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IACM-Bulletin of 14 March 2010

Science: In a pilot study the medical use of cannabis did not compromise the results of patients in substance abuse treatment

In a pilot study Californian researchers investigated the effects of the medical use of cannabis on the outcome of people participating in substance abuse treatment. Of the participants, who were admitted to a public substance abuse treatment program in California, 13 were authorized medical cannabis users and 146 had no medicinal cannabis use. Each of the medical cannabis users was referred to substance abuse treatment by the criminal court, sought permission to use cannabis for medicinal purposes during treatment and received such authorization.

Researchers noted that treatment results are preliminary due to the small sample size but that their study "demonstrates that questions about the relationship between medical marijuana use and involvement in drug treatment can be systematically evaluated." Cannabis use did not seem to compromise substance abuse treatment among those who used cannabis for medicinal purposes. They fared equal to or better than non-medical cannabis users in several important outcome categories, e.g. treatment completion and criminal justice involvement. The authors concluded that their exploratory study suggests that medical use of cannabis "is consistent with participation in other forms of drug treatment and may not adversely affect positive treatment outcomes" and that "a justification can be made for medical marijuana in addictions treatment as a harm reduction practice."

The article is available at:

(Source: Swartz R. Medical marijuana users in substance abuse treatment. Harm Reduct J 2010;7(1):3.)

News in brief

New Zealand: Medicinal use
According to a report by the Law Commission cannabis should be allowed for medicinal use. Law Commission President Sir Geoffrey Palmer said on 11 February there was "scope for a range of different approaches" to drug laws in New Zealand. The report says there is "no reason why cannabis should not be able to be used for medicinal purposes in limited circumstances." Justice Minister Simon Power said he would be interested in the report but he would not allow medicinal use of cannabis. (Source: www.stuff.co.nz of 11 February 2010)

Holland: Schizophrenia
Researchers of the Universities of Utrecht and Maastricht will receive 24 million EURos (about 33 million US dollars) from the EURopean Union to investigate treatment options for schizophrenia. One of the five studies will investigate the possible benefits of the natural cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD). (Source: University of Utrecht of 4 March 2010, www.umcutrecht.nl)

Science: Psychosis
Australian researchers studied more than 3,801 men and women born between 1981 and 1984 and followed them up after 21 years to ask about their cannabis use and assessed them for psychotic episodes. Around 18 percent reported using cannabis for three or fewer years, 16 percent for four to five years and 14 percent for six or more years. In their article they noted that "compared with those who had never used cannabis, young adults who had six or more years since first use of cannabis were twice as likely to develop a non-affective psychosis (such as schizophrenia)." (Source: McGrath J, et al. Arch Gen Psychiatry, 2010 Mar 1. [Electronic publication ahead of print])

Science: Addiction
According to a systematic review and a meta-analysis there is only a minor implication of changes of the CB1 receptor in the vulnerability of substance dependence. (Source: Benyamina A, et al. Addict Biol, 2010 Feb 26. [Electronic publication ahead of print])

Science: Epilepsy
The natural cannabinoid delta-9-tetrahydrocannabivarin (Delta-9-THCV) decreased seizure activity in a rat model of epilepsy. (Source: Hill AJ, et al. Epilepsia, 2010 Feb 26. [Electronic publication ahead of print])

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