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IACM-Bulletin of 21 January 2018

Science/Human: Cannabis use protects against alcoholic liver disease

Cannabis use protected alcohol users from negative consequences of alcohol to the liver, including fatty liver, cirrhosis and liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma). This is the result of a working group by scientists of several institutions within the USA, including the University of Massachusetts, the Howard County General Hospital in Colombia, the Hospital and Medical Center in Englewood and the Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn. Scientists analysed data from a data base of 319,514 adults with a history of alcohol abuse.

The risk for the development of all alcoholic liver diseases in patients, who also used cannabis, was significantly lower compared to cannabis non-users. The risk for the development of fatty liver was reduced by 45% and the risk for the development of alcoholic liver cirrhosis was reduced by 55%. Liver health was even better for dependent cannabis users than for non-dependent users. Authors concluded that their “findings suggest that cannabis use is associated with reduced incidence of liver disease in alcoholics.”

Adejumo AC, Ajayi TO, Adegbala OM, Adejumo KL, Alliu S, Akinjero AM, Onyeakusi NE, Ojelabi O, Bukong TN. Cannabis use is associated with reduced prevalence of progressive stages of alcoholic liver disease. Liver Int. 2018 Jan 17. [in press]

Science/Human: Expectations and prejudices of investigators influence the performance of cannabis users

The judgements of cannabis users by examiners predict performance of cannabis users and non-users. This is the result of scientists at the University of Palo Alto, USA, which was recently published in the journal Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology. Participants included 41 cannabis users and 20 non-users. Before testing, examiners who were blind to participant user status privately rated whether they believed the examinee was a cannabis user or non-user. Examiners then administered a battery of neuropsychological and performance tests.

Examiners’ judgements of cannabis users were 75% accurate, but they were not able to accurately predict the status of non-users. Examiners' judgments of cannabis user status predicted performance even after controlling for actual user status, indicating vulnerability to examiner expectancy effects. Authors wrote, that these “findings have important implications for both research and clinical settings, as scores may partially reflect examiners' expectations regarding cannabis effects rather than participants' cognitive abilities.”

Sodos LM, Hirst RB, Watson J, Vaughn D. Don't Judge a Book by its Cover: Examiner Expectancy Effects Predict Neuropsychological Performance for Individuals Judged as Chronic Cannabis Users. Arch Clin Neuropsychol. 2018 Jan 12. [in press]

News in brief

Science/Human: Introduction of medical cannabis laws in the USA decreased violence in states that border Mexico
Scientists showed that the introduction of medical cannabis laws leads to a decrease in violent crime in states that border Mexico. The reduction in crime was strongest for counties close to the border (less than 350 kilometres) and for crimes that relate to drug trafficking.
Norwegian School of Economics, Bergen, Norway.
Gavrilova E, et al. Economic J. 2017 Nov 16. [in press]

Science/Human: The use of cannabis is associated with a reduced prescription of opioids in patients with HIV
In a group of 780 patients with HIV and chronic pain, those who used cannabis, had a lower ratio of opioid prescription. 372 patients used prescribed opioids. In cannabis users the ratio was 43% lower than in non-users. Authors concluded, that their “data suggest that new medical cannabis legislation might reduce the need for opioid analgesics for pain management, which could help to address adverse events associated with opioid analgesic use.”
City University of New York, School of Medicine, USA.
Sohler NL, et al. Subst Use Misuse. 2018:1-6.

Thailand: The country wants to make cannabis available for medicine purposes
A recent rewrite of the nation’s strict narcotics laws will allow cannabis to be sold legally over-the-counter with a doctors’ prescription, Narcotics Control Board director Sirinya Sitdhichai said on 16 January. The drug laws were rewritten late last year and those revisions are currently on their way to the Cabinet for consideration, Sirinya said. Once the new regulations are approved, they will be put to a vote by the junta-appointed interim parliament.
Khaosod English of 17 January 2018

Portugal: Support by doctors for making cannabis available to patients
Portugal’s influential Doctors’ Association called for the legalization of cannabis-based medicines on 11 January, the same day parliament started to debate a draft bill that goes even further in seeking to allow patients to grow cannabis at home. Although Portugal boasts one of the world’s most liberal policies on drugs and has legal cannabis plantations destined for export, it has trailed several EU countries the last few years on the medical use of cannabis.
Reuters of 11 January 2018

Science/Human: The number of CB2 receptors is increased in the brains of patients with ALS
After the death of patients suffering from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) their brains contained more CB2 receptors than healthy people, while the CB1 receptor was not affected. Authors concluded that “These observations support that targeting this receptor may serve for developing neuroprotective therapies” in this patient population.
Medical Faculty, Complutense University, Madrid, Spain.
Espejo-Porras F, et al. Amyotroph Lateral Scler Frontotemporal Degener. 2018:1-10.

Science/Human: Cannabis use did not reduce the effectiveness of vaccination against hepatitis B
In a study with 9 heavy cannabis users and 9 non-users, who received hepatitis B vaccination, there was no effect of cannabis on the efficacy of the vaccination, that is immunity to hepatitis B.
David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, USA.
Kiertscher SM, et al. J Neuroimmune Pharmacol. 2018 Jan 16. [in press]

Science/Human: Cannabis use had no influence on function of the kidneys
In a study with 13,995 adults past or current self-reported use of cannabis had no influence on kidney function.
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, USA.
Lu C, et al. Am J Med. 2017 Dec 29. [in press]

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