[Canniseur: If true, this is good news indeed for those who have traumatic brain injuries. If there is a correlation with CTE as well, the news becomes fantastic. In spite of the Federal ban on cannabis research, we’re beginning to see lots of new research and ideas.]
The medical uses of cannabis and its derivatives are continuing to be discovered at an astonishing rate. This is despite the fact that U.S. government clings to an absurd, baseless classification of cannabis as a Schedule I drug, which severely limits research and scientific advancement.
We recently reported on two rather surprising fields that could benefit from medical cannabis, as well as clinical data that backs its use for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
The diversity of medical uses for cannabis lies in its ability to stimulate cannabinoid receptors in the brain, which are fundamental to the proper functioning of physiological systems.
A survey of 446 patients with traumatic brain injuries was carried out by the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (La BioMed). The results, reported in The American Surgeon, found a strong association between cannabis use and survival of the trauma.
“Previous studies conducted by other researchers had found certain compounds in marijuana helped protect the brain in animals after a trauma,” said David Plurad, MD, an LA BioMed researcher and the study’s lead author. “This study was one of the first in a clinical setting to specifically associate THC use as an independent predictor of survival after traumatic brain injury.”
There is strong rationale for conducting clinical trials on trauma patients using medical cannabis. The case was bolstered by Israeli researchers, who found that the timely application of cannabinoids can prevent negative effects of PTSD.
Administering synthetic marijuana (cannabinoids) soon after a traumatic event can prevent PTSD-like (post-traumatic stress disorder) symptoms in rats, caused by the trauma and by trauma reminders.
Dr. Irit Akirav had discovered in previous studies that administering cannabinoids within a certain time window after a traumatic event reduces PTSD symptoms. The more recent study found that cannabis made the effects of trauma reminders “disappear.”
Another important finding of the study is that cannabinoid substances are better at treating PTSD than SSRI antidepressants, which bring a host of negative side-effects including violent tendencies.
Other research is showing more potential for medical cannabis to treat problems of the mind.
Cannabinoids may reduce depression that results from chronic stress, according to scientists at the University at Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions. Chronis stress reduces the production of endocannabinoids, which are naturally produced compounds similar to chemicals found in cannabis. This loss can be supplemented with cannabinoids.
“Chronic stress is one of the major causes of depression,” Haj-Dahmane says. “Using compounds derived from cannabis — marijuana — to restore normal endocannabinoid function could potentially help stabilize moods and ease depression.”
The research again makes a strong case for clinical trials in humans, particularly by using the non-psychoactive cannabis extract cannabidiol (CBD).
The wide variety of studies being carried out on the medically useful properties of cannabis is a challenge to the absurd nature of prohibition. For decades, government attempted to deny citizens of their human right to use this plant, but this is crumbling quickly in the face of scientific advancement.
[Canniseur: I’m a vet and it angers me when Congress waffles on the idea of medical research on cannabis and PTSD. I know a lot of ex-military as far back as Viet Nam who have PTSD. I’ve seen cannabis help, but there needs to be real research.]
U.S. military veterans from diverse backgrounds have been testifying before Congress in recent weeks about the need to expand Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) research into medical marijuana’s benefits.
At a series of joint House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearings, representatives of Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and other groups have discussed their legislative priorities for the 116th Congress—cannabis reform being one of them.
DAV included “Support VA research into the efficacy of cannabis for service-connected disabled veterans” as one of its asks in written testimony.
Vincent Lawrence, commander-in-chief of VFW, expanded on that position in his testimony to the committees.
He said that the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury among veterans “have been thrust into the forefront of the medical community and the general public in large part due to suicides and overmedication of veterans.” But it also demonstrates the need for the VA to study the potential benefits of medical cannabis, he said.
“For veterans who use medical cannabis and are also VA patients, they are doing this without the medical understanding or proper guidance from their coordinators of care at VA,” he wrote. “This is not to say VA providers are opting to ignore this medical treatment, but that there is currently a lack of federal research and understanding of how medical marijuana may or may not treat certain illnesses and injuries, and the way it interacts with other drugs.”
But Lawrence pointed out that preliminary research shows that “states that have legalized medical cannabis have also seen a 15-35 percent decrease in opioid overdose and abuse.”
“There is currently substantial evidence from a comprehensive study by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academic Press that concludes cannabinoids are effective for treating chronic pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, sleep disturbances related to obstructive sleep apnea, multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms, and fibromyalgia –– all of which are prevalent in the veteran population,” he wrote.
Lawrence encouraged Congress to pass legislation that would “require VA to conduct a federally funded study with veteran participants for medical cannabis,” including veterans with PTSD, chronic pain and cancer.
A number of bills have already been filed in Congress this year that would achieve that goal. The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act specifically mandates that the VA conduct clinical trials on the effects of cannabis for conditions that commonly afflict veterans such as chronic pain and PTSD.
A prior version of that legislation became the first standalone marijuana bill ever to clear a congressional committee after the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee approved it last year, although it didn’t end up receiving a floor vote.
A separate version of similar legislation was subsequently filed by Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), the ranking member on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. He said at a recent hearing that the VA is “where [cannabis] should be studied.”
Watch Roe discuss medical cannabis, about 1:33:34 into the video below:
“Let’s find out the risks, the benefits, the black box warnings and so on,” the congressman said. “I could not agree more with you there.”
Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA) spoke about the opioid crisis and the need to pursue alternative treatment options to prescription painkillers.
In response, the VFW representative talked about the VA cannabis research bill and agreed that “alternate forms of pain management are going to be key.” That said, “we certainly don’t want to put ourselves in a position where we have veterans utilizing cannabis or other means that haven’t had an opportunity to go through the study and research process.”
Watch Lamb and VFW discuss medical cannabis, about 1:16:09 into the video below:
“At the end of the day, we have to know is this going to work, is it not going to work?” he said. “How is it going to affect veterans in their health or how is it not going to affect them? I think that’s the avenue we need to pursue aggressively.”
“The use of medical cannabis has been growing in support by the veteran population for quite some time. For years, IAVA members have sounded off in support of researching medical cannabis for the wounds of war and legalizing medical cannabis,” Butler added in written testimony. “Veterans consistently and passionately have communicated that cannabis offers effective help in tackling some of the most pressing injuries we face when returning from war.”
Watch IAVA discuss medical cannabis, about 43:12 into the video below:
Another group that voiced support for the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act was the Blinded Veterans Association, which included the bipartisan bill in a list of legislation that the group backs in written testimony.
[Canniseur: In yet another flawed study with an agenda, ‘scientists’ attempted to correlate ‘high potency’ cannabis with psychosis. As the articles author rightly points out the study really doesn’t make any direct correlations between psychosis and cannabis use.]
What patterns of cannabis use are the most likely to increase someone’s chances of developing psychosis? That’s the question a team of U.K. researchers set out to answer using data from 901 first-episode psychosis patients across Europe and Brazil. The results of their analysis, published Tuesday in The Lancet, describe a clear correlation between daily, high-potency cannabis consumption and psychotic episodes. Yet lead researchers acknowledged that the correlation does not necessarily mean cannabis is the cause of psychosis.
Study Cannot Definitively Pinpoint Cannabis as Cause of Psychosis
Studies that suggest links between cannabis use and mental illness give firepower to policymakers who view legal marijuana as a threat to public health and safety. But a close look at their actual findings almost always reveals a much more complex and less definitive picture of how cannabis consumption intersects with mental illness—and mental wellness.
So what did King’s College London researchers find? Looking at data collected between 2010 and 2015 at 11 sites across Europe and Brazil, researchers selected 901 patients, aged 18-64, who presented to psychiatric services with a first episode of psychosis. Using some complex statistics, researchers compared the cannabis use patterns of the 901 patients with 1237 control subjects from the same sites. They found that “daily cannabis use was associated with increased odds of psychotic disorder compared with never users.” And those odds went up “to nearly five times the increased odds for daily use of high-potency types of cannabis.”
So what exactly did they mean by “high-potency”? The researchers didn’t mean concentrates or extracts or edibles. Instead, they define high-potency as any cannabis product with a THC concentration above 10 percent. In other words, nearly all of the weed available in legal and unlicensed markets.
The study also concludes that restrictions on the availability of “high-potency” products—which remember in this case means anything with more than 10 percent THC—”could have prevented” cases of first-episode psychosis. Ultimately, the researchers found that “differences in frequency of daily cannabis use and in use of high-potency cannabis contributed to the striking variation in the incidence of psychotic disorders across the 11 studied sites.”
Expert Says Early Psychotic Episodes Could Lead to Self-Medicating with Cannabis
Using words like “contribute” and “associated with,” the study’s authors seem confident that daily and daily-high potency use significantly increases someone’s risk of psychosis. Or in the words of the study’s lead author, Dr. Marta Di Forti: “If you decide to use high-potency marijuana, you should bear in mind: Psychosis is a potential risk.”
But other experts, like University of Liverpool psychologist and epidemiologist Dr. Suzanne Gage, say there’s nothing definitive about the King’s College study. In fact, Gage suggests that Dr. Di Forti’s methodology could have overlooked a relationship between psychosis and cannabis use that goes in the opposite direction. Most experts accept that cannabis, as a little-understood mind-altering substance, could pose risks to mental health, especially when used frequently.
But a risk factor is not the same as a cause, let alone a definitive cause. In short, just because you use cannabis daily doesn’t mean you will definitely have a psychotic episode.
Indeed, for some people, the relationship between mental illness could be completely reversed. Dr. Di Forti and her colleagues only asked about patients’ cannabis use prior to their first-episode psychosis. They didn’t gather information on whether the patients experienced psychotic symptoms before they starting consuming cannabis. In other words, mental illness might have led some of the 901 patients to self-medicate with cannabis, rather than cannabis use leading to their psychosis.
As ever, new research renews the call for further research. And in this case, we need more studies not just on the cause-effect relationship between weed and mental health, but also on who may be more susceptible to those risks than others, and why.
[Canniseur: A perfect example of how cannabis should have been used over the years, instead of prescription drugs. Prescription antidepressants are dangerous. They do work for many people, but for others, they’re just dangerous.]
Many people struggling with depression are forgoing the use of antidepressants, for something more natural.
Some of Roger Kidder’s medications that he struggles to purchase since losing Medicaid. Thursday, May 30, 2013. (Photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
Last year, painkiller abuse claimed more lives than the Vietnam War claimed U.S. Soldiers. It’s no surprise, then, that more and more consumers are seeking less harmful alternatives to commonly prescribed painkillers. In fact, a survey published last year found that 63 percent of Canadian medical cannabis patients preferred the natural remedy to prescription drugs.Of those, 30 percent chose cannabis over opioid painkillers.
However, while opioids have been a hot topic over the past few years, new research suggests that there may be another epidemic among us: overuse of antidepressants.
While the drugs are often prescribed to relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety, data from McMaster University suggests that the medications significantly increase the risk of death not related to depression.
In a meta-analysis published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, Associate Professor Paul Andrews and his team discovered that those on antidepressants face 33 percent greater risk of dying than non-consuming controls. The analysis included data from hundreds of thousands of patients across several different studies.
Another 14 percent of participants taking the drugs also faced a greater risk of cardiovascular complications than their control counterparts. These complications include heart attack and stroke.Why the increased risk? The most common type of antidepressant, the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), can have an impact on some of the most vital organs in the body, not just the brain.
“We are very concerned by these results,” says Andrews to Science. “They suggest that we shouldn’t be taking antidepressant drugs without understanding precisely how they interact with the body.”
Yet, even without a firm understanding of the long-term physiological effects of SSRIs, they are still among the most prescribed medications in Western countries.
Over the past 15 years, rates of antidepressant consumption have jumped around the world. In the United States, consumption increased by 65 percent between 1999 and 2014. An approximate one in six Americans has been prescribed antidepressants. In fact, no other country consumes as many antidepressants as the United States.
In Canada, an estimated 86 out of every 1,000 people take some sort of antidepressant drug. This places Canada fourth on the list. Australians are a little more unhappy, with 89 out of every 1,000 consuming an antidepressant drug.
Unfortunately for many patients and prescribers, this new research places both parties between a rock and a hard place when it comes to finding safe and effective treatments. While antidepressants may have harmful side effects in the long-term, untreated depression can result in suicide.
With such high stakes, it’s not surprising that some patients are foregoing their conventional treatments in place of a more controversial natural remedy, cannabis.
It’s surprising given the herb’s euphoric reputation, but mental health ailments like anxiety and depression are some of the most common reasons why consumers pick up the herb.
A number of early preclinical studies have shown that cannabis compounds like cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) do have antidepressant properties. There is some animal evidence that suggests high doses of THC may exaggerate symptoms of depression, yet low to moderate doses have shown the opposite effect. Similarly, CBD is currently under investigation in the UK as an adjunct treatment for those with severe mental health ailments, like psychotic disorders.
Though cannabis is considered to have a large margin of safety, impactful clinical trials on cannabis or cannabis compounds for depression are few and far between. Years of legal barriers to research have blocked scientists from taking a serious look at the plant as a viable treatment for mental health ailments.
Yet, the lack of clinical trials hasn’t stopped patients from taking their chances with the herb. In the survey conducted among medical cannabis patients, 12 percent of respondents reported that they chose to consume the herb over pharmaceutical antidepressants.
Similarly, research published by Health Affairs found that Medicare dollars spent on antidepressant drugs have decreased in medical cannabis states. In total, medical cannabis laws saved Medicare $165 million in various prescription drug sales.
Numerous health advocates, including U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, have proposed investigating cannabis in a harm-reduction approach to the opioid crisis. Perhaps the same can be true for antidepressants.
Drugs like Prozac and other SSRIs may increase your risk of death in the long-haul, but how many have died from long-term cannabis complications? To this day, there has yet to be a single, reported case.
Below is an abstract from the most important AIDS conference in the US. It’s a bit scientific, but important reading. The whole paper was presented at the recent HIV conference in Seattle at the beginning of March. The Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB) is a difficult issue in medicine since drugs meant for the brain are almost impossible to get across the BBB. This could have implications for further cannabis research about the BBB and the role of cannabis on crossing the barrier. The abstract begins below with a listing of the authors of the paper. This is just an abstract that speaks to the findings and not the paper itself.
Author(s): Ronald J. Ellis, Jennifer Iudicello, Erin Morgan, Brook Henry, Rachel Schrier, Mariana Cherner, Martin Hoenigl, Scott L. Letendre
University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA,University of California San Diego, San Diego, CA, USA
HIV infection is associated with increased permeability of the blood-brain barrier (BBB), which may permit increased entry of toxins with consequent CNS injury. Cannabis, which is commonly used among people living with HIV (PLWH); has anti-inflammatory effects; and stabilizes the BBB in animal models. One potential mechanism of increased BBB permeability is upregulation of the urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA), a matrix-degrading proteolytic enzyme, and its receptor, uPAR, disrupting the basal lamina around cerebral capillaries. This study sought to determine the effects of recent cannabis use on cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) concentrations of uPAR, CSF-to-serum albumin ratio (CSAR, an indicator of BBB permeability), and neuroinflammation among PLWH.
Participants were 45 recent (i.e., within the past month) cannabis users with (HIV+) or without HIV (HIV-) who were comparable in age (mean age=39.3) and sex (93.3% male). CSF levels of soluble uPAR, soluble CD14 (sCD14) and CXCL-10 were measured by immunoassay. Albumin was measured in CSF by nephelometry and in serum by a clinical assay. Data were analyzed using standard statistical methods, including regression and t-tests.
A statistically significant interaction (p=0.025) was present between HIV and cannabis use frequency (total days over the past month): more frequent use of cannabis was associated with lower concentrations of uPAR in CSF in the HIV+ group (p=0.043) but not in the HIV- group. The CSAR showed similar but non-statistically significant effects. Within the HIV+ group, higher CSF uPAR levels correlated with higher CSAR values (rho=0.47; pThese preliminary findings suggest that cannabis may have a beneficial impact on HIV-associated BBB injury and neuroinflammation. Given the role of the BBB in HIV-associated CNS injury, these results support the potential therapeutic role of cannabis among PLWH, and may have important treatment implications for antiretroviral therapy effectiveness and toxicity.
[Canniseur: One woman’s journey from an anti-cannabis and alcohol stance, but addicted to Valium and other legitimate pharmaceutical drugs, to embracing plant based therapies, including cannabis.]
After drug use caused Sharmila Clee’s parents to lose custody of her and her siblings in 1998, Clee said she was squarely against anything related to drugs or alcohol, including cannabis.
“An anti-drug and alcohol mantra became my identity for years,” she said.
Once her parents and extended biological family’s rights were terminated, Clee and her siblings were put up for adoption. She and her sister were separated from their special needs brother, who needed extended care.
“It was difficult finding a home willing to take in three children with a history of trauma,” Clee shared. “My experience started my passion to become the best social worker in the world, and help other children like us.”
Her brother was eventually returned to her biological parents; Clee started experiencing panic attacks soon after.
“I was barely managing, receiving calls in the middle of the night from my brother, with reports of our dad drunk and violent,” she recalled. “I was three hours away at college and felt powerless, but it propelled me to move forward with vengeance and purposes, after witnessing so much social injustice—in the world, then through the eyes of my brother.”
Clee learned to push down her feelings of panic and anxiety by numbing herself with a Valium habit that began in the Fall of 2001 while at graduate school. She was diagnosed with latent Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She remembers it disrupting her studies with random visions of her turbulent childhood, yet, she says, she managed to pull A’s in all subjects.
Her goal of climbing the corporate ladder was achieved. But she found that her new bureaucratic life was not all she had hoped for. She dreaded the monotony of wearing suits, the grueling commute, and her life in a cubicle.
“It was sucking my soul away,” she said.
“I ran out of Valium during Fourth of July weekend in 2014, when a British, barefoot, hippie friend passed me something called a ‘vape extreme,’” she said, laughing. “That weekend was the longest time I went without my medication, and eventually my body began to shake with withdrawal symptoms, so my friend convinced me to take a hit of his vape pen, and the shakes stopped.”
Clee began researching cannabis as medicine, which eventually led her to Greener Pastures Recovery in Maine—and its Plant-Assisted Therapy Program for addiction recovery.
“My personal treatment program has been a slow tapering off of the Valium and Zoloft, by smoking flower, hash oil, ingesting turmeric, relora, moringa, calcium, multi-vitamins, and full spectrum cannabis oil, or FECO,” she explained. “The FECO has probably been the most effective treatment, as it completely changes the overall feeling in my body, with a comforting internal blanket of well-being.”
Clee told us that not only is the throbbing bodily pain of withdrawal symptoms quelled with the strong concentrate, but the electric shock-type headaches are replaced with a feeling of comfort. She said the plant was a Godsend.
“Even with all the steps taken to subside any dangerous symptoms, my body still overheated in front of the fire one evening in my first Benzo-related seizure. Nothing makes the detox symptoms entirely go away, but Greener Pastures, its PAT program, and the space they provide, allows you to take the time to understand how your life has unfolded into addiction, helping you to reevaluate your life, better understand your psyche, history, and allows you to look at the here and now, and be present.”
Clee believes the culture of today’s society is a breeding ground for emotional detachment, leading to an unhappy life and subsequent addictions, either to drugs or an unhealthy lifestyle.
“Even when we appear to be successful and fulfilled, when we detach from a past filled with turmoil, we have a skewed perception of what happiness looks like,” she said. “Then next thing you know, you are making six figures, cheating on your spouse with a co-worker who is as emotionally unavailable as you are—but, hey, you have 50 thousand Instagram followers, so what’s the problem?”
Clee said she’s still a work in progress. She was disheartened to discover that kids in America’s foster care system are prescribed anti-anxiety medications at an alarming rate. Researchers even admit that a therapeutic dose often leads to dependency or addiction issues later in life.
“When you hand a bottle of Xanax to a teenager, it’s a potential death risk,” she said. “I’m not saying just give every kid cannabis, but pharmaceuticals are not the answer. We do know that every human body has an endocannabinoid system that accepts the healing properties of cannabis and other beneficial plants into all the systems in our bodies for health and mental well-being.”
“It’s time to start making moves in that direction.”
[Canniseur: I admit it, I love to get high alone. This article motivates us creatives to regularly carve out 24 hrs to practice our crafts, solo & stoned.]
A Canadian study published last month in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review looked for differences between people who consume cannabis socially versus those who consume cannabis solo, and found:
Compared to individuals reporting their most recent cannabis-using occasion as social, solitary users were signiﬁcantly more likely to screen positive for psychosis, endorse more symptoms of cannabis abuse/dependence, report using cannabis to cope, and use cannabis on more days within the previous 30 days.
In its own words, the study “sought to examine the extent to which the social context of cannabis use is related to patterns of use and associated harms.”
Harms, but What About Benefits?
Please note that this statement of purpose doesn’t even consider the possibility that there may be associated benefits to cannabis in addition to associated harms. In fact, Toni Spinella—a master’s student in psychology and neuroscience and the study’s lead author—seems to think anyone who uses cannabis for “coping” treads in dangerous waters.
The study’s author seems to assume that anyone who uses cannabis for ‘coping’ treads in dangerous waters. But don’t we all cope with something?
“It’s possible that they lack other coping strategies,” Spinella told the CBC. “If you’re alone, why are you using alone? That’s something that you might want to ask yourself and if you realize, ‘OK, I’m using alone because I’m sad tonight or I’m stressed,’ then maybe that’s a red flag that you should think more about.”
Fair enough, but a red flag compared to what other coping mechanisms? Whiskey? Junk food? Internet scrolling? Gambling? Binge watching? Xanax?
Is Solo Smoking Making Me Psychotic?
As for the idea that consuming cannabis alone might lead to psychosis, allow me to start by asking a couple of common sense questions:
Is it possible that people with mental health conditions are more likely to use cannabis in an attempt to self-medicate that condition?
Is it possible that people using cannabis to treat mental health conditions would be more likely to do so alone rather than in a social setting?
The answer to both questions is pretty clearly yes.
Studies have shown that cannabis and cannabinoids can improve the symptoms of schizophrenia, PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. And if you’re using cannabis to treat one of these conditions, doesn’t that seem like something you’re more likely to do at home with some frequency (compared to someone who smokes weed maybe once a month whenever it’s offered to them at a party)?
A Link Is Not a Cause
So while there may indeed be a correlation between psychosis and getting high alone, that’s a far cry from causation. Even the study’s author admits this. That’s why the CBC had to use a fudge term in its otherwise alarming headline:
Trick question. There are two of them: linked to and suggests.
Linked to means there’s no actual evidence to show that cannabis causes psychosis. Rather, someone with psychosis may be more likely to use cannabis than someone without psychosis.
Suggests means that even the evidence showing a “link” between the consumption and the medical condition is pretty paltry.
In Defense of Crutches
Toni Spinella’s aversion to using cannabis as a coping mechanism reminds me of a joke by Doug Benson, a longtime cannabis comedian and the host of Getting Doug With High.
Some people say marijuana is a crutch. Yeah. Crutches help people walk.
Someone should tell Spinella that while we’d all like to live in a world where nobody ever gets stressed out or feels sad, that just ain’t happening. In the meantime, we need to find relatively healthy ways to cope.
A Therapeutic Option
Even if you live the life of a fully-optimized self-actualizing perfect person, you’re still going to be touched by trauma, depression, and anxiety—all of which can be treated with cannabis, a therapeutic option that’s demonstrably safer and less habit-forming than pharmaceutical drugs.
Cannabis has even been shown to help those suffering from loneliness itself, which the medical establishment increasingly sees as a real and growing epidemic. A recent study by Cigna, a health insurance company, found that a full 47 percent of Americans often feel lonely or left out. Thirteen percent say not one person knows them well. This has serious health consequences.
Loneliness as a Public Health Issue
In 2010, researchers at Brigham Young University published a groundbreaking study that showed chronic loneliness can take about 15 years off of a person’s life expectancy—roughly the same impact as obesity, or smoking nearly a pack of cigarettes per day.
But the good news is cannabis can greatly diminish the negative impacts of loneliness.
In 2013, researchers at the University of Kentucky published findings from a study that asked, “Can marijuana reduce social pain?” The answer was yes:
Marijuana buffered the lonely from: negative self-ratings of self-worth and mental health, depression over time, and even distress following exclusion…Marijuana has been used to treat physical pain, and the current findings suggest it may also reduce emotional pain.
Again, the researchers make clear that cannabis also has potential harms. And that coping with loneliness is not the same as overcoming it.
Put another way: You don’t want to use crutches for the rest of your life, but it’s better than trying to walk on a broken leg
You Don’t Have to Be Lonely to Be A Lone Stoner
“The Lonely Stoner seems to free his mind at night.”— Kid Cudi
We’ve already pointed out that Toni Spinella’s research ignores the considerable evidence that cannabis may be a therapeutically beneficial treatment for someone dealing with loneliness and depression. But she also fails to recognize that a relatively healthy person may find significant benefit from a little alone time with the bong.
I don’t have a study to back me up here, but I do speak from personal experience when I say that just as getting high together can help two or more people connect in a profound or at least interesting way (i.e. “get on the same wavelength”), cannabis can also help us connect with our own authentic selves.
Enlighten Up Yourself
“When you smoke the herb,” Bob Marley once said, “it reveals you to yourself.”
What’s revealed is not always flattering, but even a difficult realization about one’s self can yield helpful insights and spur true psychological growth.
Again, I can’t cite a study for this since most cannabis research continues to ignore the plant’s benefits, but I can call in an expert witness: Famed astronomer Dr. Carl Sagan, best known as the host of Cosmos, a 13-part exploration of far-out space science that became the most widely watched series in the history of American public television.
Astronomer Carl Sagan, professor of astronomy and space science at Cornell University, was one of the first scientists to speak out about the positive properties of cannabis. (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon)
Sagan contributed an anonymous essay to Marijuana Reconsidered (1971), a book written by eminent cannabis researcher Dr. Lester Grinspoon, one of Sagan’s closest friends. Identified only as Mr. X., Sagan explained that his support for ending cannabis prohibition was not just political, but also deeply personal.
He found real value in using cannabis introspectively:
Sometimes a kind of existential perception of the absurd comes over me and I see with awful certainty the hypocrisies and posturing of myself and my fellow men. And at other times, there is a different sense of the absurd, a playful and whimsical awareness… that we spend a lifetime being trained to overlook and forget and put out of our minds.
A sense of what the world is really like can be maddening; cannabis has brought me some feelings for what it is like to be crazy, and how we use that word ‘crazy’ to avoid thinking about things that are too painful for us.
There is a myth about such highs: the user has an illusion of great insight, but it does not survive scrutiny in the morning. I am convinced that this is an error, and that the devastating insights achieved when high are real insights; the main problem is putting these insights in a form acceptable to the quite different self that we are when we’re down the next day.
Tips for a Solo Flight
As the author of a book called How to Smoke Pot (Properly), I feel compelled to close with a few practical thoughts on how to optimize your solitary cannabis experiences.
Before you get stoned, decide what you’re going to do after you get stoned, and then do it.
If possible, get out into nature before you spark up. This is particularly good advice if you’re battling depression.
Turn off your phone and instead utilize an archaic technology known as a “notebook” to jot down all your brilliant highdeas before they slip away.
In his hit song “Day and Night,” Grammy winner Kid Cudi introduced The Lonely Stoner, an alter-ego based on a period in his life when he spent a lot of time engaged in what jazz musicians used to call woodshedding. Which back in the day literally meant spending a few months holed up in a woodshed practicing your instrument nonstop. Often with the help of a little reefer to keep in the flow.
You probably don’t have a few months to spare right now to fully focus on a creative pursuit, but why not try it for a day? Find a time and place to be alone for 24 hours without distraction, track down some strains known to boost creativity, and set the intention of creating or learning something new.
Then drop a note in the comments and let us know how it went.
[Canniseur: When you buy CBD oil online, make sure you read the certified test results. You need to know you are purchasing legitimate CBD supplements. If the website doesn’t tout testing and quality, you don’t want to purchase from them.]
The conventional wisdom is that CBD is now legal, pursuant to the federal Farm Bill enacted late last year. However, as always, the devil is in the details. Here’s what consumers need to know about hemp-derived CBD and buying CBD online.
The cannabinoid known as cannabidiol, or CBD, is all the rage among the health faddists nowadays, and it clearly does appear to have legitimate medical applications, even amid much-unsubstantiated hype about its salubrious properties. Part of this hype stems from the fact that CBD is unburdened of the stigma that attaches to its “high”-inducing sibling, THC. But part of this hype also comes from the fact that, in 2015, the federal government gave a green light to industrial hemp pilot programs in states around the nation. Because the government defined hemp as the cannabis sativa plant with less than 0.3 percent THC, companies started selling CBD from hemp, though they still were hampered with legal ambiguities around the compound’s legality.
But confusion is still widespread about CBD. On one hand, there’s widespread messaging that CBD is simply “legal” now, while on the other hand, we are also getting misleading headlines like that in Rolling Stone on March 5, saying, “Why Isn’t CBD Legal Yet?”
In fact, there are two key questions to keep in mind when it comes to CBD.
First Question:Hemp-Derived CBD or Marijuana-Derived CBD?
While the 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the Controlled Substances List, the actual text of the law does not mention the CBD cannabinoid by name. However, it says that “any… cannabinoids” taken from the hemp plant — excluding THC — are removed from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. This implicitly covers CBD.
Countless companies are using the fact that hemp-derived CBD has been removed from the Controlled Substances List to sell it nationwide. This means that if you’re purchasing CBD online, it’s almost certainly hemp-derived CBD. However, this hemp-derived CBD also likely hasn’t been tested and might not even contain CBD at all. There are currently no federal regulations for ensuring this CBD is labeled properly or safe for human consumption.
There is also a catch to the statement that “CBD is legal.” Because THC and the THC-laden buds of the cannabis plant remain illegal, CBD’s legality is contingent on whether it is derived from such flowers or not. Although chemically identical, CBD derived from cannabis plants with less than 0.3 percent THC is not a scheduled substance, while CBD derived from high-THC strains is still illegal.
This speaks to the stigma that continues to surround THC and its much-maligned “high,” which persists as a kind of cultural hangover from the days of Reefer Madness, even amid the recent progress toward normalization of cannabis. It also speaks the distinction between “marijuana” and “hemp,” which is often derided as a semantic question (as if clear language were not critical to communication).
Adding to the confusion, many states have decided to create their own rules around CBD from hemp vs. CBD from marijuana. For example, in its state regulations last year, California essentially did the opposite of what the federal Farm Bill would do just a few months later: made CBD permissible only when derived from the high-THC strains covered in the state’s legal cannabis program. This places California’s regulations squarely at odds with federal law on the question.
This also means that if you’re a Californian purchasing hemp-derived CBD online, you’re circumventing state laws that require you to buy CBD in a dispensary after it has gone through all of the testing required of marijuana-derived CBD.
Second Question: CBD-Infused or CBD Isolate?
The 1971 Controlled Substances Act, which was tweaked by the Farm Bill to allow for industrial hemp, is not the only law that has something to say on the matter of CBD. The 1938 Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act gives the Food & Drug Administration responsibility for regulating food ingredients and additives, as well as those in drugs and cosmetics. The FDA has not approved any cannabinoids for such uses, which means that any such uses of CBD (even if it’s hemp-derived) are still illegal.
Upon passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, the FDA issued a statement that poured cold water on the euphoria. It emphasized “what the law didn’t change”: the FDA’s regulatory powers over food, drug and cosmetic ingredients under the FD&C Act. The statement did leave open a window of hope, saying that the FD&CA “allows the FDA to continue enforcing the law to protect patients and the public while also providing potential regulatory pathways for products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds.”
It is the absence of FDA approval that has led health authorities in New York City and some other jurisdictions around the country to unleash a crackdown on CBD-infused edibles last month. This prompted a group of Capitol Hill lawmakers to send an urgent letter to the FDA demanding clarity on CBD’s status. But the matter was still unresolved when FDA chief Scott Gottlieb unexpectedly announced his resignation earlier this month.
The FDA’s Marijuana Questions and Answers page continues to state that CBD as a food additive or dietary supplement is not legal. It doesn’t discuss whether or not CBD isolate is considered legal; however, even a pure extract or “isolate” is usually suspended in a “carrier” substance such as hemp or coconut oil to help preserve potency and deliver the desired concentration per dose. Even if pure CBD was not sold as a food additive or dietary supplement, it still has not generally been approved by the FDA as safe and no testing regulations have been established.
The one exception to the illegality of CBD as a drug ingredient is Epidiolex, the anti-seizure medication that was approved by the FDA last June. This essentially forced the Drug Enforcement Administration to re-examine CBD’s status as a controlled substance. In September, the DEA issued a hair-splitting decision that removed Epidiolex from Schedule I, but not CBD itself. Now that the Farm Bill has basically gone over the head of the DEA on the question of CBD’s status under the Controlled Substances Act, the FDA is the last barrier to its free use.
However, despite the fact that the FDA has not released the rules for how it is going to regulate CBD yet, the legal risks of purchasing CBD products are still slim. Even before passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, there was a vigorous mail-order and over-the-counter trade in hemp-derived CBD. Manufacturers made the argument that it was legal by provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill that allowed “research” in hemp-derived cannabinoids. The federal government did not accept this argument when the matter went before the courts in litigation brought by the Hemp Industries Association — but neither did it move against the industry.
Following passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, the industry’s argument has been formally honored by the law. But a degree of confusion persists even now. And, even amid all the CBD hype, consumers should be aware of it. It’s worth knowing that if you’re buying CBD online, it’s most likely CBD from hemp — and that it is not regulated for safety by any government body.