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IACM-Bulletin of 08 September 2013

Science/Human: Cannabis improves cancer symptoms and reduces side effects of anti-cancer medications in an open clinical study

In an open clinical study with cancer patients all symptoms improved significantly. Researches of the Division of Oncology of the Rambam Health Care Campus, Haifa, and the Faculty of Medicine in Haifa, Israel, followed patients with a medicinal cannabis license to evaluate the advantages and side effects of using cannabis by cancer patients. The study included two interviews based on questionnaires regarding symptoms and side effects, the first held on the day the license was issued and the second 6-8 weeks later.

Of the 211 patients who had a first interview, only 131 had the second interview, 25 of whom stopped treatment after less than a week. All cancer or anticancer treatment-related symptoms showed significant improvement. No significant side effects except for memory lessening in patients with prolonged cannabis use were noted. Authors concluded that “the positive effects of cannabis on various cancer-related symptoms are tempered by reliance on self-reporting for many of the variables. Although studies with a control group are missing, the improvement in symptoms should push the use of cannabis in palliative treatment of oncology patients.”

Bar-Sela G, Vorobeichik M, Drawsheh S, Omer A, Goldberg V, Muller E. The medical necessity for medicinal cannabis: prospective, observational study evaluating the treatment in cancer patients on supportive or palliative care. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:510392, 2013 Jul 16. [in press].

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USA: The federal government allows states to legalize recreational cannabis

In a move cannabis advocates hailed as an historic shift, the Obama administration on 29 August began giving U.S. states wide leeway to experiment with cannabis legalization and started by letting Colorado and Washington carry out new laws permitting recreational use. The Justice Department said it would refocus cannabis enforcement nationwide by bringing criminal charges only in eight defined areas - such as distribution to minors - and not prosecuting users, growers and related businesses. The decisions end nearly a year of deliberation inside President Barack Obama's administration about how to react to the growing movement for relaxed U.S. cannabis laws.

Advocates for legalization welcomed the announcement as a major step toward ending cannabis prohibition. Cannabis remains illegal and tightly controlled under federal law, even as 20 states, plus the District of Columbia, allow the use of medical cannabis. Voters in Colorado and Washington legalized recreational use in ground-breaking ballot measures in November 2012. The leeway for the states will go only so far, though, if Colorado, Washington or other states show they are unable to control the drug, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Reuters of 29 August 2013..

Science/Human: THC improved falling asleep and slightly reduced sleep at night in a clinical study

Higher THC concentrations were significantly associated with less difficulty falling asleep, and more daytime sleep the following day in 13 regular cannabis smokers, who participated in a one-week study with THC. These are the results of a study at the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Baltimore, USA. Participants received increasing doses of oral THC (40-120mg daily).

Higher evening THC and 11-OH-THC concentrations were significantly associated with shorter sleep latency, less difficulty falling asleep, and more daytime sleep the following day. In contrast, the duration of night-time sleep decreased slightly (3.5 minutes per night) during the study. Authors concluded that “these findings suggest that tolerance to the somnolent effects of THC may have occurred, but results should be considered preliminary due to design limitations. Somnolence from oral THC may dissipate with chronic, high-dose use.”

Gorelick DA, Goodwin RS, Schwilke E, Schroeder JR, Schwope DM, Kelly DL, Ortemann-Renon C, Bonnet D, Huestis MA. Around-the-clock oral THC effects on sleep in male chronic daily cannabis smokers. Am J Addict 2013;22(5):510-4..

News in brief

Science/Human: Early cannabis use is not the cause of reduced educational attainment
Researchers investigated the question, whether cannabis use was the cause for reduced educational attainment or whether both had the same cause in 3337 adult twins. They concluded from their results that “the relationship between early-onset cannabis use and school leaving is due to shared environmental risk factors influencing both the risk of early-onset cannabis use and early school leaving.”
VU University, Department of Developmental Psychology and EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Verweij KJ, et al. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2013 Aug 11. [in press].

Canada: A majority of voters support reforming cannabis laws
More than two thirds (69%) support either decriminalisation for small amounts of cannabis (34%) or legalisation and taxation (36%). In a Forum Poll 1189 Canadians 18 years of age or older were asked on their opinion. Only 15% wanted the law as it is, while 13% want penalties increased.
Press release by Forum Research of 24 August 2013.

USA: An increasing number of patients in Maine are allowed to grow cannabis
According to the annual report by the Department of Health some 575 people applied to the state last year to grow medical cannabis on their own. 521 were new applications. The state’s eight medical cannabis dispensaries employed 84 people. The Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Program took in 612,370 dollars in fees and spent considerably less: 466,028 dollars.
Bangor Daily News of 24 August 2013.

Science/Human: Cannabis use is associated with ADHD
In a study with 56 men and 20 women with ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) cannabis use was associated with sleep quality in women and symptoms of attention in men. Authors concluded that “men and women with ADHD may use marijuana for different reasons.”
Department of Pediatrics, University of California, Irvine, USA.
Ly C & Gehricke JG. Psychiatry Res. 2013 Aug 29. [in press].

Science/Human: Cannabis use in young people with ADHD did not worsen cognition
In young adults with a mean age of 24 years suffering from ADHD there was no difference between cognitive abilities whether they used cannabis or not. 42 patients used cannabis and 45 not. Exploratory analyses revealed that individuals who began using cannabis regularly before age 16 may have some negative effects on cognition than users who began later. Authors concluded that “regular cannabis use starting after age 16 may not be sufficient to aggravate longstanding cognitive deficits characteristic of ADHD.”
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, USA.
Tamm L, et al. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2013 Aug 11. [in press].

Science/Animal: Inhibition of anandamide transport reduces nausea in shrews
A substance (ARN272), which reduces the transport of anandamide back into the cells and thus increases anandamide concentration reduced vomiting in shrews and nausea-behaviour in rats. Authors concluded that “these results suggest that anandamide transport inhibition by the compound ARN272 tonically activates CB1 receptors.”
Department of Psychology and Collaborative Neuroscience Program University of Guelph, Canada.
O'Brien LD, et al. Br J Pharmacol. 2013 Aug 28. [in press].

Science/Animal: CBD is neuroprotective after damage of the sciatic nerve
In young rats the consequences of mechanical damage to the sciatic nerve was reduced by CBD (cannabidiol). Authors concluded that “the present results show that CBD possesses neuroprotective characteristics that may, in turn, be promising for future clinical use.”
Institute of Biology, University of Campinas, Brazil.
Perez M, et al. EUR J Neurosci. 2013 Aug 25. [in press].

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