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IACM-Bulletin of 18 January 2004

Science: Endocannabinoids responsible for euphoric feeling of runners

Endocannabinoids may be responsible for the euphoric feeling that some people get when they exercise, researchers of the Georgia Tech in Atlanta and the University of California in Irvine said. Endocannabinoids are produced by the body and bind to the same receptors in the brain as THC, the psychoactive substance in cannabis.

"Exercise is good for the mind. For the millions of people who exercise, this is not a secret,” said Dr. Arne Dietrich, the study’s principal investigator. "It helps reduce stress, lowers anxiety, suppresses pain, produces a feeling of well-being and can even lead to a euphoric state."

High levels of the endocannabinoid anandamide were found in 24 young men who ran or cycled at a moderate rate for about an hour, the scientists wrote in an article for the journal NeuroReport. They speculate that the euphoric feelings of runners, which are often called "runner’s high”, may not be caused by endorphins released by the human body – as previously thought - but by an endocannabinoid high.

Dr. Dietrich believes the body releases cannabinoids to help it cope with the prolonged stress and pain of moderate or intense exercise. "No other study has ever considered this possibility, which is why the results are so significant," said Dietrich, who added that there were no indications that endocannabinoids caused any harm when naturally released during intense exercise.

(Sources: Reuters of 11 January 2004, The Whistle – Newspaper for the Staff of Georgia Tech - of 15 December 2003)

USA: Considerable increase in number of medical cannabis users

Five years after Oregon passed its medical marijuana law, it seems to be experiencing a boom. From October 2003 to January 2004 the number of people holding medical marijuana identity cards jumped from about 6,000 to 7,584. Since February 2003, the number of cardholders has increased by two-thirds. More than 0.2 per cent of the Oregonian population of 3.4 million are now registered medical marijuana patients.

About 4,600 Oregonians have registered as caregivers, which means they have some responsibility for a patient's well-being, including growing cannabis for them. Until now 1,280 doctors participate in the program. Oregon's law was passed by voters in 1998 and was enacted in 1999. Qualified patients pay $150 fee to the state for new applications, and annual renewal fees of $100. Low-income people pay $50.

According to estimations by California NORML the number of patients in California using marijuana medicinally under a doctor's supervision has doubled from 2002 to 2004 and now tops 75,000.

(Sources: Associated Press of 10 January 2004, NORML of 15 January 2004)

News in brief

USA: Alaska
Alaska voters will decide this fall whether to allow adults to possess and use marijuana in private. Proponents of an initiative had collected enough signatures to put this question on the 2004 November statewide ballot. In 1998, Alaska voters approved an initiative that legalized medical use of marijuana. However, two years later, they rejected an initiative that would have legalized the drug entirely. (Source: Reuters of 7 January 2004)

Spain: Catalonia
The Catalonian government has announced to allow the cultivation of cannabis for scientific research, a move which is opposed by the central government. Marina Geli, the head of the Catalonian health department, said that the measure will be limited to "projects of the scientific community", for example researchers at the University of Barcelona, who want to use cannabis in a clinical trial. (Source: El Periódico de Catalunya of 15 January 2004)

Venezuela: Decriminalisation of drug use
The latest reform of the penal code included the increase of penalties for drug traffickers and the decriminalization of drug possession. According to the newspaper El Universal the tolerated quantity of the drug is equivalent to an average quantity sufficient for five days. (Source: www.bigleftoutside.com of 15 January 2004)

Science: HIV/AIDS
252 HIV patients were interviewed by researchers of the San Mateo Medical Center, California, on their marijuana use. 23% reported to have smoked cannabis in the previous month. Reported benefits included relief of anxiety and/or depression (57%), improved appetite (53%), increased pleasure (33%), and relief of pain (28%). (Source: Prentiss D, et al. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr 2004; 35(1): 38-45)

Science: Migraine
A new study looked at the possible role of the CB1 receptor in the regulation of the tenseness of certain blood vessels in the brain. The endocannabinoid anandamide was able to inhibit dilation of blood vessels in the dura mater caused by several agents, e.g. by nitric oxide. Researchers concluded that CB1 receptors appear to be involved in processes that cause headache and dilation of blood vessels in the dura mater. (Source: Akerman S, et al. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2004 Jan 12 [Electronic publication ahead of print])

USA: Drug testing
The federal government is planning to overhaul its employee drug testing program to include scrutiny of workers' hair, saliva and sweat. The planned changes, long awaited by the testing industry, are expected to take effect within a year for the 1.6 million federal workers. (Source: Associated Press of 14 January 2004)

Science: Drug testing
In a new study it was shown that exposures of hair to passive cannabis smoke yields detectable cannabinoids in the hair. The concentrations detected depended on concentrations in the air, hair care habits, and cosmetic treatment. Environmental cannabis smoke exposure may produce false-positive or falsely increased test results in hair. (Source: Thorspecken J, et al. Clin Chem. 2004 Jan 15 [electronic publication ahead of print])

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