The coronavirus or COVID-19 has caused global panic, as it continues to spread across countries. While the general public is panic buying and practicing self isolation in quarantine, all health workers and health authorities are trying to battle the global pandemic. As health workers risk their lives to treat their patients everyday, researchers are trying to come up with a vaccine to provide immunity or protection to some extent, from the virus.
While a vaccine for COVID-19 is much awaited, certain drugs may provide some protection. Use of live vaccines is encouraged, to increase the recipient’s immune response. However, as new drugs are being tested for the COVID-19 vaccination, non traditional uses of existing drugs are explored as well – one of them being BCG
The Bacillus Calmette- Guérin vaccine – BCG, has been used against tuberculosis long enough. Research shows that BCG causes the immune system responds better to infections – not limited to TB. Two studies in adults (age group – 60-75) have reported a decrease in respiratory infections by 70 to 80 percent. Meanwhile, two studies in children reported a decrease by 15 to 40 percent.
Another study was later on conducted on infants in countries with severe health challenges. When combined with a revitalized immunization scheme, BCG was able to decrease the death rates by just under a third. However, studies have also suggested that the time period of the protective effect is temporary, until an inactivated vaccine – such as an influenza vaccine, is given.
The World Health Organization (WHO) had commissioned a systematic review, due to the promising research, which was then published in 2016. Further research was encouraged due to the conclusion of the BCG vaccine having beneficial, but off target effects.
A trial of BCG vaccine has begun in the Netherlands and a larger trial of over 4000 health workers is expected to start next week in Australia. Meanwhile, countries like Greece, Britain, Germany, Denmark, and the United States, are also considering BCG vaccine trials.
Despite the benefits of a BCG vaccine, the protection is not expected to be perfect. Although a targeted vaccination for COVID-19 is not the same as a BCG vaccination, it is expected to reduce the severity of the illness and death rates among the recipients of the BCG vaccination. If BCG vaccinations could prove to be effective, an immediate relief system could be started to provide the particularly vulnerable people – the elderly or people with underlying health conditions, with the BCG vaccine.
Additionally, countries with weak health care systems, could highly benefit from these BCG vaccines. While the vaccine is safe and cheap, the availability for testing is immediate. While health care workers, and the vulnerable population are the priority, it can be soon be available to the general public as well.
Despite all this, big public health institutions aren’t too keen in investigating BCG, despite WHO’s recommendation. Moreover, the crucial research isn’t actively funded by global health foundations such as Gates. The lack of interest of big pharmaceutical companies points towards the little profit that an established vaccine such as BCG could bring.
Enough research has been conducted on BCG, proving it to be a potential vaccination. While it may be an unconventional use of the drug, it still shows a lot of potential to give at least partial protection.
Considering the nature of the global crisis currently, even partial protection could majorly impact the increasing number of infected cases globally. It could reduce risks of health workers substantially, and also lessen the risk of collapse of our health systems. But as for now, there is an urgency to keep trials to test it’s beneficial effects for COVID-19.
Exposure to Marijuana during pregnancy linked to mental disorders in children
Children born to expectant mothers who used marijuana during pregnancy are at a higher risk of developing mental disorders. The results were discovered in a recent study published in JAMA Psychiatry which analysed around 11,489 children for research purposes. The spectrum of disorders included a number of problems like autism, psychotic-like behaviors, and ADHD among many others.
The children were part of the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study which is considered as the largest long-term study of brain development and child health in the United States.
Findings of the study
Out of the 11,489 children who were studied, almost 655 were exposed to marijuana during their gestational period. The negative effects were magnified in women who continued using marijuana through out their pregnancy and also while breastfeeding their infants. “Use of cannabis despite knowledge of pregnancy might represent a preexisting and more severe form of cannabis use,” the authors wrote.
Marijuana usage and Mental Disorders
The increased decriminalization and evolving legal acceptance of marijuana is leading to an escalation in its usage rates.
Compounds in marijuana bind to cannabinoid receptors in the brain and induce side-effects like intoxication, euphoria and cognitive delays. This is the main reason for its classification as a Schedule 1 drug at the federal level in the United States. For states where it is considered legal, the medicinal benefits attached to some of its non-psychoactive compounds are valued above the side-effects.
In general, the risks of addiction and other associated side-effects increase with the concentration of THC (psychoactive compound). The negative consequences can be more detrimental if the exposure happens at an earlier developmental age. This is why the incidence of marijuana use and mental disorders is higher for children who get exposed to it in the womb.
According to a research published by U.S Surgeon General Jerome Adams, the concentration of compounds in marijuana have changed overtime. The marijuana available today is much more stronger and THC concentrated as compared to what it was earlier. THC concentration in marijuana crops has increased by three-folds between 1995 and 2014.
In addition, according to his research, marijuana products sold in legal dispensaries may contain THC concentrations ranging between 17.7% to 23.2%. This is separate from the other class of concentrated products that are exclusively designed for recreational use. These products tend to contain between 23.7% to 75.9% concentration levels of THC in them.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has reported that the usage rates of marijuana had more than doubled between 2002 and 2017 among pregnant women. Most of this use was recreational rather than medicinal in nature. Surprisingly, there are mothers who used marijuana because they considered it safer as compared to prescription medications.
Side-effects of marijuana on fetal development
THC affects the fetal brain via the mother’s bloodstream. It disrupts the mother’s endocannabinoid system, affecting fetal brain development. Outcomes of this early exposure to dangerous levels of THC and leads to anxiety, agitation and psychosis in children.
Some newborns exposed to marijuana have also reportedly experienced withdrawal symptoms including tremors, crying and sleep deprivation. Furthermore, some of the risks during gestation include lower birth weight, preterm labor and increased risk of miscarriages.
In addition to this, studies conducted by Duke University Medical Center have shown a clear link between autism and marijuana. It was a first study to highlight the changes in sperm genes that occur with a man’s cannabis intake. These changes in the sperm of marijuana users have been found to trigger autism in their offspring.
Effect of marijuana exposure later in life of children
According to Dr. Compton there is enough retrospective data to show an association between marijuana usage and the onset of psychotic symptoms. “Adolescent/premorbid marijuana use is not only a risk factor for the later development of primary psychotic disorders (which has been shown in prior studies), but is also a risk factor for an earlier onset of those disorders.”
Can the damage be controlled?
Camille Hoffman, MD, MSCS, is an associate professor of maternal- fetal medicine in University of Colorado School of Medicine. He has conducted a detailed study on the negative effects of marijuana on fetal development. His studies have found that maternal marijuana use begins to negatively impact the fetal brain at an earlier stage in pregnancy. However, some dietary measures can help to curtail these damages. “We also found that eating choline-rich foods or taking choline as a supplement may protect the child from potential harm.”
Is cannabis an effective sleeping aid?
Among the various options available for better sleep management, cannabis and its related products are slowly but surely expanding their market share. With so many modern choices available at hand, can one consider cannabis as an effective sleeping aid? If yes, what strains of cannabis work best?
Lets take a look at what research has to say.
Sleep deprivation is a common modern day problem
“I literally slept like a dog last night”.
Many of us can only wish to say that in the morning following an emotionally or physically challenging day. Contrary to this wistful thinking, a staggering percentage of adults is becoming a sleep deprivation victim with each passing day.
The research findings of the National Sleep Foundation have indicated that about 50 to 70 million adults in the United States suffer from sleeping disorders. It is estimated that almost 30 to 40 percent of individuals will combat insomnia, and 10 to 15 percent will suffer from chronic insomnia in their lives.
These statistics are a clear indication of how getting a sound sleep is getting difficult for a considerable size of the population. In response to these statistics, the global market for sleeping aids is expected to climb to $84.9 billion by 2021. This is a jump from the previous $66.3 billion in 2016, representing a compound annual growth rate of about 5.1%.
Cannabis as a sleeping aid
The sleeping aid market is composed of a variety of products ranging from mattresses, CPAP devices to prescription medications. Among these remedies for improving sleeping patterns, a controversial cure is being hailed as an effective solution by marijuana physicians.
This controversial option involves using cannabis and its related products for managing sleeping disorders. Among the advocates of this idea is Dr.Matt Roman, a medical marijuana physician. “Marijuana is an effective sleep aid because it restores a person’s natural sleep cycle, which so often falls out of sync with our schedules in today’s modern lifestyle,” he says.
Although policies surrounding cannabis have evolved greatly, there is still a federal ban on it in USA. This has obstructed detailed researches on the drug as federal funding is denied for researches on Schedule 1 drugs. This is mainly why many doctors shy away from prescribing it to their patients despite of being aware of its benefits.
How cannabis effects sleep cycles?
The chemical structure of cannabinoids found in cannabis is very similar to those found in the human body. This allows the chemical compounds of cannabis to react effectively with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) of the human body.
According to experts, the ECS plays an important role in regulating a number of physiological processes. Some of the process managed by it include sleep, mood, appetite, anxiety and memory.
Among the various cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, CBD and THC are most commonly discussed. CBD is a non-psychoactive compound of the plant. It is widely used by patients and is suggested by physicians due to its medicinal properties.
As opposed to this, THC is the psychoactive compound of the cannabis plant. It gives a euphoric feeling to its users, causing them to become addicted to it at some point. This may lead to serious side-effects in some cases, causing some countries to impose a ban on the compound.
When it comes to sleep regulation, both of these compounds have their own set of benefits. Although some benefits maybe short-term in nature, individuals still use cannabis to help with their sleeping disorders.
Cannabis gummies for sleep management
Experts that suggest cannabis for sleep regulation do so for two main reasons.
Firstly, the drug addresses stress and anxiety – two biggest enemies of a peaceful night’s sleep. Secondly cannabis improves sleep latency – the amount of time needed to fall asleep after the lights have been turned off.
In order to arrive at a dosage that works best for an individual, specialists have suggested some tips. Incorporating edibles like gummies slowly into the night routine is one of them. To start off, individuals will do better by starting trials on a weekend. After experimenting with different dosages and brands, the one that works best can then be used during work days as well. In addition, gummies made with indica strains can be a helpful start for new users.
Patients of sleeping disorders can try CBD gummies, THC gummies, or a product that contains a preferred ratio of both drugs. It is recommended to start with a the range of 1-2.g mg of THC and then adjusting the dose according to personal tolerance levels.
Most experts suggest that in order to benefit from the entourage effect, it will be beneficial to try products that contain different strains of cannabis compounds in them. For example, gummies like Kiva’s Camino Midnight Blueberry contain THC and CBN. It is being investigated further by researchers for its effectiveness on regulating sleep patterns.
Marijuana Coalition Plans to Legalize Interstate Cannabis Trade
Within the United States, marijuana is illegal at the federal level. Inside the limits of the states however, its status differs according to the policies of local governments. In a recent policy changing move, marijuana advocates have announced a plan to legalize interstate trade of cannabis. The proposed policies will be applicable on all states, irrespective of the legal status of marijuana therein. The affiliation is going to be a first legislative attempt that will initiate the legalization of marijuana trade between state lines.
Alliance for Sensible Markets has initiated this very unconventional campaign with the aim to form an interstate unison that is recognized constitutionally. Other prominent supporters of the campaign include MCBA, Craft Cannabis Alliance, Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce and 52 other organizations.
Whether or not the proposed plan would be presented as an exclusive legislation in the Congress or attached to a broader bill as an amendment, remains undecided as of yet.
Growth prospects if the campaign succeeds
Advocates are trying to get at least two states to support the stance of the campaign. If they are successful in doing so, the prospect would be placed in the Congress for review by lawmakers. California and Oregon are the two most favored states by the campaign. This is mainly because the physical environment of these states allows them to produce the drug on a large scale.
Oregon already appears to be on board as Governor Kate Brown had approved a similar legislation earlier in June. The legislation has positioned the state for the import and export of marijuana with states that consider the drug legal. Following the policy changes, Oregon has formed an interstate commerce affliation with California, Nevada and Washington.
These changes were implemented because the state was producing surplus marijuana. This had forced businesses to drive down their prices, putting pressure on the local businesses. The new policies have allowed Oregon to redirect their production surplus into surrounding states. In addition, it has also allowed businesses to maintain their prices at a profitable level, rewarding the owners.
Interstate commerce would do the same for all producer and consumer states on a larger scale if they enter into the coalition. “With this policy change, immediately across producer states, you will see valuations for thousands of farms and businesses increased by multiples, which will spur an immediate wave of investment expansion and job creation. On the east coast in the consumer states, legalizing cannabis with interstate commerce, will mean that they can get industries up and running and stable in six-to-18 months, rather than three years or five years or seven years, spurring an immediate wave of investment, business formation and tens of thousands of jobs just when the states need them. We are looking to partner with the governors and be their partners in economic recovery.” said Adam Smith, founder and president of the Alliance for Sensible Markets.
Politicians supporting the proposed policy
The present federal law of United States prohibits the transport or trade of cannabis across states. This has created an environment of confusion for users and businesses alike.
Supporters argue that a policy to legalize interstate cannabis trade will help thousands of small businesses. In addition to this, it will also set a framework for a more diverse and equitable industry. Industries regulated and controlled by the state are prone to monopolization. Contrary to this, the new policy changes will promote more diversification in the industry.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) have shown their support for this interstate legalization. The legislators have already presented a bill to import and export marijuana between states that consider it legal. An added clause prohibits the interference of the Justice Department in cannabis activities of states.
“As more and more states legalize cannabis, the gap between state and federal laws will only grow more confusing for both legal businesses and consumers,” said Wyden in press release. “The solution is clear: the federal government needs to end its senseless and out of touch prohibition.”
Governors in the Northeast have also conducted a recent summit on adopting a coordinated marijuana legalization plan. With this unique proposal to legalize interstate cannabis trade, these states can also become part of this change with their own set of policy reforms.
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