Study: Patients Fail to Exhibit Changes in Neurocognitive Performance Following Cannabis Use
Melbourne, Australia: The use of medical cannabis is not associated with significant changes in patients’ cognitive performance or driving abilities, according to data published in the journal CNS Drugs.
Australian researchers assessed neurocognitive performance in a cohort of 40 patients authorized to use medical cannabis products. (Under Australian law, physicians may authorize cannabis products to patients unresponsive to conventional prescription treatments.) Participants’ performance was assessed at baseline and again three hours later. Patients either vaporized herbal cannabis or consumed oral extracts. Study participants had regularly used medical cannabis products for at least ten months prior to enrolling in the trial.
Patients exhibited no changes in simulated psychomotor performance, executive function, memory, or reaction time following their self-administration of a “standard dose of their prescribed medical cannabis.” Results were consistent regardless of the type of cannabis product consumed.
Investigators reported: “We found no evidence for impaired cognitive function when comparing baseline with post-treatment scores on a comprehensive neuropsychological test battery, nor did we observe any change in performance on the DRUID [psychomotor] test battery over time. … These findings are consistent with two systematic reviews published in the last year that suggest that medical cannabis, when used regularly and consistently for a chronic health condition, may have little if any impact on cognitive function.”
The study’s authors concluded, “Medical cannabis may have minimal acute impact on cognitive function when prescribed and used as directed.”
Other studies have similarly determined that habitual cannabis consumers become tolerant to cannabis-induced changes in either cognitive or psychomotor performance. According to a 2018 meta-analysis of 36 studies involving over 1,000 participants: “Available evidence suggests that the effects of acute marijuana or Δ9-THC administration are less prominent in individuals with a regular pattern of cannabis use compared to non-regular users. Cognitive function appears to be the domain most likely to demonstrate tolerance upon repeated exposure, with some evidence of full tolerance indicating a complete absence of acute effect.”
A literature review published in the journal of the German Medical Association concluded, “Patients who take cannabinoids at a constant dosage over an extensive period of time often develop tolerance to the impairment of psychomotor performance, so that they can drive vehicles safely.”
Full text of the study, “A semi-naturalistic, open-label trial examining the effect of prescribed medical cannabis on neurocognitive performance,” appears in CNS Drugs.
Survey: Consumers Prefer Cannabis Over Conventional Sleep Aids
Pullman, WA: Many consumers report using cannabis as a substitute for conventional sleep aids, including melatonin and benzodiazepines, according to survey data published in the journal Exploration in Medicine.
Researchers affiliated with Washington State University surveyed over 1,200 individuals who reported using cannabis for sleep.
More than 80 percent of respondents said that they had eliminated their use of over the counter and prescription sleep aids after switching to cannabis. Respondents were more likely to use herbal cannabis rather than edible products prior to bedtime. About half of those surveyed reported using products that contained CBD and/or the terpene myrcene. Myrcene is reported to possess sedative effects.
The survey’s findings are consistent with those of others concluding that patients frequently consume cannabis to mitigate sleep disorders, including insomnia. Data published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine reports that the enactment of adult-use marijuana legalization laws is associated with a significant reduction in the sales of over the counter sleep aids among the general public.
Full text of the study, “A large-scale survey of cannabis use for sleep: Preferred products and perceived effects in comparison to over the counter and prescription sleep aids,” appears in Exploration in Medicine.
Survey: Most Cancer Patients Say Cannabis “Improves Their Ability To Cope With Their Illness”
Tel Aviv, Israel: The majority of cancer patients suffering from refractory pain say that the use of medical cannabis helps them cope with their illness, according to survey data published in the journal BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care.
Israeli researchers surveyed 138 cancer patients authorized to use cannabis products. (Medical cannabis is legal by prescription in Israel.) Thirty-eight percent of respondents said that cannabis significantly helped them to cope with their illness while 32 percent said that it “partially” helped them.
Authors concluded: “A large majority of patients using cannabis report that the therapy significantly improves their ability to cope with their illness, with almost 40 percent stating it has done so to a large extent. In this cohort of patients with intractable cancer pain that has proved minimally responsive to numerous conventional treatments, including of course powerful opioids, adjuvants and radiotherapy, this seems to be a striking response. … This ... seems to suggest that this therapy should be considered in addition to current therapies for cancer-related pain and could be offered to patients even earlier in the course of their illness and treatments than is acceptable now.”
Other studies have documented sustained improvements in pain intensity, cognition, and sleep quality among cancer patients who consume cannabis products. Cancer patients also report decreasing their use of opioids following cannabis therapy.
Full text of the study, “Medical cannabis for refractory cancer-related pain in a specialized clinical service: A cross-sectional study,” appears in BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care.
Maine: Testing Analysis Identifies Contaminants in Many Medical Cannabis Products
Augusta, ME: A significant percentage of medical cannabis products contain potentially harmful contaminants, according to an analysis performed by the state’s Office of Cannabis Policy.
State investigators collected and analyzed samples from 120 registered caregivers and dispensaries. Products analyzed included herbal cannabis and oil extracts.
Maine law does not mandate third-party lab testing for medical cannabis products. By contrast, products produced for the adult-use market are required to undergo testing prior to being sold by retailers.
Of the products tested, 42 percent contained contaminants, including yeast and mold, pesticides, and heavy metals. The presence of molds and other contaminants may pose increased risks to patients, particularly those who may be more susceptible to infection.
NORML has long opined in favor of third-party purity testing for cannabis products. It has also called for greater regulatory oversight for state-licensed testing laboratories.
Testing analyses of other unregulated cannabis products, such as those containing hemp-derived CBD and/or delta-8-THC, have similarly reported elevated percentages of heavy metals and other contaminants.
Full text of Maine’s Office of Cannabis policy report is available from the Maine Office of Cannabis Policy.
Georgia: Regulators Award Licenses to Four Additional Producers of Low-THC Cannabis Products
Atlanta, GA: State regulators have awarded cannabis production licenses to four additional companies. The licenses allow the companies to grow cannabis and manufacture low-THC/high-CBD oil products.
Low-THC/high CBD products became legal to possess in 2015. However, regulators failed to approve any licensed providers or dispensaries until earlier this year. There are now a total of six licensed producers in the state.
In November, independent pharmacies began selling cannabis oil products statewide. Medical cannabis products are also available in state-licensed dispensaries, though fewer than ten facilities are currently licensed by state officials.
About 14,000 Georgians are registered to access cannabis products for a variety of ailments, including autism, cancer, Crohn’s disease, seizure disorders, and Tourette syndrome.