Researchers Finally Confirm that Marijuana DOES NOT Lower IQ in Adolescents


Is marijuana linked to cognitive deficits? No. Is marijuana the ‘gateway drug’? No. Can smoking marijuana damage the lungs? No. Does marijuana cause anxiety and depression? No. Is adolescent marijuana use associated with IQ or educational performances? No. Does marijuana kill cancer cells? Yes. Is marijuana legal? No. Wonder why? Because Big Pharma doesn’t want it.

In October 2012, a study, more than thirty years in the making found that smoking marijuana permanently lowers intelligence quotient or IQ. Persistent marijuana use, the researchers found, was associated with neuropsychological decline broadly across domains of functioning. Further, the researchers claimed cessation of marijuana use did not fully restore neuropsychological functioning among adolescent-onset cannabis users. In the end, the researchers concluded that marijuana has had a neurotoxic effect on adolescents’ brains.

Less than four years later, a pair of studies investigating how the IQ of adolescent marijuana users compares to that of their abstinent peers found that no measurable link between marijuana use and lower IQ existed. The first study (conducted by researchers from University College London, Queen Mary University of London, and University of Bristol) observed:

“There is much debate about the impact of adolescent cannabis use on intellectual and educational outcomes. We investigated associations between adolescent cannabis use and IQ and educational attainment in a sample of 2235 teenagers from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children… Those who had used cannabis ⩾50 times did not differ from never-users on either IQ or educational performance.

“These findings suggest that adolescent cannabis use is not associated with IQ or educational performance once adjustment is made for potential confounds, in particular adolescent cigarette use. Modest cannabis use in teenagers may have less cognitive impact than epidemiological surveys of older cohorts have previously suggested.”

So what caused lower IQ levels among those who had smoked marijuana at least 50 times by the age of 15? The researchers found that higher rates of childhood behavioral problems, depressive symptoms, and other substance use – particularly alcohol and cigarettes – discovered among marijuana smokers, may have been responsible for their reduced IQ. In fact, since marijuana users were 17 times more likely to also smoke cigarettes, the researchers speculate that cigarette use may be a more reliable predictor of reduced IQ in the study group.

In the second study (conducted by researchers from University of Southern California, University of Minnesota, University of Pennsylvania, and Orebro University), the effects of marijuana on the IQ of around 2,000 adolescent twins living in Los Angeles and Minnesota (where one twin was a regular user, while the other was not) were examined over a period of nearly a decade.

“Marijuana users had lower test scores relative to nonusers and showed a significant decline in crystallized intelligence between preadolescence and late adolescence. However, there was no evidence of a dose–response relationship between frequency of use and intelligence quotient (IQ) change.

“Furthermore, marijuana-using twins failed to show significantly greater IQ decline relative to their abstinent siblings. Evidence from these two samples suggests that observed declines in measured IQ may not be a direct result of marijuana exposure but rather attributable to familial factors that underlie both marijuana initiation and low intellectual attainment.”

The two studies clearly indicate that marijuana is an unlikely cause of any IQ decline. The question raised, then, is why are we forced to believe that marijuana is linked to cognitive deficits, such as memory loss and low IQ? For the same reason why we were brainwashed for more than five decades into believing that saturated fat causes heart disease, when the culprit was actually sugar. Big Pharma doesn’t want you to know the truth.

NASA Confirms: “Marijuana Contains “Alien DNA” From Outside Of Our Solar System”


It’s big news, set to shock, amaze, and entertain the world.

 But unfortunately, it’s got nothing to do with extraterrestrial stoners melding with Earth’s plants.

However, since you’re now reading, you’ll almost certainly be interested in this research that looked into the clicking and sharing behaviors of social media users reading content (or not) and then sharing it on social media.

We noticed long ago that many of our followers will happily like, share and offer an opinion on an article – all without ever reading it. We’re not the only ones to notice this. Last April, NPR shared an article on their Facebook page which asked “Why doesn’t America read anymore?”. The joke, of course, is that there was no article. They waited to see if their followers would weigh in with an opinion without clicking the link, and they weren’t disappointed.

We’ve been hoping for a chance to try it ourselves, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Yackler had some fun with the same article and managed to fool a bunch of people.

A group of computer scientists at Columbia University and the French National Institute looked into a dataset of over 2.8 million online news articles that were shared via Twitter. The study found that up to 59 percent of links shared on Twitter have never actually been clicked by that person’s followers, suggesting that social media users are more into sharing content than actually clicking on and reading it.

“People are more willing to share an article than read it,” the study’s co-author Arnaud Legout said in a statement, Washington Post reports. “This is typical of modern information consumption. People form an opinion based on a summary, or a summary of summaries, without making the effort to go deeper.”

This study looks into the psychology behind what makes people want to share content. Research conducted by The New York Times Customer Insight Grouplooked into what motivates people to share information. Just under half of the people asked in the survey said they share information on social media to inform people and to “enrich” those around them. Conversely, they found 68 percent share to reinforce and project a certain image of themselves – in a sense, to “define” themselves.

In the words of one participant from the study: “I try to share only information that will reinforce the image I’d like to present: thoughtful, reasoned, kind, interested and passionate about certain things.”

It also raises the question of whether online media is just a massive “echo chamber”, where we all just like pages and viewpoints that reinforce our own beliefs and are not interested in information for the sake of information. Even the algorithms of social media sites mean that individuals or pages that you tend to click on, like, or share – which are most often the articles or viewpoints that you agree with – will more frequently turn up on your News Feed.

As a user of online media, you’re probably quite aware of this.

Take a look at any comment on social media pages, including those, of course, on the IFLScience Facebook page. It’s particularly noticeable on the more “emotive” and controversial of subjects; think climate change, GMOs, vaccinations, aliens, and a lot of our articles on marijuana, where the top comments often repeat or question something that is fairly explicitly in the article, but not the headline.

Just this week, our article about capuchins monkeys entering the stone age was met with many of the top comments on the Facebook post pointing out they’ve done this for hundreds of years, despite that being the first thing the article said if you read it. Although from our analytics it’s impossible to see which users did not click through to the article yet shared it, there is fairly often a slightly fine discrepancy between shares and page views which doesn’t quite add up, especially on those buzz subjects.

So, if you are one of the lucky few who managed to click and read this article, we congratulate you! Although we do apologize for the misleading headline. In the meanwhile, have fun sharing the article and seeing who manages to chair a discussion on marijuana genetics, without ever reading it.

How Did Marijuana Become Illegal in the First Place? 


Article Image

1st August 1980: A young couple share a marijuana reefer at Notting Hill Carnival, west London.

For a plant that humans have utilized for millennia—our brain’s endogenous cannabinoid receptors make us easy targets—restrictions are recent. In his bookMarijuana: A Short History, Brookings Institution senior fellow John Hudak points to the 1906 Federal Food and Drug Act as the beginning of what would become a series of legislative acts and fear-mongering campaigns associating marijuana with a variety of cognitive and bodily diseases, most of which are patently false.

The 1906 act did not restrict marijuana, Hudak writes, but did expand the federal government’s power regarding drugs. Three years later Congress passed the Opium Exclusion Act to create skepticism over an influx of Chinese immigrants. This association of drugs with foreigners proved to be a winning algorithm. Two decades later the Food, Drug, and Insecticide Administration was formed; in 1930 the name was shortened to the FDA.

Enter Harry J. Anslinger, already busy getting his rocks off busting alcohol producers during Prohibition. For the next three decades Anslinger made it a personal goal to publicly discredit marijuana (and the ethnic groups associated with it), touring the country speaking to police and local civic organizations. It was not a far stretch from previous crusade. Hudak writes,

Like alcohol, marijuana was painted as a scourge on society, ruining the moral fabric of America, breaking up families, and decreasing Americans’ capacity for gainful employment.

Anslinger manipulated data to his own ends. In one essay he wrote that while a marijuana cigarette can make you a philosopher or musician it can just as easily turn you into a murderer. Anslinger showed special disdain for Mexicans; the term ‘marihuana’ comes from our southern neighbor, an easy target for his ethnic targeting—a trend still being perpetuated with one presidential candidate’s call for a wall. The Marihauna Tax Act of 1937 was the government’s first attempt at criminalizing the plant.

Coming out of the Great Depression and enduring World War II, Americans were fed up with interventionism even if race baiting made for a good time. By the time the sixties rolled around Anslinger remained vehement toward substances as ever, but the fringes ignored potential prosecution in a combined power of civil rights and personal experimentation.

In the previous decade Eisenhower had released a scathing report treating marijuana users like felons with harsh prison sentences, but by 1963 Kennedy signed Executive Order 11706, which questioned the purported dangers of marijuana. His successor, Lyndon Johnson, did not change the penalties but did question whether or not our society treated addicts properly. He hoped to rehabilitate low-level offenders instead of sentencing them. Then Nixon came into power and that quickly ended. Hudak continues,

While Lyndon Johnson at times acknowledged treating drug use and addiction as a public health problem, Richard Nixon believed drugs to be a criminal element and a scourge on society—their use to be punished, their existence to be stamped out.

Nixon has previously employed a ‘Southern Strategy’ to vilify minority groups and hippies. Once in power, any substance entering their bodies made for banishment. Just as religious leaders need to invent a devil to sustain power, politicians require the other if their aim is to build a fanatical following. Today we associate the ‘War on Drugs’ to Reagan and his wife’s ‘Just Say No’ campaign, but it was in 1971 that Nixon signed Executive Order No. 11599 to declare drugs America’s existential enemy. That war continues to rage today, however diluted and ridiculous it’s become.

And yet, to the thousands of young, mostly black and Latino men escorted to jail for marijuana, this war is anything but over. It has only recently come to light that Nixon specifically targeted minority populations when announcing his war, though for decades American society has witnessed its devastating consequences. This is counter to how legislation is supposed to operate. Hudak concludes,

Public policy at its finest involves trial and error where jurisdictions function as laboratories until best practices gradually emerge and the system’s functioning continues to improve. Improvement and refinement over time is an absolute necessity for marijuana policy, especially since it is very likely that state systems will only expand.

There are many growing pains ahead for marijuana in America. Businesses are being taxed at extraordinary rates yet, since their product is not federally sanctioned, cannot enjoy deductions available to other ventures; misinformation persists as scientific research is impossible due to its Schedule 1 status; ludicrous consumer tax rates (up to 100 percent) keeps the black market alive; corporate intervention is already closing down mom and pop grows that have kept marijuana available to the public for decades.

There are no easy answers, but as Hudak suggests in his fine book, we have to seriously question marijuana policy. In state after state citizens are exercising their democratic right to decide how to treat their bodies. So long as the government keeps longstanding racist, fear-mongering barriers in place we’re never going to reach amiable conclusions that work in the best interest of our nation.

What marijuana really does to your body and brain


Marijuana’s official designation as a Schedule 1 drug – something with “no currently accepted medical use” – means it’s pretty tough to study.

Yet both a growing body of research and numerous anecdotal reports link cannabis with several health benefits, including pain relief and helping with certain forms of epilepsy. In addition, researchers say there are many other ways marijuana might affect health that they want to better understand.

A massive report released in January helps sum up exactly what we know– and, perhaps more importantly, what we don’t know – about the science of weed.

Yet both a growing body of research and numerous anecdotal reports link cannabis with several health benefits, including pain relief and helping with certain forms of epilepsy. In addition, researchers say there are many other ways marijuana might affect health that they want to better understand.

A massive report released in January helps sum up exactly what we know– and, perhaps more importantly, what we don’t know – about the science of weed.

Yet both a growing body of research and numerous anecdotal reports link cannabis with several health benefits, including pain relief and helping with certain forms of epilepsy. In addition, researchers say there are many other ways marijuana might affect health that they want to better understand.

A massive report released in January helps sum up exactly what we know– and, perhaps more importantly, what we don’t know – about the science of weed.

Read more. URL:http://www.businessinsider.in/What-marijuana-really-does-to-your-body-and-brain/articleshow/58283264.cms

Can marijuana use lead to heart failure?


Medical marijuana may be a great source of treatment for patients suffering from various conditions and illnesses living, but the plant may also be a cause of a very serious and life-threatening medical condition: heart failure.

Researchers at Philadelphia’s Einstein Medical Center said there is a connection between marijuana use and increased cardiac risks, such as strokes, according to findings from a new study released Thursday. After reviewing patients’ health records from 1,000 hospitals, researchers discovered people who use marijuana had a 26 percent greater chance of suffering a stroke, compared to those who did not use marijuana. People who used cannabis also had 10 percent higher risk of heart failure.

Health records reviewed included patients ages 18 to 55 that visited hospitals between 2009 and 2010.

The study was scheduled to be released in full by March 18.

Einstein cardiologist, Dr. Aditi Kalla, who worked on the study, told CBS News marijuana appeared to have a direct impact on the heart.

“When cannabis affects human heart cells those cells are less able to squeeze and therefore the heart as a whole is not able to pump as well,” she explained.

The study did not consider the quantity or frequency of cannabis consumed by patients, and because the research was heavily based on hospital discharge records, Kalla suggested that the findings may not actually be conducive to the general population.

However, Kalla said more research needed to be conducted to learn more about marijuana’s side effects just as doctors have learned about the side effects of other drugs and medications that are prescribed as a form of treatment.

“As cannabis becomes legalized across the country I think both the medical and general community will need to become more aware of potential cardiovascular complications that can arise from cannabis use,” she said.

Marijuana has also been linked to various other ailments, including memory loss. A 2016 study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal said people who smoked marijuana on a daily basis for five years or more were more likely to suffer from cognitive disabilities in their middle ages, including lack of memory focus and the ability to make quick decisions.

Source:http://www.rawstory.com

These are the biggest mysteries about marijuana that researchers are still trying to solve.


It’s weird how much we don’t know.

In many ways, it’s the age of access to pot. As of last November, more than 20 percent of Americans live in states that have voted to legalise recreational marijuana use. A majority live in states that allow access to medical marijuana.

In Colorado, cannabis aficionados can attend US$125 per person dinners, where multiple varieties of weed are paired with chef-prepared gourmet meals.

 In New York – a state with a relatively strict medical marijuana law – 98-year-olds like Ruth Brunn rely on cannabis oil to soothe the debilitating pains of neuropathy.

Weed’s more legally accessible now than it has been since the ‘Reefer Madness‘ era of the 1930s; the varieties available now, created with the aid of modern botany and chemistry, are unparalleled in history.

With that in mind you might think that scientific researchers would have a pretty good handle on exactly how regular or casual marijuana use affects humans, how medical marijuana should be best used, and what potential risks there may be to cannabis use.

But if you thought that the recent warming towards marijuana is fully backed by scientific understanding, you might be surprised.

“There are so many basic questions that need to be addressed,” says Ryan Vandrey, an associate professor of psychiatry who researches marijuana at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

“The practical use and legalisation of these things is happening faster than the science can keep up.”

 Vandrey and a number of other experts interviewed by Business Insider say that even though we know far more about marijuana than we did just a few decades ago, there are important topics – ranging from questions about how marijuana affects the brains of different users to questions about how to make use of medical cannabis – where the legal policy has far outpaced the science.

It’s not about being anti- or pro-marijuana, it’s simply that scientists want to know more – especially now, when it’s such an important topic because of the wave of legalisation.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) considers marijuana a drug with no medical value, so it’s hard to get approval to research it and impossible to study the cannabis products most people use, since researchers can only give study participants cannabis grown at DEA-approved facilities.

“It’s pretty amazing” that we have so many unanswered questions, says Staci Gruber, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery program at McLean Hospital.

“It ain’t new, it’s been around for thousands and thousands of years, it’s not like we just made this in a lab.”

Many of the most common inquiries fit into three categories: questions about how recreational marijuana will affect users both young and old; questions about how medical marijuana affects patients; and questions about the marijuana plant itself.

And while marijuana is still distressingly hard to research, there are a number of ongoing studies that should help answer some of the most pressing questions.

Here’s what we’re learning from that research and what we still need to know.

A sacred plant, a casual vice, a risky drug, or a powerful medicine – what’s in the plant?

The cannabis plant itself is a fascinating organism, one that humanity has used for thousands of years for reasons ranging from religious rituals to performance enhancement to just plain partying.

But within that plant there are somewhere around 400 chemical compounds, more than 60 of which are special compounds known as cannabinoids. These bond with a relatively recently discovered system in our brain that interacts with naturally-produced cannabinoids.

In every animal, these natural (endogenous) cannabinoids play multiple roles, affecting mood, appetite, memory, consciousness, pain response, blood pressure, and more.

The cannabinoids from marijuana tap into that same system, which is why the plant has such wide-ranging effects.

We’re pretty far from fully understanding how that system works and even further from understanding all the compounds in marijuana.

The most famous cannabinoid, THC, is largely responsible for marijuana’s ability to get users high. Cannabidiol, CBD, is the next best known – it seems to be important for many medical uses of marijuana.

In one of the studies that Gruber’s team is working on at the Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery (MIND) center at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts, researchers are testing to see if CBD can help reduce anxiety.

It also plays a role in pain relief and several of the other known medical uses of marijuana. But those are still just two components of the plant.

“We know a lot about THC and we’re starting to learn about CBD,” says Vandrey. “Out of about 400 [compounds] we know a decent amount about two.”

That means there’s a lot to learn about which compounds might contribute to psychoactive effects and which might potentially have medical uses.

Special strains and changing potency

Further complicating this question is the fact that growers create numerous strains of cannabis with different characteristics. We see this most frequently now with high THC strains of marijuana.

The data on this isn’t perfect, but it is true you can get stronger pot now than ever before, largely because of innovations in growing practices. About 20 years ago, a high THC concentration might have been 10 or 12 percent.

In legal shops in Colorado and Washington now, it’s not hard to find concentrations of 18, 24, or even 30 percent THC.

Every tweak is going to change the health effects of the plant. High THC plants tend to have low CBD, for example, according to Krista Lisdahl, an associate professor of psychology and director of the Brain Imaging and Neuropsychology Lab at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.

In general, THC potency keeps going up.

Lisdahl says this could be worrisome, since there is some research indicating that some of the brain changes seen in heavy marijuana smokers are not present in smokers who smoke higher CBD, lower THC strains.

This could make the trend away from CBD a negative for some medical users. Gruber wonders what will happen when THC concentration “goes up to 40, 50, 60 percent”.

People consume THC at those levels in some concentrated forms of cannabis, but we don’t know if that sort of consumption carries additional health risks or not.

On the one hand, high potency stuff may be worse for cognition, but on the other, Gruber says she’s had people tell her they smoke less when they use more concentrated products.

“We should probably be doing a better job of understanding what the effects are,” she says.

Common knowledge isn’t backed up by science

Even much of what we think we know isn’t really backed up with scientific evidence.

It’s commonly understood that cannabis can be broadly divided into indica and sativa strains, with indica providing more of the mellowing, body-high (theoretically better for relaxation) and sativa providing a more energising, creative high – and then there are hybrids of the two.

But there are no scientific studies that prove this, making it hard for recreational smokers to know exactly what they’re getting and what effect it will have.

Experienced users might find nothing to worry about here, but as weed becomes more accessible, these are some of the sorts of questions it’s hard not to have an answer to.

When we buy booze, the differences between a session beer, high ABV double IPA, and bottle of Scotch are all clearly defined.

This complicates using cannabis in a medical context.

When it comes to marijuana, “millions of people are using different types of cannabis products for supposedly therapeutic purposes,” says Vandrey.

Different, strains, different concentrations, all consumed in different ways.

At Johns Hopkins, Vandrey is studying the how different ways of consuming marijuana – orally, smoking, vaping – all affect the body. And while he says that not all of his work can be talked about yet, we do know that the mode of ingestion makes a big difference for how people feel the effects and how they manifest themselves.

Who sets the standards?

Many substances might fall under the medical cannabis umbrella, but depending on their specific cannabinoid content and the means through which they are ingested, they’re going to have different effects.

All those people using products for therapeutic purposes are “lacking information about which types of products to choose, what doses to use, and how cannabis compares to other medications,” according to Vandrey.

We do know that marijuana has legitimate medical uses – a recent report by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) found a number of ways in which marijuana seems to be medically effective.

But the report also noted that a lot more information about how marijuana and its various components affect users is needed.

At present, that’s hard to study. The marijuana that researchers can give people for experiments has to come from approved facilities and tends to be far weaker than what people actually use.

A researcher in Colorado can walk into a store and buy marijuana but they can’t get approval to give that product to participants in a study.

Partially because of that, it’s even hard to measure what’s in these products. There’s no one approved system for testing cannabis products, so people running two different tests on marijuana samples might get different results.

Those results might vary even more if they use a test meant for conventional marijuana (flower) on an edible. For those who really want to better understand the plant and to see how to use it most effectively to help people in a medical context, that’s a real problem.

“[One] thing that’s absolutely critical is the development of standards around product manufacturing and labelling,” says Vandrey.

Some states have started to require that marijuana products be tested for potency and to make sure they are free of contaminants – Colorado has rules that recreational and medical products be tested and Washington started to require testing after approving recreational marijuana, for example.

However, it’s not clear that a fully accurate means of testing cannabis products exists yet. One analysis of 75 medical marijuana products purchased in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle found that only 17 percent were accurately labelled.

Some sort of national standard might require devising more accurate tests.

How is using medical marijuana going to affect patients?

The unknowns about what various cannabinoids do and how they interact with each other create plenty of questions about the best ways to use medical marijuana.

But that doesn’t mean we know nothing. The aforementioned NASEM report did find that cannabis (both regular marijuana and various products derived from it) can effectively treat chronic pain along with other conditions, with pain being the reason most people seek it out.

Researchers have good reasons to think that in states where people switch from opioids to marijuana to manage pain, overdose and addiction rates are dropping.

Even though there’s much to be learned about what sort of cannabis best treats what condition, there are reasons to think it’s effective.

“You have to kind of respect the fact that there seem to be people who have very serious health problems and have found positive effects from the use of cannabis,” says Vandrey.

“It’s up to us to try to figure out how and why and to develop very specific targeted therapeutics based on what we can find out.”

But how is using medical marijuana regularly – especially to treat something like chronic pain, which may have no known cause and therefore no known end – going to affect the people using it?

The effects of a daily medical toke

We don’t have definitive answers yet, but Gruber’s MIND program in Massachusetts is doing a lot to figure that out. The early data is both surprising and encouraging.

In one of their studies at McLean Hospital, Gruber and colleagues are following a group of medical marijuana users over time (longer than a year) to see how their health changes.

By checking in on those users every couple months, they will see if the product is helping them, and they will also see how using marijuana is affecting the patients’ sleep, cognitive ability, and quality of life. Additionally, they’re tracking brain activity to see if any changes occur over time.

“I think this large scale observational study is the first of its kind and will really serve the public,” Gruber says.

It’s only with studies like this that track people over time that we really see what sort of effects the drug is having on patients’ lives.

And since this particular study is so thorough and focused on patients that are older than the participants in many other studies, it tells us more about how marijuana affects adults, especially adults using for a medical reason – we have lots of data on young users but little data on users like this, with an average age of about 48 or 49.

She stresses that it’s really early to draw conclusions from this ongoing work. But one of the first studies to come out of this particular project had an encouraging finding.

Their preliminary results showed that three months into their medical marijuana treatment, a group of users (24 people, still relatively small) showed significant improvement in tests of cognitive function.

Tests of heavy recreational smokers in the past have shown worse cognitive function. This was the opposite.

The imaging data they have seen so far also showed some interesting changes in brain activity. For patients like this, many of whom struggle with pain, previous brain scans showed abnormal blood flow when doing cognitive tasks.

After a few months of medical marijuana, that mental activity started to look like the activity in a healthy control population.

In a way, this isn’t surprising. If your mind is no longer struggling with constant pain or anxiety, cognitive tests might become easier.

But that had never been demonstrated before, which just shows how much we have to learn about the effects of medical cannabis use.

What about recreational users?

Recreational pot is still harder to come by than medical marijuana – the current political administration has implied that laws legalising it may be at risk.

So how much do we know about the recreational use of marijuana and what are the big questions? “We have no shortage of data from chronic, heavy users,” says Gruber.

But we know far less about occasional smokers, she says.

When we look at the ‘effects’ of recreational marijuana, it’s important to consider the context. It’s one thing to compare marijuana to hard drugs like opioids or to substances like alcohol.

Some research so far indicates that marijuana is ‘safer’ in many ways than these substances (people don’t overdose and even though marijuana can be habit forming it doesn’t seem to be as habit-forming as alcohol).

That doesn’t mean it’s harmless.

In studies of those chronic, heavy users, “we see marijuana users have slower processing speed, worse memory and learning scores on certain tests, poorer sustained attention,” says Lisdahl.

There are also links to depression and sleep problems in some of those users, and some heavy users show brain changes linked to poorer emotional control or memory. These changes have been particularly observed in people who began using marijuana before ages 16 or 17.

That’s not something unique to cannabis; many substances may harm the developing brain. When it comes to adolescent use, Lisdahl says that alcohol seems to be particularly bad, but that there are still some unique brain changes associated with marijuana use.

We still don’t know, however, whether marijuana causes those changes or whether certain people (with certain brains) are more likely to use marijuana in the first place.

What it looks like when kids first start trying pot

One research effort that Lisdahl is involved in right now could help change uncover some of these mysteries. The ABCD Study is “extremely exciting, not just for marijuana – there are hundreds of things we can look at”, she says.

ABCD is a research effort that will follow 10,000 kids around the country – starting when they are 9 or 10 years old – for 10 years. It’s coordinated out of UCSD and there are 21 different sites around the country.

For this study, researchers will analyse the schools kids are enrolled in, look at where they live, track images of their brains, see how much they exercise and sleep, and more. They will track everything from stress to puberty hormones to substance use.

They will also see them before and after they begin experimenting with any substances, including marijuana, alcohol, nicotine, and other drugs.

“It’s the first of its kind worldwide of this scope and depth,” says Lisdahl.

Following kids over a long period of time is probably the best way to understand when and why they start using a substance, according to Gruber.

When it comes to recreational substance use, we know a lot about alcohol – that it affects sleep, cognition, domestic violence likelihood, and other things. Researchers want to know answers to those questions about marijuana, too. From what we can tell, adult use seems to be less associated with brain changes, though that doesn’t mean there are no cognitive effects.

Even if it turns out that marijuana causes the negative effects on young brains that researchers think it may, that doesn’t mean prohibiting it completely was the most effective policy in the US (it certainly didn’t stop it from being available).

Legalisation doesn’t necessarily increase usage rates for kids based on what we’ve seen so far. Kids in Colorado and Washington aren’t using more after legalisation, though Lisdahl says that since those states already had the highest rates of youth usage, they don’t tell us whether or not, say, kids in Indiana will start smoking more pot if it’s legalised there. Education may help keep those youth usage rates down.

No matter what, these next few years of observing states with legal marijuana – and of researchers following thousands of kids – will tell us a lot.

Scratching the surface

These ongoing studies will help answer some of the most pressing questions, but it’s going to take some time.

It will be 10 years (or longer) before the ABCD study really starts to reveal how participants’ lives have changed over time. And even then, many of the questions asked in the study are only scratching the surface.

For instance, a lot of baby boomers have started smoking pot regularly since it was legalised – or started smoking again – and we don’t know much about the effects that might have.

It’s important to learn how safe marijuana is for pregnant women. There are connections between marijuana use, low birth weight, and time spent in the NICU for infants, so we certainly can’t say it’s safe, even if some women are already using it to control nausea.

Several of the researchers I spoke with say we need to know more about how marijuana affects what’s probably the most common user – the ‘casual’ user who doesn’t smoke every day or even every week, but just every so often.

None of this is meant to demonise cannabis or to call it a miracle plant – it’s just another substance out there, one that humans have used for a long time, one that can be used in ways with negative, positive, and neutral effects.

As Gruber explains it, “We’re not really after the good or the bad – we’re after the truth.”

Anxiety, Growing Marijuana Lead To The Creation Of The LEAF Plug ‘N Plant Grow System


leaf-box
The LEAF system – a stylish miniature refrigerator – monitors everything your marijuana plant needs to grow, including light, ventilation, nutrient levels and pH of the soil. 

Yoni Ofir, an Israeli military veteran, found himself using medical marijuana to help treat anxiety. Like many veterans, it was one of the only that helped but it wasn’t readily available. Ofir decided it was time to take matters into his own hands.

“I started to grow it myself, but found that the process was time consuming and required a lot of care,” Yoni Ofir, CEO of LEAF, told IBTimes.

After Ofir’s first experience with growing, he knew many of the difficult tasks could be automated and optimized with hardware and data. That’s where the LEAF Plug ’n Plant system comes in.

The LEAF system – a stylish miniature refrigerator – monitors everything your marijuana plant needs to grow, including light, ventilation, nutrient levels and pH of the soil.

“We wanted to ensure that users can grow cannabis in their homes in a compact and stylish way — I originally grew plants in the open in my apartment and my girlfriend was not a fan of how it looked or smelled. We liked this design a lot and we felt like it would look great in any home, as it has a familiar yet modern look,” Ofir said.

A carbon filter helps contain the odor of the cannabis plant. That means you can grow weed in a closed room and you don’t have to worry about the smell. The system also reacts to measurements, meaning that if your plants are low on nutrients it can dispense more. It can automatically brighten the environment if your plants need more light.

After the recent election, seven states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational pot, and 21 others allow it to be used as medicine.

The company encourages users to head to their local dispensary to buy quality seeds or clones because for the time being it doesn’t sell any. There is a lot of legal red tape involved in selling the actual seeds. When those legal hurdles change, we would love to offer tailored genetics for LEAF,” Ofir said.

To buy the LEAF unit, users need to confirm they are over the age of 21. However,people don’t need to provide proof they live in a state where marijuana use is allowed, because we don’t sell cannabis and the product can be used for other types of growing,” Ofir said.

Ofir believes people will buy LEAF to not only grow marijuana but to also grow their own wheatgrass, kale or peppers. “It’s a great product for people who want higher quality produce and plants without pesticides or harmful chemicals,” said Ofir. “It’s also great for people who live in homes that don’t have outdoor areas or access to direct sunlight, because the LEAF unit has its own lighting system inside.”

LEAF also has a social network of growers within the mobile app, which allows people to create and post recipes for strains and plants, which other community members can sync directly to their LEAF devices.

LEAF only grows small amounts of cannabis in the home – and yields about 4 ounces every three to four months, which is enough for one person to use marijuana daily.

LEAF’s technology comes at a hefty cost, $2,990, and the nutrient packs and carbon filters will run you$39. The nutrient packs and carbon filters should be replaced after each grow. The company is taking preorders with a small deposit on its website and expects to ship in September.

Initially, LEAF will ship to the U.S. and Canada. The company says it’s working on international distribution partnerships to be able to ship worldwide.

Who Uses Marijuana for Medical Purposes?


 People who report marijuana use for medical reasons are very similar to recreational users.

  Over half of the U.S. states have approved marijuana for “medical” purposes, with three states joining the list after the November 2016 elections. Although limited evidence suggests that marijuana has analgesic effects (Clin J Pain 2013; 29:162) and could substitute for more harmful long-term prescription opioid use in individuals with chronic pain (J Pain 2016; 17:739), concerns remain that medicalization is often a gambit for legalized recreational use or that some patients use cannabis to “take the edge off” nonmedical distress. In contrast, adverse effects, especially with regular marijuana use (as is common in medical users), have been conclusively documented: harm to the adolescent brain, (J Neurosci 2014; 34:5529), reduced cortical gray matter in adults (Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2014; 111:16913), diminished cognitive function (Biol Psychiatry 2016; 79:557), and increased risk for psychosis (Lancet Psychiatry 2015; 2:233) and vehicular accidents (BMJ 2012; 344:e536).

A recent analysis of survey data on 96,100 adults in all 50 U.S. states further informs the debate (JAMA 2017; 317:209). Researchers compared the mental and physical health of past-year marijuana users (12.9% of participants) according to whether use was medical (0.8%), recreational (11.6%), or both (0.5%). Medical users and recreational users had similar rates of heart disease; hypertension; diabetes; asthma; hepatitis; HIV/AIDS; major depression; suicidal ideation; illicit-drug use disorders; use of tobacco, cocaine, hallucinogens, heroin, and inhalants; and nonmedical use of sedatives. However, compared with recreational users, medical-only users had higher rates of anxiety disorder, perceived poor health, and disability; reported lower use of alcohol and nonmedical use of stimulants and prescription analgesics; and were more likely to use marijuana daily. Less use of nonmedical prescription-analgesics might be consistent with use for pain. Higher anxiety rates could indicate periodic withdrawal reactions due to daily use, the development of anxiety resulting from regular use, or perhaps heightened emotional distress due to poorer health, suggesting that use may be directed at relieving distress rather than treating specific medical conditions.

These findings are consistent with those from earlier, smaller studies. One that I published last year (Am J Addict 2015; 24:599) documented poorer perceived health status, more pain, and greater physical disability in medical vs. recreational users, although the effect size was small. The only differences in medical illness were greater rates of connective tissue/skeletal disease and cancer in medical users. Similar proportions of medical and recreational users used ≥2 other illegal drugs (48% and 58%), although medical users were less likely to have severe drug problems. My conclusion from these studies: Medical and recreational users had many more similarities than differences, and the differences were small, suggesting that only a few “medical users” were likely targeting medical conditions.

One can imagine cancer sufferers using marijuana for nausea and pain, and chronic pain sufferers unable to wean themselves from prescription opioids substituting marijuana. But one can also imagine many others using marijuana as a rapidly acting, anxiolytic, and antistress medicine similar to a benzodiazepine — without randomized, controlled evidence of efficacy, knowledge of dosing strategies, or understanding of long-term adverse effects, tolerance, and withdrawal phenomena and mechanisms.

Longitudinal evidence is contradictory regarding whether marijuana use increases the risk for subsequent anxiety or mood disorders (BMC Psychiatry 2014; 14:136; JAMA Psychiatry 2016; 73:388; and Psychol Med 2014; 44:797). Still, cannabis use might adversely affect people who already have symptoms of anxiety and depression. In my practice, users already suffering from these symptoms experience further harmful effects that uniformly improve with cessation of the drug. Although animal models show that the endocannabinoid system is involved with stress and anxiety reactions, there is no human evidence that plant marijuana treats these conditions, especially as various cannabinoids can have opposing actions.

Until solid research can clearly identify whether and to what extent marijuana has medical benefits, anecdote and emotion may continue to drive the behavior of patients, doctors, and state legislatures. I strongly suggest that physicians pursue standard medical approaches before considering medical use of marijuana. In my practice as a psychiatrist, there are innumerable, evidence-based pharmacotherapies and psychotherapies for emotional distress. The rapid-acting nature of marijuana, along with its relaxing and euphoric effect, is clearly seductive for patient and doctor alike, but its long-term effects are unpredictable.

Mysterious illness tied to marijuana use on the rise in states with legal weed.


For more than two years, Lance Crowder was having severe abdominal pain and vomiting, and no local doctor could figure out why. Finally, an emergency room physician in Indianapolis had an idea.

“The first question he asked was if I was taking hot showers to find relief. When he asked me that question, I basically fell into tears because I knew he had an answer,” Crowder said.

The answer was cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, or CHS. It’s caused by heavy, long-term use of various forms of marijuana. For unclear reasons, the nausea and vomiting are relieved by hot showers or baths.

“They’ll often present to the emergency department three, four, five different times before we can sort this out,” said Dr. Kennon Heard, an emergency room physician at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Colorado.

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He co-authored a study showing that since 2009, when medical marijuana became widely available, emergency room visits diagnoses for CHS in two Colorado hospitals nearly doubled. In 2012, the state legalized recreational marijuana.

“It is certainly something that, before legalization, we almost never saw,” Heard said. “Now we are seeing it quite frequently.”

Outside of Colorado, when patients do end up in an emergency room, the diagnosis is often missed. Partly because doctors don’t know about CHS, and partly because patients don’t want to admit to using a substance that’s illegal.

CHS can lead to dehydration and kidney failure, but usually resolves within days of stopping drug use. That’s what happened with Crowder, who has been off all forms of marijuana for seven months.

“Now all kinds of ambition has come back. I desire so much more in life and, at 37 years old, it’s a little late to do it, but better now than never,”he said.

CHS has only been recognized for about the past decade, and nobody knows exactly how many people suffer from it. But as more states move towards the legalization of marijuana, emergency room physicians like Dr. Heard are eager to make sure both doctors and patients have CHS on their radar.

Alzheimer’s Prevention Starts with Marijuana, According to British Journal


A paper published by the British Journal of Pharmacology suggests that the chemical compounds in marijuana likely prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and age-related dementia.

Alzheimer's Disease includes reduced brain activity and function (red areas above), the result of years of accumulated damage. THC and CBD in marijuana seem to prevent this damage.

Alzheimer’s Disease includes reduced brain activity and function (red areas above), the result of years of accumulated damage. THC and CBD in marijuana seem to prevent this damage.

Chronic brain inflammation, oxidative stress, and intra-cellular dysfunction are the primary reasons why people develop these debilitating neurological diseases. The study found that both THC and CBD (the primary chemical compounds found in marijuana) positively affect nerve cell function in consumers, significantly reducing these harmful neurological conditions.

THC and CBD (called cannabinoids) tap into a primal, chemical signaling system in cells called “the endocannabinoid system.” The paper shows cannabinoids dampen inflammation, protect cells from oxidative damage, and promote cell health on a number of levels.

This paper echoes claims made in January by Gary Wenk, professor of neuroscience, immunology, and medical genetics at Ohio State University, that “if you do anything, such as smoke a bunch of marijuana in your 20s and 30s, you may wipe out all of the inflammation in your brain and then things start over again. And you simply die of old age before inflammation becomes an issue for you,”

The implications of marijuana’s medicinal effects on our brains are monumental, from not just a health perspective, but a financial one as well, for more than five million Americans with Alzheimer’s. One in three seniors will die with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, and Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the nation, costing the country about $203 billion in 2013.

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