Tag Archives: Cannabis

How Cannabis Affects Our Cognition and Psychology

Summary: Researchers investigate how cannabis can influence a number of cognitive and psychological processes.

Source: The Conversation

Cannabis has been used by humans for thousands of years and is one of the most popular drugs today. With effects such as feelings of joy and relaxation, it is also legal to prescribe or take in several countries.

But how does using the drug affect the mind? In three recent studies, published in The Journal of PsychopharmacologyNeuropsychopharmacology, and the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, we show that it can influence a number of cognitive and psychological processes.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported that, in 2018, approximately 192 million people worldwide aged between 15 and 64 used cannabis recreationally. Young adults are particularly keen, with 35% of people between the ages of 18 and 25 using it, while only 10% of people over the age of 26 do.

This indicates that the main users are adolescents and young adults, whose brains are still in development. They may therefore be particularly vulnerable to the effects of cannabis use on the brain in the longer term.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis. It acts on the brain’s “endocannabinoid system”, which are receptors which respond to the chemical components of cannabis. The cannabis receptors are densely populated in prefrontal and limbic areas in the brain, which are involved in reward and motivation. They regulate signalling of the brain chemicals dopamine, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate.

We know that dopamine is involved in motivation, reward and learning. GABA and glutamate play a part in cognitive processes, including learning and memory.

Cognitive effects

Cannabis use can affect cognition, especially in those with cannabis-use disorder. This is characterised by the persistent desire to use the drug and disruption to daily activities, such as work or education. It has been estimated that approximately 10% of cannabis users meet the diagnostic criteria for this disorder.

In our research, we tested the cognition of 39 people with the disorder (asked to be clean on the day of testing), and compared it with that of 20 people who never or rarely used cannabis.

We showed that participants with the condition had significantly worse performance on memory tests from the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB) compared to the controls, who had either never or very rarely used cannabis. It also negatively affected their “executive functions”, which are mental processes including flexible thinking.

This effect seemed to be linked to the age at which people started taking the drug – the younger they were, the more impaired their executive functioning was.

Cognitive impairments have been noted in mild cannabis users as well. Such users tend to make riskier decisions than others and have more problems with planning.

Although most studies have been conducted in males, there has been evidence of sex differences in the effects of cannabis use on cognition. We showed that, while male cannabis users had poorer memory for visually recognising things, female users had more problems with attention and executive functions.

These sex effects persisted when controlling for age; IQ; alcohol and nicotine use; mood and anxiety symptoms; emotional stability; and impulsive behaviour.

Reward, motivation and mental health

Cannabis use can also affect how we feel – thereby further influencing our thinking. For example, some previous research has suggested that reward and motivation – along with the brain circuits involved in these processes – can be disrupted when we use cannabis. This may affect our performance at school or work as it can make us feel less motivated to work hard, and less rewarded when we do well.

In our recent study, we used a brain imaging task, in which participants were placed in a scanner and viewed orange or blue squares. The orange squares would lead to a monetary reward, after a delay, if the participant made a response. This set up helped us investigate how the brain responds to rewards.

We focused particularly on the ventral striatum, which is a key region in the brain’s reward system. We found that the effects on the reward system in the brain were subtle, with no direct effects of cannabis in the ventral striatum.

However, the participants in our study were moderate cannabis users. The effects may be more pronounced in cannabis users with more severe and chronic use, as seen in cannabis use disorder.

There is also evidence that cannabis can lead to mental health problems. We have shown that it is related to higher “anhedonia” – an inability to feel pleasure – in adolescents. Interestingly, this effect was particularly pronounced during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns.

Cannabis use during adolescence has also been reported as a risk factor for developing psychotic experiences as well as schizophrenia.

One study showed that cannabis use moderately increases the risk of psychotic symptoms in young people, but that it has a much stronger effect in those with a predisposition for psychosis (scoring highly on a symptom checklist of paranoid ideas and psychoticism).

This shows a drawing of a woman with cannabis leaves in her hair
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis. Image is in the public domain

Assessing 2,437 adolescents and young adults (14-24 years), the authors reported a six percentage points increased risk – from 15% to 21% – of psychotic symptoms in cannabis users without a predisposition for psychosis. But there was a 26-point increase in risk – from 25% to 51% – of psychotic symptoms in cannabis users with a predisposition for psychosis.

We don’t really know why cannabis is linked to psychotic episodes, but hypotheses suggests dopamine and glutamate may be important in the neurobiology of these conditions.

Another study of 780 teenagers suggested that the association between cannabis use and psychotic experiences was also linked to a brain region called the “uncus”. This lies within the parahippocampus (involved in memory) and olfactory bulb (involved in processing smells), and has a large amount of cannabinoid receptors. It has also previously been associated with schizophrenia and psychotic experiences.

Cognitive and psychological effects of cannabis use are ultimately likely to depend to some extent on dosage (frequency, duration and strength), sex, genetic vulnerabilities and age of onset. But we need to determine whether these effects are temporary or permanent. One article summarising many studies has suggested that with mild cannabis use, the effects may weaken after periods of abstinence.

But even if that’s the case, it is clearly worth considering the effects that prolonged cannabis use can have on our minds – particularly for young people whose brains are still developing.

Funding:

Barbara Jacquelyn Sahakian receives funding from the Leverhulme Trust and the Lundbeck Foundation. Her research work is conducted within the NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) Mental Health and Neurodegeneration Themes and the NIHR MedTech and in vitro diagnostic Co-operative (MIC). She consults for Cambridge Cognition.

Christelle Langley is funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

Martine Skumlien receives funding from the Aker Foundation.

Tianye Jia receives funding from the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

Cannabis and Cancer: Censorship and Conspiracy

Ty Bollinger
December 16th, 2021

The cannabis plant (also known as the hemp plant) has been used in just about every culture for centuries. In fact, cannabis is included in the 50 fundamental herbs within the cornucopia of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It has been cited in ancient texts as having a healing effect on over 100 ailments. In recent years in the United States, the collective mood is changing in regards to cannabis/hemp (aka “marijuana”).

Personally, I prefer to use the term “hemp” or “cannabis” since those are proper names for the plant, and the truth is that the term “marijuana” (derived from the Mexican slang “marihuana”) was popularized in the early 1930s by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (which later became the DEA) in order to make this amazing plant sound sinister and to elude the public’s existing familiarity and comfort level with the plant and the medical application of cannabis/hemp tinctures. “Marijuana” was not a commonly smoked recreational drug at the time.

Currently, there are over 3 dozen states where it is legal for patients to use “marijuana” for medical purposes. Pending federal legislation may open up opportunities for federally-funded medical research, including human clinical trials. This will further prove cannabis’ track-record when it comes to healing a number of disease conditions ? including cancer.

Cannabis and The Endocannabinoid System

In the mid-1990s, renowned Israeli researcher Dr. Ralph Mechaoulam, professor of Medicinal Chemistry at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, made an exciting discovery that would forever change how we look at our biological relationship to plant medicine. Dr. Mechaoulam discovered a subtle system within the body that seemed to have a balancing effect on every other system. He called it the Endocannabinoid (EC) System and it can be found in all mammals, including humans.

The EC system consists of a series of molecular receptors that are designed to receive cannabinoids. In particular this includes cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as well as other related substances such as cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabinol (CBN).

Prior research in the 1980s led Mechaoulam and others to pinpoint two main receptors for cannabinoids ? cannabinoid 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid 2 (CB2). Researchers at the time also defined the natural substances called endocannabinoids, which our body produces on its own in a similar way it produces endorphins. Phytocannabinoids (namely THC, CBD, and their variants), on the other hand, come directly from the cannabis plant.

Cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 are designed by the body to be specific targets for THC, while our natural endocannabinoids help to synthesize it. The process of THC-cannabinoid receptor binding and what this does for the body is what researchers have been studying for over two decades. They are doing this in order to find out exactly how cannabis works in healing cancer.

Microbiologist Dr. Christine Sanchez of Compultense Univeristy in Madrid, Spain has been studying cannabinoids and cancer since the early 2000s. She was the first to discover the antitumor effects of cannabinoids.

“We now know that the endocannabinoid system regulates a lot of biological functions such as appetite, food intake, motor function, reproduction and many others and that is why the plant has such a wide therapeutic potential,” says Dr. Sanchez in a video interview for the web-based cable channel Cannabis Planet.

Cannabis & Cancer: Tumor Growth

“We observed that when we treated [astrocytoma, a type of brain tumor] cells with cannabinoids, the THC…was killing the cells in our Petri dishes,” Dr. Sanchez says. “We…decided to analyze these components in animal models of breast and brain tumors. The results we are obtaining are telling us that cannabinoids may be useful for the treatment of Breast Cancer.”

Sanchez and other researchers have confirmed that the most potent effects against tumor growth occur when THC and CBD are combined.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, which does not have a psychoactive effect, has long been known as a potent anti-cancer agent. This is because of its ability to interfere with cellular communication in tumors as well as in its ability to instigate apoptosis, or programmed cancer cell death. Some research studies, including in vitro and animal-based trials conducted by San Francisco-based researchers at the California Pacific Medical Center, have also shown that CBD may affect genes involved in aggressive metastasis. It does this by helping to shut down cellular growth receptors.

QUOTE-CANNABIS-hemp-Sanchez-Chemotherapy

?9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (i.e. THC), the psychoactive counterpart to CBD, has been shown to reduce tumor growth as well. It has also shown to have an effect on the rate of metastasis, including for non-small cell lung cancer ? the leading cause of cancer deaths globally. A 2007 study on THC and highly-aggressive epidermal growth factor receptor-overexpressing (EGF-expressing) lung cancer conducted by Harvard Medical School found that certain EGF lung cancer cells express CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors. They found that the presence of THC effected metastasis of these cells by reducing the “focal adhesion complex,” which plays a vital role in cancer migration.

Studies have also been conducted on the combined effect of CBD and THC on lung, prostate, colon, pancreatic, liver, bladder, cervical, blood-based, brain, and other forms of cancer. These studies lend increasing evidence to the fact that cannabinoids are not only antioxidant phytonutrients but powerful “herbal chemo” agents.

Says Dr. Sanchez: “One of the advantages of cannabinoid-based medicines would be that they target specifically tumor cells. They don’t have any toxic effect on normal non-tumoral cells. This is an advantage with respect to standard chemotherapy that targets basically everything.”

If You Use Cannabis for Cancer, Do it Right

Because cannabinoid therapy is relatively new in the mainstream, a current challenge for patients regarding its use is lack of regulation. This may change, however, with the possible passing of the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act, which has the support of 37 members of Congress.

CARERS would remove “marijuana” from the Controlled Substances Act Schedule I drug category, where it has been since 1970 ? on par with heroin and cocaine. This classification is ridiculous since, by definition, Schedule I drugs have “no currently accepted medical uses” and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) holds a patent (U.S. Patent 6630507) on cannabis oil for medical use!

Think about it. How can HHS hold a medical use patent for cannabis oil if there are no medical uses for cannabis? OK, enough of the logic lesson. Let’s just say that there are some serious logic deficiencies in these laws.

If “marijuana” is rightfully removed from a Schedule I drug, this would open the door for more targeted, federally-funded research as well as increased patient access to this amazing healing plant.

In the meantime, if you are on a cancer-healing path and are considering using cannabinoids, here are some general guidelines that experts agree are worth considering:

  1. Do your own research. The best way to learn about the power of cannabis in healing cancer is to start digging. There are approximately 500 articles on Pubmed alone relating to cannabis and cancer. Learn about strains, qualified targeted research studies, what method of administration may be right for you, and the importance of balancing the Endocannabinoid System.
  2. Know your source. Unfortunately, because the medical cannabis industry is largely unregulated, charlatans selling bogus products definitely exist. You should not have to pay exorbitant amounts of money for any cannabis product that you buy from regulated pharmacies or online. Also, make quality a priority for you. Be sure that your product comes from an organic source and that you know that the plant has not been grown or processed using pesticides.
  3. Stick with natural cannabis products. Synthetically-produced cannabinoids such as Marinol are commercially available. However, anecdotal evidence has found that these do not work as efficiently as natural substances do.
  4. Work with a professional healthcare provider trained in cannabinoid therapy. These professionals are out there in increasing numbers, especially in states where the medical cannabis industry is well established or growing, such as California and Colorado. Reach out to a patient advocate group online if no qualified professionals are in your area.
  5. Make cannabis therapy an important part of your overall cancer-healing toolbox. A well-rounded naturally-based cancer healing protocol involves working with the body’s own healing mechanisms through a variety of means. For you, this may mean changes to your diet and lifestyle, reducing stress, getting quality sleep, moving your body, intense detoxing protocols, and using other supplements and proven natural methods in addition to the powerful healing power of cannabis.

References:

Historic Bill to Legalize Cannabis Across the US Faces House Vote this Month


ELIAS MARAT
SEP 2, 2020

Historic legislation that would comprehensively put an end to the federal prohibition of cannabis and roll back the damages done by the failed “War on Drugs” will be put to a vote in the U.S. House when it returns from its August recess.

The vote will hit the floor on the week of September 21, according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD).

In November, the House Judiciary passed HR 3884—the M******** Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act or MORE Act – on a bipartisan vote, but it has since been waiting for action by the full House.

The MORE Act, introduced by Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), would lead to the removal of cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, where it is currently scheduled as a Class 1 controlled substance. It would drive the final nail into the coffin of prohibition on a national level and allowing states to move forward with their own policies regulating the commerce and consumption of the plant.

Likewise, banks would have the ability to offer credit cards and checking accounts to legal cannabis businesses, and the study of any potential medicinal benefits of the plant would be easier to undertake.

The act also requires federal courts to expunge past cannabis convictions and authorizes the provision of resources, through a tax on cannabis products, toward addressing the needs of communities who have suffered serious negative impacts from prohibition enforcement, especially those communities of color that have suffered disproportionate over-policing and mass incarceration.

The announcement by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., was welcomed by advocates for the legalization of cannabis.

“After many months of hard work and collaboration, we finally have a chance to end the failed policy of prohibition that has resulted in a long and shameful period of selective enforcement against people of color, especially Black men,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.

“As people across the country protest racial injustices, there’s even greater urgency for Congress to seize this historic opportunity and finally align our cannabis laws with what the majority of Americans support, while ensuring restorative justice,” Rep. Blumenauer added.

The MORE Act was initially opposed by Republicans, including many who supported a separate bipartisan cannabis reform bill called the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act.

However, the MORE Act goes much further than the STATES Act, which lacked the social equity elements and formal removal of cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.

“It’s the first-ever comprehensive m*****na legalization bill to ever be considered for a full House floor vote,” said Queen Adesuyi, national affairs policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance.

The removal of cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule I narcotic would mean that the plant would no longer be defined by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a drug “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse” in league with LSD and her***.

While five Senate Republicans have co-sponsored the STATES Act, none have added their names to the More Act.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) was an original co-sponsor of the More Act and has put forward his own M******** Justice Act.

“This war on pot has not been a war on pot,” Booker said last year. “It has been a war on Black people and brown people and low income people. This is not about legalization of marij*****. That’s too simplistic. This is about restorative justice. It’s about equal justice under the law.”