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IACM-Bulletin of 11 March 2012

Science: Use of cannabis was not associated with disease severity after a first psychotic episode in a prospective two-year controlled trial

Researchers of Yulius, a Mental Health Institute in Dordrecht, The Netherlands, conducted a randomized, open-label, controlled trial to investigate the association of cannabis use with measures for mental health and social role functioning in 124 patients suffering from non-affective first-episode psychosis. Patients were followed for 2 years. Other patient characteristics that were expected to be independently associated with outcome, among them alcohol and other drug use, were assessed at baseline.

Continued cannabis use was not associated with symptomatic or functional remission or clinical recovery. After 2 years, cannabis use was related to certain aspects of social role functioning, namely economic and social activities. By the end of the trial, 53 percent of study participants had seen their psychotic symptoms go away, with cannabis users just as likely as non-users to recover. They also had as good a chance of "clinical recovery," which meant their symptoms were gone and their daily functioning was back to normal, or close to it. Still, cannabis users did show an increased risk of certain "social" problems, scoring lower on questionnaires gauging financial independence and social activities. "In real life, this could mean that continuing cannabis use has a detrimental effect on social functioning," lead researcher Gunnar Faber told Reuters. He noted, though, that any effects would vary from one user to another - and the findings don't necessarily mean that cannabis itself caused the social problems. Few cannabis users in the study used it heavily, which may help explain why cannabis did not seem to have strong effects on recovery, he said.

More at:
www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/01/healt-cannabis-psychosis-idUSL4E8E101W20120301

(Sources: Reuters of 1 March 2012; Faber G, Smid HG, Van Gool AR, Wunderink L, van den Bosch RJ, Wiersma D. Continued cannabis use and outcome in first-episode psychosis: data from a randomized, open-label, controlled trial. J Clin Psychiatry. 2012 Feb 21. [in press])

USA: In November the citizens of Colorado will vote on the legalization of cannabis for recreational use

Colorado voters will be asked to decide whether to legalize the recreational use of cannabis in a November ballot measure. The Colorado measure, if approved by voters, would legalize possession of up to an ounce (about 28 grams) of cannabis or up to six plants for cultivation. It would also set up a regulatory framework for the sale of cannabis products and the application of sales and excise taxes, in addition to legalizing the cultivation of industrial HEMP. A provision of the measure would also annually earmark the first $40 million in tax revenue generated from cannabis sales to fund public school construction. Any remaining money over $40 million would go to the state's general fund.

No states currently allow cannabis for recreational use, and a similar measure failed in California in 2010. Colorado is one of 16 states along with Washington, D.C. that already allow cannabis use for medical purposes even as cannabis remains classified as an illegal narcotic under federal law. Public opinion is sharply divided on the merits of full legalization. Under the medical cannabis law enacted in 2000, Colorado maintains a registry of more than 80,000 card-carrying patients.

More at:
www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/28/uk-usa-marijuana-colorado-idUSLNE81R00V20120228

(Source: Reuters of 28 February 2012)

News in brief

Canada: Guidelines for the treatment of tics
New Canadian guidelines for the evidence-based treatment of tic disorders include cannabinoids as a treatment option with a weak recommendation. Most other medications also got a weak recommendation (risperidone, aripiprazole, olanzapine, quetiapine, ziprasidone, topiramate, etc.). Only two medications got a strong recommendation (clonidine and guanfacine, the second for children only). (Source: Pringsheim T, et al. Can J Psychiatry 2012;57(3):133-43.)

Costa Rica: President supports drug legalization
Drug legalization in Central America merits a “serious” debate as a solution to the crime and violence coursing through the region even if it runs up against U.S. opposition, said Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla. “If we keep doing what we have been when the results today are worse than 10 years ago, we’ll never get anywhere and could wind up like Mexico or Colombia,” Chinchilla said on 29 January. (Source: Reuters of 1 March 2012)

Spain: Village wants to grow cannabis to pay off its dept
A village in northeastern Spain, believes it has found a novel way to pay off its debt: cultivating cannabis. The Catalonian village of Rasquera has agreed to rent out land to grow cannabis, an enterprise the local authorities say will allow them to pay off their 1.3 million EURo debt in two years. The Barcelona Personal Use Cannabis Association (ABCDA), which has 5,000 members, will pay Rasquera 54,170 EURos a month from July 2012 for a 15 hectare plot of land and local authorities hope the farm will generate 40 jobs in the village. Spain's attorney general investigates the legality of the project. (Source: Reuters of 7 March 2012)

USA: More than 4,000 registered cannabis patients in Rhode Island and New Mexico
Currently 4,416 people are registered with the Rhode Island's medical cannabis program. In New Mexico there were 4,310 medical cannabis patients in October, and the leading category was PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) with 1,854 patients. (Sources: Associated Press of 1 March 2012, Las Cruces Sun-News of 5 March 2012)

Science: The influence of cannabis on cerebral blood flow
Researchers of the VA San Diego Healthcare System, USA, investigated the effects of cannabis use on blood flow in the brain of adolescents. Compared to 23 non-users 23 cannabis users showed reduced blood flow in four regions of the brain cortex and an increased blood flow in one region. After 4 weeks of abstinence there was no longer any difference between both groups. (Source: Jacobus J, et al. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2012 Mar 7. [in press])

Science: Activation of the CB2 receptor prevents from neuropathy from a chemotherapeutic agent
According to a study with rats in the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, USA, activation of the CB2 receptor by a synthetic cannabinoid (MDA7) prevented from neuropathy (nerve damage and pain) induced by the chemotherapeutic drug paclitaxel. The cannabinoid reduced numbers of activated microglia and astrocytes (immune cells in the brain) and reduced secretion of proinflammatory mediators. (Source: Naguib M, et al. Anesth Analg. 2012 Mar 5. [in press])

Science: Negative effects of cannabis on multitasking capacity
According to British and Australian researchers cannabis use can negatively influence psychological responses to a multitasking stressor. They compared 25 cannabis users with non-users and found that cannabis users became less alert and content following acute stress. Unexpectedly, the stressor increased ratings of calm in cannabis users. Authors noted that "this may have implications for real-life situations which place high demands on cognitive resources." (Source: Wetherell MA, et al. Hum Psychopharmacol 2012;27(2):167-76.)

Science: THC has antidepressant effects
Canadian researchers found antidepressant-like properties of THC in rats, which have been forced to swim. They noted that "delta-9-THC, like other CB1R agonists and endocannabinoid enhancers, and similar with standard antidepressants (such as SSRIs), may possess antidepressant-like properties at low doses." (Source: Bambico FR, et al. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2012 Feb 22. [in press])

Science: Gabapentin reduces withdrawal effects after cessation of cannabis use
Researchers of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, USA, conducted a clinical study with 50 treatment-seeking cannabis users diagnosed with cannabis dependence. They received either gabapentin (1200 mg/day) or matched placebo for 12 weeks. Gabapentin significantly decreased withdrawal symptoms. (Source: Mason BJ, et al. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2012 Feb 29. [in press])

Science: Endocannabinoid concentration is correlated with blood pressure in depressed women
In a study by US researchers with 28 female volunteers with depression and 27 healthy controls the concentrations of the endocannabinoids anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonolyglycerol (2-AG) in blood serum was positively correlated with blood pressure in the depressed group. There was no correlation between blood pressure and endocannabinoids in control subjects. (Source: Ho WS, et al. Lipids Health Dis 2012;11(1):32.)

Science: Activation of cannabinoid receptors in saliva glands reduce saliva secretion
Researchers from Ukraine observed that activation of CB1 and CB2 receptors in the submandibular gland suppressed saliva outflow and modified the saliva produced by the submandibular gland. (Source: Kopach O, et al. J Cell Sci. 2012 Feb 24. [in press])

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