Posts Tagged ‘medical cannabis’

Colorado Approves Medical Cannabis for PTSD

medical-cannabisOn Monday, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 17, enabling physicians to prescribe cannabis to patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Veterans and patient advocates in Colorado have been working for years to get PTSD included on the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis.

There hasn’t been an addition to the list of conditions approved for treatment with medical marijuana since 2001. The state Board of Health had rejected inclusion of PTSD at least four times in the past, with the most recent rejection in 2015, despite support from physicians and scientists.

The 2015 rejection led to a lawsuit filed by a group of veterans with PTSD. One of the plaintiffs, Larisa Bolivar, has been petitioning the state since 2006 to include the condition as eligible for medical marijuana treatment.

“It’s always been mired in politics. It’s always been an uphill battle,” Bolivar said. “But this is relieving. I know this is going to save a lot of lives and have open relationships with medical practitioners. Patients can talk about using cannabis for PTSD with them. Now we can have documentation about what used to be assumed was anecdotal.”

The bill was sponsored by Senator Irene Aguilar and Representative Jonathan Singer. Colorado legislators approved the bill in the Senate in early February and the House on April 20.

Prior to Hickenlooper signing the bill, the state had eight qualifying conditions: HIV or AIDS, seizures, cachexia, muscle spasms, cancer, glaucoma, severe pain, and severe nausea.

Although Colorado was an early adopter of medical marijuana, the state has been alone in its failure to include it as a treatment for PTSD. Colorado joins 20 other states, plus the District of Columbia, in its inclusion of PTSD in state medical pot laws.

“I hope it opens a door so that physicians recommending marijuana are no longer considered pseudo-scientific or quacks for recommending marijuana,” Singer says. “We aren’t really a trailblazer in this — a number of other states already allow it — but when the next issue comes along, maybe we have a template now.”

As soon as application forms are updated, patients can apply for doctor recommendations as early as next week.

Marijuana Boosts Memory in Aging Brains

According to a study released in Nature Medicine, marijuana may boost cognitive function and memory in elderly brains–at least in mice.

In past years, the focus of marijuana research has looked at effects of cannabis consumption in teenagers and young adults. Findings concluded that cannabis use in young brains is detrimental–and this most recent study did corroborate those findings.

However, when it comes to elderly brains and cannabis, it’s a completely different story.

Andreas Zimmer, a professor of molecular psychiatry at the University of Bonn in Germany, along with a team of researchers, found “a dramatic improvement in cognitive functions” in mice given daily, low doses of THC for a month.

Researchers included young, mature, and elderly mice in the study and performed a number of behavioral experiments. In some of the experiments, THC seemed to improve the memory in the older mice to such a degree that their cognitive function appeared to be as good as those of young mice.

In one of the tasks, mice were placed in a water maze with a hidden platform that allowed them to escape. In the control group, (mice who were not given THC) the mature and old mice took longer to climb out than the young mice. Among mature and elderly mice that had been given THC, they found the platform faster than the control mice in corresponding age groups. Young mice given THC took longer to learn where the platform was hidden.

The findings raise the possibility that cannabinoids might act as anti-aging molecules in the brain. “That is something we absolutely did not expect: the old animals [that received] THC looked most similar to the young, untreated control mice,” Zimmer said.

However, other scientists cautioned that extrapolating findings in mice to humans is premature. “This well-designed set of experiments shows that chronic THC pretreatment appears to restore a significant level of diminished cognitive performance in older mice, while corroborating the opposite effect among young mice,” Susan Weiss, director of the Division of Extramural Research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse who was not involved in the study, wrote in an e-mail to Scientific America. Nevertheless, she added, “While it would be tempting to presume the relevance of these findings [extends] to aging humans…further research will be critically needed.”

Zimmer and his colleagues have already been awarded funding to begin a clinical trial studying the effects of THC in elderly adults with mild cognitive impairments.

“If we can rejuvenate the brain so that everybody gets five to 10 more years without needing extra care, then that is more than we could have imagined,” study co-author Andras Bilkei-Gorzo told The Guardian.

Ending Marijuana Prohibition Would Save Lives and Taxpayer Money

A father-daughter duo of public policy researchers from the University of Georgia have published a follow-up to their 2016 research that found in states with a medical marijuana program, prescriptions for medications like painkillers, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications dropped sharply.

That means that among adults 65 and older who are enrolled in Medicare, many are choosing to self-medicate with cannabis rather than taking medications prescribed by a doctor. It’s a significant shift in approaches to healthcare, and is especially relevant given the opioid epidemic in the U.S. Numerous studies have found that opiate abuse and overdose rates fell in states with medical marijuana laws.

The Bradfords’ new study applies the same analysis as the Medicare study, but this time they looked at Medicaid prescriptions. Medicaid covers low-income people of all ages. The results were similar to the Medicare research: in states with a medical marijuana program, prescriptions for certain drugs fell significantly.

Anti-nausea prescriptions fell by 17 percent, anti-depressants fell 13 percent, and anti-seizure and psychosis drugs fell 12 percent. Prescriptions for painkillers, including opiates, fell by 11 percent.

“Patients and physicians in the community are reacting to the availability of medical marijuana as if it were medicine,” the Bradfords concluded.

They also concluded that a nationwide medical marijuana program would save taxpayers about $1.1 billion on Medicaid prescriptions annually. However, while Medicaid and Medicare see cost savings, medical marijuana must be purchased outside of the insurance system, essentially shifting the burden of cost to low-income and senior patients.

Last summer the DEA affirmed marijuana’s status as a Schedule 1 drug–categorizing cannabis as an addictive drug with no medical benefits. The Bradfords warned that, “This decision was made despite the substantial and growing evidence that the requirements for Schedule I status involving ‘no currently accepted medical uses’ are no longer met by marijuana.”

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