Brain activity in the people at risk of psychosis remains abnormal compared to the healthy ones.
A single dose of the non-intoxicating compound of cannabis — cannabidiol — can help reduce brain function abnormalities seen in people with psychosis, results of a clinical trial, led by an Indian-origin doctor, has revealed.
Psychosis is a mental disorder characterised by a disconnection from reality.
Brain activity in the people at risk of psychosis remains abnormal compared to the healthy ones.
But in people who had cannabidiol, the abnormal brain activity was less severe than for those who received a placebo, suggesting cannabidiol can help re-adjust brain activity to normal levels.
The results suggest that cannabidiol may normalise dysfunction in striatum, parahippocampal cortex, and midbrain — brain regions which are critically implicated in psychosis — and this may underlie its therapeutic effects in psychosis, the researchers explained.
“Our results have started unravelling the brain mechanisms of a new drug that works in a completely different way to traditional anti-psychotics,” said Sagnik Bhattacharyya from Britain’s King’s College, London.
For the study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, the team studied a small group of young people who had not yet been diagnosed with psychosis but who were experiencing distressing psychotic symptoms, along with healthy controls.
All participants were studied in an MRI scanner while performing a memory task which engages three regions of the brain known to be involved in psychosis.
“One of the main advantages of cannabidiol is that it is safe and seems to be very well tolerated, making it, in some ways, an ideal treatment,” Mr Bhattacharyya said.
“If successful, this trial will provide definitive proof of cannabidiol’s role as an antipsychotic treatment and pave the way for use in clinic,” he noted.
A different kind of Reefer Madness is brewing in the White House, according to an explosive report from Buzzfeed News. Memos and emails obtained from Buzzfeed detail an underground Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee aimed at reversing the positive support cannabis has received in the public and trying to portray state legalization as a negative, national threat. The committee involves members from across the 14 federal agencies in the federal government, including the Drug Enforcement Agency.
“The prevailing marijuana narrative in the U.S. is partial, one-sided, and inaccurate,” read one summary of a meeting between the White House and nine departments on July 27. “Departments should provide … the most significant data demonstrating negative trends, with a statement describing the implications of such trends,” White House officials told federal agencies in a follow-memo.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ anti-marijuana views are known, but his Reefer Madness-style rhetoric has seemed in opposition to what Donald Trump has said in public forums. Trump has instead expressed support for the STATES Act, the bipartisan legislation that would protect states’ rights to legalize the adult use and sale of marijuana, which is sponsored by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), among others.
However, reports make it appear as if the Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee is operating to collect negative information before revealing their findings to Trump. These reports also indicate a group disinterested in collecting objective findings about the impact of marijuana legalization on the nation, but rather data that will confirm their own biases.
“Staff believe that if the administration is to turn the tide on increasing marijuana use there is an urgent need to message the facts about the negative impacts of marijuana use, production, and trafficking on national health, safety, and security,” says one meeting summary.
A meeting among the 14 different federal agencies was coordinated by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. The meeting was held on July 27 and featured many of the biggest federal agencies, like the departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, State, and Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services.
Agencies were asked to submit to the White House a “two-page, bulleted fact sheets that identify marijuana threats and issues with the initiatives by Aug. 10.” In addition, departments were told to “identify marijuana threats; issues created by state marijuana initiatives; and consequences of use, production, and trafficking on national health, safety, and security.”
A spokesperson for the Education Department confirmed that they had turned their sheet in on time.
If true, the committee’s existence and their desire to intentionally change the narrative around cannabis could hold serious ramifications for the White House. Colorado Rep. Jared Polis, who will be a gubernatorial candidate later this year, said the lack of cohesion on marijuana from Trump’s White House is appalling.
“Pres. Trump is flailing on marijuana policy, sometimes saying the states should decide, while also allowing the Attorney General and other prohibition supporters in his purview to run amuck. If the White House is actually spreading misinformation about marijuana to undercut states’ rights, it’s appalling but not out of the ordinary for President Trump and his gang of prohibition supporters,” Polis said.
Cannabis should be added to the North American Free Trade Agreement just like any other form of produce, says former Mexican President Vicente Fox.
Fox, who sits on the board of Toronto-based medical marijuana producer Khiron Life Sciences Corp., said he expects Mexico’s new government to legalize recreational cannabis in 2019. The country legalized medical pot in 2017.
Fox has long advocated for legal cannabis, arguing that it will help defeat the cartel violence that has plagued Mexico for years.
“We can change criminals for businessmen, we can change underground, illegal non-taxpayers into an industry, a sector of the economy,” he said Thursday in an interview in Toronto, where he met with Khiron’s board. “I think it should be part of NAFTA and that’s what I’m pursuing.”
If that happens, Mexico could become a major exporter of legal cannabis to the U.S. and Canadian markets, Fox said.
“On vegetables, on fruits, on avocados, Mexico produces and provides up to 70 percent of the U.S. and Canadian market so we are efficient in producing, we’re efficient in farming and we’re low-cost and competitive,” he said.
Canada is currently locked in negotiations on revamping NAFTA after the U.S. and Mexico signed a preliminary deal on Monday.
Cannabis was once considered by many a dangerous gateway drug that could lead smokers to experiment with stronger drugs on the street.
But could smoking weed actually be an effective tool to kick addiction? That’s the hypothesis at High Hopes, Canada’s first full-time cannabis harm reduction program.
Based out of Vancouver’s East End, ground zero for the deadly opioid crisis, the clinic provides addicts with free or low-cost marijuana and cannabis-derived oils to help them stop using illicit drugs.
The program has been effective, organizers say. Of the 100 people registered in the program over the last year, up to 50 per cent are taking fewer street drugs, and 25 per cent are off opioids altogether. The success appears to support promising preliminary research out of the University of British Columbia that suggests daily cannabis use significantly lowers the risk of overdoses.
Co-ordinator Sarah Blyth opened the clinic last year after consulting with drug users looking for help.
“It gives them a way to have an alternative to the drugs that they’re getting on the street. It’s safe, it can reduce pain,” Blyth told CTV News.
The program started by collecting cannabis donations from patients with licences from Health Canada. It has since accepted help from what Blyth calls the “grey market” – local dispensaries that are not yet legal.
High Hopes also offers CBD oil, which does not contain marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, THC, and is touted as an aid for anxiety, pain relief and inflammation.
Last year, nearly 4,000 Canadians died of opioid overdoses. About 1,400 of those deaths, or about one in three, were in B.C. The province announced plans Wednesday to launch a class-action lawsuit that alleges 40 pharmaceutical companies falsely marketed opioids as less addictive than other painkillers.
The clinic is operating well before cannabis becomes legal nationwide on Oct. 17. But Blyth said waiting wasn’t an option.
“What we are doing is not fully legal but we see it helps and we are desperate to help people,” she said. “Watching people die isn’t OK.”
Melanie Pratt credits marijuana with helping her detox. She turned to cannabis after nearly losing her arm when a needle broke while injecting crystal meth. She underwent treatment in hospital where she swore to quit illicit drugs.
Pratt says smoking marijuana helped her eat, sleep and find peace.
“If you’re not withdrawing or feeling any pain, then you feel good. And I just think it’s a lot less harmful than other drugs,” said Pratt, who volunteers at High Hopes.
Dr. M-J Milloy, a UBC research scientist, has a soon-to-be-published study that found drug users who used cannabis once a day were significantly less likely to suffer an overdose.
The research followed 1,461 participants, including HIV-positive illicit drugs users and street-involved youth.
Researchers say the study is the first of its kind to observe the connection. But they warn that more studies are needed before making any firm conclusions.
“So this seems to indicate cannabis might be almost a sort of ad hoc harm reduction strategy by people who are trying to control or change their use of other drugs,” Milloy said.
Milloy and his research team are planning a clinical trial to further test their findings.
U.S. Military Considering Changing Rules Regarding Recruits’ Marijuana Use
With marijuana legalization becoming a reality in more and more states, many institutions and organizations have adapted to these new laws. And it appears the military may be the next one to do so.
The U.S. army recently made changes to their policies regarding potential recruits who’ve undergone mental health treatments or previously taken medications to help deal with those issues. In one recent memo, the Army re-affirmed a fairly new policy that allows the organization to accept recruits who admit to using marijuana in the past. Under the new policy, anyone who says they haven’t used cannabis for four or more years prior to their recruitment can still enter the service.
But the Army is also supposedly considering even more dramatic changes to their recruitment policies. Older recruits in legalized states may very well have used marijuana frequently in the years leading up to their decision to join the military. And if those recruits choose to be honest with the Army and admit to past marijuana use, they can end up losing their ability to join.
The Army says they’re reviewing qualifications related to marijuana, but that no decision have been made. It doesn’t help that the people in charge of granting waivers for things like marijuana use or mental health has changed from the Army Recruiting Command to the Pentagon directly. They’re still trying to figure out how to handle the new system, and it may be too early to make dramatic changes to it.
However it does seem the military is willing to adapt and accept marijuana users, which is more than can be said about just about every other part of the federal government.
In this peer-reviewed study researchers surveyed over 2,700 fibromyalgia patients, and 84% reported consuming cannabis, and found that “Pain relief was reported by 94 percent of cannabis consumers, while 93 percent reported improved sleep quality, 87 percent reported improvement in depression, and 62 percent reported improvement in anxiety”.
In addition, “nearly 85 percent of the patients either completely stopped taking any other pain medications or reduced the dosage of other meds. This reflects the advantage of cannabis over other meds in alleviating pain in addition to its favorable effects on sleep and mood.”
The full text of the study, “The consumption of cannabis by fibromyalgia patients in Israel,” appears in the recent issue of the journal Pain Research and Treatment.
Strong Edibles and Lack of Education to Blame for Spike in Cannabis Overdoses
According to reports from CBC News, Canada has been experiencing a spike in cannabis overdoses across the country, and legalization hasn’t even kicked in yet.
So what’s the cause? Ignorance of the drug is one. Simple education on the products being eaten, smoked, or ingested in general, could help to cull those emergency room visits.
Spike in Cannabis Overdoses: The Data
The data has come from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), who showed that over the past three years, the number of visits to the emergency room due to cannabis overdosing has tripled in Ontario and doubled in Alberta (from 449 to 1,500 in Ontario, and 431 to 832 in Alberta).
According to Heather Hudson at the Ontario Poison Centre at SickKids children’s hospital in Toronto, this is “just the tip of the iceberg.”
“We are certainly getting more calls about children who are being exposed unintentionally,” she said.
One of the biggest issues causing the problem is that people don’t actually know what they are taking. Labels are giving misinformation, or serving sizes are not clearly marked and so people are ingesting far more than they realize. According to Dr. Szabo:
“We’re seeing a lot of people out there who are accidentally ingesting huge amounts of cannabis. They’re not realizing that what they’re taking, it is excessive, […] Nothing’s labelled properly. The serving size is not clearly marked so they’re eating a whole brownie, not realizing they’re only supposed to eat one-eighth of that brownie.”
Depending on the severity of the case, patients can spend anywhere up to 20 hours in the ER being brought down from an unintentional high, with symptoms appearing like anxiety and progressing to paranoia and even psychosis.
Edibles are not even legal in Canada yet, and won’t be for another year after legalization in October, yet they are widely available and used, with many people uneducated on what or how to take them.
Education in the sector is a strong force to help ease this problem over the years. Companies such as Cannvas MedTech (CSE:MTEC) have developed education-based websites designed to help users understand the drug.
If the problem is already this bad, we need to look to companies taking similar measures to guide people to safe usage.
Synthetic drugs present the “most severe public health issue we have faced in decades”, according to Cambridgeshire’s and Lincolnshire’s Police and Crime Commissioners.
And PCC Marc Jones is urging the Government to reclassify drugs such as Spice to grade A so “the dealers who peddle this misery are treated with the same severity and concern” as those dealing in heroin.
In an open letter to all Home Office ministers Mr Jones has asked for the Government to create a strategy to deal specifically with synthetic drugs to provide “an effective and consistent approach” and to improve the level of support for those hooked on the drugs.
The letter, signed by all 19 other Conservative PCC’s, said these so-called “zombie drugs” had effects on the individual and the community that were “much worse” than cannabis and that police forces were being forced to take the lead in fighting the rising tide of use with little or no support from other agencies.
“The drugs are often referred to as “zombie drugs” due to the incapacitating and unpredictable psychoactive effects which manifest once taken; users are increasingly seen slumped on the streets in a state of semi consciousness, often passed out, sometimes aggressive and always highly unpredictable,” said Mr Jones in the letter.
“The wide scale abuse of these debilitating drugs within towns, cities and even villages across the UK is one of the most severe public health issue we have faced in decades and presently the response to tackle the issue is woefully inadequate.
“As public health and substance misuse services are not currently taking the lead in meeting this growing challenge it is falling to the police to respond to public concerns of community safety, adding yet further to policing demand without addressing the underlying issues.”
The letter points out the PCCs are “very supportive of Government’s wish to tackle illegal substance misuse in general” but believes the reclassifying of synthetic drugs would be an important step in that battle.
“We would urge that synthetic cannabinoid products are reclassified from class B to class A. At present, the current justifications for the classification of B are rooted in the chemical similarities which Spice shares with cannabis. However, such parallels are purely chemical as the physical and psychological effects these substances have on their users are on a much more extreme scale to those of cannabis.
“In practice they are more comparable with class A drugs such as heroin and it is therefore imperative that it and the dealers who peddle this misery are treated with the same severity and concern.
“It is also vital that the level of support to those hooked on Spice is placed firmly on the agenda, including pathways away from criminalising the vulnerable where possible and ensuring appropriate services are in place to treat their addiction.”
Mr Jones pointed out synthetic drugs are being increasingly linked to deaths, with 27 in 2016 according to the Office for National Statistics and the number of ambulance calls involving these psychoactive drugs has reached a total of 233 in four months across Lincolnshire alone.
“This emphasizes the need for public health officials to address issue and take action now, but this will not happen without Government direction,” he said