-related lung illness. To date, the U.S. has seen more than 2,000 lung injuries. And experts say they are directly linked to vaping. Even worse, out of those injured, at least 39 patients have died.
The sudden uptick in vape-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths has become what many consider to be a public health crisis. Fortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently said those numbers are dropping.
Cause of Epidemic Has Been Identified
Initially, experts were uncertain about the cause of these illnesses. But it appeared as if THC cartridges on the illicit market were especially dangerous.
In fact, one study from September showed that a high percentage of illegal vape cartridges contained a substance called vitamin E acetate. According to that study, 13 out of 15 illegal vapes had vitamin E.
Vitamin E acetate is reportedly used as a thickening agent in some vaping liquid. But when vaporized and inhaled, the substance can quickly become harmful, even deadly.
Since the release of that study in September, the CDC has focused even more on the dangers of vitamin E acetate. Just last Friday, the agency confirmed that the substance is likely the cause of the recent lung injuries.
“For the first time, we have detected a potential toxin of concern: vitamin E acetate,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC. “These findings provide direct evidence of vitamin E acetate at the primary site of injury within the lung.”
Now, in the wake of the recent double lung transplant, health experts are once again reminding the public of the potential dangers of vaping.
“It would be nice if it’s the last—if the epidemic of acute lung injury can be brought under control” professor of medicine Dr. David Christian told media source Global News.
Donohue, Caitlin. “$1 Billion Worth of Cannabis Seized in California Hemp Field Bust.” High Times, 4 Nov. 2019, hightimes.com/news/1-billion-worth-of-cannabis-seized-in-california-hemp-field-bust/.
MEDICAL CANNABIS AND ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE
Chances are that most of us have either dealt with a loved one who has suffered from dementia or knows someone with a loved one suffering from the condition. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia worldwide, accounting for between 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. This means that Alzheimer’s affects approximately 30 million people across the globe. Since life expectancy is increasing, this number is expected to almost quadruple to 120 million people by 2050.
Because of this expected explosion of cases, scientists and medical professionals are looking to different ways of treating and, hopefully, preventing the disease. One of those ways is cannabis.
Is cannabis a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s? As it turns out, there is evidence that it may help in some ways, but long-term testing still needs to be carried out in humans.
How Alzheimer’s Affects the Brain
The jobs of our brain cells include the sending and receiving of information, generating energy, and constructing new brain cells. They are like little factories. Just like a normal factory, if one part of the assembly line breaks down it causes problems with other parts of the factory. Scientists know that people with Alzheimer’s have a particular kind of breakdown in the cells of the brain that leads to irreversible symptoms.
The prime suspects in damaging the cells are two abnormal structures called plaques and tangles. Plaques are deposits of a protein fragment called amyloid-beta that build up in the spaces between nerve cells. Tangles are another protein called tau, which forms twisted fibers that build up inside cells.
While scientists aren’t exactly clear on just how plaques and tangles work in Alzheimer’s disease, most believe that they may block communication between and inside nerve cells. These blockages lead to cell death, which leads to the loss of memory, personality changes, and problems carrying out daily tasks.
Autopsies indicate that everyone develops plaques and tangles as they age, but those with Alzheimer’s tend to develop far more and in a predictable pattern. This pattern begins in the memory areas of the brain before spreading to other areas. This is why the first symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is memory loss.
Cannabis and Alzheimer’s
Currently, 14 medical marijuana states allow cannabis for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. While researchers currently see the potential for benefit in some cases, they also recommend caution due to the possible unforeseen risks. Alzheimer’s advocacy groups recognize the potential benefits in mood, sleep, and behavior. They also, however, note that studies indicating the benefits are limited.
Agitation, aggression, and anxiety are some primary symptoms of Alzheimer’s where cannabis use may have a positive impact. While small studies have been done on individuals with conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder using cannabis to alleviate these symptoms, they have been small. The only evidence currently available for the effect on Alzheimer’s disease is anecdotal.
This means that there is a need to do more, larger studies on the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and cannabis. These studies should focus on effectiveness, dosing methods such as vape pensor edibles, and which cannabinoids are the most effective.
While cannabis may help to improve symptoms or episodes of agitation or anxiety, there is currently no reason to suspect that cannabis would improve cognitive function in current Alzheimer’s patients. However, there might be positive indications for cannabis preventing the development of Alzheimer’s in the future.
Cannabis in Preventing Alzheimer’s
David Schubert from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California is part of a team testing the effects of THC on human neurons grown in a lab. The study showed that tetrahydrocannabinol promotes the removal of amyloid-beta protein and lowering inflammation. Amyloid-beta protein is thought to be one of the primary factors in the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
The downside to this study is that the amyloid-beta protein that forms the plaques believed to cause Alzheimer’s is that those proteins have other important brain functions. So, the complete removal of them is a no-go. However, limiting the inflammation response to the plaques may be beneficial. Thankfully, both THC and CBD (cannabidiol) are both potent antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties.
It is important to note, however, that while research indicates that cannabis may play a role in reducing these proteins and inflammation in rodent models and lab-grown cells, we are still a long way away from testing on humans.
It is important to note, however, that while research indicates that cannabis may play a role in reducing these proteins and inflammation in rodent models and lab-grown cells, we are still a long way away from testing on humans.
The takeaway here is that while cannabis shows promise as a potential preventative treatment and may help with some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, we’re still a long way from declaring it as a legitimate treatment.
Cannabis Magazine. “Medical Cannabis and Alzheimer’s Disease.” Cannabis Magazine, 23 Aug. 2019, cannabismagazine.com/medical-cannabis-and-alzheimers-disease/.
Cannabis and Mental Health: Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
To avoid the side-effects from traditional medications, some ADHD patients are using cannabis.
Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurological condition that can considerably impact one’s daily life. The disorder has the ability to affect attention spans and behavior, as well as trigger bouts of hyperactivity. As such, patients tend to struggle with school, work, relationships, and common tasks and interactions.
Several causes of ADHD have been identified. They include genetics, developmental issues in the central nervous system, and a person’s environment. Additionally, families with ADHD or other mental health concerns may be at higher risk, as are those exposed to toxins as children. Issues during pregnancy, like premature births or drinking while pregnant, can play a factor as well.
Coexisting conditions tend to occur alongside ADHD. Accompanying disorders may affect a person’s anxiety, mood or psyche, with learning disabilities also common.
ADHD contains three subtypes of the disorder, including attention deficit disorder (ADD). Other subtypes include Combined, which affects hyperactivity and inattentiveness, and Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type, which states what is affected in its name.
According to 2016 Center for Disease Control data, 9.4% of American children between the ages of two and 17 were diagnosed with ADHD. Of the 6.1 million diagnosed, 3.3 million children were diagnosed between the ages of 12 and 17.
The disorder is known to affect the sexes differently. Girls with ADHD tend to outperform boys with ADHD in school. Meanwhile, boys tend to suffer in school and act out more. Boys with the condition likely stand out more due to their frequency as well, with triple the amount of diagnoses.
In both genders, symptoms include being withdrawn, frequent talking, disorganization, and difficulty completing tasks. That said, with symptoms mirroring a person’s everyday struggles, making it difficult for a person to know what they’re dealing with. Experts suggest consulting a physician if you feel that you or your child’s day is disrupted daily. If the occurrence is not a daily burden, it is not likely ADHD.
Though more frequent in children, ADHD affects 4.4% of adults as well. This percentage may be inaccurate, according to some expert positing. They believe scores of undiagnosed adults may drive the figure higher, though unclear of the number. While possible, the Mayo Clinic points out that adult ADHD diagnoses are difficult. In addition to the previous examples, ADHD also shares similar symptoms with other anxiety or mood disorders, further clouding a diagnosis.
Like other disorders and mental conditions, some don’t see their ADHD as entirely negative. “ADHD is an absolute blessing and blatant curse depending on the day,” explains Melissa Gumely, an early-30s clothing designer and creative. She offered up examples. “There are days I’m a multitasking, hyper-focused ninja working on and completing task after task. Others, I can’t get out of my head or my bed.”
Officially diagnosed at 17, Gumley recalls her hyperactivity as a problem for teachers as early as age seven. By her senior year in high school, she reported taking AP classes with an inability to focus on a single one.
“I would finish assignments within 10 minutes and then get sent to go ‘walk it off,’” she said. She switched to a vocational program mid-year, which she said helped.
She continues to struggle with ADHD today. Her symptoms include feeling overwhelmed and overloaded. “It’s constantly fighting with your executive function because some days your brain and body are working against each other.” She continued, “It’s exhaustion but permanent insomnia.”
Treatment for ADHD
In most cases, adults and children are treated using some combination of medication, psychological therapy and treatment for any coexisting conditions. However, some patients experience less than ideal outcomes with traditional methods. Some of the reported adverse effects include difficulty sleeping, higher blood pressure, head and stomach pain, as well as weight loss.
As such, cannabis has become an option for many seeking treatment.
Sarah ElSayed is a public relations executive who was diagnosed with ADD nearly 12 years ago. She explained how cannabis has been part of what she believes is her ideal treatment. “I do believe that cannabis, in addition to probiotics and a reduced sugar diet, helps me maintain my focus without the help of stimulants.”
Medical professionals who spoke to High Times for this article agreed that ADHD treatments are not one-size-fits-all. Brooke Alpert is a licensed cannabis practitioner and founder of Daily Habit. Alpert touched on the correlation between CBD and ADHD. “The studies that focus on ADHD and CBD have shown some conflicting evidence.”
She added, “I think more research needs to look at what relief people are finding with cannabis so we can have a better picture of how to further recommend CBD and cannabis for those with ADHD.”
Alisa Martin is a writer and researcher for InsuranceProviders.com and holds a B.S. in medical technology. Martin pointed towards a study that found 25% of patients surveyed manage their ADHD with cannabis. The researcher went on to agree that additional studies are required. “More investigation is needed from the medical community, as well as an increased public openness and understanding regarding the benefits,” said Martin.
The current lack of evidence and the federal legal status in the U.S. leaves medical professionals uncomfortable to prescribe cannabis. As such, patients often self-medicate.
Those who self medicate have some lab findings to confirm their faith in cannabis treatments. They include a 2017 small clinical study that found that a 1:1 CBD/THC medicine reduced ADHD symptoms. Matt Scillitani, a Demographic Researcher for Remedy Review, also cited the study. Scillitani also pointed out that the research did not meet a statistically significant threshold.
He echoed a similar sentiment about the need for more studies. He also touched on shortcomings in the currently available date. “Additionally, of the few clinical studies that do evaluate cannabinoids and ADHD, most assess the effects of THC or THC/CBD adjunctively.” Scillitani also pointed out that studies typically use only adults and small sample sizes.
Despite the uncertainty in the eyes of science, many are convinced cannabis is their ideal treatment. For the designer Gumley, she claims that cannabis provides everything medications like Adderall, Vyvanse and Ritalin claimed but never did. “It helps bring calm to an otherwise constant anxiety-ridden body,” she explained, highlighting mental and physical relief.
She added, “Cannabis has changed my life exponentially for the better.”
Ward, Andrew. “Cannabis and Mental Health: Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).” High Times, 21 Oct. 2019, hightimes.com/health/cannabis-and-mental-health-attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/.
End-of-Life Hospital Care in California Could Soon Include Cannabis
The awkward legal-ish status of cannabis is something that affects many. And out of those, perhaps terminal patients are the most in need. When someone is painfully dying in a hospital, they are generally pumped full of drugs that often leave them barely conscious, or fully asleep.
Ryan had stage 4 pancreatic cancer that had reached the point where he needed professional care, but his only option to treat the intense pain was morphine, and even fentanyl—which is up to 100 times stronger than already-potent morphine—leaving him barely conscious, or asleep. The last days of his life were being stolen, and he wanted all the coherent time he could gather to spend with his 9-year-old son.
So Ryan asked his father, Jim Bartell, to get him off the pharmaceuticals so he could function in some capacity during his last days. Jim located a hospital that would allow cannabis, and Ryan was promptly transferred to it. On the first day that Ryan was allowed cannabis, they had to spray a tincture under his tongue because he couldn’t even swallow.
But by the next morning, he was reportedly alert, talkative, and pain-free. Ryan was able to spend his last two and a half weeks of life chatting on the phone and taking visitors—connecting, laughing, and taking the precious time to say goodbye.
But Jim Bartell’s Mission Had Just Begun
Ryan Bartell passed away on April 21, 2018, but Jim wasn’t done with this issue. He drafted a bill that would allow terminally ill patients to use medical cannabis in hospitals.
In an interview with Leafly, he shared that as President of a San Diego firm that handles things like government PR, he’d been prepared for this mission—he’d already reviewed hundreds of government bills over the years.
After three long months of research and another three weeks of drafting, he took SB305 to Senator Ben Hueso at the end of 2018. Sen. Hueso agreed to sponsor it, and Jim and his staff continued to work together near daily until SB305 was submitted in February. Much of the pushback came from the California Hospital Association, who feared that they would lose federal funding as cannabis is still federally classified as a Schedule I drug.
But they worked through the opposition, drafting the bill so if the government were to change position and enforce federal prohibition against cannabis—then that hospital would be suspended from compliance.
And on September 11th, 2019, the California State Legislature unanimously approved their Senate Bill No. 305, which was aptly, and powerfully, titled “Ryan’s Law.” It’s now on its way to California’s pro-cannabis Governor Newsom, who is expected to sign it in the coming weeks. If all goes as predicted, it will come into effect on January 1st, 2020.
This means that starting next year, terminal medical cannabis patients with a prescription will be able to use cannabis in forms other than smoking/vaporization in hospital care. Cannabis will be procured by the patients, not the hospital. Hospitals will not be allowed to interfere with its administration, but will be allowed to help if needed.
Next steps for Ryan’s Law
Jim doesn’t plan to stop there. He says that this issue is affecting people like Ryan, and the people who love them, all over the country—so he’s doing something about it. First steps are to take on the geographically (and politically) close states of Oregon and Washington. And now they’ll only have to amend the bill with state-specific health codes instead of starting from scratch. Hopefully these states align quickly, and others as well.
Medical cannabis may be legal in many places, but patients in need of this medicine still face obstacles in terms of using it when and where they need it. While the chronically ill and those still in the fighting stages of diseases aren’t yet protected, this is an encouraging step in the right direction.
While some other states have on the books that they allow cannabis in hospitals, this will be the very first law that requires allowing it. Finally.
Even with such strict laws in place, a massive library of studies supporting the power of medical cannabis have amassed over the decades. It’s beyond time that medical cannabis became more accessible.
Hartley, Meg. “End-of-Life Hospital Care in California Could Soon Include Cannabis.” Leafly, 24 Oct. 2019, http://www.leafly.com/news/politics/end-of-life-hospital-care-in-california-could-soon-include-cannabis.
Can Cannabis Help with Crohn’s Disease?
Can cannabis help with the symptoms of Crohn’s disease? This is a popular question, with a myriad of articles claiming that cannabinoid-rich oil can bring relief—or even a cure—to those diagnosed with the disease. Claims like these sound enticing and exciting, but is there truth to them? Is there research to back up cannabis as a remedy? Does anecdotal evidence support the claims?
As it turns out, the results are not as straightforward as it would seem.
What is Crohn’s disease?
Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease. This autoimmune disease affects the digestive track and in serious cases can cause life threatening complications.
For some, the disease presents mild to almost no symptoms, while for others, it can be a life-long battle. Some of the most common symptoms can include:
- Pain in the abdomen
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Digestive issues
In severe cases, Crohn’s disease can lead to losing sections of one’s colon, or even so much that a colostomy bag may be necessary.
It is clear to see why the hunt for a cure is so important for patients. Currently, there are no pharmaceutical medicines or medical treatments that offer a cure for Crohn’s disease. Immunosuppressants and steroids can be used to slow its progression, but do not entirely prevent flare ups and symptoms.
But what about cannabis? Can cannabinoids offer a better alternative to the pharmaceutical industry? Unfortunately, neither the results of research nor anecdotal evidence provide a clear answer to this question.
The Research on Cannabis and Crohn’s Disease
There are currently no cures for Crohn’s disease, and that includes cannabis. That said, the real question is this: Can cannabis put and keep the disease in remission?
A 2018 study conducted by the University of Western Ontario assessed the effectiveness of cannabis and cannabinoids in inducing and maintaining remission in patients with Crohn’s. The results, however, were inconclusive.
Dr. Dustin Sulak, a leading clinician in the field of cannabis medicine, weighed in on the topic with an optimistic outlook. He confirmed that there are no current studies which show conclusive evidence that cannabis is treating the underlying symptoms of Crohn’s, but there are several successful animal models which show a clear, positive correlation.
Dr. Jeffrey Hergenrather is a medical cannabis physician from California who continues to pursue knowledge and new research. When last touching base, Dr. Hergenrather spoke of a 500-person study on Crohn’s at the Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv that may reach as many as 1,000 participants. Time will tell the outcome of said study, but Dr. Hergenrather had a positive outlook on his observations thus far.
Both Dr. Hergenrather and Dr. Sulak’s spoke of encouraging results with their own patients.
“We’ve treated maybe 400 people with inflammatory bowel disease, [and] we’ve seen a whole range,” says Dr. Sulak. “We’ve seen people who are on biologic drugs that have been able to achieve better control when adding cannabis, and then over time get off those drugs and retain their remission. We see people who just don’t tolerate those drugs because they have a lot of side effects and they come here for alternatives, and cannabis works well. And [for some], cannabis doesn’t work.”
Dr. Hergenrather spoke of his own clinical experience, stating, “[About half of] the patients that I’m treating with cannabis seem to be able to eliminate the use of conventional medications. The use of CBD-rich strains and various blends will undoubtedly make this medicine more acceptable to a wider population of Crohn’s sufferers.”
So why doesn’t cannabis seem to work for everyone, and how can a patient know if it will work for them? Unfortunately, it seems to be a bit of trial and error.
“There’s no single approach that can specifically address the symptoms,” says Dr. Sulak. He says it’s a matter of individualized treatment for each patient, and that dosing and cannabinoids play a role. For example, he says a low does of CBD isn’t likely to help a chronic patient, whereas THCA is an important cannabinoid that should be included in treatment.
Are there risks associated with cannabis use and Crohn’s?
Unfortunately, without clear evidence or treatment options that can guarantee results, using cannabis as a treatment can leave patients feeling as though they are taking a gamble with their health.
Angela Bacca is a journalist with over 12 years of experience in cannabis media, business, research, and policy advocacy. She’s also been living with Crohn’s disease for 15 years.
“It’s a reaction to being lied to about pharmaceuticals for so long, I think,” said Bacca about the impulse to buy into the idea that cannabis oil is a cure-all. “What I have learned is that you can’t look at cannabis to ‘cure’ or ‘treat’ your disease the way a pharmaceutical drug promises to. Those drugs don’t either, but they usually suppress the problem—at greater long-term cost—so that you don’t have to do anything else to address your symptoms. [You’re] usually discouraged or kept in the dark about more natural things you can do to address symptoms.”RelatedCannabis Shows Great Promise in Treating Cancer—Let’s Not Wreck It With Hyperbole
Ultimately, Bacca experienced negative consequences from believing all she needed to treat her Crohn’s was consume cannabis oil. She says there’s a lot more to non-Western healing than simply replacing drugs.
Still, Bacca feels cannabis fits into a larger picture of health, not just for those diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, but for anyone suffering from any autoimmune disease.
“There are a lot of other ways to upregulate my endocannabinoid system without cannabis,” Bacca said. “You will also notice that the things that upregulate the endocannabinoid system are things everyone should do, especially if they have any sort of disease, illness, or discomfort—get sleep, get water, eat a whole food diet, avoid chemicals, get exercise, meditate, [and] manage stress.”
Bacca believes it’s time to move past asking questions such as, what strain can cure my Crohn’s disease? “That is a pharmaceutically minded way of looking at natural medicine,” she says. “Cannabis should be your gateway to herbalism and healthy living. You would be surprised how many people’s conditions reverse with clean whole food diets, herbs, exercise, sleep, and hydration. We need doctors to realize most [people] know little to nothing about cannabis because they know nothing about plants, diet, and the world around us.”
So how can patients talk to their doctors about adding cannabis to their treatment of Crohn’s? Dr. Sulak has some great advice for breaking the ice.
“My number one suggestion is always to use the word ‘cannabis’ and avoid its other name because doctors are more comfortable with that,” Sulak says. “I like to have patients say something to the extent of, ‘Would you be willing to learn more about the benefits of cannabis and whether that can help me?’ They can also say, ‘Do you understand how the potential risks and benefits of cannabis compared to some of the other treatments you’re suggesting?’”
So How Can Cannabis Help?
So if cannabis is not a cure, and evidence for its ability to put Crohn’s into remission is inconclusive, in what ways do we know cannabis can help patients with Crohn’s disease?
“All health should be about eliminating the conditions that cause the disease state as well as treating it,” says Bacca. “No, cannabis doesn’t cure [Crohn’s], but it makes a lot of symptoms go away.”
Cannabis can relieve symptoms of nausea and digestive issues, it can stimulate appetite to prevent weight loss, it can relieve pain, and assist in getting good sleep to help fight fatigue. When we look at cannabis in this light, we can see how it can greatly benefit people with Crohn’s—even if it can’t cure the disease.
Further research is needed to draw any conclusive evidence about the risks and benefits associated with cannabis and Crohn’s. Although the search for a Crohn’s cure continues, it’s worth acknowledging that cannabis can at least bring relief and a better quality of life to those suffering the disease.
Lland, Rae. “Can Cannabis Help with Crohn’s Disease? Doctors and Patients Weigh In.” Leafly, 24 Oct. 2019, http://www.leafly.com/news/health/cannabis-and-crohns-disease.
Researchers Study How to Treat Cannabis Addiction With More Cannabis
A pioneering study from University College London researchers has found that CBD extracts can help people quit or reduce their dependence on cannabis
The solution to cannabis dependency might simply be more cannabis. That’s according to a new study from researchers at University College London, which found that cannabidiol (CBD) can help people reduce their consumption of THC. Presenting the study at this year’s London’s New Scientist Live festival, lead author Val Curran called the findings “really remarkable.” Curran, a professor of psychopharmacology at University College London, and her team were the first to test the idea of using CBD extracts to treat cannabis use disorders. And indeed, the results are very promising: Curran’s study found that CBD extracts cut the amount of cannabis people smoked in half.
CBD Extracts Can Help Reduce Cannabis Dependency
Cannabis “addiction” can be difficult to define. With no strong chemical dependencies, cannabis use disorders aren’t as destructive or difficult to overcome as those involving more addictive substances, such as nicotine and alcohol. Still, rough estimates put about ten percent of cannabis users in the “addiction” camp. For these cannabis consumers, reducing intake or trying to quit can lead to withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, insomnia and agitation. Scientists believe increasingly potent THC products are increasing the number of people becoming addicted to cannabis or struggling with dependency issues.
But Curran thinks her research is pointing to an answer. And the answer, she says, is treating cannabis addiction with more cannabis. But Curran doesn’t mean more flower, edibles, concentrates or other THC-dominant products. Instead, she says therapeutic doses of another cannabis compound, cannabidiol (CBD), can help people quit or reduce cannabis use without withdrawal symptoms.
Curran’s study took 82 people living in the U.K. who were classified as “severely addicted” to cannabis. The participants were divided into three groups, and over the course of a four-week trial, each group was given either a daily 400 mg dose of CBD, 800 mg of CBD, or a placebo. All participants also had access to counselors and other psychological support to help them drop their cannabis habit.
According to the study, the 400 mg CBD group experienced the greatest reduction in cannabis use after six months. Researchers measured cannabis consumption by testing participants’ urine for THC. Not only did the 400 mg CBD group have half as much THC in their urine, they also doubled the days when their urine did not test positive for THC. The 800 mg CBD group saw some improvement, but less than the 400 mg group. The placebo group saw no reduction in cannabis consumption.
Cannabidiol (CBD) and the Fight Against Addiction
Curran’s University College London study resonates with other recent findings about the ability of cannabidiol to both counteract the negative side effects of THC and fight addiction. One recent study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, found that CBD prevents the brain from amplifying stressful stimuli. THC, say researchers, sparks off a chain reaction of nerve signals in the brain that can spiral into stress and anxiety. Cannabidiol counteracts the runaway-train effect, blocking the signaling pathway and preventing the unwanted mental disturbances that potent doses of THC can cause. “CBD gets rid of the toxic effects of THC,” Curran said during her “Cannabis: medicine or madness?” talk at the New Scientist Live festival.
“CBD has a variety of anti-addictive properties,” said University of Sydney professor Iain McGregor. McGregor worked on Curran’s study and is also researching the use of CBD to treat alcohol addiction. Anxiety is a major side effect of detoxifying, and McGregor says CBD is very good at reducing anxiety.
These important studies continue to highlight the wide-ranging therapeutic and health benefits of cannabidiol. But it’s important to keep in mind that most of the commercial CBD products available today, especially outside legal cannabis markets, do not have the potency of the capsules used in Curran’s study. And in most places, CBD products face little if any regulatory scrutiny.
Drury, Adam. “Researchers Study How to Treat Cannabis Addiction With More Cannabis.” High Times, 14 Oct. 2019, hightimes.com/news/researchers-study-how-to-treat-cannabis-addiction-with-more-cannabis/.
A ‘Significant’ Number Of Patients Stopped Taking Benzodiazepines After Starting Medical Marijuana
Nearly half of patients using marijuana to help with their respective medical conditions stopped taking prescribed benzodiazepines, a new study reports.
“Within a cohort of 146 patients initiated on medical cannabis therapy, 45.2% patients successfully discontinued their pre-existing benzodiazepine therapy,” the study’s authors write. “This observation merits further investigation into the risks and benefits of the therapeutic use of medical cannabis and its role relating to benzodiazepine use.”
While much research has been dedicated to understanding how medical cannabis could potentially replace opioids for patients who deal with chronic pain and other ailments, the new study suggests patients who take Valium, Xanax and other popular tranquilizers for neurological conditions (such as anxiety, insomnia and seizures) may find relief through marijuana. The findings were published last month in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.
Researchers in Canada conducted a retrospective analysis of data collected from a group of patients who had been referred to the Canabo Medical Clinic for medical cannabis to treat a variety of medical conditions. They identified 146 patients who reported taking benzodiazepines regularly at the start of their cannabis therapy.
According to their findings, 44 patients (30 percent) had discontinued their benzodiazepines by their first follow-up visit. Another 21 had stopped the benzodiazepine treatment by their second follow-up visit, and one more person reported doing so at the third visit. All in all, 66 patients, or 45 percent of the sample, stopped taking benzodiazepines after starting a medical marijuana regimen.
“Patients initiated on medical cannabis therapy showed significant benzodiazepine discontinuation rates after their first follow-up visit to their medical cannabis prescriber, and continued to show significant discontinuation rates thereafter,” the study states. “Discontinuation was not associated with any measured demographic characteristic. Patients also reported decreased daily distress due to their medical condition(s) following prescription cannabinoids.”
The amount of CBD and THC content did not appear to play a role in who continued to discontinued taking the tranquilizers.
The design of the study, however, limited the authors’ ability to speculate about the mechanisms underscoring their results. Additionally, because they didn’t have access to information on what marijuana strains patients used or how they consumed it, the authors caution that their results can’t be generalized to what’s available in legal commercial markets today.
“The study results are encouraging, and this work is concurrent with growing public interest in a rapidly developing Canadian cannabis market,” said lead author Chad Purcell in a statement. “We are advising the public to observe caution. The results do not suggest that cannabis should be used an alternative to conventional therapies. Our purpose is inspiring others to advance current cannabis understanding as we collect stronger efficacy and safety data that will lead to responsible policy and recommended practices for use.”
The study also serves as an opportunity to draw more attention to the potential risks associated with benzodiazepines, Purcell told PsyPost. “I was interested in this project because it presented an opportunity to address benzodiazepines and cannabis use, both of which are becoming increasingly socially relevant. Benzodiazepines can be effective in treating many medical conditions but unlike opioids, there seems to be little public awareness of the risks associated with these commonly used prescription medications.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdose deaths related to benzodiazepines rose 830 percent between 1999 and 2017.
Lawson, Kimberly. “A ‘Significant’ Number Of Patients Stopped Taking Benzodiazepines After Starting Medical Marijuana.” Marijuana Moment, 15 Oct. 2019, http://www.marijuanamoment.net/a-significant-number-of-patients-stopped-taking-benzodiazepines-after-starting-medical-marijuana/.
University Researchers To Study Effects of Medical Cannabis On Chronic Pain
The project will be subsidized by a $3.5 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which is a branch of the National Institutes of Health
The project will be subsidized by a $3.5 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which is a branch of the National Institutes of Health
Researchers at the University of Georgia will study the effects of legalized medical cannabis on those suffering from chronic pain thanks to a multi-million dollar grant.
The project, announced this week, will seek clarity on whether medical marijuana laws alter the health behaviors of people living with chronic pain and whether they substitute or reduce traditional pain treatments while using medical cannabis.
“We are thrilled to get started on this work,” said Grace Bagwell Adams, assistant professor in the College of Public Health at the University of Georgia. “Much of the policy change has happened quickly in a landscape that is not well understood at the patient level. This work is going to contribute to our understanding about the intersectionality of medical cannabis policy and the behavior of chronic pain patients.”
Researchers will have access to years of data on five million Medicare and five million Medicaid enrollees’ complete medical claims history, which will include all inpatient, outpatient and prescription drug use, as well as some information about socioeconomic status.
In addition, the research team will also examine comparable data on individuals with private insurance.
“For all three types of individuals—Medicare, Medicaid and HCCI/private insured—they will follow the same people over time and see how their pain management health care decisions change as they gain access to medical cannabis via changes in state laws,” the school said in its announcement.
The project could help illustrate the real world policy effects in more than 30 states across the country that have legalized medical cannabis. It is also the latest in a flowering of academic research on marijuana, as governments, institutions and companies reconsider prohibitions on pot as concerns over prescription painkillers continue to mount.
The National Football League said in May that it would participate in a study on the effects of cannabis on pain management, a response to the growing number of players who have become addicted to prescription drugs.
In April, the cannabis investor Charles R. Broderick made a $9 million donation that was split between Harvard and MIT to support research into how marijuana affects the brain and behavior.
Broderick said the gift was driven by a desire “to fill the research void that currently exists in the science of cannabis.”
David Bradford, the public policy chair at the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs, said that the research announced this week will also fill a gap.
“Researchers have been able to document reductions in aggregate prescription use, especially opioids, after states implement [medical cannabis laws],” Bradford said. “But there is almost no research on how a large representative sample of individual patients respond to medical cannabis access. Do we see lots of patients reducing opioid use, or just a few patients reducing by a lot? What happens to other kinds of health care use, like emergency room visits or physician office visits? We don’t know, and we’re excited to find out.”
Edward, Thomas. “University Researchers To Study Effects of Medical Cannabis On Chronic Pain.” High Times, 9 Oct. 2019, hightimes.com/news/university-researchers-to-study-effects-of-medical-cannabis-on-chronic-pain/.
New Clinical Trial Will Examine Effects of Cannabis Compound on Autism
A New York clinical trial will study the effects of the cannabis compound cannabidivarin, or CBDV, on patients with autism, according to a report from CNN. The study at the Montefiore Medical Center will examine the effects of CBDV on irritability and repetitive behaviors in children with autism spectrum disorder.
Dr. Eric Hollander, director of the Autism and Obsessive Compulsive Spectrum Program and Anxiety and Depression Program at Montefiore Hospital and the lead researcher on the study, told CNN that previous research has shown that CBDV may have potential as a treatment for autism spectrum disorders.
“In some of the animal models that are similar to autism, it was found that CBDV had important effects on social functioning, on decreasing seizures, on increasing cognitive function, and in reducing compulsive or repetitive behavior,” Hollander said. “So for that reason, we wanted to apply that to autism.”
The CBDV formulation being used in the study is produced in the U.K. by GW Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of the only FDA-approved cannabis medicine Epidiolex. The drug has been approved for use in the U.S. and European Union to treat two serious disorders that cause childhood epilepsy. Dr. Geoffrey Guy, the founder of GW, said that epilepsy and autism share some common symptoms.
“When you look at these—loss of cognitive function, poor socializing skills, poor language skills—what you’re looking at is a phenotype very similar to autism,” Guy told Dr. Sanjay Gupta in an interview for the CNN special “Weed 5: The CBD Craze.” “In my mind, epilepsy and autism-type presentations are on the same continuum.”
Holand believes that autism and epilepsy may have similar underlying causes and says that CBDV has shown some success treating seizure disorders, giving him hope it may also be effective for autism patients.
“There’s some abnormal electrical activity even though they don’t have seizures, for example,” Hollander told Gupta. “And we had previously shown that when we give anticonvulsants that decrease the electrical activity, or the spikes, some of the disruptive behaviors, or the irritability, actually get better.”
“And that was one of our thoughts, why this CBDV could be helpful,” Hollander added. “Because if it helps with epilepsy and it helps in terms of decreasing the spike activity, we might also get improvement in the some of the aggression, or the self-injury, or the temper tantrums.”
Some Experts Wary About Cannabis
Dr. Alexander Kolevzon, the clinical director of the Seaver Autism Center at Mount Sinai who is not involved in the study, said that while he is encouraged by the potential of cannabis-based medications, it is still too early to tell if it’s an effective medication for patients with autism spectrum disorder.
“The field of autism has a long history of enthusiasm for many treatments based on small pilot studies and anecdotal accounts,” Kolevzon said. “However, often when these treatments are tested rigorously in larger studies, the benefits are not significantly different than that of placebo.”
Montefiore Medical Center is currently recruiting volunteers to participate in the study. Participants must be children 5 to 18 years old with autism spectrum disorder.
Herrington, A.J. “New Clinical Trial Will Examine Effects of Cannabis Compound on Autism.” High Times, 30 Sept. 2019, hightimes.com/news/new-clinical-trial-will-examine-effects-of-cannabis-compound-on-autism/.