Mind-Body Health: Cannabis & the Endocannabinoid System

If you’re new to cannabis, you’ve likely asked “How does it work?”

Elise Keller was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 33, and she explores this same question in her TED Talk entitled “The Surprising Connection Between Cannabis and Mind-Body Health.”

Keller considered herself to be a healthy person. Frustrated by her diagnoses, she sought out ways to come to terms with cancer and move forward.

At the recommendation of her nurse and other patients, she tried medical cannabis, which helped immensely with her pain, nausea and anxiety. After meeting patients with a range of illnesses who all are using cannabis for treatment, Keller wondered how it is possible that cannabis can help with so many unrelated illnesses.

“In a nutshell, I learned that the reason cannabis was working for so many different conditions is because it interacts directly with our body’s own endocannabinoid system, responsible for maintaining balance in the body,” Keller explained in her presentation. “Used properly, the plant can help activate, tone and support the endocannabinoid system when it’s out of balance,” she further explained.

Many are unfamiliar with the endocannabinoid system, which has even been dubbed the body’s own “master system” due to its role in maintaining balance over all bodily networks.

In her 15 minute TED Talk, Keller offers a digestible break down of how the endocannabinoid system works, explaining how mind, body and medicine are equally important in keeping it strong and healthy.

Understanding how the cannabis plant interacts with this system can further support one’s journey towards achieving truly integrated whole-person health.

Watch the video to learn about Elise Keller’s own discoveries around cannabis and mind-body health.

TELL US, do you use cannabis as medicine?

The post Mind-Body Health: Cannabis & the Endocannabinoid System appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Mind-Body Health: Cannabis & the Endocannabinoid System

If you’re new to cannabis, you’ve likely asked “How does it work?”

Elise Keller was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 33, and she explores this same question in her TED Talk entitled “The Surprising Connection Between Cannabis and Mind-Body Health.”

Keller considered herself to be a healthy person. Frustrated by her diagnoses, she sought out ways to come to terms with cancer and move forward.

At the recommendation of her nurse and other patients, she tried medical cannabis, which helped immensely with her pain, nausea and anxiety. After meeting patients with a range of illnesses who all are using cannabis for treatment, Keller wondered how it is possible that cannabis can help with so many unrelated illnesses.

“In a nutshell, I learned that the reason cannabis was working for so many different conditions is because it interacts directly with our body’s own endocannabinoid system, responsible for maintaining balance in the body,” Keller explained in her presentation. “Used properly, the plant can help activate, tone and support the endocannabinoid system when it’s out of balance,” she further explained.

Many are unfamiliar with the endocannabinoid system, which has even been dubbed the body’s own “master system” due to its role in maintaining balance over all bodily networks.

In her 15 minute TED Talk, Keller offers a digestible break down of how the endocannabinoid system works, explaining how mind, body and medicine are equally important in keeping it strong and healthy.

Understanding how the cannabis plant interacts with this system can further support one’s journey towards achieving truly integrated whole-person health.

Watch the video to learn about Elise Keller’s own discoveries around cannabis and mind-body health.

TELL US, do you use cannabis as medicine?

The post Mind-Body Health: Cannabis & the Endocannabinoid System appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Michael Pollan & The Landscape of the Mind

Michael Pollan is best known for his groundbreaking, best-selling books on food — which collectively have helped spark a revolution in the way we think about what we eat and where it comes from — but he also has a longstanding interest in cannabis. As far back as 1995, he traveled to the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam for a New York Times Magazine cover story on the growers and breeders behind the world’s highest-potency strains, a group of illicit horticulturalists he called “the best gardeners of my generation.”

“I had come to Amsterdam to meet some of these gardeners and learn how, in little more than a decade, marijuana growing in America had evolved from a hobby of aging hippies into a burgeoning high-tech industry,” he wrote. “Fewer than 20 years ago, virtually all the marijuana consumed in America was imported. ‘Home grown’ was a term of opprobrium — ‘something you only smoked in an emergency,’ as one grower old enough to remember put it. Today… American marijuana cultivation has developed to the point where the potency, quality and consistency of the domestic product are considered as good as, if not better than, any in the world.”

At the time, such high praise from one of the world’s leading journalists was virtually unheard of in the world of cannabis. In the article, Pollan even admitted to making his own furtive attempt to grow cannabis back in the 1980s, which he dubbed “a fiasco.” Later, he included cannabis as one of four species profiled in “The Botany of Desire,” his best-selling book that took a “plant’s eye view of the world.”

And now Pollan has gone a significant step further into the study of psychoactivity with his latest book, “How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us about Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.” Pollan defines psychedelics as substances that not only affect the mind (like cannabis), but are fully “mind manifesting,” noting the term itself was coined in 1956 by Humphry Osmond “to describe drugs like LSD and psilocybin that produce radical changes in consciousness.”

At a stop on his national tour to promote the book, he sat down for an interview that touched on everything from DMT extracted from toads and the brain’s “default mode network,” to the benefits of dissolving your ego and Pollan’s personal experiences taking various psychedelics with a series of underground guides.

Cannabis Now: You write about the ineffable nature of psychedelics, meaning the experience of taking them is difficult or impossible to describe in words. Given that challenge, I love your description of tripping as being like “shaking the snow globe” of the mind. But what does that mean exactly?

Michael Pollan: The snow globe metaphor comes from Robin Carhart-Harris, one of the leading neuroscientists studying psychedelics today, and the researcher who’s probably done the most analytical work to try to understand how psychedelics affect us and why they might be therapeutic. He’s even been using MRIs and other brain imaging tools to see what happens neurologically during a psychedelic trip. Just imagine being injected with psilocybin [the active compound in “magic” mushrooms] or LSD and then sliding into an MRI. That sounds like a recipe for disaster, so these are volunteers to whom we should all be grateful.

Anyway, what the researchers discovered really surprised them. Turns out one particular brain network called the default mode network was downregulated (i.e. suppressed) during the psychedelic experience.

What does that system do? And why might disrupting it prove beneficial?

The default mode network is a network of brain structures that are tightly linked, so they communicate a lot with each other. And what they do is connect structures in the cortex — the most evolutionarily recent part of the brain, where executive function takes place — to much older and deeper structures involved in memory and emotion. So this is a very important transit hub.

The brain has a hierarchical structure, and the default mode network kind of rides over the whole thing. It’s involved with self-reflection and self-criticism. It’s where our minds go to wander when we’re not doing something. It’s where we get our ability to think about the future or the past. And finally, it’s involved in what’s called “the autobiographical self” — a function of the brain that integrates all of your experiences into the story of your life and keeps that story going. Because without that story, you don’t really exist as an independent self.

Michael Pollan Illustration Cannabis Now

Illustration Ryan Garcia for Cannabis Now

If the ego had an address, it would be the default mode network. So how interesting that when psychedelics temporarily put that network offline, people report “melting away” with no sense of self.

Now, why dissolving one’s ego might be helpful — that’s a whole other discussion. For starters, it’s possible that having a hyperactive default mode network could be responsible for various kinds of mental illness, especially those that involve obsessive rumination and getting stuck on really destructive stories about yourself. For instance: “I can’t get through the next hour without a cigarette.” Or: “I’m unworthy of love.”

That kind of rigidity of thinking is characteristic of anxiety, depression and addiction, which happen to be the three indications which, so far, psychedelics have proven the most valuable in treating.

What about the risks?

Psychedelics are not addictive or drugs of abuse. If you give rats a lever that dispenses cocaine, they’ll press it until they die, but give them the same lever with LSD and they’ll pull it once and never again. So the risks are largely psychological — and there are people who have psychotic episodes triggered by psychedelics, especially people at risk for schizophrenia.

Before moving forward with my own psychedelic experiences, I actually went to my cardiologist and told him what I was planning, and the only psychedelic he warned me off of was MDMA (ecstasy). He basically greenlighted the others, so off I went, on a series of really interesting journeys, all but one of which were guided by trained underground therapists.

Ideally, I would have participated in one of the fully legal clinical trials currently underway, but I didn’t qualify for any of them and perhaps they didn’t want a journalist hanging around anyway. So I took psilocybin from psychedelic mushrooms, LSD, 5-MeO-DMT from dried toad venom and ayahuasca. They were all very interesting experiences that taught me important things about myself and allowed for a certain stock-taking of life that I found invaluable.

Why do you think the authorities have been, at least until relatively recently, so hostile to psychedelics and the psychedelic mind state?

When psychedelics arrived in the United States, largely in the 1950s and ’60s, they arrived naked. Which is to say that these incredible molecules showed up, with very powerful properties, and unlike many other cultures which had long traditions of ceremonial and shamanistic use, we didn’t know how to use them. In those other cultures the psychedelic experience was regulated, guided and to some extent controlled by elders with decades of experience, but that’s not what happened here.

And so, while a lot of people had very positive experiences simply taking psychedelics at a concert or during a walk in the woods, some got into trouble. The experience of feeling your ego dissolve can be ecstatic but it can also be terrifying. And if there’s no one there to help you with that, you can get into a very dark place and have a panic reaction.

So that partly explains how the authorities reacted. But another big part of this is that psychedelics became a sacrament for the counterculture. Which was a very positive thing for the counterculture, but not for members of the establishment who were trying to send young men off to Vietnam to fight a war.

Psychedelics therefore became very frightening to the authorities.

Your experiences varied pretty widely, based on the specific psychedelic and set-and-setting. Which did you find most useful?

The most valuable experience was my guided psilocybin trip, where a lot of interesting things happened, but what was perhaps most helpful was having my sense of self dissolve completely. I saw myself blown into the wind like a sheaf of little Post-it notes, and I was fine with it. I had no desire to compile myself back together.

The consciousness that was perceiving this was not my usual consciousness. Aldous Huxley [author of “Brave New World”] would say it was “the mind at large.” And this is what I think has helped terminal cancer patients who’ve been given psychedelics to help deal with end-of-life anxiety. Taping into this kind of universal consciousness that doesn’t have the usual ego defenses attached to it can be incredibly liberating. It also could have been terrifying, but I felt safe and that’s really what’s important about having a guided experience.

You’re going to have to put down all of your mental defenses when taking a high-dose psychedelic trip and if you do that in a situation where don’t feel safe or trust the person that you’re with, it can be terrifying. But I did trust my guide, and so I was able to let go and surrender to the experience.

And the insight I brought away was, “Wow, I’m not identical to my ego.”

Ego is really important. Ego gets the book written, but it also gets in our way, and walls us off from other people and from strong emotions. I think ego consciousness is at the root of tribalism and the environmental crisis, because it separates us from nature. So to find out there’s another ground on which to stand, for me that was a real epiphany. I could have gotten there probably via 20 or 30 years of psychoanalysis, but I got there in an afternoon and that’s the power of psychedelics when used in the right context.

Then, after the experience comes the most important part, which we don’t talk about enough because we tend to focus on the trip itself. But if you’re engaged in therapist-assisted psychedelic therapy, as I was, there’s a formal session where you share your experience with the therapist and attempt to integrate it into the rest of your “normal” life.

When I reported my surprise at finding that I’m not the same as my ego, and how liberating that felt, the therapist said, “Well, that’s really worth the price of admission isn’t it? You’ve had a taste of another way to be and now you can cultivate that feeling and exercise that new muscle.”

TELL US, do you see a medical value in psychedelics?

Originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE

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Marijuana may be risky for your heart

Now that marijuana is legal for medical or recreational use in many states, growing numbers of Americans — including older people — are imbibing this popular drug. In fact, the percentage of people ages 65 and older who said they used some form of marijuana almost doubled between 2015 and 2018, a recent study reports.

Compared with prescription drugs, the health consequences of using marijuana are not nearly as well studied. But converging evidence suggests that the drug may be harmful for the heart, according to a review article in JACC: Journal of the American College of Cardiology. More than two million Americans with heart disease currently use or have used marijuana, the authors estimate.

Puffing pot vs. cigarettes

Derived from Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plants, marijuana is most often smoked in joints or in a pipe. People also vape the drug in electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), or consume it in foods or candy (called edibles) or as a tincture. Many people assume that smoking or vaping marijuana isn’t as dangerous as smoking cigarettes, says study co-author Dr. Muthiah Vaduganathan, a cardiologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“But when people smoke tobacco, they take frequent, small puffs. In contrast, smoking marijuana usually involves large puffs with longer breath holds,” he says. So smoking marijuana may deposit as much or more of the chemical toxins into the lungs as when people smoke cigarettes, he adds. And vaping any substance can be dangerous; thousands of people in the United States have suffered serious lung injuries using e-cigarettes. As of this writing, 64 of them have died.

Heart-related risks

Marijuana can cause the heart to beat faster and blood pressure to rise, which can be dangerous for people with heart disease. The risk of heart attack is several times higher in the hour after smoking marijuana than it would be normally, research suggests. Other studies have found a link between marijuana use and atrial fibrillation, the most common heart rhythm disorder. And one survey suggests that smoking marijuana may raise the risk of a stroke.

Most of the evidence about marijuana is based on studies of people who smoked it. But even if you ingest marijuana by other methods, such as edibles or tinctures, the drug can still affect your cardiovascular system. The plant contains more than 100 unique chemical components classified as cannabinoids. The two most prevalent are tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC (which is what gives people a high), and cannabidiol, or CBD. These compounds bind to specific receptors in the brain. “But cannabinoid receptors are found throughout the body, including on heart cells, fat cells, and platelets, which are cells in the blood involved in clot formation,” says Dr. Vaduganathan.

Cannabinoids can affect a number of medications used to treat or prevent heart disease, including blood pressure drugs, cholesterol-lowering statins, and drugs used to treat heart rhythm disorders, as detailed in the JACC study.

Have heart disease? Avoid pot

People use marijuana for a variety of reasons, including chronic pain, says Dr. Vaduganathan. “In my clinic, I ask people if they use marijuana, and most are quite open to these discussions,” he says. Although the evidence about marijuana’s potential harms is limited, people with heart disease should be cautious about using the drug, he says. However, the advice doctors offer should be individualized. For example, heart-related risks may be less relevant for people using marijuana at the end of life for palliative purposes, he adds.

The post Marijuana may be risky for your heart appeared first on Harvard Health Blog.

Cannabis & Memory: The Evidence Behind Marijuana’s Impact on Forgetfulness

Though the idea of the dumb, unproductive stoner is still steadily phasing itself out of the cannabis conversation, unfortunately, there is still a lot of conflicting information when it comes to cannabis and memory.

The average person with a working knowledge of how weed works is often led to believe that consuming it can lower your IQ and deplete your memory, regardless of how much or how often you partake. But there is evidence that shows that there is much more to consider, including the strain of weed you’re smoking, whether or not it’s THC– or CBD-dominant and the amount of time you have been consistently smoking — and that’s just for starters.

It’s also important to consider that there are different kinds of memory. For the purpose of research, most studies focus on short-term memory (also known as working memory) and long-term memory, which includes implicit (unconscious) and explicit (conscious) memory. THC, the most well-known cannabinoid in cannabis, is what can have an impact on both long-term and short-term memory.

THC vs. CBD

Most studies, like this one from JAMA Internal Medicine, offer research confirming that “long-term heavy cannabis users show impairments in memory and attention that endure beyond the period of intoxication and worsen with increasing years of regular cannabis use.” But there are others, like this one from a medical journal called the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, that suggest that “acute exposure” to cannabis can actually help enhance working memory performance.

In another study published in a journal called Addict Biology, researchers examined the relationship between memory function and cannabis consumption and found that “that sustained moderate to heavy levels of cannabis… do not change working-memory network functionality.”

Conversely, CBD has been shown to be a neuroprotectant that has the potential to prevent the onset of conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, illnesses have forgetfulness and a decline in memory as a common symptom.

In fact, a recent study found that “CBD was able to reverse the deficits in both objection recognition memory as well as social recognition memory without impacting the body’s anxiety parameters.” The research also showed that CBD could reduce cognitive deficits.

In Conclusion? It’s Inconclusive

If it all seems like a confusing jumble of contrary data to you, you’re not alone. The truth is that there is still a lot of research that needs to be conducted in order to paint a clear and distinct picture of how cannabis truly affects memory.

In most studies, participants (including the rats) are not even allowed to smoke cannabis. Instead, they consume concentrated or even synthetic versions of THC — which absolutely affects the outcome. Because cannabis is still federally illegal, researchers are continuously facing hurdles that prevent them from having access to cannabis for testing and studies that would help provide a wider picture.

So, what’s the verdict? For now, it seems clear that there is a link between cannabis and memory, though there are various factors to take into consideration, including method of consumption. Is there a difference when it’s smoked (inhaled) versus when it’s eaten (ingested) or absorbed as when using tinctures or transdermal patches? No one knows yet.

But, if you start to notice a change or decline in your memory that you suspect is related to cannabis, there’s good news. Some research shows that just one month of abstaining from cannabis — a move that’s sometimes referred to as a “tolerance break” — can have a noticeable improvement on memory function. If you’re concerned or want to see if there’s a difference, try taking a break for a few weeks and observe yourself to see if there are any changes.

TELL US, do you think your cannabis use has impacted your memory?

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The Endocannabinoid System Explained – Why Cannabis Is Good for Our Bodies

Cannabis has been pinned as a treatment option for many different disorders lately, many of them seeming completely unrelated. Everything from physical pain to mental disorders and even cancer are said to respond to cannabinoid treatments, but how exactly is that possible?

When you first start hearing about all the different conditions that medicinal cannabis is being used for these days, it almost seems like a gimmick to legalize. Can one plant, not to mention it’s a plant that gets you high, seriously have so many therapeutic benefits? Although it may seem like a stretch, if you have an understanding of the Endocannabinoid System, it makes a lot more sense why cannabis actually works so well in the human body.

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What is the Endocannabinoid System?

The only reason cannabis actually works and has an effect on us at all is because of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). Simply put, the ECS is a network of receptors that exists in the bodies of all mammals, plus the endocannabinoids that bind to them. As a whole, the ECS regulates numerous different functions and processes in our bodies and maintains internal balance and homeostasis.

Researchers have discovered two different endocannabinoids so far, 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) and anandamide (AEA). 2-AG is made from omega-6 fatty acids and is present in fairly high levels in the central nervous system, but it has also been detected in human (and bovine) milk. 2-AG is a full agonist of both the CB1 and CB2 receptors, but it has a stronger influence over the CB2 receptor. Because of this, 2-AG is thought to have a substantial impact on the immune system.

Anandamide (AEA), also commonly referred to as the “bliss molecule”, is believed to play a major role in the in all of our basic daily physiological functions including sleep/wake cycles, appetite, mood, and even fertility; but we’ll get more in-depth on the benefits of this cannabinoid a bit later.

In addition to the naturally produced cannabinoids, there is also a large web of receptors that allow AEA and 2-AG to function the way they do. The two receptors that have been studied most extensively are CB1 and CB2. Cannabinoid receptors sit on the surface of cells and monitor conditions on the outside. Once they sense changing conditions and the body falling out of a state of homeostasis, they signal the appropriate cellular response to restore balance.

Anandamide: The Bliss Molecule

Although there are two known endocannabinoids, one is by far more prominent in research and literature: Anandamide (AEA). The reason AEA is known as the Bliss Molecule is because of the role in plays in balancing our body functions and elevating our moods. Multiple studies have been conducted on the benefits of being exposed to varying levels of anandamide.

Anandamide – The “Bliss” Molecule of the Endocannabinoid System

In 2015, a study examining both humans and rodents, found that high levels of anandamide contributed to mood elevation and fear reduction. When the enzymes that break down anandamide were inhibited, the subjects felt less fear and anxiety where threats were perceived.

2009 study linked anandamide to fertility by showing that high levels of this endocannabinoid were not only beneficial, but essential for regular ovulation and proper fetal development. The study also concluded that higher levels of anandamide during times of ovulation contributed to a healthy and successful pregnancy.

A slightly older study published in 2004 found that increased levels of anandamide the bloodstream created a “euphoric high” in people who had just performed rigorous exercise or physical activity. This is frequently described as a “runner’s high” or “adrenaline high”, and it’s likely the reason why people who use cannabis often feel that it contributes to their workout.

Although this is one of the more studied cannabinoids, there is still a lot that remains unknown about the bliss molecule the extent of its functions.

Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency

Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency is a recently discovered condition, some might call it a theory still, in which the body doesn’t produce enough endocannabinoids. As a result, the body becomes unbalanced leading to the onset of numerous different diseases and disorders.

According to acclaimed cannabinoid researcher Dr. Ethan Russo, people who are diagnosed with a clinical endocannabinoid deficiency can benefit tremendously by supplementing with phytocannabinoids – cannabinoids coming from plants.

Are You Suffering From Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency?

Migrainefibromyalgiairritable bowel syndrome and related conditions display common clinical, biochemical and pathophysiological patterns that suggests a clinical endocannabinoid deficiency that may be suitably treated with cannabinoid medicines,” Russo mentioned in his 2004 study. This research has been reviewed and echoed a couple times over the years, in 2014 and 2016.

The above conditions have the greatest evidence of being caused by a clinical endocannabinoid deficiency, however, there is an extensive and varied list of disorders that are likely related to this condition. These include neonatal failure to thrive, cystic fibrosis, causalgia, brachial plexopathy, phantom limb pain, infantile colic, glaucoma, dysmenorrhea, hyperemesis gravidarum, unexplained repetitive miscarriages, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disease, and the list continues.

Neurological disorders have also been linked to a lack of natural endocannabinoids. Some experts believe that Alzheimer’s diseaseParkinson’s disease, and similar disorders can be treated with cannabinoids. This could be why people suffering from these conditions report success when self-medicating with cannabis products.

Final Thoughts

When you look at the whole picture, and realize how integrated cannabinoids are within almost every system in our bodies, it makes perfect sense why cannabinoid-based therapies are so successful at treating so many different conditions. The Endocannabinoid System has a role in all of our basic body functions, so if you’re feeling out of balance, can’t eat right, can’t sleep, suffering from anxiety, etc., the right blend of cannabinoids might be more effective than chemical pharmaceuticals at relieving your ailments and symptoms.

Thanks for stopping by CBDtesters.co, where we’re covering everything related to medical cannabis and legal cannabis business. Stop back frequently and subscribe to the Medical Cannabis Weekly Newsletter to keep yourself up-to-date.

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A Cancer Survivor’s Guide to Using Cannabis to Cope With Chemotherapy

When I was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer, I decided to get my California medical cannabis card and used medicinal cannabis products for effective symptom management. This helped me avoid taking other pharmaceuticals that could have caused further complications during treatment. There are so many things I wish I would have known then that I know now, but my expertise today helps other patients make empowered choices about their cannabis use.

My first experience in a dispensary left me feeling as though I was doing something wrong and had me fearful of asking questions. When I did ask questions, I received vague answers. In turn, I made mistakes in my self-medication and, though not fatal, at times it was uncomfortable and inconvenient.

Part of the disconnect with my dispensary experience was that I didn’t know how to find what worked for me. We have a broad general knowledge of how cannabis — with its many modes of medicating, chemotypes and cultivars — manifests in the body. But human beings are walking chemistry experiments, which means there will be differences in our reactions. We need to find our personal patterns with cannabis (or any ingested substance for that matter) by paying close attention to what we choose and how (or if) it helps to have a better understanding of how to use cannabis as medicine.

Journaling is a great way to keep track of the types of cannabis you’re using and document their effects. What worked, what didn’t work and why — along with how much of the medicine you took — are important things to track and relay to a dispensary during your next visit. The key is to find the lowest dosage in the appropriate ratios that create the desired effect in your body.

Chemotherapy’s side effects take a huge toll on everyday life. The experience of having to get so much sicker in order to get better impacts not only your body, but your mental health as well. Cannabis can help manage symptoms stemming from both the body and mind and, in some instances, can act as a preventative measure against further damage.

Here are some of the more common side effects of chemotherapy and how cannabis interacted with each of them:

(Please note that each type of chemo has its own particular side effects and some of us are more sensitive to these drug treatments than others.) 

Fatigue

Cancer treatments can leave you wiped out or overstimulated. Inhaling small amounts of uplifting sativa flowers or using a sativa-based low dosage (2.5 – 5 mg THC) sublingual preparation (dissolved under the tongue) can lift your mood without being too sedating.

Insomnia

Insomnia is a common symptom of chemotherapy. If you are having problems getting to sleep, inhaling indica flowers can be helpful. If you are having problems staying asleep, using an indica edible will keep you peaceful overnight. Remember, if you feel a little “stoned over” in the morning, you should take down the volume of the edible. In either case, if there is anxiety around sleep or inflammation with pain, a 1:1 ratio of CBD and THC may be more appropriate.

Infection & Immune System Issues

It’s important to note that though there have never been fatalities from cannabis use alone, there are significant risks around using untested products, dried flowers in particular, if you have a compromised immune system. Untested products can contain mold, fungus or mildew that might mildly irritate someone with a hardy immune system but can sicken or even kill someone with a compromised immune system. Many states require testing nowadays, but if the state where you live doesn’t, ask companies whose products you want to use if they test and ask to see the reports.

Nausea & Vomiting

Using THC in an edible or smokable format during chemo helped me to forgo using anti-nausea drugs after my first day of treatment. For me, that was huge, as the antiemetics proscribed to treat nausea have constipating side effects that, for a colon cancer patient, can be deadly. It’s important to note that though CBD ratios help with nausea, they can also act as an anorectic, which is problematic if you’re already having issues with eating. Eating candied ginger will also help with nausea.

Decreased Appetite

Smoking or eating small amounts of THC will help pique appetite. For patients that are particularly sensitive to THC, I will often recommend trying the non-euphoric cannabinoid THCA. If you do need some CBD in your regimen around meal times, try a 1:1 CBD to THC ratio in either an edible or smokable format because the introduction of THC can help counter CBD’s appetite-reducing properties. I always like to give some non-cannabis advice around this issue as well. The book that saved me while going through treatment is called “The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen” by Rebecca Katz. This book addresses the nutritional challenges of treatment and offers great recipes to address a number of symptoms and get you eating again. I can’t praise it enough.

Anticipatory Nausea & Anxiety

The night before or the day of chemo can cause anxiety and anticipatory nausea. Higher CBD ratios such as 18:1 CBD to THC in an edible or tincture can help take down the jitters and nausea while keeping you clear-headed.

Constipation From Opioid Usage & Opiate Withdrawal

Another challenge during my treatment was using opioids. There were times I needed them for pain management, such as when I had my colon re-sectioned and the tumor removed, or for the intense discomfort I felt from my neuropathy. But the constipating effects were challenging, as were the withdrawal symptoms I felt when I weaned myself off after two weeks of using opioids after surgery. Using THC helped me lower my opiate use by amplifying the analgesic effects of Norco, the medication I was taking, without creating danger. It smoothed out the withdrawal effects as well — the restlessness, pain and sleeplessness disappeared once I started adding cannabis to the mix. Another great tool for avoiding constipation is something you can make at home called “power pudding.” It’s a home remedy involving prunes and bran and you can find many recipes for it online.

Mouth, Tongue & Throat Problems

Chemotherapy targets rapidly dividing cells in the body and does not discern which are cancerous or not. This is why some of us have upset bowels and diarrhea, or experience mouth, tongue and throat discomfort when receiving chemotherapy treatment. Cannabis is great for soothing pain, taking down inflammation and helping in the healing process. Tinctures rich in CBD are especially helpful. However, if you are experiencing mouth irritation, it would not be a good idea to use an alcohol-based tincture, as it will further irritate mucous membranes.

Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy (CIPN)

The platinum salts — including oxaliplatin and cisplatin — used in chemotherapy, along with other chemotherapeutic agents, are known to cause neuropathy in patients. Neuropathy is weakness and pain that one feels, usually in the hands and feet, thanks to damage to peripheral nerves. Some people feel it the first round of chemo, others later in treatment and we all feel it in different intensities and have different recovery times. I am seven years out of chemo and I still suffer from neuropathy. A 2014 study found that CBD prevents neuropathic pain and thermal sensitivity, while not negatively affecting nervous system function or the efficacy of the chemotherapy treatment. Taken before, during and after treatment, patients have reported not getting neuropathy, experiencing it to a lesser degree and bouncing back much faster with less residual pain and numbness.

Skin Changes

Chemotherapy can cause dry skin and inflammation from radiation. Luckily, the skin loves cannabis. Topicals are completely non-euphoric, which makes them a great mediator to use at any time and ideal for those who need symptom relief without euphoric effects. Often times, I’ll suggest a patient use the same high-CBD tincture they are taking for anxiety or pain and apply it as a topical for irritation from radiation. CBD takes down the inflammation and THC helps mitigate pain — and collectively, they help the skin heal so much faster. A topical salve with a 1:1 ratio of CBD and THC will heal dry and inflamed skin with great emollient effects.

After chemo, many patients may find they are still experiencing side effects such as anxiety, residual pain and depression. Healing from chemotherapy is a long process. The cannabis knowledge gained through treatment can also help address this phase in symptom management. In addition, be kind to yourself. As survivors, we must take a restorative approach to healing and learn how to be ourselves in a whole new way.

TELL US, have you or a loved one used cannabis as part of coping with chemotherapy’s side effects?

Originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE

The post A Cancer Survivor’s Guide to Using Cannabis to Cope With Chemotherapy appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Creating API Cannabinoid Therapies Using Molecular Methods

Let’s take a closer look at how the molecular method can be used to discover the specific combinations of cannabis compounds beneficial in the treatment of certain medical indications such as inflammatory bowel disease, skin cancer, and colon cancer.

Over the last decade, cannabis as a medicine has become a more frequent topic of discussion. Many people initially thought it was all B.S., primarily because there were no legitimate, large-scale studies to on in the United States that one could refer to. However, in other parts of the world, namely Israel, cannabinoids have been an important research subject for the last 60 years.

And what have they discovered over in six decades, you may be asking? Well, as it turns out, cannabis is one of the most powerful medicinal plants on Earth – one that can be used to treat everything from anxiety, to pain and nausea, to even certain types of cancer. What else are the scientists saying?

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Chatting with an expert

To give you a better idea of the depth at which cannabis is being studied, we included some experts from an interview with Professor Hinanit Koltai of Israel’s Volcani Research Institute, just outside of Tel Aviv. Volcani is a government funded institute focusing on agricultural research, innovation, and molecular plant science. This interview was conducted by Narkis Tessler from CannaCAST IL.

“What combinations of cannabis compounds are the beneficial ones for the treatment of different medical indications (such as inflammation and cancer)?” begins Prof. Kolati. “For that, we combined deep chemical analysis in such a way that we could see each and every molecule present in cannabis extracts. We started to work on inflammatory bowel diseases, skin diseases, and even colon cancer and inflammation of colon polyps. We were able to identify and isolate the actual composition of molecules from cannabis which act, even synergistically, to treat those different medical indications.”

“We are looking first at the molecules on the plant, and looking at each and every molecule”, she continued. “But we do not stop there. Rather, we ask, what is happening in the human cells and human tissues once they have been treated by this certain API formulation from cannabis? What genes and pathways are activated or repressed by this treatment? And by that we are looking not just at the plant, but also at the human body, and human cells and tissues and we allocate a mode of action of these cannabis compounds.”

Researcher from Volcani collaborate with numerous healthcare professionals including doctors/physicians, hospitals, pharmacists, and specialty practitioners. Who they collaborate with at any given time depends on the specific medical indication that’s being studied.

THC in the human body

Tetrahydrocannabinol, more simply known as THC, is the most dominant cannabinoid in the cannabis plant, and it’s also the one with psychoactive effects. Because of this, cannabis flower and products containing more than trace amounts of THC are federally prohibited. THC is much more complex than just a substance that gets you high though, it has a myriad of health benefits – including pain relief, brain regeneration, sleep aid, and PTSD treatment – that are hard to find in most other natural compounds.

To understand why THC works for such a seemingly random combination of medical conditions, you will have to look deep within the human body at the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). The ECS is a network of receptors that can be found throughout the bodies of all mammals. Plant based cannabinoids, known as Phytocannabinoids, only work because our bodies already create natural cannabinoids, or Endocannabinoids, and the receptors that interact with them. The ESC is believe to have a prominent role in regulating many different processes in our bodies, as well as maintaining homeostasis.

So far, researchers have been able to identify two separate endocannabinoids: 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) and anandamide (AEA), as well as two main receptors: CB1 and CB2. 2-AG is a full agonist of both the CB1 and CB2 receptors but it has a more direct association with the CB2 receptor. Because of this, 2-AG is thought to have a substantial influence over the immune system.

THC is the only major cannabinoid that directly activates both the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain – even CBD (cannabidiol), which has become mainstream for it’s well-publicized medical benefits – does not. Other compounds can actually interfere with the way THC impacts the CB receptors, which is precisely why dosing and ratios (THC:CBD) are incredibly pertinent when it comes to successfully using cannabis-based therapies.

Not Just for Getting High – The Underreported Medical Uses of THC

A closer look at CBD

Cannabidiol (CBD), is well known for being a full-on, therapeutic powerhouse. And it’s true, CBD can certainly be used on a wide range of conditions including epilepsy, anxiety, and inflammation. However, unlike THC, CBD only communicates indirectly with the CB receptors in our brains. CBD works by targeting numerous other systems. For example, CBD’s connection with the serotonin system helps reduce anxiety, which CBD’s activation of the TRPV1 receptor is the reason why it works for pain.

More recently discovered is a target called the G-protein Coupled Receptor 55, or GPR55. This is another receptor that cannabis compounds, including CBD, bind to. GPR55 appears to be a major factor in much of the pharmacology related to cannabis, including CBD’s actions in preventing seizures and fighting tumors.

To summarize, the most frequently cited uses for CBD are: anxiety, pain, inflammation, seizure control, and addiction management. Motivational disorders like addiction and anxiety are incredibly complicated and hard to understand as they impact quite a few receptor systems and neural pathways all at once. Over the coming years, we can expect that researchers will continue to further study these complexities to discover the full scope of CBD’s therapeutic effects within the body.

The Top 5 Medical Uses for CBD

Treating cancer with cannabis

Throughout the world, most people’s lives have been affected by cancer in some way, whether they had it or they know someone who does or did. In the United States alone, roughly 1.8 million people are diagnosed with cancer each year. The most common diagnosis is breast cancer, which affects close to 277,000 women each ear. Cancer is also the most common cause of death in Canada, accounting for nearly 30% of the overall death rate. Treatment options include radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery – all of which carry some potentially dangerous and long-lasting side effects.

It seems like a stretch at first, but more research is coming to the surface describing cannabis compound’s ability to fight cancerous tumors. Take the most recent study on this topic, published March 31, 2020 in the Oncotarget medical journal, where they found that numerous cannabinoids – CBD and THC, as well as CBC (cannabichromene) and CBN (cannabinol) – can cause cell death in certain tumors.

As per the study, “Treatment with the synergistic combination of the active fractions led to apoptotic cell death in My-La and HuT-78 cell lines. Moreover, the synergistic treatment also led to apoptosis in SPBL, which was significantly selective to the malignant enriched cell population within the SPBL, further implicating possible therapeutic use. Indeed, a prevalent effect of cannabinoids on cancer cells is the induction of death by apoptosis and the inhibition of cancer cell proliferation [21]. For example, THC was previously demonstrated to induce the apoptotic death of cancerous glioma cells via CB1 and CB2 receptors.”

Additionally, a cannabis-based treatment for cancer might actually be within reach, thanks to the ongoing work of medical cannabis pioneer, Professor Raphael Mechoulam. Mechoulam, who is currently head of the Cannabinoids Research Multidisciplinary Center at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, is leading a research team aimed at developing cannabis-based treatments for three aggressive forms of cancer: melanoma (skin cancer), neuroblastoma (cancer originating in the surrounding and mostly neural system in children), and glaublastoma (brain cancer).

$2 Million Going To Cannabis Cancer Research Led By Professor Mechoulam

Final Thoughts

As usual, I’m once again amazed at the sheer magnitude of this plant’s healing abilities. Not only can it be used in the treatment of so many different medical indications, it’s also safe, non-addictive, and generally speaking, has very minimal side effects. Once the science here in the U.S. begins to catch up, we can anticipate the introduction of new and innovative cannabis-based therapies.

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The Endocannabinoid System and Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency

The discovery of the endocannabinoid system in the mid-1980s was a major breakthrough in modern medicine. Yet, if you looked at the curriculum for most medical schools, you might not know it. The finding would not have been possible without the help of the cannabis plant, which remains illicit in most countries around the world. After wide-spread legalization of medical cannabis and over three decades of research, knowledge about the endocannabinoid system and its associated pathologies, like clinical endocannabinoid deficiency, remain sorely overlooked.

The Endocannabinoid System: The Find of the Century?

Two decades before the discovery of the endocannabinoid system, a team of scientists led by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, a professor of medical chemistry a the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, had finally isolated the primary psychoactive constituent of the cannabis plant—tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). After the discovery, researchers around the globe began the quest to figure out exactly how the compound worked.  A group led by Dr. Allyn Howlett, a neuroscientist then with St. Louis University, finally cracked the mystery: THC produced its psychoactive effects through engagement with specialized cell receptors.

A cell receptor can be thought of as a lock that is embedded on the surface of a cell membrane. These locks only respond to specific chemical keys. In this case, THC was the key that engaged a cannabinoid receptor. As research would soon reveal, cannabinoid receptors are part of a larger endocannabinoid system (ECS), a neurotransmitter and cell signaling network like none other.  Made up of receptor sites, their respective chemical activators, and the enzymes that deactivate these compounds, scientists quickly unveiled that the ECS was ubiquitous throughout the human body. Cannabinoid receptors are nearly everywhere — connective tissue, the brain, the spinal cord, internal organs, the digestive tract, the skin, and immune cells.

After what surely was many long hours in the lab, Howlett and her team landed on something big. Why on earth would these receptors be found in so many places? Nearly three decades down the line, scientists are still exploring the wide-reaching ramifications of the endocannabinoid system, Howlett included. In the time since its first discovery, the ECS has been found to be a potent regulator of brain activity, hormonal function, and immune response, linking the three main regulatory systems together. It’s this pervasive modulatory network that responds to THC and other cannabis constituents. When a person consumes intoxicating forms of cannabis, THC hijacks the cannabinoid receptor sites that are normally inhabited by compounds that the body produces naturally.

These compounds are called endocannabinoids. The prefix endo- refers to endogenous or internal cannabinoids. In contrast, the cannabinoids found on the cannabis plant are phytocannabinoids with the prefix phyto referring to plants. As it turns out, endocannabinoids are molecules that help maintain a state of equilibrium, or homeostasis, throughout the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems. Endocannabinoids play the part of harmonizers or middlemen, managing how each of these systems responds to stressful stimuli and communicates with the others.

Endocannabinoids are at least in part responsible for regulating the biological clock, managing things like hunger and sleep over the course of the day. Cannabinoid receptors are also highly concentrated in areas of the brain responsible for memory, emotion, and metabolism, giving them regulatory effects over a remarkable number of physiological functions. One endocannabinoid, called anandamide, even takes its name from the Sanskrit word for bliss Ananda thanks to its calming and relaxing effects.

With such a profound influence over so many basic bodily commands, it is now theorized that problems in the ECS may contribute to a wide variety of difficult-to-treat pathologies. These potential pathologies include ailments as diverse as migraines and autism.

Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency May Contribute to Disease

Howlett and Mechulam may have kicked off the first forays into the endocannabinoid system, but they are far from the only scientists who made serious contributions to this emerging arena of health and medicine. Back in 2001, Ethan Russo, a neurologist and medical researcher, first made the case for clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD). Russo is currently the Director of Research and Development with the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute (ICCI). His theory? That many common diseases stem from deficiencies of the endocannabinoid system.

“Many human disorders relate to deficiencies of neurotransmitter function,” Russo told Cannabis Aficionado. “We know that a lack of acetylcholine, the memory neurotransmitter, is key to dementia in Alzheimer disease and related disorders. Parkinson disease is associated with a lack of dopamine function. Depression is related to problems with serotonin.”

Now, Russo suggests that something similar could occur in the endocannabinoid system. “In 2001,” he explains, “I hypothesized that various human disorders could be related to a lack of endocannabinoids, the natural chemicals within our brain and bodies that are similar in activity to THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis.”

Since endocannabinoids have wide-spread functions in the body, a lack or deficiency of these signaling molecules could cause a whole host of trouble. Symptoms like seizures, mood troubles, and generalized pain, nausea, and inflammation are all possible side effects of an endocannabinoid imbalance. Further, the universal nature of the ECS means that ailments which are seemingly unrelated to each other may now be classified together under the endocannabinoid umbrella.

“The prime candidates for clinical endocannabinoid deficiency are migraine, fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome,” says Russo, describing conditions that are currently thought of as distinct and separate pathologies. “All [three] have compelling evidence in the interim that there are deficiencies in endocannabinoid function. Additional evidence has accumulated to include post-traumatic stress, autism, and other disorders.”

It is the ECS that perhaps describes why conditions like migraine and irritable bowel syndrome may share so many overlapping symptoms, including changes in mood, digestive distress, pain, and fatigue. These problems may be genetic in nature or acquired over time. At least one scientist has even gone as far as to describe the endocannabinoid system as a “bridge between body and mind”, connecting the physical reality with an emotional and intellectual one.

Toward Recognition of the ECS

Researchers have been investigating the influence of the endocannabinoid system in disease pathology for the past 30 years. Despite advancements in our understanding about the ECS, however, therapies targeting the endocannabinoid system are still few and far between. While some cannabinoid-based therapies are available to select patients, medical cannabis still remains one of the primary therapies that targets the ECS.

Yet, while the herb has been immensely helpful to patients around the world, both cannabis and endocannabinoid research still suffers from underutilization and harsh political barriers to research. In fact, a 2018 study from the Washington School of Medicine found that only a meager nine percent of medical schools teach their students about medical cannabis. This is despite the fact that the medicinal use of the herb is legal in 33 U.S. states and all of Canada.

“In my opinion, the media attention [on the endocannabinoid system] is not yet sufficient,” says Russo, “as the scientific evidence behind the theory is now quite solid based on serum and cerebrospinal fluid tests and other data.” He is referring to tests conducted in patients with schizophrenia,  migraine, and epilepsy. In each of these conditions, patients exhibited a dysregulation of endocannabinoid molecules in their cerebrospinal fluid. In post-traumatic stress, scientists at the New York University Langone Medical Center made a similar finding back in 2013. Compared with controls, PTSD patients demonstrated reduced endocannabinoid circulation.

“Considering the extreme amount of suffering and economic costs associated with clinical endocannabinoid deficiency disorders, it is necessary to have better research support and clinical investigations,” he presses. Better research and support would enable medical researchers and other scientists to more efficiently establish key therapies and interventions for endocannabinoid disorders. “While it is clear that cannabis in one form or another can be very effective in treating such disorders, certain lifestyle approaches, such as low impact aerobic activity, and dietary manipulations with prebiotics and probiotics may also be effective.”

Unfortunately, nearly 75 percent of medical schools also fail to provide students with the required amount of nutrition education. In a world of quasi-legal remedies and under-acknowledged illnesses, its past time that formal institutions look seriously into endocannabinoid health.

TELL US, have you heard of the endocannbinoid system?

Originally published on Cannabis Aficianado.

The post The Endocannabinoid System and Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency appeared first on Cannabis Now.

If cannabis becomes a problem: How to manage withdrawal

Proponents of cannabis generally dismiss the idea that there is a cannabis withdrawal syndrome. One routinely hears statements such as, “I smoked weed every day for 30 years and then just walked away from it without any problems. It’s not addictive.” Some cannabis researchers, on the other hand, describe serious withdrawal symptoms that can include aggression, anger, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, anorexia, depression, restlessness, headaches, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Given this long list of withdrawal symptoms, it’s a wonder that anyone tries to reduce or stop using cannabis. Why is there such a disconnect between researchers’ findings and the lived reality of cannabis users?

New research highlights the problems of withdrawal, but provides an incomplete picture

A recent meta-analysis published in JAMA cites the overall prevalence of cannabis withdrawal syndrome as 47% among “individuals with regular or dependent use of cannabinoids.” The authors of the study raise the alarm that “many professionals and members of the general public may not be aware of cannabis withdrawal, potentially leading to confusion about the benefits of cannabis to treat or self-medicate symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders.” In other words, many patients using medical cannabis to “treat” their symptoms are merely caught up in a cycle of self-treating their cannabis withdrawal. Is it possible that almost half of cannabis consumers are actually experiencing a severe cannabis withdrawal syndrome — to the point that it is successfully masquerading as medicinal use of marijuana — and they don’t know it?

Unfortunately, the study in JAMA doesn’t seem particularly generalizable to actual cannabis users. This study is a meta-analysis — a study which includes many studies that are deemed similar enough to lump together, in order to increase the numerical power of the study and, ideally, the strength of the conclusions. The authors included studies that go all the way back to the mid-1990s — a time when cannabis was illegal in the US, different in potency, and when there was no choice or control over strains or cannabinoid compositions, as there is now. One of the studies in the meta-analysis included “cannabis dependent inpatients” in a German psychiatric hospital in which 118 patients were being detoxified from cannabis. Another was from 1998 and is titled, “Patterns and correlates of cannabis dependence among long-term users in an Australian rural area.” It is not a great leap to surmise that Australians in the countryside smoking whatever marijuana was available to them illegally in 1998, or patients in a psychiatric hospital, might be substantively different from current American cannabis users.

Medical cannabis use is different from recreational use

Moreover, the JAMA study doesn’t distinguish between medical and recreational cannabis, which are actually quite different in their physiological and cognitive effects — as Harvard researcher Dr. Staci Gruber’s work tells us. Medical cannabis patients, under the guidance of a medical cannabis specialist, are buying legal, regulated cannabis from a licensed dispensary; it might be lower in THC (the psychoactive component that gives you the high) and higher in CBD (a nonintoxicating, more medicinal component), and the cannabis they end up using often results in them ingesting a lower dose of THC.

Cannabis withdrawal symptoms are real

 All of this is not to say that there is no such thing as a cannabis withdrawal syndrome. It isn’t life-threatening or medically dangerous, but it certainly does exist. It makes absolute sense that there would be a withdrawal syndrome because, as is the case with many other medicines, if you use cannabis every day, the natural receptors by which cannabis works on the body “down-regulate,” or thin out, in response to chronic external stimulation. When the external chemical is withdrawn after prolonged use, the body is left in the lurch, and forced to rely on natural stores of these chemicals — but it takes time for the natural receptors to grow back to their baseline levels. In the meantime, the brain and the body are hungry for these chemicals, and the result is withdrawal symptoms.

Getting support for withdrawal symptoms

Uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms can prevent people who are dependent or addicted to cannabis from remaining abstinent. The commonly used treatments for cannabis withdrawal are either cognitive behavioral therapy or medication therapy, neither of which has been shown to be particularly effective. Common medications that have been used are dronabinol (which is synthetic THC); nabiximols (which is cannabis in a mucosal spray, so you aren’t actually treating the withdrawal); gabapentin for anxiety (which has a host of side effects); and zolpidem for the sleep disturbance (which also has a list of side effects). Some researchers are looking at CBD, the nonintoxicating component of cannabis, as a treatment for cannabis withdrawal.

Some people get into serious trouble with cannabis, and use it addictively to avoid reality. Others depend on it to an unhealthy degree. Again, the number of people who become addicted or dependent is somewhere between the 0% that cannabis advocates believe and the 100% that cannabis opponents cite. We don’t know the actual number, because the definitions and studies have been plagued with a lack of real-world relevance that many studies about cannabis suffer from, and because the nature of both cannabis use and cannabis itself have been changing rapidly.

How do you know if your cannabis use is a problem?

The standard definition of cannabis use disorder is based on having at least two of 11 criteria, such as: taking more than was intended, spending a lot of time using it, craving it, having problems because of it, using it in high-risk situations, getting into trouble because of it, and having tolerance or withdrawal from discontinuation. As cannabis becomes legalized and more widely accepted, and as we understand that you can be tolerant and have physical or psychological withdrawal from many medicines without necessarily being addicted to them (such as opiates, benzodiazepines, and some antidepressants), I think this definition seems obsolete and overly inclusive. For example, if one substituted “coffee” for “cannabis,” many of the 160 million Americans who guzzle coffee on a daily basis would have “caffeine use disorder,” as evidenced by the heartburn and insomnia that I see every day as a primary care doctor. Many of the patients that psychiatrists label as having cannabis use disorder believe that they are fruitfully using cannabis to treat their medical conditions — without problems — and recoil at being labeled as having a disorder in the first place. This is perhaps a good indication that the definition doesn’t fit the disease.

Perhaps a simpler, more colloquial definition of cannabis addiction would be more helpful in assessing your use of cannabis: persistent use despite negative consequences. If your cannabis use is harming your health, disrupting your relationships, or interfering with your job performance, it is likely time to quit or cut down drastically, and consult your doctor. As part of this process, you may need to get support or treatment if you experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, which may make it significantly harder to stop using.

The post If cannabis becomes a problem: How to manage withdrawal appeared first on Harvard Health Blog.