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IACM-Bulletin of November 27, 2016


Science/Human — Cannabis use improved cognitive function in a longitudinal study

Treatment with cannabis was associated with “some improvement on measures of executive functioning” in 11 patients within 3 months, researchers of Harvard Medical School in Boston, USA, reported in Frontiers in Pharmacology. As part of a larger longitudinal study, 24 patients certified for medical cannabis use completed baseline executive function assessments and 11 of these so far have participated in their first follow-up visit 3 months after initiating treatment.

Authors wrote that these results suggest that „in general“ cannabis patients experienced „some improvement on measures of executive functioning, including the Stroop Color Word Test and Trail Making Test, mostly reflected as increased speed in completing tasks without a loss of accuracy. On self-report questionnaires, patients also indicated moderate improvements in clinical state, including reduced sleep disturbance, decreased symptoms of depression, attenuated impulsivity, and positive changes in some aspects of quality of life. Additionally, patients reported a notable decrease in their use of conventional pharmaceutical agents from baseline, with opiate use declining more than 42%.”

Gruber SA, Sagar KA, Dahlgren MK, Racine MT, Smith RT, Lukas SE. Splendor in the Grass? A Pilot Study Assessing the Impact of Medical Marijuana on Executive Function. Front Pharmacol. 2016;7:355.

Holland — Ruling party supports legalization of cannabis cultivation

A majority of members of the ruling right-wing party VVD (Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie, People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy) want a change in the party’s policy towards legalised cannabis cultivation. At the recent party congress, a majority of members voted to end the ‘strange situation’ in which the sale of small quantities of cannabis in licenced coffee shops throughout the Netherlands is accepted but production is not.

The commitment to ‘clever regulation’ of cultivation and sales will now appear in the party’s manifesto for the 2017 general election and clears the way for a shift in the policy of the next government, commentators said. Now proponents of cannabis cultivation legalization have a majority in both chambers of parliament.

Dutch News of 21 November 2016

Science/Human — Cannabis and CBD may be helpful in reducing the hard drugs

Both the use of cannabis and the use of CBD (cannabidiol) may be helpful in reducing the craving to hard drugs, such as opioids, cocaine and alcohol. Scientists of the University of British Columbia, Canada, conducted a review on mental health effects of cannabis use. “Research suggests that people may be using cannabis as an exit drug to reduce use of substances that are potentially more harmful, such as opioid pain medication," said the study's lead investigator Zach Walsh, associate professor of psychology at the Okanagan campus of the University of British Columbia.

At the annual meeting of the American Society for Neuroscience a group from the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, USA, reported on preliminary research showing that cannabidiol, can quell urges for cocaine in rats. Scientists allowed rats to dose themselves at will with cocaine until they became addicted. At the end of three months, they gave some of the animals transdermal patches with cannabidiol. Rats that received the patches reduced cocaine intake, whereas the ones that didn’t continued to consume as much cocaine as before. Other researchers—from Miguel Hernandez University in Spain—reported on a study showing that cannabidiol reduced alcohol consumption.

Walsh Z, Gonzalez R, Crosby K, S Thiessen M, Carroll C, Bonn-Miller MO. Medical cannabis and mental health: A guided systematic review. Clin Psychol Rev 2016;51:15-29.

Science Daily of 16 November 2016

Can Pot-Related Drugs Wean Substance Abusers Off the Hard Stuff? Scientific American of 22 November 2016

Science/Human — Cannabis extracts significantly improved epilepsy in about a quarter of patients

About a quarter of children and adolescents profited from a treatment with oral cannabis extracts. This is the result of a retrospective chart review of 119 patients of the Children's Hospital Colorado of the University of Colorado in Aurora, USA. The average length of use of oral cannabis extract was 11.7 months (range 0.3-57 months).

Twenty-four percent of patients were considered responders to cannabis, which was defined by a more than 50% reduction in seizures. Adverse events were reported in 19% of patients, with the most common side effects being somnolence and worsening of seizures. Families of patients with Dravet syndrome terminated use of cannabis more quickly due to ineffectiveness than patients with other epilepsy syndromes. Dravet syndrome may respond better to CBD (cannabidiol).

Treat L, Chapman KE, Colborn KL, Knupp KG. Duration of use of oral cannabis extract in a cohort of pediatric epilepsy patients. Epilepsia. 2016 Nov 18. [in press]

News in brief

Science/Human — Enactment of medical cannabis laws in the USA were not associated with increased cannabis use in adolescents

In a study using data of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey collected during 1991-2011 from 45 states (n=715,014) scientists found no increased adolescent cannabis use due to laws on medical cannabis after adjusting for state and year effects. However, higher allowed possession limits for cannabis and a voluntary registration of medical cannabis users were associated with increased use.

Heller School of Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, Waltham, USA.

Johnson J, et. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2016;170:1-8.

Science/Human — A high number of young adults use cannabis for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease

In a group of 53 patients (mean age: 18.7 years) with inflammatory bowel disease 70% reported using cannabis currently or in the past. A majority found cannabis to be moderately or very helpful, complete relief of symptoms such as abdominal pain, poor appetite, nausea and diarrhoea was seen in 29%, 37%, 14% and 10% of patients, respectively.

Yale University, School of Medicine. USA.

Phatak UP, et al. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2016 Nov 14. [in press]

Science/Human — Certain variants of the CB2 receptor are associated with an increased risk for inflammatory bowel diseases

A certain genetic CB2 receptor variant (CB2-Q63R) was associated with more severe symptoms in ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease in 217 children with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and 600 healthy controls. Authors concluded that this points “toward the involvement of the CB2 receptor in the pathogenesis and clinical features“ of inflammatory bowel diseases in children.

The Second University of Naples, Italy.

Strisciuglio C, et al. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2016 Nov 21. [in press]

Science — Allosteric modulation of the CB1 receptor

Researchers presented a review on an alternative way to target the CB1 receptor. The CB1 receptor is usually influenced by agonism (activation) or antagonism (blockade). An alternative way to influence the CB1 receptor is allosteric modulation by small molecules. These allosteric modulators are substances which indirectly influences the effects of an agonist or inverse agonist at a receptor. Allosteric modulators bind to a site distinct from that of the agonist binding site.

Research Triangle Institute, USA.

Nguyen T, et al. Med Res Rev. 2016 Nov 23. [in press]

Science/Cells — Beta-caryophyllene increases the formation of neurits in nerve cells

Beta-caryophyllene was shown to increase the formation of neurits, which are projections from the cell body of nerve cells. Beta-caryophyllene is activating the CB2 receptor, but this effect was mediated by the activation of the Tropomyosin receptor kinase A (TrkA).

University of São Paulo, Ribeirão Preto, Brazil.

Guinaim Santos NA, et al. Chem Biol Interact. 2016 Nov 18. [in press]

Science/Cells — Cannabidiol induces the formation of regulatory T cells

CBD (cannabidiol) was shown to be immunosuppressive by induction of functional regulatory T cells, formerly known as suppressor T cells.

College of Veterinary Medicine, Mississippi State University, USA.

Dhital S, et al. Cell Immunol. 2016 Nov 9. [in press]

Science/Human — Very low cannabis use was associated lower outcome in patients undergoing treatment for alcohol use disorders

In 1383 patients with alcohol dependence very low use of cannabis (once or twice a month) was associated with fewer alcohol abstinent days after treatment, but heavier cannabis use not.

Alcohol Research Group, Public Health Institute, Emeryville, USA.

Subbaraman MS, et al. Addiction. 2016 Nov 19. [in press]

Science/Human — Patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease had high levels of endocannabinoids

A high blood concentration of the endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol was independently associated with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in 105 patients.

Department of Gastroenterology, Tel-Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, Israel.

Zelber-Sagi S, et al. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2016 Nov 15. [in press]

Science — Crystal structure of the human CB1 cannabinoid receptor

Scientists developed a high-resolution crystal structure of the human CB1 cannabinoid receptor. This structure provides an atomic framework for studying cannabinoid receptor function.

Department of Biophysics, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, USA.

Shao Z, et al. Nature. 2016 Nov 16. [in press]

Science/Cells — A combination of beta-caryophyllene, baicalin and (+)-catechin exerted anti-inflammatory effects

The plant constituents beta-caryophyllene, baicalin and (+)-catechin exerted synergistic suppressive effects on macrophages in a cell study. Authors wrote that “this composition may be a useful as an anti-inflammatory treatment strategy.”

Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, USA.

Yamaguchi M, et al. Int J Mol Med. 2016 Nov 14. [in press]

Science/Animal — The effects of electroacupuncture on migraine is mediated by the CB1 receptor

In a study with rats researchers demonstrated that the anti-inflammatory effects of electroacupuncture on migraine attacks were mediated by the CB1 receptor.

School of Traditional Chinese Medicine Combined with Western Medicine, Southwest Medical University, Luzhou, China.

Zhang H, et al. Acupunct Med. 2016 Nov 10. [in press]