Category: Science (page 1 of 9)

Patients Choosing Cannabis Over Opioids During Self-Funded Study

Dr. James Feeney is doing something incredible for cannabis medicine. He hopes to end the opiate epidemic by bluntly showing the effectiveness of cannabis over pharmaceutical alternatives.

Dr. Feeney is a surgeon and Director of Trauma Services at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford Connecticut. With his research partner Dr. David Shapiro, they approached the St. Francis administration, including the legal team and the chief of surgery with a proposal to test cannabis in direct competition with opioids.

No one objected, despite St. Francis being a Catholic hospital.

St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center: Hartford, CT.

So they took the proposal to St. Francis Hospital’s parent company, Trinity Health. According to Feeney, Trinity Health was supportive, and even wondered why they were not already conducting cannabis exams. Feeney describes the overall feelings revealed by those conversations: “Anybody that takes even a cursory look at the medical literature understands that this could be used to replace opiate pain medication.”

Dr. James Feeney (source)

Feeney first began seriously considering cannabis for his patients after multiple patients refused opioids, and said they would just use cannabis instead. After hearing this anecdotal information first-hand, and witnessing the positive reactions, Dr. Feeney felt the need to conduct a study.

Due to the current climate for cannabis in traditional medicine, Feeney had to secure external funding for the study. He proposed that he and his partner examine the effects of cannabis on acute pain, because a substantial amount of information already pointed to the efficacy of cannabis for chronic pain (15 studies).

An important aspect of Feeney’s study is that medical cannabis is already legal in Connecticut, meaning he and St. Francis can refrain from prescribing or distributing the Schedule I substance. This allows the doctors to conduct research without having to jump through the hoops of establishing approval for clinical trials.

Patients who already have their cards can elect to take place in the study, which allows them to choose opioids or cannabis to control their acute pain.

So far, every participant has chosen cannabis. Of course, all of the patients in the study have an existing familiarity with cannabis, but the fact that they choose cannabis over opioids when doctors give them the option is incredibly positive, and may change medical opinions across the country if the trend persists.

TheCannabis Reports database currently hosts 812 studies for 166 different medical conditions. Check it out!

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Scientists Successfully Crystalize and Reveal the Structure of our CB1 Receptor

For the first time, we can visualize how cannabinoids fit like puzzle pieces, into the CB1 cannabinoid receptors in our brains.

This exciting news was reveled in a paper published in Cell and openly available titled: “Crystal Structure of the Human Cannabinoid Receptor CB1.”

From the paper itself:

“In combination with functional studies and molecular modeling, the structure provides insight into the binding mode of naturally occurring CB1 ligands, such as THC, and synthetic cannabinoids. This enhances our understanding of the molecular basis for the physiological functions of CB1 and provides new opportunities for the design of next-generation CB1-targeting pharmaceuticals.”

There are at least 113 known cannabinoids. Some of them are produced in our own brains like anandamide. While others like THC, are produced in plants. The CB1 and CB2 receptors in our bodies are responsible for regulating a whole host of things like pain, mood, appetite, and more. Being able to further understand how they work and interact with various cannabinoids will pave the way for novel and new treatments that interact with those receptors.

Docking Pose of THC on the CB1 Receptor

Docking Pose of THC on the CB1 Receptor

Researching new ways to interact with the CB1 receptor is exciting, but revealing the mechanisms more thoroughly are also helpful for a current public safety problem of synthetic cannabinoids. We still don’t understand why some synthetic cannabinoids like JWH-018 can cause extremely violent, dangerous, and sometimes deadly results while others like THC are quite safe with no overdoses recorded.

Overall Structure of CB1

Overall Structure of CB1

Cannabinoid receptors are part of a class of receptors in our brain known as G protein-coupled receptors (CPCR). The CB1 and CB2 receptors are the most abundant of these receptors in the human body. Most of the best-selling drugs on the market target GPCR and estimates of 40-50% of all pharmaceuticals target them as well. Increasing our understanding of this most abundant and important receptor in our brains is an exciting field with more benefits clearly on the horizon.

You can access the paper free of charge from Cell via their website, or here’s a direct link to the PDF.

Crystal Structure of the Human Cannabinoid Receptor CB1

Crystal Structure of the Human Cannabinoid Receptor CB1 PDF

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Survey Points to a Substantial Decrease in Cannabis Use Disorders Among Adolescents

A recent article published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry concluded that survey data between 2002 and 2013 shows a decline in cannabis use disorders among the American youth population.

The article, published by Richard Gruzca et al., analyzed data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which included 216,852 adolescents aged 12 through 17. The survey covered subjects from all 50 states and calculated the average annual change in prevalence of cannabis use disorders.[1]

Richard A. Gruzca, PhD

Richard A. Gruzca, PhD

According to the research, which was conducted following grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), general cannabis usage and usage disorders among adolescents both dropped substantially between 2002 and 2013.

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 12.29.30 PM

Those opposed to cannabis legalization have long claimed that medical and recreational cannabis laws would heighten availability, leading to increased youth exposure and irreparable harm to the adolescent community. According to the data, the opposite has happened during the medical cannabis era.

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Between 2002 and 2013, there was a 9.8% decrease in cannabis usage among youths aged 12 to 17. The number of adolescents who had problems directly related to cannabis declined by 24% during that same time.

Christian J. Hopfer, MD

Christian J. Hopfer, MD

Dr. Christian Hopfer of the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine sees these results as part of something bigger. For Dr. Hopfer, cannabis use among adolescents is incredibly complex, and these reductions in usage and abuse patterns may be due to an overall decline in conduct issues among youths.[2]

Dr. Hopfer is careful to iterate that the results from Gruzca et al. do not provide concrete evidence that cannabis legalization for recreational purposes is harmless on adolescents:

“The relation between the quasi or full legalization of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes for adults and adolescent marijuana use is complex; however, the article by Grucza et al. examines time trends primarily during marijuana medical legalization and cannot be used to infer the effects of adult recreational legalization.”

As in generally the case when it comes to cannabis, more research is necessary for the scientific community to develop a firm grasp on behavioral and usage trends among youths exposed to cannabis.

For instance, since recreational cannabis laws have been instituted, surveys have shown that adult cannabis use has increased from 4.1% and 9.5%, with adult use disorders increasing from 1.5% to 2.9%. This is surprising considering the data regarding adolescent cannabis use shows a separate trend.

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 12.32.43 PM

As you can see in the chart above, cannabis use disorders have remained generally stable among those adolescents without comorbid conduct patterns (white box).

The fact that cannabis use disorders (black box) have substantially decreased among those youths with comorbid conduct issues does deserve further investigation, particularly as states begin to legalize adult cannabis use for recreational purposes.

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Cannabis Reports encourages the next step of research, and is pleased to see grants from federal agencies such as NIDA being used for unbiased cannabis research.

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[1] Grucza RA, Agrawal A, Krauss MJ, et al. Declining prevalence of marijuana use disorders among adolescents in the United States, 2002 to 2013. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2016;55:487-494. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaac.2016.04.002
[2] Hopfer C. Declining Rates of Adolescent Marijuana Use Disorders During the Past Decade May Be Due to Declining Conduct Problems. J AM Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2016; 55:439-440. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaac.2016.03.013

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