#NORML #News
Source: @norml @WeedConnection
Posted By: norml@weedconnection.com
media :: news
- Tue, 12 Jan 2021 04:20:21 PST

Study: Medical Cannabis Associated with Prolonged Reductions in Opioid Use

Falmouth, ME: Patients who initiate the use of medical cannabis experience sustained reductions in their use of opioids, according to data published in the journal Cureus.

A pair of investigators assessed survey data from over 500 patients registered with three state-licensed medical cannabis practices in the northeastern region of the United States. Those surveyed had been prescribed opioids for chronic pain treatment for at least three months.

Forty-five percent of those surveyed reported decreasing their opioid usage following the initiation of cannabis therapy and another 40 percent of respondents acknowledged ceasing their use of opioids altogether -- findings that are consistent with dozens of other studies. The majority of respondents (65 percent) reported that they sustained these changes for over one year.

Authors reported: "To our knowledge, this is one of the largest surveys of chronic pain patients who used opioids continuously for a minimum of three months and combined it with medical cannabis. Our results show a remarkable percentage of patients both reporting complete cessation of opioids and decreasing opioid usage by the addition of medical cannabis, with results lasting for over a year for the majority. … We believe our results lend further support that medical cannabis provided in a standardized protocol can lead to decreased pain and opioid usage, improved function, and quality of life measures, and even complete cessation of opioids in patients with chronic pain treated by opioids."

Full text of the study, "A survey on the effect that medical cannabis has on prescription opioid medication usage for the treatment of chronic pain at three medical cannabis practice sites," appears in Cureus. Additional information is available from the NORML fact sheet, "Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids."

Montana: Adult-Use Legalization Law Takes Effect

Helena, MT: Initiative 190 and Initiative 118, a pair of complementary, citizen-initiated ballot measures legalizing the personal possession, commercial production, and retail sales of marijuana to adults, became law on January 1, 2021.

Provisions in the law allowing those ages 21 and older to legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana and/or to privately cultivate up to four mature cannabis plants for personal use took immediate effect.

Separate provisions in the law establishing a licensing system for commercial marijuana producers and retailers will take effect later this year.

Voters approved I-190 and CI-118 on Election day with almost 60 percent of the vote.

"This is a great day for the people of Montana, who will no longer be subject to arrest, prosecution, and a criminal record for their personal use or possession of marijuana," said NORML State Policies Coordinator Carly Wolf. "The enactment of adult-use legalization in Montana is yet further evidence that this policy change enjoys widespread support from those across all geographic and political spectrums."

Illinois: Governor Announces That Hundreds of Thousands of Cannabis-Related Convictions Have Been Expunged

Springfield, IL: Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that state officials in 2020 expunged the criminal records of an estimated half-million Illinois citizens previously convicted for marijuana-related crimes. The Governor signed legislation into law in 2019 legalizing the adult use and sale of cannabis, and also establishing a process of automatically reviewing and expunging past convictions.

The Governor said that the pace of the expungement process was well ahead of schedule. He also announced having personally pardoned over 20,000 low-level cannabis conviction records. Governors in several other states, including Colorado, Nevada, and Washington, similarly issued pardons to those with cannabis-specific convictions in 2020.

In California, state officials have also reviewed and expunged several hundred thousand past marijuana convictions over the past two years. California and Illinois are among more than a dozen states that have enacted legislation explicitly facilitating the expungement of marijuana-related convictions.

Study: History of Marijuana Use Not Associated with Hardening of the Arteries

San Francisco, CA: Middle-age subjects with a history of marijuana use possess no greater elevated risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), according to longitudinal data published in the American Journal of Medicine.

A team of researchers from the United States and Switzerland assessed the association between marijuana exposure and thickness of the carotid artery in cohort of middle age Americans. While the cumulative use of tobacco was strongly associated with high carotid intima-media thickness (odds ratio 1.88), marijuana exposure was not (OR 0.87).

Authors concluded: "This study adds to the growing body of evidence that there might be no association between the average population level of marijuana use and subclinical atherosclerosis."

The findings are consistent with prior studies -- such as those here, here, and here -- reporting that neither current nor cumulative cannabis use is associated with either atherosclerosis or other cardiovascular abnormalities at middle age.

Full text of the study, "Cumulative marijuana use and carotid intima-media thickness at middle age: The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study," appears in in the American Journal of Medicine.

Florida: Enrollment in Medical Cannabis Access Program Associated with Reductions in Prescription Drug Use

Gainesville, FL: Patients enrolled in the state's low-THC medical cannabis access program often reduce their use of prescription opioids and other medications over time, according to data published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.

A team of investigators from the University of Florida at Gainesville, School of Pharmacy assessed characteristics associated with patients enrolled in the state's low-THC/high CBD cannabis access program, which was enacted by the legislature in 2014. (Florida voters later decided in favor of a constitutional amendment in 2016 broadening the program to allow access to higher THC varieties of cannabis.) Under the program's initial rules, medical providers were mandated to submit initial and follow up treatment plans to the University of Florida.

Investigators' review of these plans reported that most providers acknowledged improvements in their patients' symptoms following the use of low-THC cannabis for one year. Providers also acknowledged that many patients reduced their prescription drug use over this same period.

Consistent with the findings of prior studies, authors reported, "In particular, reductions or complete cessation of opioid medications were reported as well as reductions of anxiolytics/benzodiazepines and hypnotics/sedatives."

Authors concluded: "This retrospective analysis of MM [low THC/high CBD medical marijuana] treatment forms covering the initial implementation phase of Florida's MM program provides characteristics and prescription drug utilization information on early registrants who sought treatment with medical cannabis. … Though follow-up information was only available for a fraction of patients, follow-up was mostly characterized by clinical improvements and reported reductions in some prescription medication classes."

Full text of the study, "Clinical conditions and prescription drug utilization among early medical marijuana registrants in Florida," appears in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. Additional information on cannabis/prescription drug substitution is available from the NORML fact sheet, "Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids."

Study: Cannabis Abstinence Associated with Alcohol Substitution By Young People

Boston, MA: Cannabis abstinence in young people is associated with increased alcohol intake, according to data published in the journal Progress in Neuropsychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry.

A team of investigators affiliated with Harvard Medical School, Loyola University, and the University of Miami assessed alcohol consumption patterns in a group of non-treatment seeking cannabis consumers between the ages of 14 and 25. All participants acknowledged having consumed alcohol in the month prior to their enrollment in the study. Study participants were randomly assigned to two groups -- one that required cannabis abstinence for four weeks and one that did not.

Researchers reported that over 60 percent of those assigned to the abstinence group increased their frequency of alcohol consumption as well as the quantity consumed. Following their completion of the study, participants' use of alcohol returned to pre-trial levels.

By contrast, those participants who were permitted to continue consuming cannabis did not increase their alcohol use over the length of the study.

Authors concluded: "This was the first study to our knowledge to evaluate patterns of drinking behavior across one month following an experimental manipulation of cannabis abstinence among non-treatment seeking youth engaged in a paid abstinence attempt. … On average, four weeks of incentivized (i.e., paid) cannabis abstinence among non-treatment seeking youth was associated with increased frequency and amount of alcohol use in week one that was sustained over four weeks and resolved with resumption of cannabis use. … Findings suggest that clinicians should monitor for increased alcohol use during attempts at abstinence for cannabis among youth."

Prior research assessing whether alcohol and cannabis typically act as either compliments or substitutes has yielded mixed results, though some scientists have determined that marijuana meets many of the criteria necessary to qualify it as a potential substitute for alcohol.

Full text of the study, "Alcohol substitution during one month of cannabis abstinence among non-treatment seeking youth," appears in Progress in Neuropsychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry.

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