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Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

Study: ‘Skunk’ Cannabis Affects Brain Structure, Increases Risk of Psychosis

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Medical marijuana may have risen in recent years as a wonder drug for many diseases, but using the wrong kind of cannabis strain — and especially in abnormally high dosages — may result to awry health effects.

This was revealed by a team of researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at UK’s King’s College London, as they studied the effects of using the cannabis strain “skunk” on the human body. The research team, led by Dr. Paola Dazzan, scanned the brains of 54 people diagnosed with first-episode psychosis, as well as 43 people with healthy dispositions. The brain scans were conducted using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and the results were cross-checked with the study participants’ history on cannabis use.

Results showed that people who used skunk in the past had a higher level of damage in the corpus callosum, a portion of the brain between the left and right hemispheres. The level of damage in these brain regions was evident in skunk-using individuals, regardless of psychotic behavior. “We found that frequent use of high-potency cannabis significantly affects the structure of white matter fibers in the brain, whether you have psychosis or not. This reflects a sliding scale where the more cannabis you smoke and the higher the potency, the worse the damage will be,” Dazzan said in a news release.

A typical skunk cannabis strain contains 14-15 percent THC, much higher than other commonly used marijuana varieties.


Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

Marijuana Trends: Usage Doubled in 11 Years

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marijuana legalization

From 4.1 percent of Americans admitting to marijuana use in 2001-2002, the number has more than doubled after 11 years.

This was revealed by a study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, based on personal interviews with respondents in two national surveys in the U.S. The percentage of people who use marijuana has since ballooned to 9.5 percent by 2012-2013. In addition, those who admitted to engage in marijuana abuse or dependence has also risen in number, from 1.5 percent in 2001-2002 to 2.9 percent by 2012-2013.

The research team led by Dr. Bridget F. Grant believe that regulations and continual education should be implemented. “While many in the US think prohibition of recreational marijuana should be ended, this study and others suggest caution and the need for public education about the potential harms in marijuana use, including the risk for addiction,” the researchers stated via a news item.

One potential reason behind this rise in use is the public’s updated perspective on marijuana, saying that cannabis is not risky to use. Another reason is that more U.S. states — now pegged at 23 and still growing — are legalizing medical marijuana, with four of them also legalizing recreational pot use.

Researchers emphasized the importance of regulating marijuana, saying that it does not come without health hazards. “As is the case with alcohol, many individuals can use marijuana without becoming addicted. However, the clear risk for marijuana use disorders among users (approximately 30%) suggests that as the number of US users grows, so will the numbers of those experiencing problems related to such use,” they added.


Health & Wellness

Teen Marijuana Use Linked To Heavy Sleepiness During Daytime

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sleep teenage marijuana use

A new study found a link between sleepiness during the day and marijuana use among teenagers.

According to a team of researchers led by Dr. Mark L. Splaingard of Ohio’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital, use of marijuana by teens could be the culprit for excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), a symptom linked to narcolepsy. The study looked into diagnostic data of more than 380 youngsters to check for possibility of narcolepsy using multiple sleep latency test (MSLT), and cross-checked use of marijuana by the young patients.

Results of the study showed that 43 percent of adolescents who tested positive for cannabis were found to have symptoms of narcolepsy. Because of this, the researchers recommend that drug screening be included as part of the tests for narcolepsy. “Our findings highlight and support the important step of obtaining a urine drug screen, in any patients older than 13 years of age, before accepting test findings consistent with narcolepsy, prior to physicians confirming this diagnosis. Urine drug screening is also important in any population studies looking at the prevalence of narcolepsy in adolescents, especially with the recent trend in marijuana decriminalization and legalization,” Splaingard said in a news item.

Narcolepsy is a chronic medical condition characterized by uncontrolled sleeping patterns even though the individual has had enough sleep. It is usually developed early in life, most commonly during puberty stage. Apart from EDM, other symptoms of narcolepsy include hallucinations, sleep paralysis, and cataplexy.

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Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

Pot-Related Health Issues Spreading In The U.S.

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Although more Americans are now embracing the benefits of marijuana to human health, many studies and government agencies including the United Nations are warning the U.S. about a new imminent threat: marijuana-related illnesses.

marijuanaAccording to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the U.S. posted close to a 60 percent increase in emergency room cases due to marijuana use from 2006 to 2010. This is on top of the 14 percent rise in treatment admission cases due to cannabis.

Meanwhile, a study in 2013 revealed the potential adverse effects of cannabis on cardiovascular health. “The current wave of decriminalization may lead to more widespread use, and it is important that cardiologists be made aware of the potential for marijuana-associated adverse cardiovascular effects that may begin to occur in the population at a greater frequency,” the study stated.

The report by UNODC, according to a news item, further stressed the risks posed on young people exposed to marijuana: memory and cognitive problems, respiratory issues, and an inclination to depend heavily on the illicit substance.

Addiction Substance Abuse

Attorney General Holder: Any Drug is Potentially Harmful

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The U.S. Department of Justice seems to have a firm hold on the issue of marijuana and other drugs, and the current chief has declared his opinions against these illicit substances.

eric holderAttorney General Eric Holder expressed his say on President Barack Obama’s statement about marijuana being less harmful than alcohol. “I think that any drug used in an inappropriate way can be harmful. And alcohol is among those,” Holder said in a news release. In addition, the Attorney General said “the use of any drug is potentially harmful and included in that would be alcohol.”

This was his answer to a question raised by Alabama’s Republican senator Jeff Sessions during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Sen. Sessions seemed appalled by the President’s statement over his lenient stand on marijuana. “It’s difficult for me to conceive how the President of the United States could make such a statement,” said Sessions.

Obama continues to have a firm stand against the nationwide legal approval of the use of marijuana. In fact, marijuana is considered a “Schedule 1 controlled substance” because of its high likelihood for abuse without a medically determined advantage. Despite this, the President admitted that he used marijuana during his childhood, but has learned from his mistakes, saying that marijuana smoking is a vice much like smoking tobacco cigarettes. His statement in the New Yorker has also struck a chord with conservatives and anti-pot activists, when he said that marijuana is less risky that alcohol.

Substance Abuse

Exclusive Interview: Preacher and Mediator Joe B. Hewitt on Marijuana Legalization

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Last week, we wrote about a new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) that says fewer teens are getting substance abuse prevention messages from media.

Indeed, the media has become quite powerful in educating people about substance abuse, but we also know that the media isn’t supposed to be what is responsible in teaching our kids about the dangers of drugs. That would be parents, who have a major role in talking to children about the health risks associated with drug abuse, as well as empowering them to make sound choices in life. But what if parents themselves use drugs? How reliable can they be when preaching to their kids the negative effects of substance abuse if they are dealing with their own drug issues?

“The worst mixed message kids get today is for mom and dad to smoke it and tell the kid not to,” says Joe Hewitt, referring to marijuana.

Hewitt shares his opinion about marijuana legalization in an exclusive interview with TestCountry.

Like other people, Hewitt believes it isn’t logical to tell kids not to use drugs, smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol when they openly see their own parents indulging in banned or unhealthy substances. Similarly, kids could get confused by the seemingly contradictory laws —  federal laws versus state laws — pertaining to marijuana.

“If marijuana is legalized, we are publically saying, ‘It’s okay.’ Then we have to spend tax money we get from the legal sale of marijuana to educate people and say ‘Hey, too much of this stuff is not okay,'” Hewitt added.

Though Hewitt acknowledged that marijuana legalization would ease the burden on the country’s justice system, he also believes that the more marijuana becomes available the more it will be abused.

“…I believe that if it were legal more people will use it,” Hewitt added. He stressed that those who presently use marijuana would end up using more of the drug without fear of being arrested, especially once the supply “greatly increased, the price went down, and it was readily available to purchase.”

To read the full text of the interview, visit Exclusive Interview with Joe Hewitt.

Substance Abuse

Arizona Youth Survey: Teen Use of Marijuana Declined, But 1 in 9 Students Got Pot From Cardholders

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The 2012 Arizona Youth Survey revealed two very interesting findings: first, the number of teens using marijuana has dropped; second, some students were found to obtain their pot from medical marijuana cardholders, the Phoenix News Times reports.

According to the survey, which was conducted by the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission and participated by more than 60,000 Arizona students, the combined percentage of 8th, 10th and 12th graders who reported using marijuana at least once in their lives went down from 29.9 percent before Arizona’s medical-pot law came into effect to 28.7 percent in 2012. Reported marijuana use in the last 30 days also dropped from 14.8 percent in 2010 to 14.3 percent this year.

On the other hand, the survey also found that about 11 percent of the students were getting marijuana from people who are legally allowed to use the drug under the 2010 Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. The survey did not determine if the teens getting the pot from cardholders also got pot from other sources, or if the cardholder had sold the teens pot prior to becoming a cardholder, the article notes.

Arizona Rep. John Kavanagh has reportedly filed a bill on Jan. 3 in an attempt to put the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act back to the ballot in November 2014. He told The Arizona Republic that voters should rethink whether the law, approved by voters in 2010, should have passed in the first place.

Substance Abuse

Annual Drug Report Names Painkiller Abuse a Top Drug Threat in Iowa

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An annual report from the governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy disclosed painkiller medication abuse as the biggest drug threat for Iowans, killing more than sixty last year due to overdoses.

An article on Indystar.com cited the drug report’s key findings, one of them stating that sixty-two Iowans died last year from overdoses of prescription pain relievers like oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone. The figure showed a 59 percent increase from the previous year and an almost eight-fold increase from a decade ago. Some physicians were accused of prescribing large amounts of narcotic painkillers to patients who were abusing the drugs.

The report also identified the rising abuse in heroin by Iowa residents. In 2011, the state recorded 10 heroin overdose deaths, making it the highest in Iowa’s recent history. Additionally, marijuana manufacturing and distribution had significantly increased, with the number of busted marijuana plants reaching 5,813 for this fiscal year.

State officials suspect that one reason for the increase is more marijuana shipments from states such as Colorado, where it’s legal to grow marijuana for medical reasons. Another potential factor is in-state manufacturing by foreigners. In September, investigators nabbed a man after they pulled 550 marijuana plants out of a house in Johnston that featured sophisticated lighting, ventilation and watering systems.

“One of the concerns with the increased frequency of the grows is that it isn’t just Iowans necessarily growing, especially with these large-scale operations,” said Steven Lukan, director of the Office of Drug Control Policy.

Among teenagers in treatment, two-thirds said marijuana was their drug of choice and more than one-fourth of Iowans who underwent drug tests or admitted for treatment last year named marijuana their primary drug.

Substance Abuse

How Marijuana Abuse Could Affect a Person’s Health

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Marijuana is the most commonly abused banned substance in the United States. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that in 2009 more than 28 million Americans, age 12 and older, had abused the drug at least once in the year prior to being surveyed. Past studies have reflected the adverse effects of marijuana to its users, but still, the problem of abuse is far from being resolved.

In one of our previous posts, we cited a Duke University study that says people who frequently use marijuana are at risk of  slowing down their IQ. The finding may not be the scariest to date in terms of marijuana side effects, but it’s still worrisome. If you’re a parent, you’re aware how challenging it is to never be able to keep an eye on your children, especially the moment they go out of the house. If you’re raising an adolescent it’s even more difficult because it’s that time when peer pressure is at its strongest and experimenting with drugs may not be far from happening.

Aside from marijuana’s effects on intelligence, it could also wreak havoc on the user’s mental capacities. An Australian study involving 14- and 15-year-olds found that those who used marijuana weekly as teenagers were twice as likely to have depression as a young adult than women who did not use the drug.

Another study which assessed the participants for signs of marijuana abuse and symptoms of depression found that people who initially did not have depressive symptoms but abused marijuana were more than four times as likely to have depressive symptoms.

Marijuana use could also have some negative effects on hormonal system and reproduction. Similarly, it can cause physical problems, ranging from dry mouth and red eyes to increased heart rate and blood pressure.

Substance Abuse

Study Finds Dangerous Trend in Marijuana Acceptance Among Teens

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Teens are increasingly becoming less concerned about the possible dangers presented by the abuse of marijuana, according to a study commissioned by Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and Liberty Mutual Insurance.

The study analyzed data provided by nearly 2,300 11th and 12th graders nationwide. The researchers determined that the number of teens who said that marijuana use is “very” or “extremely” distracting to their driving went down to 70 percent, from 78 percent in 2009. In addition, it was found that of the teens who admitted to driving after using pot, 36 percent say that it was not a distraction to their driving. Nineteen percent, on the other hand, say that alcohol was not a distraction to their driving.

Stephen Wallace, senior adviser for Policy, Research, and Education at SADD, said that the findings reflect “a dangerous trend toward the acceptance of marijuana and other substances compared to our study of teens conducted just two years ago.”

Wallace shared further that they “hear from young people who believe that marijuana actually makes them a safer driver, that they concentrate harder, drive slower.” He warns, however, that these are all misconceptions, saying that pot “affects memory, judgment, and perception,” as well as lead a driver to make bad decisions.

Tom Hedrick, founding member of The Partnership at Drugfree.org, shared that the study points out the need to spread more awareness about the dangers associated with marijuana impairment, and serves as “a wake-up call for parents about the importance” of talking to teens about the dangers of pot.