[Editor’s Note: Another study showing cannabis is not a gateway drug. Cannabis can reduce the reliance on opioids. Why do some people persist in their belief?]
Legal access to medical marijuana is associated with lower rates of moderate and high-risk opioid use, according to a recent study—the latest in a string of research to come to the same conclusion.
Researchers analyzed prescription data on nearly 5 million people from 2006 to 2014, and they found that patients living in states that have legalized medical cannabis were less likely to take prescription painkillers, even after adjusting for various individual and state-level factors such as whether a state had a prescription monitoring system in place.
“Medical marijuana legalization was found to be associated with a lower odds of any opioid use,” the study found.
The results were published on Friday in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
In general, patients were less likely to take opioids if they lived in a state with medical cannabis (19.3 percent) than those in non-legal state (19.9 percent). Chronic opioid use was also lower in legal states (1.8 percent) than non-legal states (1.9 percent).
“In states where marijuana is available through medical
channels, a modestly lower rate of opioid and
high-risk opioid prescribing was observed.”
The study considered different subgroups as well, looking at patients who didn’t have cancer and also pain patients who didn’t have cancer. The study revealed a similar trend: lower rates of opioid use in states with medical marijuana.
For that latter group, opioid use was generally lower in legal states (33.5 percent) compared to non-legal states (34.7 percent). This group was also less likely to use opioids long-term in legal states (4.5 percent) than non-legal states (4.8 percent), which is important because chronic use is more likely to result in patients building a tolerance to opioids that leads to misuse.
High-risk opioid use—defined as taking opioids and benzodiazepines at least once on the same day, taking painkillers that contain 120 morphine milligram equivalents or being diagnosed with a substance use disorder within the same year of being prescribed opioids—was also lower in legal states (5.1 percent) than non-legal states (5.6 percent).
“This study indicates that legalizing medical marijuana is associated with lower use of opioids and opioids used chronically across states, broadly, and in subgroups of cancer patients and cancer-free groups with chronic pain,” the researchers wrote.
There are multiple recent studies supporting this conclusion. For example, a research released in November demonstrated that it’s not just a question of whether a state enacted a medical cannabis system; lower opioid overdoses occurred specifically in counties where dispensaries were allowed to operate.
Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.
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Legal Medical Marijuana Associated With Lower Opioid Use Rates, Another Study Finds was posted on Marijuana Moment.
[Editor’s Note: If world history, cannabis, religion, and medicine are your interests this article is for you.]
People from a diverse range of cultures have been using marijuana for thousands of years—in different forms and for different purposes. And a recent study published in the Journal of Cellular Physiology offers a comprehensive look at humanity’s fascinating relationship with cannabis over long periods of time.
Via the Journal of Cellular Physiology.
The study covers a lot of ground and is worth a read, but here are some of the stand-out facts that the team of Italian researchers identified in their paper:
—Cannabis seeds macrofossils were found attached to pieces of broken ceramic in central Japan dating back about 10,000 years.
—Shen Nung, a Chinese emperor around 2,700 BCE who is also considered the father of Chinese medicine, reportedly regarded marijuana as a “first-class herb” that was not dangerous.
—According to Verdic texts from around 800 BCE, cannabis was used in religious rituals but also for its “analgesic, anesthetic, antiparasitic, antispastic, and diuretic properties” and “as an expectorating agent, as an aphrodisiac, to treat convulsions, to stimulate hunger, and to relieve from fatigue.”
—Marijuana was considered a “holy plant” in Tibet and was used in Tantric Buddhism to “facilitate meditations.”
—Archeologists have discovered remnants of cannabis in the graves of Scythians, an ancient group of nomadic warriors, in Germany, Siberia and Ukraine, dating back to about 450 BCE.
—Marijuana pollen was also found in the tomb of Ramsés II, one of the most storied pharaohs of Egypt.
—Hemp seed oil was used in Arabic medicine to treat ear infections, skin diseases, flatulence, intestinal worms, neurological pain, fever and vomiting.
—Galen, one of the most famous Greek physicians in the Roman empire, warned about “an excess consumption of cakes containing hemp seeds,” which were apparently popular during banquets. People ate the cakes for “their property to induce relaxation, hilarity and euphoria, but with the collateral effect to induce thirst, sluggishness and a difficulty to digest.”
—Pope Innocent VIII issued a papal bull in 1484 that condemned cannabis, calling it an “unholy sacrament of the satanic mass.”
—In eastern Europe, cannabis was a common ingredient in popular medicine. For example, people would mix hemp flowers and olive oil and put it on wounds. The mixture was also “combined with hemp seeds oil for rheumatisms and jaundice.”
“Plurimillennial history of Cannabis medical use teaches us all we should know about its pharmacological potential and the pathologies that would mainly advantage from its application,” the researchers wrote. “All we must do now is [invest] our efforts into informative research, collecting more statistically significant data and conclusive scientific evidence about both its medical benefits and negative effects.”
Read the abstract here.
Study Documents Humanity’s Use Of Marijuana Over 10,000 Years Of History was posted on Marijuana Moment.
[Editor’s Note: Seems like the U.S. Surgeon General has ideas of his own, counter to facts. Using the term marijuana, he’s showing great bias. He should use the medical term, cannabis.]
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams posted and then deleted a tweet on Wednesday that said “no children should ever use marijuana,” making way for a new tweet that recognized the therapeutic potential of cannabis for children.
At first, the tweet made no exceptions: “No child should ever use #marijuana. It is not safe for the developing brain and it affects learning and memory.” The tweet also listed “possible short-term effects” such as “slower reaction times” and “anxiety.”
But that tweet was deleted and, about two hours later, a new version surfaced: “No child should use #marijuana/products non medically.” The rest of the original tweet was left mostly intact.
While far from an outright endorsement of medical cannabis, the revised tweet seems to acknowledge that children can benefit from marijuana products. It’s why, for example, many families have flocked to legal cannabis states to treat rare forms of epilepsy in their children, among other serious conditions where traditional pharmaceuticals have fallen short.
A number of people reacted negatively to the original post, perhaps prompting the surgeon general’s revision.
Either way, Adams isn’t an advocate for broad marijuana reform, repeatedly insisting that the whole plant does not have medical value as far as the federal government is concerned,
In another tweet on Wednesday, Adams said it was a “myth” that cannabis “is a safe & effective medicine.”
He said it was a “fact” that components of marijuana such as CBD “have therapeutic benefits.”
“However, the whole plant is not an approved medicine, & [Food and Drug Administration]-approved CBD based medicines can only be prescribed by a doctor,” he said.
That said, Adams has previously voiced criticism of cannabis current federal scheduling status.
“We need to look at the way we schedule different medications across the board, because one of the concerns that I have with marijuana is the difficulty that the folks have to do research on it, because of the scheduling system,” he said in December.
But Wednesday’s now-deleted tweet isn’t the only marijuana-related statement that Adams has walked back of late. Shortly after making the comment about the scheduling status of cannabis last month, the surgeon general told Politico that he’s “certainly not in favor of legalizing marijuana, of rescheduling it, but I do want to make sure we do research so that policy decisions are evidence-based.”
The sentiment about removing barriers to scientific studies is apparently shared by officials in other federal health agencies, who convened for a workshop on cannabis research last month and expressed frustration about how federal marijuana laws have impeded such research
U.S. Surgeon General Deletes Tweet About Medical Marijuana And Children was posted on Marijuana Moment.
[Editor’s Note: Excellent news coming out of U.S. Virgin Islands. It’s been several years in the making, but relief is now near.]
Medical cannabis was legalized in another U.S. territory on Thursday after the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands signed a long-awaited bill into law, the legislation’s sponsor told Marijuana Moment.
The Virgin Islands Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act allows qualified patients to obtain, possess and consume marijuana for therapeutic purposes. It also establishes legal dispensaries and facilities to cultivate, test and manufacture cannabis products.
“After such a prolonged beating, I don’t know how to feel, except relieved for the people who will finally have access to healthy, effective, and affordable medicinal cannabis,” Senator Terrence “Positive” Nelson, who for several legislative sessions in a row has sponsored medical marijuana bills that were ultimately defeated, said in a text message.
“I feel redeemed and excited that the effort went from ‘laughable’ to law!”
Patients suffering from a list of serious medical conditions including cancer, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease and chronic pain will be able to receive a recommendation for medical marijuana from a licensed medical practitioner. Qualifying residents can possess up to four ounces of cannabis at a time and possession for non-residents will be capped at three ounces.
Newly sworn-in Gov. Albert Bryan Jt. (D) signed the legislation about a month after it passed in the Senate.
In an interview with The St. Thomas Source last year, Bryan said he supports legalizing medical cannabis “based on the proven health benefits in the relief of pain and treatment of symptoms for many serious ailments including cancer.”
“I believe a properly regulated medicinal cannabis industry can provide relief to those seeking alternatives to conventional medicine and can also be an economic driver attracting new revenues for the Virgin Islands,” he said.
Revenue from the territory’s medical cannabis program will be used to fund drug rehabilitation, tourism projects, agriculture investments, work training and infrastructure.
While reform efforts in mainland U.S. have been receiving significant attention, advocates are also scoring wins in various U.S. territories. For example, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands fully legalized cannabis last year, before even implementing a medical cannabis system.
“I am ready to assist with the establishment of rules and regulations which will be the next step,” Nelson said. “However, each jurisdiction cannot be satisfied with our own success in getting local law changed, but must continue the charge until there are changes to federal government law.”
“This is just another small victory on the rugged road to full legalization.”
Read the full text of the Virgin Islands Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act below:
Photo element courtesy of Wikimedia.
Governor Signs Bill Legalizing Medical Marijuana In The U.S. Virgin Islands was posted on Marijuana Moment.
[Editor’s Note: Cannabis researchers take note! It’s about time the Feds put out calls for research applicants. This is a start, but the amounts requested won’t get very much real research done.]
The federal government plans to award $1.5 million in grants during the 2019 fiscal year to researchers who study how components of marijuana other than THC affect pain.
In a notice about the funding opportunity published on Thursday, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) said that it was seeking applications from researchers to conduct studies on “minor cannabinoids and terpenes.” The aim of the grants will be to learn how these components work—separately and when combined—as potential pain-relieving agents.
The research is especially important given the widespread use of addictive opioid-based painkillers for pain management, NCCIH said. While THC has known analgesic properties, very little is known about the hundreds of other constituents in cannabis, which could represent viable alternatives to popular painkillers.
“Early clinical data suggest that cannabis may enhance the potency of opioids in relieving pain; and the synergy from using these products together may result in more effective pain relief with lower doses of opioids,” the agency wrote. “Yet, it is unclear which components of cannabis may have these properties. In particular, few studies have examined whether and which cannabinoids and/or terpenes interact with the opioid pain pathways.”
NCCIH, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, said that of particular interest are studies looking at cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN), cannabichromene (CBC), nyrcene, β-caryophyllene, Limonene, α-terpineol, linalool, α-phellandrene, α-pinene, β-pinene, γ-terpinene and α-humulene.
“A growing body of literature suggests that the cannabis plant may have analgesic properties; however, research into cannabis’s potential analgesic properties has been slow,” the funding opportunity says. “One key mechanism to investigate is whether potential analgesic properties of cannabis can be separated from its psychoactive properties. To address this question, more research is needed into the basic biological activity of the plant’s diverse phytochemicals, specifically minor cannabinoids and terpenes.”
NCCIH listed 11 areas of interest for prospective applicants:
* To investigate the potential analgesic properties and adverse effects of minor cannabinoids, alone or in combination with each other or terpenes;
* To investigate the mechanisms by which minor cannabinoids and terpenes may affect pain pathways, including ascending and/or descending neural pathways, cellular and molecular signaling pathways, neuroimmune interactions, or other innovative regulatory pathways related to pain;
* To explore the impact of sex, age and ethnicity on potential analgesic properties of minor cannabinoids and terpenes;
* To explore analgesic potential of minor cannabinoids and terpenes for different pain types (e.g., acute pain, chronic pain, inflammatory pain, neuropathic pain);
* To investigate the pharmacology (pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic profiles) of minor cannabinoids and terpenes;
* To explore binding affinities of minor cannabinoids and terpenes to cannabinoid and opioid and other pain-related receptors;
* To investigate the impact of dose and/or route of administration on potential analgesic effects of minor cannabinoids and terpenes;
* To characterize if/how specific terpenes may influence potential analgesic properties of cannabinoids;
* To explore potential opioid sparing effects of minor cannabinoids and terpenes;
* To explore the interaction between the microbiome and minor cannabinoids or terpenes;
* To improve methods to quantify systemic levels of minor cannabinoids and terpenes
Applicants are encouraged to submit letters of intent about their research proposals 30 days before the March 15 application deadline. The $1.5 million will be distributed among four grant recipients.
The agency first announced its intent to launch the funding opportunity in November.
“The mechanisms and processes underlying potential contribution of minor cannabinoids and terpenes to pain relief and functional restoration in patients with different pain conditions may be very broad,” NCCIH said. “This initiative encourages interdisciplinary collaborations by experts from multiple fields—pharmacologists, chemists, physicists, physiologists, neuroscientists, psychologists, endocrinologists, immunologists, geneticists, behavioral scientists, clinicians, and others in relevant fields of inquiry.”
The research opportunity is one of several marijuana-related projects the federal government has recently promoted. For example, NCCIH has four other grants available to researchers to study “natural products” such as cannabis, the National Institute on Drug Abuse is calling for bulk marijuana cultivators to supply research-grade cannabis and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has asked the public to send them information about marijuana and Alzheimer’s disease.
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.
Feds To Spend $1.5 Million On Research Into Marijuana’s Lesser Known Components was posted on Marijuana Moment.