Health effects

Q. Does smoking marijuana make men infertile?

A. With medical marijuana use on the rise, more researchers are studying the connection between cannabinoids, the active chemical components in marijuana, and the brain. Few have tackled the question of marijuana use and fertility.

Several studies have drawn a link between men who smoke marijuana and a higher prevalence of problems that could cause infertility, including lower testosterone levels, less vigorous sperm swimming patterns, and testicular cancer. Nevertheless, no studies have proven that marijuana use leads to male infertility, in animals or humans.

“More research is required to know exactly what are the effects of smoking marijuana,’’ said S.K. Dey, director of the reproductive sciences division at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. One study that Dey helped conduct (published in the March issue of the journal Cancer) showed that men who had smoked marijuana had a higher risk of testicular cancer, especially if they smoked before age 18. “What studies we have done suggest that the risk factors could be more if exposed at an earlier age.’’

Lani Burkman, a professor emerita of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Buffalo School of Medicine, runs a business that gives fertility tests to men and women who have used drugs including marijuana. She advises couples who are trying to become pregnant that the man and woman should quit smoking marijuana for at least a year prior to when they want to conceive. Burkman said there are “no hard studies’’ that support that specific time frame, but it’s an estimate she bases on research that shows that marijuana chemicals get stored in the body’s fat tissue, which suggests it could take at least a year or two to “work its way out of your system.’’

Marijuana use by women during pregnancy, on the other hand, has been linked to a variety of problems in the children, including low birth weight and cognitive problems. Source.

November 21, 2009 – Chemicals found in cannabis leaves can be used to stop prostate cancer cells. The researchers hope that cannabis leaves can be used as a remedy for the treatment of prostate cancer.

After focusing on the network on human cancer cells,Ines Diaz-Laviada and colleagues from the University of Alcala in Madrid, also investigated the effects of the chemicals on canabis leaves on mice and the fact that the substance is capable to reduce the cancer growth significantly.

The study is published in the British Journal of Cancer. Now in the world of research, there have been many studies that examine the medical uses of cannabinoids, the chemical substance found in cannabis.

This experts focused on the research done over the years devoted to seeking the best care in dealing with cancer in humans.

“This is an interesting study that opens the way to develop a potential drug. But this is only new in the early stages, “said Lesley Walker, Director of Cancer Information, Cancer Research UK, England.

She also explained that this does not mean that the men who use cannabis can automatically avoid prostate cancer.

The cannabinoids substances are investigated by the Spanish team which is requested to conduct the research in the fight against prostate cancer. This substance can block the receptors, the entrance of molecules, which is on the tumor cell surface. It is able to stop tumor cells to break away and growing.

“These chemicals can stop the division and the development of prostate cancer cells.” Source.

November 17, 2009 – ‘Sam’ is a 10 year-old California boy who lives with his Dad, Mom, and sister Lucy. Sam has autism. From age two until eight, Sam’s disorder made him violent and aggressive. His parents Steve and Angela were truly living a nightmare, every day.

“He got to the point where he was hurting other children, when he was in school, or in public places,” Angela explains to KTLA News. “We’d be in line at the store, and he’d just bolt and hit another child in the face without any warning at all.”

Sam’s Dad remembers all the tough days. “One time he pulled down a TV, he knocked over furniture. I had to put him in a hold for a whole hour. His body was just spasming, so I lay there just crying, and holding him.”

Sam’s parents worked with expert doctors, who recommended a succession of conventional prescription medications — like Risperdal and a host of others. But Sam just gained 20 pounds, and he became even more dangerous.

“His behavior was getting worse,” Angela recalls. “And we were scared. He was getting bigger, stronger, now that he was 20 pounds heavier from the Risperdal.”

“It was the saddest thing,” Steve says. “The child we’d grown to love was gone. When you talked to him, looked at him, he’d just disappeared.”

Finally, at their wit’s end, and faced with the very real prospect of needing to institutionalize their son, Sam’s parents decided to try something unconventional…and controversial. Last year they began treating Sam with medical marijuana.

“If you think about it, it’s the perfect drug for that kind of behavior, very calming,” Angela says.

Steve and Angela got a recommendation from a medical cannabis doctor. They told Sam’s pediatrician about their plan. And Steve grew Sam’s new medicine in their back yard. From the marijuana flowers Steve grew, he could make a concentrated form, what people refer to as ‘hash.’

Steve showed us a ball of hash, roughly ¾ inch in diameter, representing roughly four months of doses for Sam. Steve softens the cannabis with heat, then takes what appears to be just a speck of pot — Sam’s ‘dose’ for the day.

And from the very start, the cannabis was a godsend for Sam’s family. “The first time we did it, we wanted to see if it would work at all,” Steve recalls. “It was an amazing experience, I’ll never forget it, as we watched what happened, it was like ‘He’s back!’ It was like all this anguish, pent-up rage and aggressiveness went away — it just calmed him down.”

While KTLA visited the family, we watched Steve put Sam’s daily dose in a piece of melon and take it to him. Within roughly 20 minutes, the effects were clear. Where earlier Sam had been animated and antsy, after eating his speck of hash Sam became calm, relaxed, and social.

Could Sam’s story help others? Respected Los Angeles-area pediatrician Chris Tolcher says we don’t know enough about cannabis for kids.

“I think for all the parents out there whose children may have autism,” Tolcher says, “I think the message here is that this is intriguing information that needs more research before we can confidently say that marijuana is a safe and effective treatment for autism complications.”

But for one California family, medical marijuana has literally been an answer to their prayers and a homecoming for their son. “It was a medication with the result we’d been hoping for, for so long,” Steve says.

Angela agrees. “He was happy again, smiling, laughing. There was the boy we’d lost for so long, who we wondered if we’d ever see again.

“It just feels like I have more control to help my son,” Steve says. “We don’t depend on doctors, who may have the best intentions, but they don’t know what Sam needs.. I want do what’s best for my son. And I’ll do whatever I can for him.” Source.

November 2, 2009 – Carroll Fisher does not regularly use marijuana. But he’d like to. The retiredcancerdude 67-year-old Niles factory worker has never smoked a joint — except for trying one in his 20s — until July. That was three months after he was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer. He took a trip to Canada to visit friends and had the occasion, as he describes it, to smoke marijuana. Twice a day.

Feeling better
“I slept better. It gave me an appetite where as the chemotherapy takes it away,” he said about the drug, which is illegal in Canada. “It helped me with the pain,” he added.
When he returned to Michigan, where voters a year ago approved medicinal marijuana, he asked his cancer physician in Niles, Dr. Chil Kang, to sign the state form authorizing Fisher to use medicinal marijuana. “He won’t do it,” Fisher said. Nor will his eye doctor or his family practitioner, Dr. Douglas Tacket. “I can’t get anyone to sign it,” Fisher said.

Michigan’s law requires a licensed state physician to sign a certification form, authorizing the patient to grow up to 12 plants to use for medical purposes. The form is necessary for Fisher to obtain a registry card allowing him to use the drug. Greg Francisco, executive director of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, is not surprised by Fisher’s problem. “Access to doctors (who will certify the form) is limited in Southwestern Michigan,” Francisco said.
“They’ve closed ranks and agreed behind closed doors not to write them,” he said.
That’s what Fisher has discovered.

Kang declined to be interviewed for this story. Tacket could not be reached for comment.
Francisco, of Paw Paw, Mich., said there are a few doctors in southwestern Michigan who will write the recommendation for their longtime patients who they have treated for years.
“But they are doing it quietly, and they aren’t taking new patients,” Francisco said.
Dr. Frank Lucido, a California physician with a practice in Berkeley, said it will take time before Michigan doctors will begin to embrace the new law. California approved marijuana for medicinal purposes more than a decade ago.

“They won’t feel comfortable with it because they don’t know the law. And they don’t know the value of cannabis,” he said. Lucido, who graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School, recently opened an office in East Lansing and he has a Web site — called — to help patients and doctors navigate medicinal marijuana uses and laws.

Fisher said he’s heard from other cancer patients that many doctors in Detroit will certify the state form, but Fisher said he would need to spend about $300 for a doctor’s visit and travel costs to drive to Detroit. “I shouldn’t have to do that,” he said.

Traveling doctors
There may be a remedy, said Francisco, but Fisher will have to wait. Since Michigan’s law was passed by a referendum on Nov. 4, 2008, a handful of traveling doctors have cropped up to help sign up patients. “They do an assessment. It’s not guaranteed,” said Francisco.
The cannabis clinics have stopped in St. Joseph. The last time Dr. Robert Kenewell of the Clinic for Compassionate Care was in St. Joseph was about two weeks ago, Francisco said.The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation, with Dr. Eric Eisenbud based in Southfield, Mich., also makes regional visits.

“I’ve been after them (the clinics) to do one in Niles,” Francisco added, because demand is high.
Francisco suggested Fisher go to the Web site to find out where the doctors will be stopping next. Fisher said he is not trying to get on the marijuana bandwagon as an excuse to use the illicit drug. For him, marijuana improved his health, he said.

He went to Canada again for two weeks around Labor Day and smoked marijuana daily.
Fisher said his health improved radically. Each time Fisher has returned home he has gained back a few of the 26 pounds he has lost during 34 rounds of radiation and weeks of chemotherapy.
“I got my strength back. and my weight back. I was almost feeling normal,” said Fisher, who is 6 feet tall, when he returned home in September. He has since dropped down to about 166 pounds.

Daily doses
Every day Fisher takes about seven different drugs.
One helps his appetite, one minimizes pain, another helps him sleep, another helps him swallow, another reduces nausea. He said when he smoked marijuana, he didn’t need many of the medications he has been prescribed. “I wouldn’t have to take half of that,” he said, pointing to an assembly of pill containers lined up on his kitchen table. Fisher’s wife died two years ago and he has two grown daughters. “I am not a druggie,” he said about his desire to use marijuana as part of his treatment plan. “My daughter was worried about that,” he said.

She also has, he said, been worried that if he does obtain a registry card to grow marijuana, his home may be a target for desperate drug users. But Fisher said he’s not worried about that.
He sleeps with a shotgun near his bed. His biggest concern is getting through the next four weeks, when he visits Dr. Kang for weekly chemotherapy sessions. The drug leaves him feeling weak and sick. But now he has even another concern. He’s worried that since he has spoken to The Tribune, his doctors may treat him differently. He looks down to hide his tears.
“I’m sorry,” he said, as he reaches for a tissue.

October 15, 2009 – In a recent interview, Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske talks about his job and his previous statements on marijuana.

Being in such a high profile job isn’t easy. Just three months after taking over, Kerlikowske found himself in a controversy when he said that marijuana is dangerous and has no medicinal benefit.

Kerlikowske said he wishes he would have been more clear that he was referring to smoked marijuana.

“It’s been very clear from the FDA that smoked marijuana doesn’t have medicinal effect. When it comes to other things, that may have a benefit. We’ll let science answer that question and I think it’s still being resolved.”

Kerlikowske’s office plans to release the nation’s new drug strategy sometime in February.

He said Americans will notice a shift towards more treatment-oriented programs.

“More people are dying from overdoses than from car crashes and gunshot wounds. This is something parents can prevent.”

Watch the video:
Picture 19

October 5, 2009 – An Objective, Brief, and Ethical Exploration of a Law Prohibiting Marijuana

Marijuana is illegal, but should it be? That is a question that remains unanswered. The road to the freezedirtbag2illegalization of marijuana began in 1937 when the Marihuana Tax Act was passed. While it didn’t make the drug illegal, it made it very dangerous to deal with the substance. It wasn’t until the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 that marijuana became a schedule 1 narcotic, making it illegal. In order to be declared a schedule 1 narcotic, a substance must meet the following criteria:

(A) The drug or other substance has high potential for abuse.

(B) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.

(C) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.

In this article we will explore the function of drug laws, how that function relates to marijuana, and whether or not a law prohibiting marijuana is ethical and fair. In addition to the guidelines offered by the CSA, we will include our own reasons for controlling a substance, which are:

(A) The drug induces severe psychological affects, which cause unpredictable behavior that may endanger the user and those around them.

(B) Use of the drug could lead to crime.

(C) Use of the drug can lead to severe health problems.

The opposition to marijuana (in the modern day) stems largely from fears in regards to the possible psychological and physical health effects of the drug. Some claim that marijuana causes permanent damage to brain, hindering a person’s cognitive skills over time. Others note personality changes such as loss of motivation, paranoia, and addiction.

Studies have shown the fears regarding personality to be justified. However, the general consensus is that the people most affected by marijuana in terms of addiction and personality changes, are people who began using the drug before the age of 18, a period in a child’s life that is important to their psychological and social development. In fact, 10-14% of marijuana users suffer from addiction problems and withdrawal that is comparable to nicotine withdrawal, says University of Vermont associate professor and director of its Treatment Research Center, Dr. Alan J. Budney (Carroll).

According to the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA) marijuana can have lasting effects on a user’s daily life. The following is taken from NIDA’s information page of marijuana:

Research clearly demonstrates that marijuana has the potential to cause problems in daily life or make a person’s existing problems worse. In one study, heavy marijuana abusers reported that the drug impaired several important measures of life achievement including physical and mental health, cognitive abilities, social life, and career status. Several studies associate workers’ marijuana smoking with increased absences, tardiness, accidents, workers’ compensation claims, and job turnover.

As for physiological health effects, the three main concerns are in regards to the brain, the heart, and the lungs. As mentioned earlier, many opponents to marijuana use claim that the drug causes permanent damage to the brain. Many studies dispute this notion, but we will cover that in more depth when we get to the pro-marijuana portion of this paper. Instead, we will focus on the areas in which scientific studies have been able to confirm potential health risks.

Research has shown that the risk for a heart-attack increases within the first hour of marijuana use. This happens because of an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. In addition to heart concerns, marijuana poses a threat to the respiratory system as it is carcinogenic and users tend to hold smoke in their lungs longer. While it was originally believed that marijuana smoke caused cancer new studies have proven otherwise, some even saying that the active ingredient in cannabis, THC, may be able to help prevent certain kinds of cancer (NIDA).

Nevertheless, the debate on medicinal marijuana has caused an increase in the amount of research regarding the drug, many of which have ended with surprising conclusions. In 15 different studies, varying from 3 months to 13+ years, scientists observed regular marijuana users and non-users to determine if there was any damage to the brain as a result of use. All of the studies conclusively proved that marijuana does not damage the brain permanently as previously believed. Other studies have produced similar results (WebMD).

Igor Grant, MD and lead researcher for the previously mentioned studies makes sure to mention that the participants were all adults and that the results would most likely be different if it was a 12 year old user, whose nervous system is still developing (WebMD).

In regards to addiction, ”Everything is relative,” said Dr. Donald Jasinksi, a professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins medical school and director of the Center for Chemical Dependence at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. ”Does it destroy as many lives as alcohol? No. Does it kill as many people as cigarettes? No. Does it have as many deaths associated with it as aspirin overdose? No. (Carroll).”

While studies have shown a percentage of marijuana users to suffer from addiction to the drug, it is a small percentage of the population and an argument can be, and has been, made that anything can be addictive based on the emotional attachment a person has to an activity. The withdrawal period is far less severe than that of alcohol and other drugs. The NIDA has found that the average withdrawal begins after 1 day of abstinence, peaks at 2-3, and subsides after a week or two (NIDA).

As far as physical health effects, respiratory problems appear to be the only one that both sides agree on, but advocates of marijuana contend moderate use of the drug is less severe than cigarette use as cigarette users tend to smoke multiple cigarettes a day. Furthermore, alternative means of marijuana consumption such as eating it or using a vaporizer lower the amount of carcinogens that enter the lungs. Even more surprising, studies conducted in Italy and Britain have found that THC might be useful in fighting off bacteria (Fountain).

With the amount of studies that have been conducted on marijuana since the 1950s, and the nature of their findings, it is shocking as to why a collective conclusion has not yet been reached in regards to the legality issue of the substance. Based on the above information and the criteria established earlier for determining whether a substance should be controlled or not, we will systematically explore the ethical validity of a law prohibiting the use, growth, and sale of marijuana.

First, we must define the telos or function of a law. Certainly, most will agree that the function of a law is to protect the majority of the population from a dangerous element of society. If that is the function of a law then we must examine the societal effects of the illegalization of marijuana versus the potential dangers.

As a result of the prohibition of marijuana, millions of Americans have been arrested and entered into the justice system, with 872,721 people being arrested in 2007, 89% for simple possession (NORML). The number is a 5.2% increase from 2006, with the annual number of marijuana arrests rising steadily on a yearly basis (NORML).

The majority of people arrested for marijuana are non-violent offenders with no previous criminal record. This means they pose no threat to society. So what is the law protecting the population from? Themselves? This seems to be the case since the law has damaged more lives through legal troubles than it protected since most marijuana users do not use the substance and go on crime sprees.

If the law’s function is meant to protect people from the health risks associated with the population then we must once again return to the studies conducted on the issue. While marijuana, like anything, has negative effects, it appears that overall it is no more dangerous than many legal substances such as alcohol, cigarettes, aspirin, etc. In the WebMD article, which talks about Igor Grant’s research regarding the effects of marijuana on the brain, Lester Grinspoon, MD, a retired Harvard Medical School psychiatrist who studied medicinal marijuana use since the 1960s and wrote two books on the topic, says that while Grant’s finding provide more evidence on its safety, “it’s nothing that those of us who have been studying this haven’t known for a very long time.”

“Marijuana is a remarkably safe and non-toxic drug that can effectively treat about 30 different conditions,” he tells WebMD. “I predict it will become the aspirin of the 21st century, as more people recognize this. (WebMD)”

While many credible minds in the scientific community warn about the dangers of marijuana use on people under the age of 18, the consensus seems to be that it is relatively safe to use for adults, especially when used in moderation.

If it poses little danger to a person’s health, brings joy to those who use it, and its users are not prone to criminal behavior, what is the function of a law prohibiting marijuana? If, as a law, it is to protect the population from an assumed danger, is it serving that function? The answers to those questions are for the reader to determine based on the evidence and analysis presented within this paper, in addition to any evidence found independently. Source.

Works Cited

Carroll, Linda. “Marijuana’s Effects: More Than Munchies.” New York Times 22 Jan. 2008.

“872,721 marijuana arrests in 2007, up 5.2% from 2006.” NORML. 15 Sept. 2008. NORML. 22 Oct. 2008 .

Fountain, Henry. “Marijuana Ingredient May Fight Bacteria.” New York Times 5 Sept. 2008: F3.

“Info Facts – Marijuana.” National Institute of Drug Abuse. June 2008. National Institute of Drug Abuse. 22 Oct. 2008.

Kirchheimer, Sid. “Heavy Marijuana Use Doesn’t Damage Brain.” WebMD. 1 July 2003. WebMD. 22 Oct. 2008 .

October 3, 2009 – Yesterday, on the Today show, Matt Lauer interviewed the editor of Marie Claire magazine and another paris-smoking-marijuana-1woman about the use of marijuana among female professionals. This interview was inspired by an article on the same subject in the current issue of Marie Claire entitled, “Stiletto Stoners.”

Neither the interview nor the story contained any serious “reefer madness” claims, as mainstream articles about marijuana use usually do. Rather, these were straightforward conversations about women who simply use marijuana at the end of the day to unwind and relax, either by themselves or with their friends or families.

Interestingly, there was a common theme running through all of the interviews in the article and on the Today show: these women not only enjoy using marijuana, but they consistently described it as a preferred alternative to alcohol. In a sense, they were saying, “Society accepts that people are going to have a drink — or many drinks — after work to unwind. I don’t want to do what society suggests I do. I find marijuana to be a more enjoyable and less detrimental alternative, and that it is why I use it instead.”

It is hard to overstate the importance of this burgeoning “Stiletto Stoner” movement. Of course, for decades there have been hard-working professionals who would hit a joint or a bong after work or on the weekend. Perhaps you knew people like this yourself, but considered them to be more of an exception to the rule. Or you thought they were hiding some “dirty little secret.” Maybe you had your own dirty little secret.

The zeitgeist-shifting aspect of this media coverage is not simply that these women are “coming out of the closet” — although that is great on its own; it is that they are uniformly asserting their desire to use marijuana instead of alcohol because of its relative benefits. One woman noted that she feels better the next morning when she uses marijuana instead of alcohol; another mentioned that marijuana is cheaper than alcohol.

You see, if we are going to change marijuana laws in this country, we need the public to see marijuana for what it is: a relatively benign intoxicant that millions of Americans use instead of alcohol for recreation and relaxation.

As things stand, despite the fact that marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, we steer people toward alcohol instead. We do it through our laws, as well as through employment policies and professional licensing standards. The disincentives to using marijuana openly, in a manner similar to alcohol, are evident in the Marie Claire article itself. The women in that piece may have come out of the closet, but they did so using fake names. And the “stiletto stoner” interviewed on the Today show did so in the dark to conceal her identity.

It is time for people to stand up and defend the right of all Americans to use marijuana instead of alcohol, if that is what they prefer. That is the underlying motivation behind Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?, a book I co-authored with Steve Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project and Paul Armentano of NORML. The book not only includes background information about marijuana and alcohol, but also includes talking points useful in convincing friends and family members that people should not be punished for making the safer choice.

Whether you are a stiletto stoner, briefcase bong-hitter, or sympathetic abstainer, it is time to bring this entire conversation out of the shadows. Thanks to Marie Claire and the Today show for getting this ball rolling. Now, let’s keep the momentum going.

Mason Tvert is the executive director of Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER) and the co-author of Marijuana is Safer: So why are we driving people to drink? (Chelsea Green, August 2009).


September 29, 2009 – The National Institute of Drug Abuse has set aside $3,000,000 to “support 3KIkHdresearch studies that focus on the identification, and preclinical and clinical evaluation, of medications that can be safe and effective for the treatment of cannabis-use and cannabis-induced DISORDERS, as well as their medical and psychiatric consequences.”

They state “Cannabis-related disorders (CRDs) including cannabis abuse or dependence and cannabis induced disorders (e.g., intoxication, delirium, psychotic disorder, and anxiety disorder) are a major public health issue. Cannabis use includes marijuana, hashish, and other tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) containing substances.”

Looks like they are going to spend 3 million dollars creating a drug to heal the DISORDERS created by the best drug the planet ever gave us. It seems we have to keep Big Pharma happy…at whatever cost, and that means we need to turn cannabis use into a major public health issue. Source

Once again, NOT the change people voted for.

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September 16, 2009 – The more research they do, the more evidence Ohio State University scientists find that specific elements of marijuana can be good for the aging brain by reducing inflammation there and memory2possibly even stimulating the formation of new brain cells.

The research suggests that the development of a legal drug that contains certain properties similar to those in marijuana might help prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Though the exact cause of Alzheimer’s remains unknown, chronic inflammation in the brain is believed to contribute to memory impairment.

Any new drug’s properties would resemble those of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main psychoactive substance in the cannabis plant, but would not share its high-producing effects. THC joins nicotine, alcohol and caffeine as agents that, in moderation, have shown some protection against inflammation in the brain that might translate to better memory late in life.

“It’s not that everything immoral is good for the brain. It’s just that there are some substances that millions of people for thousands of years have used in billions of doses, and we’re noticing there’s a little signal above all the noise,” said Gary Wenk, professor of psychology at Ohio State and principal investigator on the research.

Wenk’s work has already shown that a THC-like synthetic drug can improve memory in animals. Now his team is trying to find out exactly how it works in the brain.

The most recent research on rats indicates that at least three receptors in the brain are activated by the synthetic drug, which is similar to marijuana. These receptors are proteins within the brain’s endocannabinoid system, which is involved in memory as well as physiological processes associated with appetite, mood and pain response.

This research is also showing that receptors in this system can influence brain inflammation and the production of new neurons, or brain cells.

“When we’re young, we reproduce neurons and our memory works fine. When we age, the process slows down, so we have a decrease in new cell formation in normal aging. You need those cells to come back and help form new memories, and we found that this THC-like agent can influence creation of those cells,” said Yannick Marchalant, a study coauthor and research assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State.

Marchalant described the research in a poster presentation Wednesday (11/19) at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in Washington, D.C.

Knowing exactly how any of these compounds work in the brain can make it easier for drug designers to target specific systems with agents that will offer the most effective anti-aging benefits, said Wenk, who is also a professor of neuroscience and molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics.

“Could people smoke marijuana to prevent Alzheimer’s disease if the disease is in their family? We’re not saying that, but it might actually work. What we are saying is it appears that a safe, legal substance that mimics those important properties of marijuana can work on receptors in the brain to prevent memory impairments in aging. So that’s really hopeful,” Wenk said.

One thing is clear from the studies: Once memory impairment is evident, the treatment is not effective. Reducing inflammation and preserving or generating neurons must occur before the memory loss is obvious, Wenk said.

Marchalant led a study on old rats using the synthetic drug, called WIN-55212-2 (WIN), which is not used in humans because of its high potency to induce psychoactive effects.

The researchers used a pump under the skin to give the rats a constant dose of WIN for three weeks – a dose low enough to induce no psychoactive effects on the animals. A control group of rats received no intervention. In follow-up memory tests, in which rats were placed in a small swimming pool to determine how well they use visual cues to find a platform hidden under the surface of the water, the treated rats did better than the control rats in learning and remembering how to find the hidden platform.

“Old rats are not very good at that task. They can learn, but it takes them more time to find the platform. When we gave them the drug, it made them a little better at that task,” Marchalant said.

In some rats, Marchalant combined the WIN with compounds that are known to block specific receptors, which then offers hints at which receptors WIN is activating. The results indicated the WIN lowered the rats’ brain inflammation in the hippocampus by acting on what is called the TRPV1 receptor. The hippocampus is responsible for short-term memory.

With the same intervention technique, the researchers also determined that WIN acts on receptors known as CB1 and CB2, leading to the generation of new brain cells – a process known as neurogenesis. Those results led the scientists to speculate that the combination of lowered inflammation and neurogenesis is the reason the rats’ memory improved after treatment with WIN.

The researchers are continuing to study the endocannabinoid system’s role in regulating inflammation and neuron development. They are trying to zero in on the receptors that must be activated to produce the most benefits from any newly developed drug.

What they already know is THC alone isn’t the answer.

“The end goal is not to recommend the use of THC in humans to reduce Alzheimer’s,” Marchalant said. “We need to find exactly which receptors are most crucial, and ideally lead to the development of drugs that specifically activate those receptors. We hope a compound can be found that can target both inflammation and neurogenesis, which would be the most efficient way to produce the best effects.”

Source: Ohio State University

This article reprinted in full with permission from the 3 Monkeys Guide to Health. The original article can be found here:

September 15, 2009 – The politics and policies of drug prohibition are a failure primarily because they are not effective in actually prohibiting people from obtaining and using drugs, and also because the evidence NORML_Remember_Prohibition_supporting those policies are weak.

Here are a few rebuttals to the main arguments used in favor of prohibition.

Argument 1: The fact that drugs are illegal keeps many people from trying them, and out of harm’s way. Legalization now would contribute to many more people using drugs.

In the UK, as in many countries, the real clampdown on drugs started in the late 1960s, yet government statistics show that the number of heroin or cocaine addicts seen by the health service has grown ever since – from around 1000 people per year then, to 100,000 today. It is a pattern that has been repeated the world over.

Argument 2: If current policies are not successful at prohibition, stricter policies should be enacted.

A second approach to the question is to look at whether fewer people use drugs in countries with stricter drug laws. In 2008, the World Health Organization looked at 17 countries and found no such correlation. The US, despite its punitive drug policies, has one of the highest levels of drug use in the world (PLoS Medicine, vol 5, p e141).

Argument 3: A halfway approach, which would decriminalize possession of drugs, is doomed to fail since the lack of effective punishment will encourage more people to try drugs.

While dealing remains illegal in Portugal, personal use of all drugs has been decriminalised. The result? Drug use has stayed roughly constant, but ill health and deaths from drug taking have fallen. “Judged by virtually every metric, the Portuguese decriminalisation framework has been a resounding success,” states a recent report by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Washington DC.

The Law Of Unintended Consequences comes into play as a result of prohibitionist policies. Black market items are generally very profitable, and young people may get sucked in with dreams of fast cash. Ironically, prohibition is often sold as being “for the children”.

Most drug trafficking happens through large criminal enterprises, which are also involved in murder, corruption, and kidnapping. Nearly 4,000 people have been killed this year (so far) in Mexico’s drug wars.

So what’s the alternative? There are several models for the legal provision of recreational drugs. They include prescription by doctors, consumption at licensed premises or even sale on a similar basis to alcohol and tobacco, with health warnings and age limits. If this prospect appals you, consider the fact that in the US today, many teenagers say they find it easier to buy cannabis than beer.

Accusations of evidence suppression happen everywhere, from Big Tobacco to Big Pharma, and it is rightly shocking when lives are at stake. Why are citizens willing to elect and re-elect politicians who enact policies running contrary to evidence sometimes composed by Big Government itself? Aren’t lives at stake here too?

In 1944, Mayor LaGuardia commissioned a report which was titled “The Marihuana Problem in the City of New York”. The report was written up by the New York Academy of Medicine.

This study is viewed by many experts as the best study of any drug viewed in its social, medical, and legal context. The committee covered thousands of years of the history of marijuana and also made a detailed examination of conditions In New York City. Among its conclusions: “The practice of smoking marihuana does not lead to addiction in the medical sense of the word.” And: “The use of marihuana does not lead to morphine or heroin or cocaine addiction, and no effort is made to create a market for those narcotics by stimulating the practice of marihuana smoking.” Finally: “The publicity concerning the catastrophic effects of marihuana smoking in New York City is unfounded.”

A primer on the issues at play here and a must read is The Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs, by Edward M. Brecher and the Editors of Consumer Reports Magazine.

The recommendations in this report included:
# Stop emphasizing measures designed to keep drugs away from people.
# Stop increasing the damage done by drugs.
# Stop misclassifying drugs.
# Stop viewing the drug problem as primarily a national problem, to be solved on a national scale.
# Stop pursuing the goal of stamping out illicit drug use.
# Consumers Union recommends the immediate repeal of all federal laws governing the growing, processing, transportation, sale, possession, and use of marijuana.
# Consumers Union recommends that each of the fifty states similarly repeal its existing marijuana laws and pass new laws legalizing the cultivation, processing, and orderly marketing of marijuana-subject to appropriate regulations.
# Consumers Union recommends that state and federal taxes on marijuana be kept moderate, and that tax proceeds be devoted primarily to drug research, drug education, and other measures specifically designed to minimize the damage done by alcohol, nicotine, marijuana. heroin, and other drugs.
# Consumers Union recommends an immediate end to imprisonment as a punishment for marijuana possession and for furnishing marijuana to friends.*
# Consumers Union recommends, pending legalization of marijuana, that marijuana possession and sharing be immediately made civil violations rather than criminal acts.
# Consumers Union recommends that those now serving prison terms for possession of or sharing marijuana be set free, and that such marijuana offenses be expunged from all legal records.

There are many more major studies of drugs and drug policy like the above two available for free from the Schaffer Library of Drug Policy.

Unfortunately, the idea that banning drugs is the best way to protect vulnerable people – especially children – has acquired a strong emotional grip, one that politicians are happy to exploit. For many decades, laws and public policy have flown in the face of the evidence. Far from protecting us, this approach has made the world a much more dangerous place than it need be. Source.

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