Is Cannabis Addiction a Treatable Medical Condition?

Is cannabis addiction a treatable medical condition? According to one doctor, “cannabis addiction is a real and treatable medical condition.” She claims the “cannabis legalization movement” has successfully pushed back against this narrative due to the drug war. Fortunately, Dr. Salwan is not one of these old-school drug warriors. She knows cannabis doesn’t turn people into criminals and that cannabis prohibition has led to the mass incarceration of peaceful (mostly black) Americans. Dr. Salwan represents the new school of drug […]

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Research Finds Increased Heavy Metals Risk for Cannabis Users, Affirms Testing Need

A new study conducted by New York’s Columbia University researchers used a massive database from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in an effort to determine whether cannabis users had higher levels of any of 17 different metals in their blood or urine. 

The study ultimately revealed that cannabis-only users had higher lead levels in their blood and urine, compared to non-users of tobacco and cannabis, along with elevated levels of cadmium — ultimately affirming the need for testing of cannabis products for heavy metals in the legal market and the need for regulated cannabis as a whole.

Examining Cannabis Use and Heavy Metals in Body

Cannabis is a hyperaccumulator, a class of more than 700 plants that accumulate metals from soil, water and fertilizers at levels far greater than average, often hundreds or thousands of times more than other plants. 

To investigate the amount of metals in the blood and urine of cannabis users, researchers analyzed data from 2005 to 2018 representing 7,254 participants who reported on their diet, health, demographics and drug use, while providing single blood and urine samples. Researchers could not tell what kind of cannabis these individuals used, where it was sourced from or where participants lived, though they adjusted for other factors that can affect exposure to and excretion of metals (namely race/ethnicity, age, sex, education, and seafood consumption).

The study found that cannabis-only users had 27% high blood lead levels and 21% more lead in their urine when compared to non-users of tobacco and cannabis. They also had higher levels of cadmium — 22% more in their blood than non-users. Lead and cadmium can cause long-term health damage, like cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cognitive impairments and increase the risk of cancer. 

In regulated cannabis markets where products are tested, any cannabis that fails must be destroyed or remediated, with legal cannabis states often issuing recalls for any products that fail and mistakenly hit store shelves.

Tobacco Users Fare Much Worse

None of the other 15 elements researchers evaluated — like arsenic, cobalt, manganese and mercury — has a clear causal association with cannabis use, though tobacco users saw much higher levels. 

Urinary cadmium levels among tobacco users were three times higher than those of cannabis-only users and their blood lead levels were 26% higher. The study also found that tobacco use was associated with higher levels of antimony, barium, tungsten and uranium. 

In general, regulated cannabis undergoes more intense testing than tobacco, and previous studies have long documented the heavy metal content in cigarette smoke.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the largest known study on biomarkers of metal exposure in participants who exclusively use marijuana in a representative population of U.S. adults,” authors noted. The study findings reinforce that regulated, legal cannabis provides for more consumer safety, as illicit cannabis does not undergo this same testing.

Authors note that the study was limited by its small sample of exclusive cannabis users, along with its inability to hone in on the type of product used (i.e. vapes, combustibles and edibles) which kept researchers from determining the difference in metal concentrations by product.

Given that the data was taken from 2005 to 2018, it’s also uncertain how much cannabis was obtained through the legal or illicit markets — though it’s likely that most was illicit use, as the first states to legalize cannabis only began in 2014 and adult-use legalization was still limited in the years that followed.

“We found overall associations between internal metal levels and exclusive marijuana use, highlighting the relevance of marijuana for metal exposure and the importance of follow-up studies to identify the long-term implications of these exposures,” researchers stated. 

“Future investigations of cannabis contaminants must assess other contaminants of concern and potential health effects to inform regulatory, industry and other key stakeholders, to safeguard public health and address safety concerns related to the growing use of cannabis in the United States.”

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Study: Medical Cannabis Reduces Neuropathic Pain

A recently published retrospective study suggests medical cannabis reduces neuropathic pain without serious side effects. Algea Care, Europe’s leading telemedicine platform for medical cannabis, conducted the study in cooperation with the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf. Published in the journal Medical Cannabis and Cannabinoids, CLN sat down for a chat with the CEO of Algea Care, Dr. Julian Wichmann, who was also instrumental in the study’s design.  “While the study looked at it retrospectively,” says Dr. Wichmann, “Does [medical cannabis] work […]

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom To Review 17 Cannabis, Psychedelics Bills

As of the California State Legislature ended on Sept. 14, more than 17 cannabis or psychedelic bills were sent to California Gov. Gavin Newsom to potentially be signed. The bills include a wide variety of proposals, which Newsom must either sign, veto, or refuse to sign and allow them to be approved without his signature.

In the past, Newsom has expressed support for cannabis and psychedelics, but it is currently unclear which of these 17 bills he will support. However, he has under one month, or until Oct. 14, to address the following bills.

SB-51: Cannabis provisional licenses: local equity applicants

Social equity applicants would be permitted to apply for or renew their provisional licenses between now and January 1, 2031. Currently, provisional licenses are not being accepted in California.

SB-58: Controlled substances: decriminalization of certain hallucinogenic substances.

This bill was passed on to the Gov. on Sept. 13, and would legalize possession, cultivation, and transportation of substances such as psilocybin, psilocyn, DMT, and mescaline. The bill is led by Sen. Scott Weiner, who believes that it will help many patients, especially military veterans, within the state. “California’s veterans, first responders, and others struggling with PTSD, depression, and addiction deserve access to these promising plant medicines,” said Wiener when the bill passed in the Assembly. “SB-58 has prudent safeguards in place after we incorporated feedback from three years of deep engagement with a broad array of stakeholders. We know these substances are not addictive, and they show tremendous promise in treating many of the most intractable conditions driving our nation’s mental health crisis. It’s time to stop criminalizing people who use psychedelics for healing or personal well-being.”

SB-302 Compassionate Access to Medical Cannabis Act

While only terminally ill patients are currently allowed to use medical cannabis at healthcare facilities, this bill would allow anyone over 65 to treat chronic illness with medical cannabis if they choose. The bill is an expansion of the currently existing Compassionate Access to Medical Cannabis Act, or Ryan’s Law.

SB-540: Cannabis and cannabis products: health warnings

If passed, SB-540 would instruct the Department of Cannabis Control to make an education brochure that would be given to consumers when they purchase products from a dispensary for the first time (both at a retail store or upon delivery). The info would be updated on January 1, 2030, and every five years after that date.

SB-622: Cannabis regulation: plant identification program: unique identifier

A proposal from Sen. Ben Allen and Juan Alanis would change how cannabis products are identified with “a unique identifier to be recorded in a manner as determined by the department by regulation.” The bill doesn’t directly mention removing the plastic tags that are currently used to track cannabis plants, but it could allow digital tags to be utilized in the future for a more sustainable, ecofriendly approach.

SB-700: Employment discrimination: cannabis use

This bill would ban employers from inquiring about an applicant’s personal cannabis use, which is added to current applicant protections from the already existing California Fair Employment and Housing Act. According to Sen. Steven Bradford, 

SB-753: Cannabis: water resources

With the preservation of groundwater and environmental harm, this bill would make it a felony to grow and harvest more than six cannabis plants, especially if it is grown “Intentionally or with gross negligence causing substantial environmental harm to surface or groundwater, public lands, or other public resources.”

SB-833: Cannabis licensing: cultivation licenses: changing license type: inactive status

Currently, cannabis cultivators who wish to change their license status to a smaller grow to inactive (whether permanently or just temporarily), must redo the complete process through the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC). This bill would allow them to make this change through the DCC without resubmitting their application in its entirety.

AB-374: Cannabis: retail preparation, sale, and consumption of non cannabis food and beverage products

Presented to the governor on Sept. 15, AB-374 would make “Amsterdam-style” cannabis cafes legal. With approval, dispensaries will be able to offer non-cannabis food and drinks, as well as “live musical or other performances on the premises of a licensed retailer or microbusiness in the area where the consumption of cannabis is allowed.” According to the bill sponsor, Assemblymember Matt Haney believes the bill would benefit consumers and also cities. “Lots of people want to enjoy legal cannabis in the company of others,” Haney said. “And many people want to do that while sipping coffee, eating a scone, or listening to music. There’s absolutely no good reason from an economic, health or safety standpoint that the state should make that illegal. If an authorized cannabis retail store wants to also sell a cup of coffee and a sandwich, we should allow cities to make that possible and stop holding back these small businesses.”

AB-623: Cannabis: citation and fine

According to current California law, cannabis laboratory testing is conducted by testing a batch of products to ensure that “the chemical profile of the sample conforms to the labeled content of compounds.” In order for licensed labs to test edibles and issue a certificate of analysis, the report must show “that the milligrams of THC per serving does not exceed 10 milligrams per serving, plus or minus 10%.” In other words, the certificate excludes products with less than 10 mg THC (such as low-dose edibles with only 5 mg THC). If passed, AB-623 would require new DCC regulations that keep low-dose edibles in mind.

AB-993: Cannabis Task Force

This bill would add representatives from the Civil Rights Department and the Department of Industrial Relations, the existing cannabis task force in California.

AB-1021: Controlled substances: rescheduling

This bill would allow California health care professionals to prescribe cannabis if it reschedules any Schedule I substance. Current Schedule I substances include cannabis, as well as LSD, heroin, peyote, ecstasy, and more.

AB-1126: Cannabis: citation and fine

This proposal would ban the use of the universal cannabis symbol on cannabis packaging for products that are not authorized to use it. Any companies using the symbol without approval will be seized by the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration.

AB-1171: Cannabis: private right of action

Legal action would be permissible for cannabis business license owners against illegal cannabis businesses in the California Supreme Court.

AB-1207: Cannabis: labeling and advertising

This bill would potentially alter the definition for cannabis product packaging, by “prohibiting the sale, distribution, or manufacture of cannabis, cannabis products, packaging, or labeling that are attractive to children, as defined.” It further prohibits imagery including cartoons, toys, robots, real or fictional humans, fictional animals or creatures, as well as fruits or vegetables (unless it’s used to describe the flavor of the product).

AB-1448: Cannabis: enforcement by local jurisdictions

A person currently engaging in illegal cannabis without a license is subject to civil penalty funds ($10,000 per day per violation but not to exceed $30,000 per day). This bill would take some of those civil penalty money and move them to treasurers of local jurisdictions.

AB-1684: Local ordinances: fines and penalties: cannabis

In this bill, fines attributed to illegal cannabis cultivators would also apply to other illegal businesses such as processors and distributors.

In the past, Newsom has expressed support for cannabis and psychedelics, but it is currently unclear which of these 17 bills he will sign. However, he has under one month, or until Oct. 14, to address these bills.

Newsom has signed three bills since July that are cannabis-related. In July, he signed SB-250 which provides immunity to people who test positive for a controlled substance, such as fentanyl, specifically in regards to working with law enforcement and sharing where they received the drug. Also in July, Newsom signed AB-128, which added cannabis event organizers to the list of license classifications, and updated requirements for background checks for cannabis-related businesses. He also signed SB-756 on Sept. 1, which allows the California State Water Board to investigate and take action against illegal cannabis cultivation.

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Ketamine Therapy Offered as Employee Health Benefit Nationwide

A national provider of workplace insurance for psychedelic therapy recently partnered with two new companies to expand their network and offer ketamine-assisted therapy as a health benefit nationwide.

“Nationwide availability represents a pivotal moment in accomplishing Enthea’s mission of helping employers with workplace mental health challenges,” said Sherry Rais, chief executive officer and co-founder of Enthea. 

Enthea is a company that focuses on providing psychedelic assisted therapies for employee health plans and ketamine is the first and only such drug with known psychedelic and/or hallucinatory effects to be approved in any fashion by the FDA for use in mental health treatments. Enthea recently announced a partnership with two companies: Skylight Psychedelics and Innerwell. Both companies help facilitate remote and in-person psychedelic-assisted experiences.

“Skylight Psychedelics is thrilled to join forces with Enthea,” said Scott Bienenfeld, MD, Co-Founder. “Through our collaboration, we will help people overcome a variety of mental health conditions by expanding access to cutting-edge, often life-saving treatments, such as ketamine-assisted therapy and other emerging psychedelic medicine modalities.”

This partnership allows certain eligible employees to potentially take advantage of ketamine therapy without paying exorbitant fees often associated with the blossoming field of psychedelic assisted therapy, with session prices for a single psilocybin experience exceeding $2,000 in places like Oregon. Estimates for an average price of a ketamine session are all over the place depending on where you look but the most common estimate of an uninsured patient’s cost is $400-$800 per session.

Very few people are currently eligible to take advantage of these benefits, 1,500 nationwide by the estimate Enthea gave to Vice but they hope to get those numbers up to 200,000 by the end of next year.

“Investing in the mental health of employees is critical. Innerwell is proud to partner with Enthea to help future-thinking employers offer ketamine and other medication-assisted treatments that have lasting, transformative outcomes,” said Lisa Kennedy, CEO of Innerwell. “Our team of specifically trained clinicians delivers compassionate care while our data-driven approach will help accelerate the adoption of these new treatments by proving the efficacy of these innovative modalities.”

The FDA first approved ketamine-assisted therapy in 2019 via a nasal spray under the brand name Spravato in conjunction with an oral antidepressant. Since then, a large number of clinics and physicians have begun offering the somewhat controversial practice. Some estimates put the number of clinics between 500 and 750 nationwide but there’s not a national registry so it’s hard to say. In 2022 the market for ketamine clinics was estimated to be around $3.1 billion.

Enthea has been offering coverage for ketamine therapy since last year and touted data from a year of offering ketamine-assisted therapy to the employees of Dr. Bronner’s soap company, saying that employees who took advantage of the service experienced drastic reductions in symptoms related to mental health disorders. Depression symptoms were reduced by 67% and PTSD by 86%, according to data in an Enthea press release. 

“The health and wellbeing of our employees is the primary driver in how we think about benefits and compensation. Offering coverage for ketamine-assisted therapy is in the interest of providing tools to our workforce to have the best quality of life and best options for mental health care,” said Michael Bronner, President of Dr. Bronner’s in a prepared statement about the program’s launch in 2022. “Our family and company are no strangers to depression and anxiety. We are deeply concerned about the mental health crisis society is facing, especially in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. Considering all our advocacy on this issue, this employee benefit is the next logical step.”

Due to the positive data from Dr. Bronner’s case study and the new partnerships with Innerwell and Starlight, Enthea’s provider network has increased significantly enough for them to now offer these services to employers nationwide. Enthea’s benefits packages can be added onto existing health, dental and vision plans according to the press release. 

“The providers in Enthea’s Network are critical to our mission of ensuring access to high quality and affordable ketamine-assisted therapy,” stated Andrew Ninnimann, Enthea’s Director of Networks and Strategic Initiatives. “We remain committed to working with companies at the forefront of innovation as it pertains to developments that are changing the mental health industry.”

Any employers who wish to offer Enthea’s services need only contact them at this handy-dandy little hyperlink to find out more.

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Orbiting Space Drug Factory Denied Re-Entry to Earth

The United States Air Force has denied re-entry and landing permission for a floating drug factory that has apparently been orbiting the Earth producing zero-gravity pharmaceuticals since June.

Originally reported by TechCrunch, the in-space drug production capsule owned and operated by Varda Space Industries has been experimenting with making a certain kind of HIV medication in low-gravity environments. Varda announced on June 30 they had successfully synthesized a vial of Ritonavir crystals, a drug used to treat HIV.

“Over the last day, for the first time ever, orbital drug processing happened outside of a government-run space station,” Varda said in a post to their X account. “Our crystallization of Ritonavir appears to have been nominal.”

The capsule was originally slated to come back down to Earth on July 17 to bolster its newly-synthesized crystals of Ritonavir, a drug used to treat HIV, but their plans were delayed until early September for reasons they somewhat danced around in a post to their X account.

“Our original reentry date of July 17th was pushed back, as we work [with] our government partners to ensure everyone is fully ready,” Varda said in July. “The pharma crystals onboard are ready to come home!”

Courtesy Varda Space

Varda was subsequently denied permission to land at an Air Force training area in Utah for reasons the company chose not to disclose, though a spokesperson for the Air Force provided the following statement on the matter to TechCrunch:

“September 5 and 7 were their primary targets. The request to use the Utah Test and Training Range for the landing location was not granted at this time due to the overall safety, risk and impact analysis. In a separate process, the FAA has not granted a reentry license. All organizations continue working to explore recovery options,” the statement said.

Varda also chose not to comment on why their September re-entry dates were denied, posting only a brief update to their X account saying the capsule had enough resources to stay in space much longer if need be.

“As a quick update, we’re pleased to report that our spacecraft is healthy across all systems. It was originally designed for a full year on orbit if needed,” Varda said. “We look forward to continuing to collaborate [with] our gov partners to bring our capsule back to Earth as soon as possible.”

Varda applied for a reconsideration to the FAA decision on September 8 but the FAA had only a brief statement for TechCrunch about the matter, saying ““On September 8, Varda formally requested that the FAA reconsider its decision. The request for reconsideration is pending.”

Ritonavir is not a new drug. It was first synthesized in 1989 and can be made on Earth. The novel part of what Varda is doing appears to be the way in which they conduct their crystallization process.

“Conducting polymorph, salt and cocrystal screens in microgravity can lead to novel form discovery,” said an excerpt from the Varda website. “Reduced crystal growth rates result in the formation of high quality single crystals that can be used for X-ray structure determination.”

The benefits of producing drugs in low gravity compared to producing them on Earth are a bit beyond my simple journalism powers of understanding, though Varda does offer an explanation of the process on their website:

“Processing materials in microgravity, or the near-weightless conditions found in space, offers a unique environment not available through terrestrial processing. These benefits primarily stem from the lack of convection and sedimentation.These effects are ‘locked’ into the material, typically through material crystallization, before being brought back to Earth.”

The Air Force said they will continue to work with Varda and the FAA to safely bring the capsule back home to Earth but they could not provide an estimated re-entry date.

“Our objective at the Utah Test and Training Range remains working with customers requesting reentry missions in a safe, secure, and sustainable fashion, upon which Varda (and potentially future partners) can model their investments, engagement, and activities,” an Air Force spokesperson said to TechCrunch. “We also stress this is a whole-of-government and interagency process to set the correct precedents for future activities such as these.”

Now while I may not personally need any Ritonavir, I sincerely hope that we as a people can get our collective scientific shit together and safely bring these space drugs back home to Earth. Doing so would be one small step for man, one giant leap toward me getting to try “Martian LSD” or whatever the hell it ends up being sometime in the near future. Just let me dream.

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What is Public Health?

What is “public health?” Since 2020, the term has entered the mainstream, but public health was around long before covid. Canadian politicians crafted cannabis legalization with “public health” goals in mind. Instead of the traditional argument for legal cannabis, which is that you have a right to your body. But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Like most things in life, let’s apply the 80/20 rule. 80% of “public health” are hapless bureaucrats who believe they are improving […]

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Man with Tourette Syndrome Pleads with NHS To Increase Cannabis Prescriptions

Conor Ryder, from Dorset, England, a man living with Tourette syndrome, is urging the government to make medicinal cannabis more accessible through the National Health Service (NHS), the BBC reports. Currently, he spends thousands on prescriptions from a private clinic as it’s the only treatment, in his experience, that effectively manages his severe tics. The NHS is the U.K.’s publicly funded healthcare system.

Medical marijuana became legal in the U.K. in 2018. But the government insists they need more research to ensure its safety before making it more widely available. 

Cannabis remains illegal on a federal level and for adult use. 

Due to the scarce availability of NHS prescriptions, Ryder pays £300 every month, which, to afford, he dips into his savings. 

“I spoke to my doctor and he said that he… didn’t want to refer me, so I went and referred myself off. I went and looked at the clinics,” Ryder told the BBC. 

Ryder’s situation isn’t unique. Private cannabis clinics across the United Kingdom have grown substantially since legalization, with statistics indicating they’ve issued over 140,000 prescriptions in the past five years. The medicine they sell just isn’t always affordable for patients like Ryder. 

As research published in June of 2023 suggests, building on additional research that also indicates cannabis for the condition, evidence backs up what Ryder says, indicating that THC and CBD can improve the side-effect profile of Tourette syndrome. These include repetitive movements or unwanted sounds (tics) that one can’t always control — and can disrupt one’s personal and professional life. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, tics usually appear between the ages of two and 15, with the average age around six. Tourette syndrome is more commonly seen in males, who are about three to four times more likely to develop it than females.

In this study, they did a double-blind, cross-over trial with people who have severe Tourette’s syndrome. Using random assignment, they gave participants an oral oil-based tincture with increasing amounts of THC and CBD for six weeks, followed by six weeks with a placebo, or the other way around, with a four-week break in between. 

The researchers used the Yale Global Tic Severity Scale (YGTSS) to measure their tics’ severity. They also used video assessments of tics to assess how they affected their daily life, anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive symptoms. 

It’s worth noting that all of these comorbidities are also often treated with medical marijuana. 

They then checked if the results were related to the levels of cannabis compounds in the blood in addition to performing cognitive tests at the start and end of each treatment.

The results suggest that people in the active treatment group significantly reduced their tic scores more than those in the placebo group. This means that the treatment with THC and CBD helped reduce the severity of their tics. However, some people in the active treatment group reported problems with their thinking, memory, and concentration. The research indicates that cannabinoids such as THC and CBD can help people with severe Tourette syndrome by reducing their tics and improving their quality of life. 

Mr. Ryder is not surprised to learn that the private sector of the cannabis industry is booming. For him, medical marijuana has become an absolute necessity. Diagnosed with Tourette syndrome at age 13, he lives with various noticeable tics, from animal-like sounds and loud bangs to physical gestures like winking, blinking, and shoulder rolling.

These tics cause him significant distress and currently make him unable to hold down a job, further compounding his struggle to pay for his medicine in a vicious cycle. But he’s able to manage his symptoms with medical marijuana and a vaporizer. 

“It’s something I dreamed of as a kid, taking a small pill and it would just disappear, and now I have it basically. I’m hoping that soon I’ll be able to work and maybe be able to manage it because that’s the only way if it doesn’t become available on the NHS. Every medication that they’ve been able to give me, they’ve made me into basically a zombie. Cannabis is the only thing that controls the tics,” he tells the BBC. 

The Department of Health and Social Care says that medical marijuana could be paid for by the NHS where there was “clear evidence of their quality, safety and effectiveness,” the BBC reports. “It is important to carefully review evidence on unlicensed cannabis-based treatments to ensure they are proved safe and effective before they can be considered for roll-out on the NHS more widely.” 

An NHS spokesperson continued that: “While there is limited evidence on the safety of these unlicensed products, we continue to encourage manufacturers of these products to engage with the UK medicines regulator, which would provide doctors with the confidence to use the products in the same way they use other licensed medicines.”

There are currently over 300,000 kids and adults living with Tourette Syndrome in the U.K.

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Study: Self-Made Human Cannabinoids May Be Key To Treating Stress-Related Disorders

We already know that humans have our own endocannabinoid systems, made to regulate a number of bodily functions with a number of cannabinoid receptors that interact with compounds like THC and CBD in cannabis. 

Brain activity patterns and neural circuits regulated by these cannabinoids derived in the brain were not well known, but new research has revealed our bodies may actually release their own cannabinoid molecules in specific circumstances, independent of external cannabinoid use.

According to a new mice study from Northwestern Medicine published in the journal Cell Reports, the brain’s key emotional center, the amygdala, releases its own cannabinoid molecules under stress. When released, these molecules work to decrease incoming stress alarms from the hippocampus, which controls memory and emotions in the brain.

The study results add further evidence to the assertion that the brain contains innate cannabinoid molecules, key to our body’s natural coping response to stress. Further, the study may indicate that impairments to this endogenous (the body’s own) cannabinoid signaling system in the brain could result in higher susceptibility to developing psychiatric disorders related to stress, like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Still, further research is needed to determine exactly how these mechanisms work in the human brain, said corresponding study author Dr. Sachin Patel.

The Human Body’s Self-Made Cannabinoids and Understanding Stress

“Stress exposure confers risk for the development or exacerbation of psychiatric disorders: from generalized anxiety and major depression to post-traumatic stress disorder,” authors state in the introduction. “Understanding stress-induced molecular-, cellular-, and circuit-level adaptations could provide critical insight into how stress is translated into affective pathology and may reveal novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of stress-related disorders.”

Scientists at Northwestern Medicine used a new protein sensor that can detect the presence of these cannabinoid molecules in real time at specific brain synapses, which show that specific high-frequency patterns of amygdala activity can generate the molecules. Additionally, the sensor showed that mice brains released these molecules in response to several different types of stress.

Scientists also removed the target of these cannabinoids, the cannabinoid receptor type 1, which resulted in a worsened ability to cope with stress and motivational deficits in mice. After scientists removed the receptor target of the endogenous cannabinoids at hippocampal-amygdala synapses, mice adopted more passive and immobile responses to stress. They also had a lower preference to drink sweetened sucrose water after stress exposure.

“Understanding how the brain adapts to stress at the molecular, cellular and circuit level could provide critical insight into how stress is translated into mood disorders and may reveal novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of stress-related disorders,” according to Patel and Lizzie Gilman, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and a Northwestern Medicine psychiatrist. 

The endocannabinoid system is one of the leading signaling systems identified as a prominent drug-development candidate for stress-related psychiatric disorders, Patel said. This system is an active, complex cell signaling network, involving a combination of endocannabinoids, enzymes and cannabinoid receptors helping to regulate a number of biological functions — like eating, anxiety, learning, memory, reproduction, metabolism, growth and development — through an array of actions across the nervous system.

This hypothesis is crucial in determining where future research guides this continued conversation, Patel said.

“Determining whether increasing levels of endogenous cannabinoids can be used as potential therapeutics for stress-related disorders is a next logical step from this study and our previous work,” Patel said. “There are ongoing clinical trials in this area that may be able to answer this question in the near future.”

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Study Links Simultaneous Cannabis, Tobacco Use to Depression, Anxiety

A new study has found that Americans who regularly use cannabis and tobacco have roughly double the risk for developing symptoms of depression and anxiety than non-users.

“Smoking weed and tobacco does not help to deal with anxiety and depression, and may exacerbate mental health issues in the long run,” said lead researcher Nhung Nguyen to UPI. Nguyen is an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

The peer-reviewed study, published Wednesday in Plos One, analyzed data from 53,843 American adults using data from the COVID-19 Citizen Science Study. Men and women over the age of 18 filled out online surveys which included a section where people could self-disclose information about cannabis and tobacco use over the preceding 30 day period.

Of those who responded to the survey, 4.9% said they used only tobacco, 6.9% said they used only cannabis and 1.6% said they used both. Of those who used both, 26.5% reported anxiety and 28.3% depression. Among those who did not use either drug, 10.6% reported anxiety and 11.2% reported depression.

“Co-use of tobacco and cannabis and use of cannabis-only were associated with higher odds of anxiety and depression compared to non-use and tobacco-only use,” the study said. “Tobacco-only use was associated with higher odds of anxiety and depression compared to non-use.”

The study acknowledged that there are grains of salt to be taken with the data they put forward and stressed that more research is needed before any firm conclusions can be made.

“This study has several limitations. As aforementioned, the causal relationships between patterns of tobacco and cannabis use and mental health disorders cannot be elucidated given the study design,” the study said, making note of several such limitations including sample size, the method in which they collected their data and so on. 

There are two such limitations I’d like to highlight from this study. The first and most obvious is that a response bias exists when surveying people online, especially when the subject matter is regarding cannabis use or the use of any illegal substance. The second is that these surveys were taken from 2020-2022, during the COVID-19 global pandemic when mental health disorders across the board experienced a significant spike with a particular emphasis on anxiety and depression, according to researchers at Boston College:

“Confirming anecdotal evidence that the spread of the coronavirus has strained Americans’ mental health, Boston College researchers found reports of anxiety increased to 50 percent and depression to 44 percent by November 2020—rates six times higher than 2019—according to a new report in the journal Translational Behavioral Medicine,” said the report. 

One small caveat I’d also like to add here is that there were several mischaracterizations of cannabis in the study, not necessarily in the data or the information gleaned from it, but in the language used to discuss cannabis in the extraneous parts of the report, such as the following:

“Furthermore, despite insufficient evidence regarding therapeutic benefits of cannabis, nearly half of US adults view cannabis as self-medication for treating depression and anxiety symptoms,” the study said, ignoring a pretty glaring swath of studies in recent years highlighting the many potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis

The data did show an increased likelihood of anxiety in cannabis-use only participants compared to the tobacco-use only participants, but another limitation of the study acknowledged by Nguyen was that people with anxiety often seek out cannabis and/or tobacco as home remedies for such things so it makes the whole thing a bit of a chicken-and-the-egg situation.

“Current evidence supports both directions of the relationship between tobacco and cannabis use and depression and anxiety,” Nguyen said to UPI. “Evidence shows that use of either tobacco or cannabis contributes to anxiety/depression.”

Not for nothing, but it has become increasingly funny to me that there have been several studies lately reinforcing sentiments the wooks have known for years. I can still hear my old buddy Enrique who used to eat about 100 hits of acid a week telling me to take down my tobacco to weed ratio in my spliffs if I started singing the blues a bit too often and that was like eight years ago. Either way, if you like to mix tobacco with your cannabis it could potentially increase your risk for such things so don’t be afraid to consult with your doctor.

“Coordinating tobacco and cannabis cessation with mental health treatment may be beneficial for people with co-use of tobacco and cannabis,” Nguyen said. “In addition, screening for use of tobacco and cannabis should be implemented in mental health treatment settings.”

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