September 08, 2017

Daily Marijuana Use Raises Concerns

Health officials are concerned that the rates of daily marijuana use by college-age Americans have returned or exceeded previously high levels seen in the early 1980s, especially among a population whose brains are still not completely developed.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) announced that the latest Monitoring the Future (MTF) national survey results of drug use among full-time college students and their non-college peers are now available online, highlighting that daily marijuana use is at the highest level since the early 1980s for this age group.

Below are the highlights from the 2016 MTF survey results on drug use among college students compared to their peers not attending college (ages 19-22).

  • Daily marijuana use is at the highest level since the early 1980s for this age group (7.8%), reaching the highest level seen for non-college youth (12.8%) and among the highest for full-time college students (4.9%).

  • Non-college peers appear to be drinking less alcohol than their college counterparts with respect to binge drinking (28.7% vs. 32.4%) and intoxication (30.4% vs 40.8%). Binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks and intoxication is defined as having been drunk in the last month.

  • Past year amphetamine use without medical supervision appears to be higher in college students than their non-college peers. Ritalin use is 2.4% vs. 1.6% and Adderall use is 9.9% vs. 6.2%, respectively.

  • Past year hookah use appears to be lower in college students and their non-college peers (16.9% and 19.8%) and is trending down in college students (27.9% in 2011 vs. 16.9% in 2016).

  • For both cigarettes and e-vaporizers*, past month use for college students and their non-college peers went down.

It is important to note that the Food and Drug Administration began regulating e-cigarettes and hookahs in August 2016, which could have affected marketplace availability. *E-vaporizers may include nicotine, other drugs or no drug at all (i.e., flavoring only).

Posted by Webmaster at 12:20 PM

August 14, 2017

Legal Marijuana Laws Affect Teen Use

A study by researchers at Dartmouth has found that adolescents living in medical marijuana states with a plethora of dispensaries are more likely to have tried new methods of cannabis use, such as edibles and vaping, at a younger age than those living in states with fewer dispensaries. The study will appear in the August issue of Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

"This study was driven by two motivations-- the need to understand if and how the shifting legal landscape of cannabis may affect kids, and the potential utility of social media as an epidemiological sampling method," says Jacob Borodovsky, a PhD candidate at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice and the Center for Technology and Behavioral Health, and the lead author of the study. "If it is true that certain components of legalization change the way young people use cannabis, then we need to devote more resources to understanding the important consequences (good or bad) of the specific provisions included in the diverse cannabis laws that are emerging across the country."

Potential Public Health Harm

Borodovsky and colleagues examined associations between provisions of legal cannabis laws (such as allowing dispensaries, home cultivation, etc.) and cannabis consumption patterns among youth using online surveys distributed through Facebook, which proved to be a reliable method for generating geographically diverse samples of specific subgroups of cannabis-using youth.

"Our data suggest a relationship between the degree of regulatory oversight of legal cannabis and kids' propensity for trying new ways of using cannabis," Borodovsky says. "I think we need to start having a broader national conversation about how best to design the production and distribution regulations for legal cannabis to mitigate potential public health harms."

Teens Vulnerable to Adverse Effects of Marijuana

As cannabis legalization rapidly evolves, in both medical and recreational usage, understanding the laws' effect on young people is crucial because this group is particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of marijuana and possesses an inherent elevated risk of developing a cannabis disorder.

"Using social media to disseminate web surveys is a useful epidemiological research method. It allows us to quickly collect geographically diverse data on cannabis-related questions that aren't asked in the traditional federally-sponsored drug use surveys," Borodovsky says. "My hope is that we can use these and other types of results to create rational legal cannabis laws that are based on data rather than anecdotes."

Posted by Webmaster at 03:27 AM

August 13, 2017

How Is Weed Linked to Drinking?

Adults who use marijuana are five times more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder (AUD) -- alcohol abuse or dependence -- compared with adults who do not use the drug. And adults who already have an alcohol use disorder and use marijuana are more likely to see the problem persist.

Results of a study by researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and the City University of New York appear online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Increased Risk of Alcohol Problems

"Our results suggest that cannabis use appears to be associated with an increased vulnerability to developing an alcohol use disorder, even among those without any history of this," said Renee Goodwin, PhD, associate professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health. "Marijuana use also appears to increase the likelihood that an existing alcohol use disorder will continue over time."

The researchers analyzed data from 27,461 adults enrolled in the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions who first used marijuana at a time when they had no lifetime history of alcohol use disorders.

The population was assessed at two time points. Adults who had used marijuana at the first assessment and again over the following three years (23 percent) were five times more likely to develop an alcohol use problem, compared with those who had not used marijuana (5 percent).

Marijuana Smokers Delay Alcohol Treatment

Adult problem drinkers who did not use cannabis were significantly more likely to be in recovery from alcohol use disorders three years later.

"From a public health standpoint we recommend that further research be conducted to understand the pathways underlying these relationships as well as the degree to which various potentially vulnerable population subgroups -- youth, for example -- are at increased risk," noted Goodwin. "If future research confirms these findings, investigating whether preventing or delaying first use of marijuana might reduce the risk of developing alcohol use disorders among some segments of the population may be worthwhile."

Posted by Webmaster at 08:03 PM

Marijuana Poses Danger in Early Pregnancy

Marijuana is up to 20 times more potent than it was 40 years ago and most pregnant women who use the drug are unaware that it could harm their unborn child before they even know they are pregnant. Writing in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis, American researcher's state the argument that marijuana is a harmless drug is no longer valid due to the emergence of 'high potency' marijuana and synthetic marijuana which pose a potential real threat for pregnant women.

High Potency Pot

They also express concerns that marijuana's increased popularity among teenagers and young adults could put this group at higher risk.

"The emergence of bioengineered crops and novel, medicinal marijuana strains, means that marijuana is no longer what it used to be in the 1970's and early 1980s': some new, high potency strains, including some medicinal marijuana blends such as 'Connie Chung' and many others, contain up to 20 times more THC, the psychoactive constituent of marijuana, than did 'traditional' marijuana from the 1970's and early 1980's " explains co-author Dr. Delphine Psychoyos from the Center for Genetic and Environmental Medicine at Texas A&M University. "Furthermore, with the emergence of dispensaries and Internet websites, high potency marijuana and Spice products are now readily available to the general population."

Synthetic Cannabinoids

Spice products, a prominent brand of 'synthetic marijuana', or 'fake weed' mixtures, contain extremely potent THC analogues, also called 'synthetic cannabinoids', such as AM694 (found in Euphoric Blends Big Band and others) and HU210 (found in Spice Gold), both of which are 500-600 times more potent than marijuana's THC.

"The THC contained in 'high potency' marijuana and the potent THC analogues contained in Spice products and other brands of 'synthetic marijuana', are potentially harmful to embryonic development, as early as two weeks after conception. This is because these psychoactive chemicals have the ability to interfere with the first stages in the formation of the brain of the fetus; this event occurs two weeks after conception, earlier than before signs of pregnancy appear. By the time a woman realises she is pregnant and stops taking these substances it may already be too late for her unborn child. "

High Rate of Use

"Given that marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug by pregnant women worldwide one study estimates the rate is as high as 20 per cent - this is a major issue."

Recent research from the past 5 years has shown that marijuana exposure during pregnancy has been associated with anencephaly, a non-sustaining life condition where a large part of the skull or brain is absent, neurobehavioral deficiencies, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning disabilities and memory impairment in toddlers and 10 year olds, as well as neuropsychiatric conditions, including depression, aggression and anxiety, in teens.

Increase Awareness Needed

"The problem is that many women who are pregnant, or are planning to become pregnant are totally unaware of this increased potency and the risks they pose," says co-author Dr. Delphine Psychoyos. "This is because many websites on mothering and pregnancy, and those run by pro-marijuana advocacy groups, base their discussions on data collected prior to 1997, when no detrimental affects on pregnancy had been reported; It is important to note here that prior to 1997, pregnant women were mostly exposed to low potency, 'traditional' marijuana, which was the common form of marijuana in the market in the 1970's and early 1980's."

"Marijuana has regained its popularity from the 1970s, especially among teens and young people, and has established social and cultural status as the most popular drug of abuse. Yet, like pregnant women, these young users probably have no idea of the significant increase in potency over the past four decades. "

Be Aware of Health Risks

The researchers are calling for greater awareness among pregnant women about the availability of highly potent marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids such as those found in Spice products, and the risks that they can pose to their unborn child, even before their pregnancy has been confirmed.

They highlight the need to revise U.S. government bills and legislation to take account of the development of synthetic cannabinoids, such as those found in Spice and in new psychoactive substances that are based on cannabinoid research chemicals; They also question whether there is a need to put high potency marijuana in the highest category, if marijuana is to become legalised in America, based on its medical applications.

The authors also stress that teenagers and young people need to be more aware of the health risks of high potency marijuana, of synthetic cannabinoids found in Spice and other brands, and of synthetic cannabinoid research chemicals sold as designer drugs on various non DEA-regulated websites.

Posted by Webmaster at 07:38 PM

Teen Pot Use Leaves Lasting Mental Deficits

The persistent, dependent use of marijuana before age 18 has been shown to cause lasting harm to a person's intelligence, attention and memory, according to an international research team. Among a long-range study cohort of more than 1,000 New Zealanders, individuals who started using cannabis in adolescence and used it for years afterward showed an average decline in IQ of 8 points when their age 13 and age 38 IQ tests were compared.

Quitting pot did not appear to reverse the loss either, said lead researcher Madeline Meier, a post-doctoral researcher at Duke University.

Brain Age a Factor in Marijuana Use

The key variable in this is the age of onset for marijuana use and the brain's development, Meier said. Study subjects who didn't take up pot until they were adults with fully-formed brains did not show similar mental declines. Before age 18, however, the brain is still being organized and remodeled to become more efficient, she said, and may be more vulnerable to damage from drugs.

"Marijuana is not harmless, particularly for adolescents," said Meier, who produced this finding from the long term Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study. The study has followed a group of 1,037 children born in 1972-73 in Dunedin, New Zealand from birth to age 38 and is led by Terrie Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi, psychologists who hold dual appointments at Duke and the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London.

Psychological Tests Given

About 5 percent of the study group were considered marijuana-dependent, or were using more than once a week before age 18. A dependent user is one who keeps using despite significant health, social or family problems.

At age 38, all of the study participants were given a battery of psychological tests to assess memory, processing speed, reasoning and visual processing. The people who used pot persistently as teens scored significantly worse on most of the tests. Friends and relatives routinely interviewed as part of the study were more likely to report that the persistent cannabis users had attention and memory problems such as losing focus and forgetting to do tasks.

The decline in IQ among persistent cannabis users could not be explained by alcohol or other drug use or by having less education, Moffitt said.

8 Points Is Huge

While 8 IQ points may not sound like a lot on a scale where 100 is the mean, a loss from an IQ of 100 to 92 represents a drop from being in the 50th percentile to being in the 29th, Meier said. Higher IQ correlates with higher education and income, better health and a longer life, she said. "Somebody who loses 8 IQ points as an adolescent may be disadvantaged compared to their same-age peers for years to come," Meier said.

Laurence Steinberg, a Temple University psychologist who was not involved in the research, said this study is among the first to distinguish between cognitive problems the person might have had before taking up marijuana, and those that were apparently caused by the drug. This is consistent with what has been found in animal studies, Steinberg added, but it has been difficult to measure in humans.

Early Use Causes Deficits

Animal studies involving nicotine, alcohol and cocaine have shown that chronic exposures before the brain is fully developed can lead to more dependence and long-term changes in the brain. "This study points to adolescence as a time of heightened vulnerability," Steinberg said. "The findings are pretty clear that it is not simply chronic use that causes deficits, but chronic use with adolescent onset."

What isn't possible to know from this study is what a safer age for persistent use might be, or what dosage level causes the damage, Meier said. After many years of decline among US teens, daily marijuana use has been seen to increase slightly in the last few years, she added. Last year, for the first time, US teens were more likely to be smoking pot than tobacco.

"The simple message is that substance use is not healthy for kids," Avshalom Caspi said via email from London. "That's true for tobacco, alcohol, and apparently for cannabis."

Posted by Webmaster at 07:31 PM

Long-Time Cannabis Use Linked to Psychosis

Young adults who have used cannabis or marijuana for a longer period of time appear more likely to have hallucinations or delusions or to meet criteria for psychosis, according to a report in the Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Previous studies have identified an association between cannabis use and psychosis, according to background information in the article. However, concerns remain that this research has not adequately accounted for confounding variables.

Cannabis Use and Psychotic Outcomes

John McGrath, M.D., Ph.D., F.R.A.N.Z.C.P., of the Queensland Brain Institute, University of Queensland, Australia, and colleagues studied 3,801 young adults born between 1981 and 1984. At a 21-year follow-up, when participants were an average age of 20.1, they were asked about cannabis use in recent years and assessed using several measures of psychotic outcomes (including a diagnostic interview, an inventory of delusions and items identifying the presence of hallucinations).

At the 21-year follow-up, 17.7 percent reported using cannabis for three or fewer years, 16.2 percent for four to five years and 14.3 percent for six or more years. Overall, 65 study participants received a diagnosis of "non-affective psychosis," such as schizophrenia, and 233 had at least one positive item for hallucination on the diagnostic interview.

Among all the participants, a longer duration since the first time they used cannabis was associated with multiple psychosis-related outcomes. "Compared with those who had never used cannabis, young adults who had six or more years since first use of cannabis (i.e., who commenced use when around 15 years or younger) were twice as likely to develop a non-affective psychosis and were four times as likely to have high scores on the Peters et al Delusions Inventory [a measure of delusion]," the authors write. "There was a 'dose-response' relationship between the variables of interest: the longer the duration since first cannabis use, the higher the risk of psychosis-related outcomes."

Not a Simple Connection

In addition, the researchers assessed the association between cannabis use and psychotic symptoms among a subgroup of 228 sibling pairs. The association persisted in this subgroup, "thus reducing the likelihood that the association was due to unmeasured shared genetic and/or environmental influences," the authors continue.

"The nature of the relationship between psychosis and cannabis use is by no means simple," they write. Individuals who had experienced hallucinations early in life were more likely to have used cannabis longer and to use it more frequently. "This demonstrates the complexity of the relationship: those individuals who were vulnerable to psychosis (i.e., those who had isolated psychotic symptoms) were more likely to commence cannabis use, which could then subsequently contribute to an increased risk of conversion to a non-affective psychotic disorder."

The findings should encourage further research to elucidate the mechanisms underlying the relationship between psychosis and cannabis use, the authors conclude.

Posted by Webmaster at 03:17 AM