[Canniseur: If true, this is really big news. A 20% drop in overdose deaths in adult use states is an amazing statistic. If more research confirms this statistic, it strengthens the case for legal cannabis nationally.]
Two new studies find that opioid-related deaths decline when states legalize access to marijuana. In fact, when adult-use cannabis laws are in place, the rate of opioid overdoses declines by at least 20 percent.
Both papers, published in the journal Economic Inquiry, not only show the impact of passing such laws, but also how dispensaries play a role in helping to quell these deaths.
The first study, helmed by researchers in Massachusetts and Colorado, claims to be the first to show the causal effects of access to recreational cannabis on opioid mortality.
“We find that marijuana legalization causes a significant decline in opioid mortality— especially deaths from synthetic opioids—with particularly pronounced benefits in states that have legalized recreational usage,” the study’s authors write. “Yet it is not legalization, per se, that produces these gains; rather, states that have legal access via dispensaries see the largest reductions in mortality.”
“We estimate that [recreational marijuana laws] reduce annual opioid mortality in the range of 20%–35%, with particularly pronounced effects for synthetic opioids.”
The study used three main sources of data: death rates involving all opiates, prescription opioids and synthetic opioids from January 1999 through the end of 2017; the history of marijuana legalization in each state (including when legislation was passed and when dispensaries opened for business) and state-level demographic information. During the study period, 29 states had approved medical cannabis, while recreational marijuana was legalized in eight states plus the District of Columbia. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of opioid-related deaths has increased six times over between 1999 and 2017. Additionally, 36 percent of the 47,600 opioid overdoes in 2017 involved prescription opioids.
After running several statistical and mathematical models that included checks to ensure their results were consistent, the study’s authors found that broader adult-use laws reduce a state’s opioid death rate between 20 percent (for all opiates and prescription opioids) to 35 percent (for synthetic opioids).
“Recreational marijuana laws affect a much larger population than medical marijuana laws, yet we know relatively little about their effects,” study co-author Nathan W. Chan, PhD said in a press release. “Focusing on the recent wave of recreational marijuana laws in the U.S., we find that opioid mortality rates drop when recreational marijuana becomes widely available via dispensaries.”
“Our estimates are sizable,” the study itself states. “For reference, the average never-legalizer state has 4.82 fatalities per 100,000 people from All Opiates (Synthetic Opioids) annually, while for the average [medical marijuana law] state, these are 6.067 and 0.856 per 100,000 people. Thus, our estimates imply annual reductions in All Opioid mortality between 1.01 and 1.27 deaths per 100,000 people for non-[recreational marijuana law] states, on average. For a state with a population of 5 million (near the nationwide median), this would save on the order of 50 lives per year, or roughly 10 averted deaths from Synthetic Opioids alone.”
Those are conservative estimates, the authors add.
Additionally, models showed that white people and women saw the highest reductions in synthetic opioid deaths in states that legalized recreational cannabis: Whites experienced a 32 percent decrease, while the statistical effect for women was larger and “highly statistically significant” compared to what they found for men.
The authors did not identify what mechanism is responsible for this reduction in mortality rates, though past research suggests people who can legally access marijuana may substitute it for opioids. A recent study, for example, found the majority of people who shopped at cannabis retail shops reported using marijuana to help with pain and sleep.
The new study’s authors do stress, however, that the causal effect they identified is “highly robust.”
“Our bedrock findings remain unmoved by variations in modeling assumptions and selections of control variables, and our findings are further corroborated through placebo tests,” they write. “Our results show that there are substantial ancillary benefits to marijuana legalization, especially [recreational marijuana laws], and they offer important food for thought as many states continue to contemplate expansions to both medical and recreational marijuana access.”
In fact, that was the focus of the second cannabis-related study published recently in Economic Inquiry. According to its findings, after a medical cannabis dispensary opened in a county, prescription opioid deaths fell locally by approximately 11 percent. These results, the author writes, suggest “a substitutability between marijuana and opioids.”
“Furthermore,” the study concludes, “the unintended beneficial effects of allowing for marijuana dispensary operations should be considered by policymakers as they aim to curtail narcotic abuse and limit the impact of the opioid epidemic.”
[Canniseur: Is this a shaman’s stash or someone’s personal supply? This kind of artifact discovery allows us to put together missing pieces of our history. Now we know, definitively, psychedelics were used in ancient times. However if you asked me even before this discovery I would have said, psychedelics have been in use since the cognitive revolution began 70,000 years ago.]
It’s well documented that humans have consumed alcohol and caffeine for thousands of years. Now, new research offers evidence that people have also been ingesting a number of even more mind-altering substances, including those involved in making the powerful hallucinogenic brew ayahuasca, for at least 1,000 years.
And we have the discovery of an ancient South American drug stash stored in a pouch made out of fox snouts to thank for that.
According to a study published Monday, a team of archaeologists discovered a “ritual bundle” in southwestern Bolivia that included, among other items, a large leather bag, a “snuffing tablet” that would have been used to grind plants, a “snuffing tube” for ingesting the substances and a pouch fashioned with the snouts of three foxes. Researchers at UC Berkeley tested a sample taken from inside the pouch to discover at least five plant-based psychoactive substances, including dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and harmine, both of which are key ingredients in ayahuasca.
Ayahuasca, a psychedelic brew typically associated with indigenous people from Amazonian cultures, produces strong and vivid hallucinations and has been used for spiritual healing facilitated by shamans. DMT—like marijuana—is considered an illegal Schedule I substance in the U.S.
The new findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, come as a handful of city and state governments in the U.S. are considering measures to decriminalize psychedelic drugs, including psilocybin. On Tuesday, for example, Denver voters could make their city the first in the U.S. to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms.
The stash found at the Bolivian site also contained evidence suggesting that psychedelic mushrooms were once part of the drug collection.
“While psilocin was not in our initial compound screenings, the presence of a peak at the retention times and transitions, corresponding to psilocin, suggests it was in the original sample,” the study says. “Psilocin is also a tryptamine…and it may be possible that its presence in the sample is derived from a psilocin containing fungus.”
Melanie Miller, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Otago in New Zealand, is the study’s lead author. She traveled to Bolivia during her doctoral studies at UC Berkeley to join other archaeologists as they underwent an excavation project in the Sora River valley, located in Bolivia’s Lípez highlands. There, the team discovered the artifacts inside a cave thought to once have been a burial site.
“Our findings support the idea that people have been using these powerful plants for at least 1,000 years, combining them to go on a psychedelic journey, and that ayahuasca use may have roots in antiquity,” Miller said in a statement.
“This is the first evidence of ancient South Americans potentially combining different medicinal plants to produce a powerful substance like ayahuasca,” she added, also describing the fox snout pouch as “the most amazing artifact I’ve had the privilege to work with.”
In addition to DMT and harmine, researchers also found trace amounts of bufotenine, cocaine and benzoylecgonine. Using these substances in any number of combinations would produce mind-altering, hallucinogenic effects. The discovery boasts the largest number of psychoactive substances found in one place in South America.
“Our results indicate that this is the largest number of psychoactive compounds found in association with a single archaeological artifact from South America.”
“While evidence of direct consumption of any of these plants is absent (no human remains were associated with this archaeological context),” the authors write in their study, “the substantial evidence of the presence of hallucinogenic plants is compelling.”
“Few studies have recovered direct evidence of psychoactives in South American archaeological contexts, and this case systematically demonstrates evidence for multiple psychoactive plants found together in a single artifact,” the paper says. “Importantly, as others have noted, these plants come from distant and diverse ecological zones. Because these plants are foreign to the Lípez highlands, it remains to be established whether they were acquired through trading networks or directly by the shamans themselves.”
[Canniseur: Fascinating that as a society we’re beginning to find there might be a real use for psychedelic compounds. This particular one has been considered a ‘venom’ of toads. There are many ‘toxins’ and chemical compounds that need study. As a society, we’ve had a somewhat puritanical outlook on what these compounds can do to enhance the human condition. We need to change the concept that these ‘toxins’ are for getting high and consider the real effect and potential benefit these ‘drugs’ might provide.]
A single smoked hit of the dried psychedelic secretion of a certain North American toad can potentially improve a person’s mental health, according to new research.
The study, published this month, found that people reported feeling more satisfied with life right after intake, and that increase in satisfaction persisted even four weeks later. They also reported feeling more mindful over time.
“Ratings of depression, anxiety, and stress decreased after the session, and reached significance at 4 weeks,” the researchers wrote.
The substance in question is called 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT), which was initially discovered in the bark of a plant. Researchers later realized the Bufo alvarius toad, more commonly known as the Colorado river toad, secretes a poisonous, milky-white substance in its skin and glands that also contains the 5-MeO-DMT compound.
People who smoke 5-MeO-DMT report having mystical-type experiences, characterized by awe, amazement, intense self-awareness and timelessness, among other effects. Past research has also shown that the compound is associated with a reduction in symptoms of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress, and has effectively helped consumers deal with alcoholism and drug abuse.
As first reported by IFL Science, the current study, led by Malin Uthaug of Maastricht University, aimed to better understand just how effective 5-MeO-DMT could be as a treatment for certain mental health conditions. The authors recruited a total of 75 people from Czech Republic, Spain and The Netherlands to participate in their observational research. Forty-two percent of participants said they were interested in the practice because they wanted to better understand themselves, while problem-solving and spiritual healing were cited as other motivations.
The study’s authors assessed participants using several psychiatric tests at three different points: prior to the session during which they inhaled the vapor containing 5-MeO-DMT, 24 hours after use and four weeks post-inhalation. During the sessions, facilitators reported participants inhaled a range of 20 milligrams up to 120 milligrams of the dried toad secretion.
According to the study’s findings, which were published in the journal Psychopharmacology, a single dose of the dried toad secretion containing 5-MeO-DMT produced both short and long-term improvements in self-reported ratings of satisfaction with life, depression, anxiety and stress. Not only did life satisfaction increase 7 percent one day after the smoke session, the average rate of depression among participants dropped 18 percent below baseline levels, anxiety by 39 percent and stress by 27 percent.
Four weeks later, the authors found that life satisfaction had increased to 11 percent above baseline, while depression ratings had dropped 68 percent. Anxiety and stress were also down 56 percent and 48 percent, respectively.
Some participants who had especially intense 5-MeO-DMT sessions reported even greater effects on their moods.
Those who “experienced high levels of ego dissolution or oceanic boundlessness during the session displayed higher ratings of satisfaction with life and lower ratings of depression and stress,” the study found.
Understanding how or why dried toad secretion may help improve symptoms of depression and anxiety was outside the scope of this study. The authors, however, offer a few theories, including the notion that psychedelic compounds such as 5-MeO-DMT may bind to certain receptors in the brain, thus reducing inflammation and improving symptoms associated with some neuropsychiatric diseases, such as depression.
It’s important to point out, however, that one of the study’s limitations was inconsistent participation. Of the 75 participants, 42 completed the test assessments both before inhalation of the dried toad secretion vapor and within 24 hours, while only 24 completed the test battery at the final assessment.
Despite the lack of a proper control group, the results are promising, the authors said. “This study suggests that a single administration of vapor from toad secretion containing 5-MeO-DMT produces rapid and persistent improvements in satisfaction with life, mindfulness and psychopathological symptoms, and that these changes are associated to the strength of the psychedelic experience,” they concluded, adding a call for more research.
The results also support a separate recent study that found a synthetic version of 5-MeO-DMT also appeared to offer therapeutic benefits to those who inhale it. In a survey of 362 adults who said they’d had a mystical experience with 5-MeO-DMT in a group setting, approximately 80 percent reported their anxiety or depression had improved afterward.
Alan Davis, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, was one of the authors on that study, which was published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse in March. “Research has shown that psychedelics given alongside psychotherapy help people with depression and anxiety,” Davis said in a statement. “However, psychedelic sessions usually require 7-8 hours per session because psychedelics typically have a long duration of action. Because 5-MeO-DMT is short-acting and lasts approximately 30-90 minutes, it could be much easier to use as an adjunct to therapy because current therapies usually involve a 60-90 minute session.”
[Canniseur: Although this study is of heteros, it shows that couples that smoke together are a bit more intimate. Good to know, cannabis increases intimacy.]
Researchers have linked heavy alcohol use with higher rates of domestic violence and divorce. But what do we know about marijuana use in relationships? Until recently, not that much.
As legalization—and thus, normalization—makes its way across the U.S., social scientists have begun digging a little deeper into the immediate effects of personal cannabis use. According to a new study published in the journal Cannabis, in certain circumstances marijuana use can lead to positive experiences for couples.
To better understand whether marijuana—either used with a partner or independently—leads to increased intimacy in the short term, the study’s authors asked 183 married or cohabiting couples who consumed regularly to track their use for 30 days. Participants filed a report via their smartphones every time they started using cannabis and again when they finished.
“Simultaneous marijuana use (male and female partners reported use at the same hour) increased the likelihood of an intimate experience for both men and women.”
Additionally, participants also filed a report each morning indicating whether they had “an interaction or meaningful conversation with [their] partner that involved intimacy, love, caring, or support” the day before, and if so, the time. This allowed researchers to determine if there was a correlation between when participants used marijuana and when they experienced intimacy. (To be clear, although the term “intimacy” is often equated with sex, the study’s authors did not specifically define it as such.)
In their analysis, the study’s authors determined that shared cannabis experiences increased the likelihood of intimacy within two hours of use. Additionally, they found that these positive experiences were also more likely to occur if only one person toked up as compared to neither partner reporting use.
To get a better understanding of the difference between the impact of simultaneous use and independent use, the researchers conducted a second analysis using data on whether or not a partner was present at the time a person used marijuana.
“Results of this analysis…show positive Actor and Partner effects associated with using marijuana in the presence of the partner for both men and women,” they wrote. “For example, Laura is more likely to report an intimacy event within 2 hours of using marijuana in Mike’s presence (an Actor effect) than when she doesn’t use marijuana. Laura is also more likely to report an intimacy event within 2 hours of Mike reporting marijuana use in Laura’s presence (a Partner effect).”
“However, marijuana use when the partner was not present neither increased nor decreased the likelihood of experiencing intimacy relative to no marijuana use,” the study found.
Past research has suggested drug use may be a significant source of stress for a couple, especially if only one person consumes. The current study, however, found no such evidence—though the authors admit that the couples in their study may not be bothered by their partner’s solo marijuana use because of how regularly they themselves consume.
It’s possible, of course, that people in relationships with problematic users may not experience these same positive effects. As the study’s authors point out, their research using daily reporting sheds some light on the short-term effects of marijuana use, but more studies are needed.
For now, what we do know is that marijuana use appears to improve sex—at least for women. A separate recent study found that cannabis positively affects women’s sexual experiences in a number of ways, including an increase in satisfying orgasms.
[Canniseur: We’re surprised. All these years and all the pundits telling us how to store our stash and we listened. Turns out they were all wrong. This is real research. Find out how scientists figured out the best way to store your favorite flower.]
You may want to rethink how you’re storing your marijuana stash long-term.
Many enthusiasts will tell you the best place to keep cannabis is in an air-tight container stowed somewhere cool and dark. But according to the results of a new four-year study, the freezer may actually be a better place—especially if you’re concerned about maintaining that all-important THC content.
Researchers in Italy were interested in understanding how time and various storage conditions (involving light, oxygen and temperature) affected the chemical composition of high-potency cannabis products. Past studies have also investigated this topic, but the authors of new research published in Forensic Science International last week noted that the potency of cannabis in today’s market is “extremely different” from years past.
Using six cannabis products of herbal and resin materials (which were seized by law enforcement and given to researchers to analyze), the study’s authors created 24 primary samples.
After collecting information about how much THC, CBD and CBN (that is, cannabinol, another non-intoxicating component in cannabis that occurs when THC degrades over time) each sample contained, the researchers stored the samples in four controlled conditions for a period of four years.
The testing conditions differed by light exposure (whether it was light or dark 24 hours) and storage temperature (including at room temperature, refrigerated at 4 degrees Celsius or frozen at -20 degrees Celsius). Over the span of the study period, the samples were tested 14 times.
In a finding that will likely be unsurprising to anyone who has stumbled upon an old stash of cannabis stored in a sock drawer, the study determined that the amount of THC decreased—thus increasing the amount of CBN—in the samples stored at room temperature. In the first 100 days of data gathering, the THC in the marijuana stored in both light and dark spaces at room temperature had degraded by 13 percent and 11 percent, respectively.
Meanwhile, the refrigerated cannabis did show some decline in THC and increase in CBN over time, though not nearly as pronounced as the samples kept at room temperature.
The THC content in the samples stored in below-freezing conditions, however, did not significantly change.
This finding indicates, as the authors write, “that freezing is the best storage condition to avoid the reduction of the cannabinoids content over time.”
As for CBD, the study found that the compound remained “relatively constant over time in all the considered samples.”
The authors point out that their findings could be important for forensic purposes. With their methods, they write, law enforcement may be able to figure out what the THC concentration might initially have been in degraded marijuana.
On a more basic level, the research could also help consumers better plan how to store their cannabis.
That said, with marijuana not exactly that hard to find—it’s not as if prohibition is very effective, and more states are legalizing cannabis stores in any case—most people probably won’t be seeking to intentionally store their supply for multi-year periods.
Unless, that is, you’re a prepper planning for hard times. In that case, just know that, according to this research, stuffing your stash in the freezer is best.