What is THC? The Cannabis Plant’s Most Abundant Compound

The cannabis plant is beautiful but complex. For centuries it was left untouched by humanity, growing freely in all corners of the world, before suddenly it was being used for hemp raw materials, spiritual ceremonies and enjoyment. One of the prominent cannabinoids within cannabis is THC, which gives the well-known high effect that many desire. But how much do you actually know about THC? We’re going to be taking you through its traits, the way it works on the body and how the rest of the world views it. Let’s go. 

THC

THC, also known as tetrahydrocannabinol, is one of the more dominant cannabinoids within the cannabis plant. There are over 500 discovered compounds inside cannabis, around 100 of these are cannabinoids. These are responsible for the effects that the user experiences. There are also over 100 terpenes within the plant, these are what give it its flavor and aroma. As more nations begin legalizing the substance, there is far more research being done to fully understand it.

To put it simply, THC is the psychoactive chemical that causes the majority of the effects that come from consuming cannabis. Psychoactive cannabinoids have mind-altering effects, whereas some do not. The plant secretes resin containing the cannabinoids through the glands, and this is where the ‘high’ derives from. 

Differences to CBD

The other prominent cannabinoid within the plant is CBD, also known as cannabidiol. It is derived from the hemp plant, which is like a close cousin of marijuana – which contains mostly THC. Funnily enough, the two cannabinoids have the same chemical structure. This includes 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms and 2 oxygen atoms. However, the ways in which they are arranged is what makes them intrinsically different. This difference means that CBD is not psychoactive, whereas THC is. In essence, CBD does not have mind-altering effects like its cousin. There is no high.

However, it is still used commonly in medical cannabis practices, due to its relaxing effects on various physical and mental ailments. Due to the fact that CBD is not used recreationally, it has been legalized in the majority of the world. CBD edibles and beverages are everywhere these days. However, THC has been a much slower burner. The specific way it works on the body – triggering the well-known ‘high’ – has made it unpopular and harder to legalize. 

Cannabinoids 

There are over 100 cannabinoids within the cannabis plant, and more are being discovered frequently. Some of these include: THC, CBD, THCa, CBDa, CBN, CBC, THCV and many others. Most cannabinoids do not get you high, but this does not mean they do not all combine together to create certain effects. Even CBD – whilst not psychoactive – will influence the way that THC reacts with the endocannabinoid system in the body. As more research is being done, newer products containing less common cannabinoids are being released.


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For instance, Binoid have products that contain THCV, which is supposed to be stronger than THC. The world of cannabinoids might seem overly confusing, but really it is just an example of a bunch of lab coats messing around with the structures of the cannabis plant to see how it changes its effects. The important thing to remember is that cannabinoids need to be heated in the decarboxylation process in order to be activated. This is how THCa becomes the psychoactive THC. Without this process, cannabis is basically inactive. 

THC and the Body

All cannabinoids work on the body in mostly the same way. However, it is their individual traits and chemicals that will trigger different reactions. The endocannabinoid system – which are cannabinoid receptors – are located in different areas of the body. When cannabis is consumed, the cannabinoids bind to these receptors and activate changes in their memory, pleasure, concentration, time perception and overall senses.

THC links specifically to receptors in the brain, which controls mood, appetite and other feelings. CBD, on the other hand, works mainly on the body, causing relaxation. As the THC stimulates the cells, it triggers dopamine release, which can create feelings of euphoria. The effects it has on the receptors can also cause some hallucinations, depending on potency. Here are the common effects or feelings of THC:

Positive Effects

  • Euphoria
  • Deep thoughts
  • Motivation
  • Pain relief
  • Relaxation 
  • Giggliness
  • Inventiveness

Negative Effects

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea 
  • Memory loss
  • Confusion 
  • Concentration issues
  • Tiredness
  • Paranoia 

Is THC Dangerous?

Like with any substance, moderation is crucial. There have been cases where the overuse of THC has caused problems. First of all, smoking any substance can damage your lungs and major organs. Combustion, the process of lighting a joint, releases dangerous toxins and cancerous carcinogens into the body. However, if you vape your cannabis, you avoid the process of combustion.

This makes it far healthier for you. Consuming cannabis through edibles is also an even healthier option. There have been cases where the over consumption of THC has caused mood swings, anxiety and dependency. It is always important to keep track of your feelings when using cannabis, in order to fully know how it’s impacting your everyday life. 

Medical Benefits

Whilst THC gives users the desired ‘high’ they want, it also is being used more and more in medical practices for the benefits it has. The way it works on the endocannabinoid system can also help massively with physical and mental pains. The FDA in the US have approved two synthetic formulations of THC that can be used to treat certain ailments. Nabilone and Dronabinol are both used for treating cancer symptoms and pains. THC can help with a variety of issues:

  • Pain
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Appetite loss
  • Sickness
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle spasms 
  • Glaucoma 

Potency of THC in Cannabis

A lot of people wonder how much THC is in a normal batch of cannabis. Well, of course it depends on where you’re buying it from. In Amsterdam or California, where their market is booming and full of variety, there is a great deal of choice. However, if you’re in a country that has yet to legalize THC, the chances are you’ll be scraping the barrel of whatever’s available. It also depends on how you’re consuming the cannabis – the percentage of THC in flower buds will be a lot less than in concentrates.

Buds

Cannabis buds are the common way of smoking or vaping THC. It usually takes around 2-10 minutes to feel the effects, and this can last around 1-3 hours. It is usual for a batch of bud to contain around 15-20% THC.  

Concentrates

Concentrates are made by using heat and force to extract the potent parts of cannabis from the bud. The likes of wax, resin, budder – are all concentrates. These are usually smoked or vaped also, but they can be much stronger. The average concentrate will have a THC percentage of anywhere from 50-80%. 

Edibles 

Edibles, like cookies or cakes, contain infused cannabis. These go through the digestive system, which takes longer for the THC to have its effects. It can take up to 1-2 hours, but it can last around 6 hours. These are usually done in mg of THC contained. The usual amount in a single dosage is around 15-20 mg. 

Is THC Legal?

In the last decade, cannabis has been legalized in many countries and states. 21 out of the 50 states in the US have now legalized the use, sale, production and cultivation of THC. In Europe, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Malta and soon to be Germany have all changed their views too. Canada is another nation that has fully accepted the plant. However, there is still much of the world that has yet to approve THC as a legal substance. Nations like India, China, the UK, France, Spain, Russia and many others are still resisting. But for medical practices – mainly involving CBD and no more than 0.3% THC – most of the world has legalized it. It seems evident that the tide is changing towards the full legalization of cannabis around the world, but it may take a decade or so more before this materializes. 

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Conclusion

Cannabis is a plant that has a plethora of benefits of effects. Fortunately, as more nations change their views on the substance, more of these benefits are being released. THC is one of the main elements of this. Whilst it does cause the ‘high’ that everyone loves, it also has medicinal purposes too. Although, like with any psychoactive drug, it should be taken with knowledge and mindfulness. Hopefully – as the tide changes – THC will one day be a cannabinoid that is accessible everywhere.

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Beckley Foundation Announces LSD, Microdosing Research

A series of three new research projects announced this week will seek to illuminate our understanding of microdosing LSD.

The research is being spearheaded by The Beckley Foundation and its founder, the experienced psychedelics researcher Amanda Feilding.

“The first study will assess the brain changes that take place during the mystical experience—that is, a profound sense of connection or unity that can occur following ingestion of high doses of psychedelic compounds and which is proving to be associated with the benefits of psychedelic-assisted therapy…The second study is a collaboration between Feilding and physicians at the University of Basel—the city in which Albert Hofmann first synthesized LSD. This study will examine the therapeutic potential of microdosing LSD for the treatment of apathy and depression in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions…A third study co-led by Beckley and Cornell University will use advanced optical imaging to investigate how LSD alters cerebral blood flow and the connection between neurons and their associated network of blood vessels,” according to Benzinga

The first study leans on research “developed by Feilding and neuroimaging experts from King’s College London and UCL, [and] seeks to expand understanding of the neurobiology of consciousness,” Benzinga reported. All three projects “are part of a larger multi-armed research program developed and led by Feilding and are focused on the use of the latest generation of neuroimaging technologies.”

Microdosing psychedelics has exploded in popularity over the last decade, as many have adopted the approach to alleviate depression and other conditions. 

As such, research into the practice has also blossomed. A study published this past summer found that “psilocybin microdosers demonstrate greater observed improvements in mood and mental health at one month relative to non-microdosing controls.” 

The study, authored by researchers at the University of British Columbia’s Department of Psychology, examined more than 1,100 subjects over a two year period. Researchers observed “small- to medium-sized improvements in mood and mental health that were generally consistent across gender, age and presence of mental health concerns … improvements in psychomotor performance that were specific to older adults.”

Founded in 1998 by Feilding, the Beckley Foundation “has been at the forefront of global drug policy reform and scientific research into psychoactive substances.”

“We collaborate with leading scientific and political institutions worldwide to design and develop ground-breaking research and global policy initiatives,” the group says on its website

Feilding, meanwhile, is an authority on psychedelic research. 

According to her biography on the Beckley Foundation website, she “has been called the ‘hidden hand’ behind the renaissance of psychedelic science, and her contribution to global drug policy reform has also been pivotal and widely acknowledged.”

“Amanda was first introduced to LSD in the mid-1960s, at the height of the first wave of scientific research into psychedelics. Impressed by its capacity to initiate mystical states of consciousness and heighten creativity, she quickly recognised its transformative and therapeutic power. Inspired by her experiences, she began studying the mechanisms underlying the effects of psychedelic substances and dedicated herself to exploring ways of harnessing their potential to cure sickness and enhance wellbeing,” the website says. 

Through the Beckley Foundation, she has “initiated much ground-breaking research and has co-authored over 80 scientific articles published in peer-reviewed journals.”

“She collaborates with leading scientists and institutions around the world to design and direct a wide range of scientific research projects (including clinical trials) investigating the effects of psychoactive substances on brain function, subjective experience, and clinical symptoms, with a focus on cannabis, the psychedelics (LSD, psilocybin, ayahuasca, DMT, 5-MEO-DMT) and MDMA,” the website says. 

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Who Is Smoking Weed in the US? Insights From Gallup & Government

Well before legalizations I was smoking weed, and so was a very large part of the population I came into contact with; though its illegal status meant less admitting to this. In fact, it’s been the most popular drug for so long, it’s funny to see research talking about it like a new trend. People have always been smoking weed, but now that its more socially acceptable, its okay to talk about it. So, to give an idea of who is smoking weed in the US (now that people are being more open), here’s some info to provide new insights, from both Gallup and the government.


Where is this data coming from?

Before getting into the numbers, let’s first examine where the following information is coming from. It’s great to know that a lot of people smoke, but when it comes to informational breakdowns, it requires a lot of information collection. One of the biggest organizations to collect and publish data on consumer opinions, is the company Gallup.

You’ve probably heard the term ‘Gallup poll’, because they’re used for all kinds of data collection, and get published frequently to help shed light on a subject for the general public. Gallup polls are conducted through the US analytics company Gallup, Inc., which hails out of Washington, DC. Gallup conducts all sorts of opinion polls, both in the US, and abroad.

The polls are all carried out via telephone interviews. The numbers called create random samples, and any number with a working exchange can be used, including unlisted numbers. As with any poll, it’s hard to imagine they’ll ever be 100% right on, but have through the years provided a level of consistency in accuracy that makes them useful tools for gauging public opinion.


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It should be remembered, however, that its easy to hang up on a person calling for a poll, and many people will simply never take part in one, while others relish the opportunity. Plus, plenty of people don’t answer calls they’re unfamiliar with; and some populations, like the homeless, are less likely to have a number at all. These surveys are useful, but only as good as who picks up and feels like responding.

However, Gallup polls are interesting because they’re not based on governments looking for information, and have more of an independent appeal. This can mean less slant in the outcome, and more reason for impartiality. Having said that, other organizations, including government organizations, also provide compiled data on topics like drug use.

Which is expected to provide a better answer? It’s hard to say. A lot of recent information comes from the Monitoring the Future panel study, which was conducted via the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, and which received its funding through the National Institutes of Health’s NIDA, making it a government study. How does non-government Gallup data compare to the government version? Read on to find out.

Current Gallup data on who is smoking weed in the US

It’s easy to say, ‘everyone is doing it’, but that’s not true. And sometimes its nice to see an actual breakdown of exactly who is, and who isn’t (or, at least, as exact as possible). The first thing to know, is that the first time Gallup ever asked this question in the US, it was back in 1969, and at that time, only 4% admitted to having used marijuana. Now, this represents a possible limitation, in that at a time when there was a strong social stigma against it, it might have been harder to get people to be honest…even if it was anonymous polls.

What’re the most recent Gallup numbers? As of 2021, up to 49% of respondants said they’d used cannabis. Says director of U.S. social research for the company, Lydia Saad, “In the next few years, we should see that crossing 50 percent.”

What else has Gallup found about marijuana usage among Americans? Well for one thing, apparently if you’ve got a Masters degree, you’re only a third as likely to smoke marijuana a those who only have a standard college degree or less. And as it might seem obvious just by which states were the first to adopt recreational policies, democrats have shown to be twice as likely to toke up as republicans. In the same vein, those who see themselves as liberals, apparently use marijuana almost 4X as much as those who see themselves as conservatives.

Weed polling data

Gallup polls also indicate that men have been more likely to use than women throughout the years. How much more? At apparently a nearly 2:1 ratio. However, this gap has steadily been closing in more recent years, and in the young adult category, it almost doesn’t exist at all anymore.

Gallup polls have shown another interesting point. While they look at opinion, they tend to also look at who has that opinion. What its polling shows, is that though some people (as much as 50%) still have a negative view on cannabis, that negative view comes primarily from those who don’t, and have often never, used it. Those who do use it see it as beneficial for both individuals and society (70% and 66% respectively).

Those who never used it, see it as beneficial on both those levels at only 35% and 27% respectively, with much higher numbers in the not-beneficial category (62% and 72% respectively). This says quite a bit about knowing the thing you’re making a judgment about, and how not knowing about something, can easily lead to fear of it.

Current Monitoring the Future Panel study info on who is smoking weed in the US

So we saw a little bit of what Gallup had to say, now what about what the government compiled? According to this data, about 2/5 of young adults say they use cannabis at least sometimes. Remember how it used to be mainly men smoking? Well, part of the rise, is the catching up of the female population. The young adult category is comprised of those 19-30, and the comparison comes from looking at 2021 data, next to data from both five and 10 years ago.

The data also points to a another interesting factor.Take Vermont, for example. When it comes to young adult users, you actually now have a greater number than non-users. As in, for the 19-30 category, more people in that location now use cannabis, than don’t use it. This is getting close to the case in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, DC as well.

In terms of past-year, past-month and daily cannabis use (20+ occasions in past month), 2021 had the highest levels since the question began being looked into in 1988. Past month usage reached as high as 29%. Five years ago it was 21%, and 10 years ago it was 17%. In terms of daily use? 11% met the standard for 2021, whereas only 8% did five years ago, and 6% 10 years ago.

Weed legalization in the US
Weed legalization in the US

Another interesting factor? While alcohol continues to be the #1 drug of choice, it has steadily been going down in usage. This was seen in past-year, past-month, and daily drinking trends, which have all gone down in the last decade. This isn’t as clear cut as it sounds however, as high intensity drinking (10+ drinks in a row), has gone up. Does this indicate that party drinking is still a thing, while non-party drinking is growing less popular? Hard to say exactly. Just like its hard to say if this is directly correlated to rising cannabis use.

And another growing trend according to this data? The use of hallucinogens. According to the data, these numbers have also grown quite a bit in the last decade. The 2021 numbers show 8% for this category, up from 5% five years ago, and 3% 10 years ago. Should we expect these numbers to skyrocket up as well in the next few years, as more states legalize hallucinogenic drugs? Certainly seems like it with an Oregon legalization of magic mushrooms, access to MDMA and psilocybin in Connecticut, and a pre-emptive MDMA legalization in Colorado, along with a ballot measure for legal use of entheogenic plants.

Conclusion

Who is smoking weed in the US? Well, according to both Gallup and government data, a large and growing section of the population, particularly in the young adult category. Which is more accurate? It kind of doesn’t matter. The trend shows the same through both sets of data, with a general upward trajectory in overall usage. Imagine what these numbers will look like in another few years, especially considering five more states are up for legalizations this election season, including southern states which were previously holdouts.

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Can You Overdose on Psychedelics?

When it comes to using drugs, both medicinally and recreationally, one of the scariest things that can happen is an overdose. I haven’t experienced one personally, but I have seen someone else go through it; and even viewing it from the sidelines was terrifying. Some drugs carry a much higher overdose risk than others. For example, your chances of experience dangerous levels of toxicity on meth or heroin are much higher than if you were using, say, ketamine or MDMA.

As a matter of fact, psychedelics in general (both natural and synthetic) carry a very low threat of overdose. With many compounds in this class of drugs, it’s nearly impossible to reach that point. What are the chances someone could overdose on some of the more popular hallucinogens, like shrooms or LSD? Read on to learn more.


What is an Overdose?

An overdose is the term for the physiological response that occurs when we take too much of a substance or combination of substances. Overdoses are often accidental, but they can be intentional as well and make up a substantial portion of suicide attempts (67 percent, to be exact). Additionally, overdoses can happen from a variety of different substances including both illicit and prescription drugs, alcohol, and even certain vitamins (although the last one is rare).  

An overdose can be fatal, and the most common cause for it is usually respiratory failure, although there are a few other ways that drug use can end in clinical overdose. That said, overdoses can be reversed, and the person can be saved if the correct medical treatment is administered in time (i.e., Narcan for opioid overdoses, or stomach pumping and use of activated charcoal for alcohol poisoning).  

Because of how they function in the human body, opioids are one of the substances most likely to cause overdoses. Our bodies are full of opioid receptors, although they’re largely concentrated in the brain, central and peripheral nervous systems, and in the gastrointestinal tract. When using lower amounts of opioids, these receptors are activated and bodily functions begin to slow down. However, if you take too much, these receptors become overwhelmed, and they eventually shut down completely… resulting in overdose and possible death.  

Another very dangerous substance is alcohol, although in the context of consuming too much, it’s not referred to as an overdose, but rather “alcohol poisoning”. Alcohol poisoning comes on quickly sometimes and it can affect your breathing, heart rate, body temperature, and gag reflexes. Alcohol poisoning can potentially lead to coma and also death.  


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The class of illicit substances least likely to cause that level of harm, are psychedelics. Which is interesting as many remain on the DEA’s list of schedule 1 narcotics while more dangerous drugs that CAN, in fact, kill people – such as methamphetamine, cocaine, and various opioids – are classified as schedule 2 or higher. For the record, the DEA defines schedule 1 narcotics as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse”; and drugs with the largest number (schedule 4 and 5) are considered safest. So, psychedelics are on the schedule 1 list and meth is not, as if that makes any sense. 

Psychedelics and Overdoses  

Although you technically can overdose on psychedelics, it’s rare with most and nearly impossible with some. Now, let’s quickly discuss a concept known as “effective dose vs lethal dose”. This is referring to the dose it takes to get high versus the dose it takes for the drug to kill someone, and how that ratio compares to other drugs. 

For example, GHB, heroin, and methamphetamine are among the most toxic substances, with a lethal dose that is only a few times higher than the effective dose. Even the lethal dose to die on alcohol is only 10 times the dose needed to get drunk. Compare this with psilocybin, that has a lethal dose estimated to be 1,000 times higher than the effective dose, or even ketamine whose lethal dose is 38 times higher than the effective; one can easily ascertain that psychedelics – both natural and synthetic – are relatively safe. 

The least physiologically toxic substances, or those requiring 100 to 1,000 times the effective dose to cause death, include psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, and marijuana. There are no published cases document deaths from smoked marijuana or psilocybin mushrooms, so the actual lethal dose remains a mystery. 

Overdose vs Bad Trip 

Another thing to keep in mind is the difference between an overdose and a bad trip. Some people might mistake the two, but they are fundamentally different. The main contrast between the two is that overdoses are physical and bad trips are mental. Overdoses can be fatal, whereas bad trips are mostly just scary and confusing.  

That distinction is extremely important, because it really highlights the sheer insanity of keep psychedelic drugs illegal. How are drugs like Oxycontin and other opioids (which kill an average of 44 people per day in the U.S.) legal with prescriptions, while psychedelics that are considerably safer remain prohibited?

Now, that’s not to say that opioids should be banned. Regulated, yes. But not outright prohibited. There’s definitely a time and place where opioid-based medications are helpful. But if we can admit that, why is the government so reluctant to admit that psychedelics can be equally helpful, if not more so; and much safer to boot since they cannot lead to physical overdose?

Overdose Risk for Common Hallucinogens

Below we’ll take a look at the four most popular psychedelics, which also happen to be the ones currently in various stages of clinical trials, to see what the levels of toxicity are for each one.

Psilocybin  

It’s very rare to actually overdose on mushrooms. As a matter of fact, recent studies confirm that only 0.2% of magic mushroom users seek emergency medical care after use… the lowest of any recreational drug, including cannabis. A psilocybin “overdose”, or a bad trip rather, can lead to various psychological symptoms, the primary one being very intense panic attacks.  

One risk when eating magic mushrooms, especially if you’re foraging for them yourself, is picking the wrong type. Given that there are over 14,000 different mushroom species in the world, it’s easy to conclude that some many have very similar characteristics – making them hard to tell apart in real life situations. Eating a poisonous mushroom can be fatal, so that’s definitely something you’ll want to be very careful about.  

LSD 

Much like with psilocybin, overdosing on LSD is close to impossible. That doesn’t mean it’s safe to consume in large doses, and yes, you can actually experience toxicity from LSD. But because it’s so strong, it’s very rare for anyone to consume that much.  

Again, you can have a bad trip on LSD. And because it’s such a potent and long-lasting hallucinogen, people can have accidents or physically harm themselves while high. There are some reports of self-harm and suicide attempts while under the influence of LSD, however, based on the research I was able to find online, that’s quite uncommon as well.  

Ketamine  

Ketamine has been around for a while but has recently seen a boost in mainstream acceptance with the FDA approval of Esketamine, current research on another drug called Arketamine, and a surge in medical practitioners who are willing to provide standard Ketamine for off-label purposes.  

That said, it is possible to overdose on Ketamine, and it’s more likely than with other psychedelics. The lethal dose for Ketamine is about 40 times the effective dose, so while that’s considerably more toxic than psilocybin, it’s still much safer than most recreational (and even many prescription) drugs.  

MDMA 

Here, it’s crucial to remember that there are some glaring differences between pure MDMA and ecstasy (which contains MDMA). One of the most substantial differences being that overdoses on ecstasy happen relatively often, whereas with pure MDMA, that is unlikely to happen.  

This is because ecstasy is MDMA cut with some type of other drug, meaning an adulterant is added to enhance its potency (and often to boost the profit margins for producers as well). Methamphetamine is a common adulterant in ecstasy, making it much more dangerous than the pure form.  

Final Thoughts

There are two main things I’d like readers to take away from this article. Number one – psychedelics are safe and you’re unlikely to overdose on them. If anything, that should at the very least quell some people’s anxiety about trying them. Number two – because they are so much safer than other drugs, it makes no sense to keep them illegal, as the reasons behind prohibition are clearly not in our best interest.

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Study: Medical Cannabis Brought Down Opioid Use in 79%

There are different pain options out there, though the big issue right now is the growing opioid epidemic. Counter to this, an entire ketamine industry is flourishing in the gray market to help people deal with their pain (among other issues). And another front-runner in this battle is medical cannabis. In a recent study, it was found that medical cannabis use brought down opioid (and other medication) use in participants, in 79% of the population studied.


Details of the study

Published earlier this year, the study Medical Cannabis Patients Report Improvements in Health Functioning and Reductions in Opiate Use looks at self-reporting of pain patients to establish the effects that medical cannabis has on other pain medication-taking. According to the research team, “The purpose of this cross-sectional observational study was to identify and report on the characteristics, ailments, and medical cannabis usage of Florida medical cannabis patients, as well as their perceptions of pain medication use and health functioning after legalized access to medical cannabis.”

Investigators looked at it from a few different standpoints, “(1) characterize the demographics and use patterns of participants who had physician-approved medical cannabis access, (2) to provide information on patient perceptions of changes in health functioning after initiation of medical cannabis use and (3) examine participant perceptions of the effects of medical cannabis access on their use of OBPM (opioid based pain medication)”

Medical cannabis treatment

In order to do this, researchers recruited 2,183 patients from medical dispensaries across Florida, and administered a questionnaire of 66 questions. The survey took into account demographics, health of participants, current use of medicines, “along with items from the Medical Outcomes Survey (SF-36) to assess health functioning before and after cannabis initiation.”

95% of participants were between the ages of 20-70 years of age. The majority were female at over 54%, 85% were white, and only 47% were employed. ~61% reported that prior to using medical cannabis, they were using other pain medications. All participants were in fact registered medical marijuana users in the state of Florida.

The majority, 79%, claimed a reduction in other medication usage, or completely stopping other medications. 11.47% reported improved functionality. Of the people in the study, 49.92% had complaints of both pain and some form of mental health issue, while just over 9% were solely concerned about pain.


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How did these people use their medical cannabis?

When looking at self-report studies, it means there isn’t a specific testing regime. In some studies, participants are given a specific amount of a specific medication. Or their behaviors are watched within a lab setting. In a self-report study, it’s more about investigators essentially taking a look at what people are doing outside of a lab setting. This means there can be great diversity in behavior, even when its about the same thing.

Researchers found that participants all used medical cannabis in their own ways, though the majority did use it daily. 54.99% not only used it daily, but used it many times throughout the day. A smaller 24.55% used it daily, but not as frequently throughout the day; 9.72% used daily, but only 1-2 times per day; and 8.66% used it daily, but only in the evenings. In terms of how necessary they saw their own use, 60.60% thought they had it right on the nose; while 7.21% thought they might be overusing a bit. 12.22% thought they could possibly use an increase.

In terms of how long these participants had been medical marijuana patients, a small number were long time users of 10 years or more – 7.86%, though the majority had used for less time. 65.10% had used it for one year or less, and 20.99% had been using it for 1-3 years. 90.59% reported medical cannabis as positively effecting their ailments. Less than 2% of participants reported it either didn’t work well, or it didn’t work at all. 88.67% put a high importance on medical cannabis for their quality of life.

Since researchers wanted to compare how life was before and after initiation of medical cannabis, they assessed health functioning and limitations from health issues, prior to starting and after starting. The largest responding group said they improved, or stayed the same (due to a disability). Although some did report the lack of improvement, at no point was it ever a majority that a symptom worsened, although in some cases, this was indeed reported.

Categories where there was a lot of improvement, included ‘physical functioning’, ‘bodily pain’, and ‘social functioning’. After analysis, all categories “indicated significant differences after initiation of medical cannabis use, with all health functioning domain scores showing significant improvement.”

Did medical cannabis really help decrease opioid usage?

At a time when opioid use and overdose deaths are out-of-control, it becomes extremely important for pain patients to have options that are less likely to get them addicted, or result in an overdose death. In 2021 alone, the CDC reported preliminary numbers that put the drug overdose rate at about 107,000. Though this accounts for all drug classes, we know that the grand majority were likely opioid-related. We know this because of the over 93,000 deaths in 2020, over 68,000 were from opioids, and of the ~73,000 overdose deaths of 2019, about 48,000 were synthetic opioid-related. So it stands to reason that a pretty large chunk of the most recent number, is also due to opioids.

Medical cannabis vs opioid medications
Medical cannabis vs opioid medications

At the crux of this issue is a system that continues to allow the problem to fester. Not only has the government done nothing to stop this industry, it continues to promote it through regulation. In fact, earlier this year it proposed to loosen guidelines for prescribing, rather than tighten them; though it should be mentioned that these guidelines have no legal value to begin with. As this is a case of the doctor being the dealer, it makes it that much harder to treat, since the very doctors expected to be looking out for patients, aren’t. And this makes the application of other options, like medical cannabis, not just important, but extremely necessary.

So what did this study turn up in terms of the ability to get patients to use less opioids and other standard pain medications? Prior to medical cannabis initiation, 36.82% were using hydrocodone-acetaminophen; 26.78% were on oxycodone-acetaminophen; and 10-20% reported use of oxycodone, hydrocodone, and codeine by themselves. After medical marijuana use started, the number of patients using opioid medications dropped to under 7.5%.

The medications that had been used the most, were reduced a much as 5X. For example, those using hydrocodone-acetaminophen went down to 7.31% from the original 26.78%, while use of oxycodone-acetaminophen, went down to 4.78%.

Analyses showed that not only were less people using, but they were also using less. As per researchers, “The paired t-tests also showed the same pattern, the mean number of uses for each medication after medical cannabis initiation was significantly lower than before, and the same finding was seen for the mean of the total number of different medications.” They continued, “The average number of those who reported using none of the listed medications was also significantly higher than before.”

So, 60.98% reported using opioids before starting medical cannabis. 70.54% of that number had been on such medications for two or more years before initiating medical cannabis treatments. 93.36% of the previous opioid users reported some sort of change to their standard medication regimens once starting medical cannabis. A majority of 79.25% reported that they substantially reduced the amount of medications taken, or stopped all other medications entirely. 11.47% said they functioned better because of being able to decrease their opioid usage.

While its not a huge percent, it is of note that 2.71% said they stopped all other pain and psychiatric medications. Only 1.77% simply added on the medical cannabis without making other changes. And whereas 4.80% couldn’t be categorized, no one indicated a greater use of other medications after beginning medical cannabis treatments.

Conclusion

This is not the biggest study out there, but the results are rather profound, especially if similar investigations can turn up similar results. The most interesting aspect of a study like this, is that it shows how much patients want to make changes, especially in the way of getting away from more harmful medications.

However, this understanding does come with the caveat that all these participants were looking for another option. They were found in medical dispensaries, after all. It could be that such a population represents the people that medical cannabis can help, while cutting out those who didn’t have as good of an experience and didn’t return to the dispensary for more medication. To know more, we need more research. For now, however, a study like this provides a strong indication that medical cannabis can greatly help those in pain, and that it can help to steer people away from the opioid drugs claiming so many lives.

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Cannabis Use On the Rise for Menopausal Women

A new study published in Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) in August 2022, shows that a high percentage of women going through either peri-menopause or post-menopause are using cannabis to treat their symptoms. The legalization of cannabis in Canada in 2018, and the growing number of U.S. states legalizing medical cannabis has given this population of women access to the plant. 

The dramatic shift in hormones during menopausal years can cause an array of symptoms that include anxiety, irritability, brain fog, fatigue, depression, weight gain, joint stiffness, insomnia and hot flashes. Though some women opt for hormone replacement therapy, this treatment has fallen out of favor in recent years, prompting many women to seek alternative non-hormonal treatments. 

What is Menopause?

The symptoms most typically associated with menopause are night sweats, hot flashes, mood swings and brain fog. However, these symptoms are in fact related to the first stage of menopause, known as peri-menopause. Menopause has three stages, and it’s important to differentiate between them as hormones are fluctuating at different levels during each stage. 

Understanding the hormonal differences can help women manage the symptoms of each stage. No two women will experience menopause in the same way. Menopause occurs at different ages for individual women, but generally happens in the mid to late 40s to early 50s. The average age to start experiencing peri-menopause symptoms is between 44 and 46. 

The 3 stages of menopause look like this:

1. Peri-menopause is when female sex steroid hormones start to fluctuate, and occurs in the years leading up to menopause, usually four to five years prior to menopause. 

2. Menopause is one point in time, and is the month that periods have stopped for 12 months. Once 12 months have passed without a period, menopause has been reached. 

3. Post-Menopause is the rest of life after menopause. At this point, estrogen falls dramatically, and remains low for the remainder of life. 

Estrogen is one of the sex steroid hormones that are dominant in woman. Female sex steroid hormones include estrogen, progesterone, follicle stimulate hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (FH), and testosterone. Estrogen and testosterone are present in both men and women, but in different ratios, with estrogen higher in women, and testosterone higher in men. 

Working together, these hormones regulate the female menstrual cycle. However, new research shows they do a lot more than that. They also play key roles in muscle and bone health, metabolism, homeostasis and brain function. Sex hormones are present in the breasts, bones, skin, kidneys, and lungs as well as the vascular, nervous and immune systems. 

Understanding that these hormones are present throughout the body is key to understanding how fluctuations in hormonal balance affect everything from body temperature to mood during peri-menopause. On top, estrogen and progesterone antagonize each other, a process that is heightened during peri-menopause, as sex hormones fluctuate and plummet. 

Pere-Menopause Symptoms

The list of peri-menopausal symptoms is long and includes:

  • Hot Flashes
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Mood Swings
  • Insomnia
  • Back Ache
  • Joint Ache
  • Facial Hair
  • Dry Skin
  • Low Libido
  • Increased Urination 
  • Fatigue
  • Brain Fog 
  • Muscle Loss
  • Weight Gain
  • Disorientation 
  • Lack of Co-ordination 
  • Lack of Confidence 
  • Depression 

The good news is that once menopause is reached, hormones find a new set point, and the worst of these symptoms tend to taper off. By the time a woman reaches post-menopause, most symptoms have passed, although some do linger for a few more years. This difference in symptom profiles for women at different stages of menopause is important to note as it explains the different patterns in use uncovered by the study published in Menopause


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Findings of a New Study

The new study profiled more than 250 women, 131 peri-menopausal women and 127 post-menopausal women who were recruited through advertising targeting women interested in women’s health in conjunction with use of cannabinoids. The researchers assessed cannabis use, modes of use, and usage patterns. 

The results showed that 86% of the women surveyed use cannabis as an adjunct treatment for a range of menopause-related symptoms. At 84.3%, smoking was by far the preferred mode of consumption, though 78.3% opted for edibles. Medical cannabis was used for the most frequently reported symptoms, anxiety and sleep disturbances. 

Peri-menopausal women reported far worse symptoms that post-menopausal women, as would be expected given that hormonal fluctuations are far more severe during peri-menopause. Peri-menopausal women reported higher incidences of hot flashes, anxiety and depression, as well as increased use of cannabis to treat these symptoms. 

Medical Director of NAMS, Stephanie Faubion issued a statement calling for caution. “Given the lack of clinical trial data on the efficacy and safety of medical cannabis for management of menopause symptoms, more research is needed before this treatment can be recommended in clinical practice,” she said, adding, “Healthcare professionals should query their patients about the use of medical cannabis for menopause symptoms.”

Cannabis and Menopause

Faubion’s hesitation is understandable given the novelty of cannabis for the today’s medical community. Further research is needed that offers answers to questions such as: Why are these women turning to cannabis? How does cannabis impact hormonal health? How does it alleviate the symptoms of menopause? Is it safe? Is it effective?

On top, talking about menopause and the symptoms it provokes is a relatively new phenomenon in society. For centuries, menopause was an experience most women went through alone and in silence. But one major difference of the last 100 years is the lack of access to cannabis. The use of plant medicine and cannabis to treat “women’s issues” is in fact nothing new and dates back to ancient times. 

The first use of cannabis as an herbal remedy for women’s health dates back 4,000 years to Egypt, where it was used to ease the pain of a difficult childbirth. In 1993, historians unearthed a 5th century mummy in Russia of a young woman buried with cannabis. An autopsy showed she had breast cancer and a bone infection, and may have used cannabis to ease the pain. 

Nineteenth century physicians were very interested in the use of cannabis for women’s health. Their interest is most likely due to the public opinion of the reigning Queen Victoria’s doctor, Sir John Russell Reynolds. Writing in the British Medical Journal, he declared cannabis was “useful for cramps,” and that “Indian Hemp … is of great service.” In 1883, another physician wrote cannabis was “par excellence” for treating heavy bleeding. 

A French physician coined the term “menopause” in 1821. Before then, the symptoms were treated with suspicion, given names such as “hysteria.” However, there is evidence of nineteenth century physicians recommending cannabis for menopausal symptoms. In 1889, physician JW Farlow recommended cannabis to treat, “irritability” as well as “flashes of heat, and cold.”

Final Thoughts

Given the long history of using cannabis for women’s health, and the reality that menopause is a life-stage every woman goes through, there’s a pressing need for large-scale clinical trials to prove the efficacy of cannabis. Right now, it’s impossible to say cannabis is a treatment that will work for all women. On top, the research isn’t there to provide doctors with guidelines on how to prescribe it. However, the growing number of women opting to treat menopausal symptoms with cannabis is yet another powerful sign of the medical benefits of this controversial plant. 

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HHC vs THC: What Are the Differences Between These Two Similar Compounds? 

Hexahydrocannabinol and Tetrahyrdocannabinol – two psychoactive compounds found in cannabis that are incredibly similar as far as chemical structure and effects; but also, quite different in many ways, such as how it metabolizes in the body, and legality. Let’s further explore the differences between HHC vs THC.


What is HHC? 

Hexahydrocannabinols are another group of psychoactive cannabinoids that are very similar to tetrahydrocannabinols. HHC is basically a simplified version of Delta 9 THC. Both HHC and Delta-9 THC have very similar molecular structures but with HHC, all the double bonds have been broken and replaced with hydrogen (AKA hydrogenation). It was discovered during research in the 1960s and 70s in which the goal was to find the most basic cannabinoid-like substances that could still bind to CB receptors.    

There is a biologically active naturally occurring (−)-hexahydrocannabinol, as well as its synthetic enantiomer (+)-hexahydrocannabinol. The natural HHC is known scientifically as 6aR,9R,10aR-Hexahydrocannabinol, and it’s a trace compound that can be extracted from cannabis pollen. The synthetic variety which goes by the chemical formula 9-Nor-9β-hydroxyhexahydrocannabinol, can be found in spice.  

In addition to the natural and synthetic HHCs, a couple of more potent analogues and isomers that have been created (such as HHC-O, which is the acetate version of HHC, and HHC-P which is the carbon version), and the topic of creating chain lengths and combinations like HHC-V, HHC-B, and HHC-H is of growing relevance. These are the same chain length variations we see in all the different THCs.   

Comparing HHC vs THC chemical structure

Most HHC products on the market are synthetic, but in this context, “synthetic” can mean one of two things. First, synthetic cannabinoids can be compounds that do not exist in nature and must be created in a lab, like THC-O. A synthetic can also be a cannabinoid that does exist in nature, but in such low amounts that it wouldn’t really make sense to extract it, as you would need a ridiculous amount of plant matter to do so. In such cases, it must be synthesized in a lab. This is very common with Delta 8 THC products.  

We’re seeing a small influx of new, HHC-P products, hitting the store shelves, but it’s close to impossible to find any information about this cannabinoid that comes from a neutral, fact-based party rather than from the companies who are selling it. It’s likely because, the companies selling the compounds are also the ones who are creating them in the first place, and no one else really knows about these compounds or has had the opportunity to study them yet.  

What is THC? 

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis responsible for the “high” we all know and love. THC is secreted by the resin glands, or trichomes. There are three types of trichomes: bulbous, capitate-stalked, and capitate-sessile, and they are found all over the flowers. 

THC acts similarly to the cannabinoid-type chemicals made naturally by the human body (endocannabinoids), which is why it can be useful in the treatment of so many different conditions. Cannabinoid receptors 1 and 2 (CB1 and CB2) can be found throughout body and they make up part of the larger endocannabinoid system. Collectively, these receptors and the compounds that interact with them contribute to many of our most important physical and psychological functions including learning and memory, emotional processing, sleep, temperature control, pain control, inflammatory and immune responses, and eating. 

Because THC attaches to these receptors directly, whereas CBD interacts with other receptors that then engage the ECS, it’s believed that THC might be the most beneficial compound in the cannabis plant.  

There are many different types of THC including natural ones such as delta 8 and 9, synthetic ones like Delta 10 and THC-O, and trace ones that include THC-P, THC-H, and THC-B. We also have THCA, which exists in the raw plant and is a precursor to all other tetrahydrocannabinols. And there is also hydroxy-11 THC, a metabolite formed by our bodies during the digestion of tetrahydrocannabinols (when we use edibles).  

Drug Testing: HHC vs THC 

THC, in all of its forms, does show up on drug tests. That’s because, contrary to popular belief, standard urine tests don’t screen for the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in cannabis, but rather, they detect the metabolites created by the human body when we are exposed to THC. This class of metabolites is known as THC-COOH. These metabolites are nonactive, so drug tests are only measuring exposure, NOT impairment. Marijuana impairment cannot be detected through any kind of test thus far. 

hhc drug test

THC-COOH, or “carboxy THC” is the most common name for this metabolite. It’s the second THC-metabolite formed in our bodies, following hydroxy-THC, immediately after exposure. THC-COOH is lipid-soluble, meaning it’s stored in our fat cells making it detectable in our systems for much longer than other substances, those that are water soluble for example. 

So, what about HHC? Short answer, it’s hard to say. Anecdotal evidence as well as numerous first-hand accounts I found online claim that it does NOT trigger a positive. However, I have not tested this myself, nor have I been able to find any official research or documentation on the matter. 

That being said, there is also a strong possibility that even if HHC doesn’t make you pop on a test, your product could contain traces of other compounds that will, such as Delta 8 or Delta 9 THC. If you have anything important riding on your drug test, it’s best to abstain from all cannabis products to be on the safe side. 

Legality 

When it comes to the legality of both THC and HHC, it’s a little bit complicated. Delta 9 THC is largely illegal, federally and in most states. This is because it’s the most abundant psychoactive compound in marijuana, which is the legal classification for cannabis varieties containing more than 0.3% THC. However, when delta 9 THC is derived from hemp, it is considered legal, or at the very least, it falls into a legal grey area where many products containing it manage to slip under the radar.  

This applies to HHC as well. Because it’s extracted from hemp or cannabis pollen, it falls under that legal loophole created by the 2018 Farm Bill. HHC is also one of the few compounds that is completely unregulated in Europe, and it seems to be an emerging market in certain countries, such as Spain and Germany. 

A Few More Notes on HHC vs THC

One of the most common questions when it comes to HHC vs THC, is which one is stronger? Well, that’s not always a straightforward answer when it comes to cannabis compounds. Let’s start with the fact that everyone’s bodies are different, so the way cannabinoids affect them can vary greatly. HHC is still a lesser-known compound, so probably the majority of cannabis users prefer THC products. However, a growing number of consumers are showing interest in HHC, as well as blended products containing two or more different types of hexahydrocannabinols and tetrahydrocannabinols.

So, there you have it. As you can see, when it comes to HHC vs THC, the differences are mostly minor, aside from the possibility of HHC not showing up on a drug test, which cannot be said with 100% certainty anyway. Overall, they are built similar and have similar effects in the human body. To enjoy both, check out a few fun products below.

HHC and THC Products

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What is Delta 9 THC?

Delta 9 THC is basically the essence of cannabis. It’s the reason this plant has been popular in various cultures for hundreds of years. But what exactly is this compound? What are the effects and benefits of using it, and how can you best utilize it? Scroll down to learn more.

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What is Delta 9 THC? 

When people think of “THC”, Delta 9 is what they’re thinking of. Delta 9 Tetrahydrocannabinol is the main psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant. THC was first discovered and isolated in 1964 by Israeli chemist and professor, Raphael Mechoulam. For decades, Delta 9 has been at the heart of prohibition efforts because lawmakers were too intently focused on its mind-altering properties while completely dismissing all its many possible uses in the medical and wellness sectors. 

Delta 9 THC can be marijuana-derived or hemp-derived, meaning it can be extracted from both types of cannabis. That said, since there is so little THC at all in hemp, that means it will take considerably more plant matter to get a usable about of delta 9 THC out of it, so it’s not very practical, although it is technically the “legal” option since marijuana-derived Delta 9 is still prohibited.

Now, let’s talk about what delta 9 actually is, versus the many other cannabinoids found in cannabis. In chemistry, “delta” refers to the double bond on a molecule’s carbon chain. In the case of THC, we have a few different variations. With delta 9 THC, the double bond is on the 9th carbon chain, whereas other delta THCs like 8 and 10 have the double bond on the 8th and 10th carbon chains (respectively).  

In comparison to cannabidiol, both THC and CBD are structurally similar but very different in terms of effects. While THC is the most abundant mind-altering cannabinoid found in cannabis, CBD is the most abundant non-psychoactive one. Both are known to have a huge range of medicinal benefits, and despite CBD having been the main focus of scientific research for many years, lately there has been growing evidence that THC has more uses than previously thought.  

Medical benefits of Delta 9 THC 

THC has been used therapeutically for centuries and it can treat a diverse range of conditions including pain, glaucoma, nausea, and depression. This particular study, conducted by Psychology Associate Professor Jacob Miguel Vigil and Economics Assistant Professor Sarah See Stith from the University of New Mexico, compared come common ailments treated by cannabis. 

They looked specifically at which cannabinoid offered more effective symptom relief, THC or CBD. The research was published on Tuesday, February 26, in the Scientific Reports Journal. According to their research, “THC exhibited the strongest correlation with therapeutic relief, compared to the more socially acceptable chemical found in cannabis, CBD (cannabidiol).” 

They measured 27 different symptom categories ranging from depression to seizure activity and found that dried cannabis flower high in THC provided immediate symptom relief in most of the cases. Overall, smokable high-THC flower was the most commonly used product and showed greater symptom improvement than other methods of consumption. They gathered this information through the Releaf App, the largest database tracking medical cannabis use in the country. 

“Despite the conventional wisdom, both in the popular press and much of the scientific community that only CBD has medical benefits while THC merely makes one high, our results suggest that THC may be more important than CBD in generating therapeutic benefits. In our study, CBD appears to have little effect at all, while THC generates measurable improvements in symptom relief. These findings justify the immediate de-scheduling of all types of cannabis, in addition to hemp, so that cannabis with THC can be more widely accessible for pharmaceutical use by the general public,” said Vigil. 

Numerous other studies over the years, as well as plenty of anecdotal evidence, have shown that using delta-9 THC may have therapeutic benefits for many conditions, including nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, seizure disorders, chronic pain, spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis (MS) and sleep disorders in people with other chronic conditions. 

The risks of consuming THC on a regular basis are quite low, especially in contrast to other common recreational drugs, and even pharmaceuticals. All in all, weed is very safe, but some people don’t enjoy the high from it and may experience anxiety. Other negative side effects have been noted by the FDA and CDC, such as depression, risk of paranoia and schizophrenia, memory/cognitive issues, and more; but these have all been hotly debated over the years.  

How to tone down your high 

Let’s start with basics… how does one get too high from THC? Some obvious reasons include the user being novice, especially if they’re young teenagers or elderly users. That also goes for first-time users, although many people claim to not feel much of high their first time. Getting too high also often depends on the circumstances or situation where cannabis is used, if you’re in an uncomfortable scenario and feeling anxious already, cannabis might add to that and make you feel worse. Other factors worth mentioning are body weight, existing tolerance to cannabis products, underlying health conditions, and whether you ate or slept recently. 

Cannabis edibles are another big culprit here, and that is because of how THC is digested by the body. Additionally, when we digest any type of delta THC, our bodies convert it to 11-hydroxy THC, which is said to be quite a bit stronger than Delta 9. These days, there are also highly potent cannabis concentrates, extracts, and tinctures that can get you 15 or even 30 times higher than smoking conventional cannabis. It’s also harder to dose accurately when taking edibles, as opposed to smoking or vaping.

Concentrates are also worth noting here. With products contain upwards of 80% THC, even a veteran cannabis user can feel some extra intoxicating effects from “dabbing”, or otherwise using concentrates, so that’s also something to bear in mind as well.  

So, now that you are aware of how it happens, let’s talk about what to do if you encounter this problem. The first thing to keep in mind is – stay calm, and don’t panic – the high wears off fast and you’ll be perfectly fine very soon (as a matter of fact, you’re perfectly fine right now, just a little too stoned). Sit down and relax in a cool, comfortable area, focus on your breathing and just chill.  

The next thing you should do is grab some water and a snack. It’s always good to stay hydrated, which will inevitably make you feel better anyway, and conventional wisdom states that food makes your high go away. You could also try going for a walk, jumping in the shower, or even taking a short nap. 

Best Product Deals

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“Best Buds” Live Resin 2-Gram Disposable Combo Packs
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This double pack comes with two, 2g disposables containing THCO, Delta 9 THC, and live resin. The combo pack contains three different strains: Indica – containing Master Kush and Diablo OG, Hybrid – containing Head Banger and OG Shark, and Sativa – containing Candyland and Acai Berry Gelato.

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Remember pop rox? Well, these are just like that but containing a fun blend of Delta 9 THC (10mg) and THC-O (5mg). They have a great flavor, Cherry Limeade, and a couple others to choose from. The suggested serving size in the beginning is 1/2 of one pack to establish tolerance, then you can switch it up from there. Get 30 packs per order for only $14.99 when you use our coupon code.

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Takeaway 

Whether you smoke it, eat it, dab it, vape it, or rub it on your body, you’re sure to find a use and method to best suit your Delta 9 THC needs. It’s an incredibly beneficial and versatile compound that can help with a myriad of medical conditions… not to mention, it’s also fun and safe!

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New Study: Can Psilocybin Tackle Alcohol Addiction?

The world of psychedelics is constantly proving to have a wide range of physical and mental benefits. It seems that slowly and finally, the medical establishment is beginning to accept drugs like psilocybin and LSD as genuine medicinal treatment alternatives. In recent news, more research has been released that proves that the well-known substance within magic mushrooms can be used to treat those with alcohol addictions.

We’re going to find out why this method has been working, what the study explicitly says, and other information surrounding the links between psychedelics and alcoholism. Can psilocybin tackle alcohol addiction? Let’s find out. 

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What is Alcoholism?

Addictions come in many shapes and sizes, and it’s often hard to actually decipher the difference between them and habits. For example, is brushing your teeth an addiction? Well, usually habits are less harmful than addictions. The truth is that addictions are patterns of habit created, with the hope of getting a certain reward. This reward is usually the feeling that the specific substance can give you. In the case of heroin, it is that sense of euphoria. In the case of alcohol, it could be that feeling of dissociated pleasure and anti-anxiety. An addiction is something we usually don’t have much power over, and something that – over time – has a negative impact on ourselves and perhaps those around us. However, habits are usually less harmful. Alvernia writes:

“Probably the most important distinction between habit vs. addiction is how choice, to an extent, is still possible with habit-forming behaviors. When it comes to addiction, people generally have a harder time making decisions because of their dependence on a substance or behavior.”

Alcoholism is one of the most popular addictions – this is partially because alcohol is so easy to access and is such an integral part of most societies. In fact, In America, 1 in 12 men and 1 in 25 women have an alcohol addiction. That is around 15 million people in the US with alcohol problems. In consequence, around 95,000 people a year die from this cause – which is the third highest cause of death in the US. But the question is, what actually is alcoholism and how does it manifest itself?

Well, an alcohol dependency usually means that a person puts drink above most other parts of their life, including work and family. This can sometimes cause detriment to these other parts of their life. Other signs of alcoholism include: withdrawal symptoms, not being able to stop drinking and increased tolerance. Sometimes it isn’t always easy to know when you are an alcoholic. Drinks Aware writes a helpful list of questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do I often feel the need to have a drink?
  2. Have I got into trouble because of my drinking?
  3. Have other people warned me about how much I’m drinking?
  4. Do I think my drinking is causing me problems?

If the answers to these questions are ‘yes’, then perhaps it’s time to seek professional advice.

How Alcoholism Is Treated

An addiction to anything is considered a behavior, and many believe that behaviors can be changed once you’ve figured out the cause of that pattern in the brain. Usually this is based on the ‘pleasure principle’. All addictions – including sex, gambling, drugs and alcohol – cause a surge of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. This is like a reward to the body and to the mind when these addictions are satisfied. Once the brain realizes that a specific activity can cause that same dopamine kick, it will desire it again and again. Help Guide writes:

“The brain registers all pleasures in the same way, whether they originate with a psychoactive drug, a monetary reward, a sexual encounter, or a satisfying meal… Addictive drugs provide a shortcut to the brain’s reward system by flooding the nucleus accumbens with dopamine. The hippocampus lays down memories of this rapid sense of satisfaction, and the amygdala creates a conditioned response to certain stimuli.”

For years, alcoholism has been treated by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which can help to identify the negative thought patterns which usually lead to drinking. This can obviously take some time to work. Another method is a complete detoxification, taking away all access to alcohol – which usually requires help from family and friends. Another common treatment is mutual help groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, which allows for addicts to not feel so alone in their struggles towards sobriety. However, in more recent times, people have begun turning their heads towards psilocybin as a possible game-changing method of stopping alcohol addiction. 

Psilocybin and Addiction

Psilocybin is the substance within magic mushrooms that is responsible for the psychoactive effects. The substance can cause hallucinations and mind-altering perceptions. The drug acts on neural highways in the brain that include the neurotransmitter, which creates serotonin. It’s an influx of serotonin that is believed to cause many of these hallucinogenic effects. However, the research into these drugs is limited due to the fact that not a lot of medical professionals have respected the substance, until now. Science Alert writes:

“Because they’re classified as Schedule 1 – meaning they have “no accepted medical use” and are illegal – it’s been pretty tough for scientists to tease out exactly what they can and can’t do.”

However, a recent study – made by scientists at the New York University and published in the JAMA Psychiatry – gave a group of men and women suffering from alcohol addiction some psilocybin treatment. Those chosen were people who had around four or five drinks (or more) a day. They discovered that those given psilocybin-assisted therapy reduced their drinking by a large amount – 83% to be specific. Those given the antihistamine placebo only reduced their drinking by 51%. Stat News writes:

“Eight months after the first psilocybin dose, close to half (48%) of those who had psilocybin stopped drinking altogether, twice as many as the 24% in the placebo group. The trial was double-blinded and relatively large for a psychedelics study, with 93 participants.”

The study has been heralded as a massive leap towards finding a successful treatment for those suffering from alcoholism. Each participant was given 12 psychotherapy sessions over 12 weeks, with 2-day long sessions using the specific medication. It was quite obvious for the participants to tell whether they were given the placebo or not, as psilocybin has quite obvious and intense effects. Jon Kostas, a 32 guy from New York, was given the real treatment and he said:

“It definitely affected my life and I’d say it saved my life… My greatest expectations were to be able to manage my cravings. This surpassed that. It eliminated my cravings.”

Whilst the results were impressive, it wasn’t clear how the substance was actually affecting the brain of those involved. Plus, overall, the participants didn’t actually have as much of an alcohol dependency as is usual with these kinds of studies. Nonetheless, what this study does is it shines a light on the potential of psychedelic therapy on addiction. Hopefully there is much more to come. However, this isn’t the first time that these kinds of studies have been done. 

LSD and Alcoholism

During the 50s and 60s, professionals began testing the effects that LSD had on alcoholism and the results were equally as promising. The issue back then was that none of the studies had enough participants to be considered useful. However, if you combine six of the trials done in that period, the statistics are actually quite useful. There were 536 participants over the studies, with 59% of those who received the LSD reporting lower levels of alcohol misuse. In comparison, only 38% of those who received the placebo reported the same. These benefits were said to last around 3-6 months. Nature writes:

“Psychedelics were promoted by psychiatrists in the 1950s as having a range of medical uses…  before political pressures in the United States and elsewhere largely ended the work… Alcoholism was considered one of the most promising clinical applications for LSD… Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill Wilson is said to have espoused the benefits of LSD in the book Pass It On: The Story of Bill Wilson and How the AA Message Reached the World.”

It is believed that Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, used LSD to end his alcohol dependency. In response, he wanted others to do the same as he was amazed by the effect the substance had on him. However, Wilson had to eventually stop promoting the drug as it put the A.A reputation at risk, due to the government’s view on recreational drugs. 

Conclusion

It is evident that we are entering an important moment in medical research and psychedelic drugs. For the first time since the 50s, the medical establishment is again realizing how much use these sorts of substances can have on those suffering from addiction. The hope is that studies like this continue to happen and that, eventually, psilocybin and LSD-assisted therapy can be easily accessible for those who need it.

Thanks for stopping by!! Welcome to Cannadelics.com; an independent news platform where we work hard religiously to bring you the best in cannabis and psychedelics reporting. Hang out with us frequently to stay aware of all updates, and subscribe to our Cannadelics Weekly Newsletter, so you’re always first to get the news.

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Can Cannabis Aid Gastric Motility Disorders?

Ongoing research shows cannabis plays a role in gastric motility. Gastric motility is the action by which food travels through the digestive tract. The process is controlled by a series of muscles that line the digestive tract, causing muscular contractions known as peristalsis. When peristalsis is functioning normally, food moves from the mouth to the stomach, small intestine, large intestine and exits through the anus. Stomach acids and bile aid this process. 

Peristalsis is a wave-like kind of muscle contraction that moves solids and liquids through the digestive tract. It’s not a voluntary muscle movement, meaning it’s not something a person can consciously control. The muscles operate when stimulated by food consumption. When peristalsis is not functioning – a condition called gastric dysmotility – it can cause a range of symptoms that vary in severity. The most common symptoms include diarrhea and constipation. 

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Causes of Motility Disorders

Peristalsis works in a coordinated and orderly manner to transport food from the mouth to the stomach. In the stomach, food is converted to a substance called chyme, that is then moved through the intestines and finally, to the anus where it is excreted. A disorder or dysmotility results in either too slow and/or too fast movement of food through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract

Any change in the speed of movement can cause symptoms. Motility disorders can occur as a result of dysfunction of the nerves and/or muscles in any region of the GI tract. If the muscles are not working correctly, it’s known as myopathy. When the nerves are affected, the conditions are related to neuropathy. The exact cause is often unknown. Dysmotility may present on its own or be linked to another underlying condition. In some cases, the condition is hereditary. 

Types of Motility Disorders

Types of motility disorders vary depending on which area of the GI tract is affected by the condition. The following are the most common conditions associated with motility disorders. 

Gastroparesis

Another term for gastroparesis is “delayed gastric emptying,” a condition where the stomach is slow to empty chyme. Once food has been digested, a healthy stomach will move chyme into the small intestine. When the nerves that control the stomach are damaged, causing food to move too slowly, it will cause symptoms including nausea, burping, bloating, heartburn, indigestion, regurgitation and/or vomiting. Gastroparesis is linked to diabetes, which accounts for one-third of cases. The opposite also exists, where food empties too quickly, a condition called dumping syndrome or rapid gastric emptying. 

Irritable Bowel Syndrome 

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects the functionality of the digestive system, altering motility. In some cases, motility is too fast, leading to chronic diarrhea (IBS-D), or in others, too slow, causing chronic constipation (IBS-C.) It’s also possible to have a mix of both diarrhea and constipation, known as IBS-M. Other symptoms include pain, bloating and fatigue. 

Esophageal Spasms

Esophageal Spasms are irregular contractions of the muscles in your esophagus, the tube that leads from the mouth to the stomach. The cause is unknown, but the symptoms include chest pain, which can sometimes be mistaken for a heart attack. 

Hirschsprung’s Disease 

Hirschpring’s disease is a congenital disorder, leading to poor motility that causes a blockage in the large intestine. It’s more common in males than females and is sometimes linked to inherited conditions such as Down syndrome. 

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

GERD is a condition where the contents of the stomach move back up the esophagus causing heartburn and reflux. It can also lead to difficulty in swallowing, chronic cough, bad breath, and if left untreated, can lead to further complications. 

Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)

SIBO, as the name suggests, is the presence of too many bacteria in the small intestine, leading to motility issues, and other problems including pain, bloating, gas, fecal incontinence and nausea. 

Cannabinoids in the GI Tract

In the 1980s, the discovery of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) led to a new understanding of human physiology. More recently, it’s led to a new understanding of gut health. The ECS is made up of CB receptors that are located throughout the body. CB1 receptors are found in the GI tract, predominantly in the myenteric (nervous system in the small intestine) and submucosal neurons (regulators of water and electrolyte secretion and blood flow in the gut), and in non-neuronal cells such epithelial cells (type of cell tissue found on surface of organs and blood vessels.) 

CB2 receptors are found in the immune system, and are present in the gut as part of an inflammatory response. Endocannabinoids or cannabinoid ligands (messengers) activate CB receptors. Two of the main endocannabinoids identified in mammalian tissue include anandamide and 2-arachydonylglycerol (2-AG.) Endocannabinoids are produced on demand, activating biological responses. Following activation, they are de-activated through an enzymatic process that provokes further biological responses. Each of these responses has implications for gut health.

Current understanding of cannabinoids and endocannabinoids relies heavily on findings from animal studies. The following is a summary of the major functions of cannabinoids in the GI tract:

  1. Cannabinoids are anti-nociceptive (pain-blockers.)
  2. Cannabinoids inhibit GI motility through CB1 receptors in physiological conditions, and through CB1/CB2 receptors during inflammatory response. 
  3. Phytocannabinoids repair intestinal permeability during inflammation or after exposure to toxins.
  4. Activation of CB1 receptors reduces acid secretion in the stomach.
  5. Cannabinoids induce hyperphagia (increased appetite) resulting in weight gain. 
  6. Cannabinoids reduce nausea and vomiting, and are anti-inflammatory.
  7. Cannabinoids have anti-cancerous and anti-bacterial properties. 

Therapeutic Uses of Cannabinoids on GI Motility

Further research needs to be undertaken to define and refine the therapeutic uses of cannabis and cannabinoids in treating GI disorders. However, what’s known as a result of animal studies and human studies (with less than 20-30 participants) is that cannabinoids affect motility by direct action on the GI tract and indirect action via the nervous system. 

In fact, it’s been known for decades that cannabinoids reduce intestinal motility. However, more recently that it was discovered this action is due to the activation of CB1 receptors, an effect which is counteracted by the selective CB1 antagonists, rimonabant. An agonist is a chemical that activates a biological response, whereas an antagonist blocks a biological response. 

For example, due to their effects on motility and secretion, CB1 agonists might be useful to treat IBS-D, whereas CB1 antagonists could be useful to treat IBS-C. Also, activation of CB2 receptors, which are present during inflammation, may be useful to treat IBS-D. To treat GI sensitivities, a possible solution could be a type of enzyme-blocker that raises anandamide levels. 

anandamide
CB receptors can be found throughout the entire body

As both CB1 and CB2 receptors are present on the gut-brain axis and are involved in triggering of the lower esophageal sphincter relaxations, it suggests a possible treatment for esophageal spasms. In a study on guinea pigs, activation of CB2 receptors reduced microvascular leakage. Therefore, an increased CB tone could inhibit gastro-esophageal reflux along with adjunct therapy. 

On top, it’s believed that changes in levels of endogenous cannabinoids during inflammation may contribute to motility issues. Depending on the site of inflammation, both CB1 and CB2 receptors may reduce the hyper-motility associated with gut inflammation. In some animal studies, hyper-motility was completely normalized by a CB2 receptor agonist. 

Final Thoughts

The human body is complex, and the discovery of the ECS, which acts as a modulator between the digestive, immune and nervous systems adds to that complexity. However, it also opens the door to new fields of research that can offer solutions to a range of gastric conditions. For now, more work needs to be done to offer patients reliable treatments, but due to the high number of people with motility disorders, this issue is of huge interest to researchers. It’s not unreasonable to expect major breakthroughs in this field in the near future. 

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