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Exposure to Marijuana during pregnancy linked to mental disorders in children

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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.”

 

 

 

A graduate in Bachelors of Business Administration, Yumna Haq is an ardent researcher and a dedicated writer. Having lived in three different counties, her cultural exposure is vast, allowing her to reflect more knowledge in her work. She's currently working for Cannabis Health Insider as a news writer.

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Medical Cannabis the cure for UK’s chronic pain issue

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One of the major issues of NHS right now is dealing with chronic pain patients. A recent study done by The British Pain Society disclosed that about 40 percent of the UK’s population suffers from chronic pain. This translates to about 26 million people that have been suffering from a pain that has lasted for longer than three months. It is about time the UK looks into its policy on Medical Cannabis.

Studies suggest that this percentage will only rise in the future. NHS is looking at about 60 percent of people suffering from chronic pain above the age of 75. The majority of the patients suffering from these issues just go from one prescription drug to the other with no favorable benefits. There are approximately 4.6 million appointments each year for this issue only. This issue also uses some of the major resources at NHS with about £69m in yearly cost.

The common treatment often directs patients to opioid painkillers. This is also an important issue. According to Public Health England, the UK has a dangerous growth rate in opioid use. The prescriptions are rising by 22% over the past decade. There are about 40 million prescriptions a year which shows how serious this issue is getting. NHS does prohibit patients from the consumption of opioid drugs as they can be addictive. In addition, they are looking for alternatives to opioid drugs.

One such alternative is the medical use of cannabis. UK law was amended in November 2018 to allow specialist doctors to prescribe a range of cannabis-based medicines to patients. Besides the law, there are very few instances of the use of medicinal treatments using cannabis. This is probably because of the complexities that exist in the process as well as the lack of study on the topic. A 2019 metric suggested that about 1.4 million people in the UK regularly use cannabis illegally for medicinal purposes. If the UK does legalize the treatment it can help a lot of people around the country.

Source: uofmhealth.org

Medical Cannabis, the alternative:

The UK’s pain problem has about 540,000 people nationwide addicted to opioids. With the percentage rising every year there is a dire need for THC-based alternatives. We currently need analgesics that are non-addictive and non-toxic at the same time. Interestingly, evidence from clinical trials showed the therapeutic benefits of medical cannabis. The cannabinoids have shown reducing effects on the neuropathic pain intensity in various studies until now

Take the US for example, the US government has made the medicinal use of cannabis legal for a while now. Consequently, the prescriptions for opioids and anti-depressants have dropped by around 30% in the country. Not only that the medical cannabis legalization and prescription have helped in reducing about 31% of deaths linked to opioids each year. Further analysis also shows that with the new laws in place the opioid prescriptions fell by 2.21 million daily doses filled per year.

All these metrics provide one simple piece of information, Cannabis-based alternatives have far more advantages when compared to conventional drugs. We have seen from the example of how America benefited from the legalization. Since it is a major issue in the UK as well, the government can’t put it aside for long.

The UK currently exports cannabis-based medicines to 48 countries worldwide where medical cannabis is legal. The country itself has only three cannabis medicines that are licensed for use after extensive clinical trials. Uk is still falling behind on Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) in the country which is an important step in legalization. However, those are expected to happen by 2021.

Consequently, as the chronic pain problem grows in the UK, we can expect NHS doctors to call for a change sooner or later.  They can not just continue to deny the patients proper cure because of the missing legal framework in the country. Hopefully, we will see a change in the system after proper research in the field.

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Is it time for Japan to legalize cannabis?

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Cannabis in Japan is stigmatized with the illegal status. Advocates are now stressing for a change in attitudes.

Cannabis has been illegal in Japan since 1948.

Under the current legislations defined by the Cannabis Control Law, its use and possession can be punished with five years of imprisonment on top of heavy financial penalties. In addition, anyone found involved in the cultivation, sale or transport of the drug can land in jail for about 7 to 10 years and made liable to pay a hefty fine to authorities.

These stringent policies have led to a lot of stigmatization of cannabis in Japan. According to some legalization advocates in the country, this stigma is so strong that it can be analogous to pillory surrounding criminals.

This criminalization of the plant has led to a complete shift in social attitudes towards it. Therefore, in order to bring about policy reforms in the industry, many advocates consider raising public awareness about the drug as the most vital course of action.

History of cannabis use in Japan

A historical review of cannabis use in Japan reveals that it was cultivated in the region since the pre-Neolithic period. This means that it was associated with the culture of the region since thousands of years.

If that period seems too ancient to consider, data from 1954 can be far more convincing. According to statistics reported in Medical Cannabis Network Quarterly, there were about 37,313 hemp farmers in Japan in 1954, compared to barely 37 in 2016.

Therefore, it can be established that cannabis was a popular agricultural product in the country back in the day.

Before its US influenced legal ban in 1948, the plant was widely used in the country. It was also considered sacred. The followers of the Shinto religious tradition believed that cannabis had the power of purification. They also respected it as a symbol of the sun, the inspiration for the Japanese flag.

In addition to this, cannabis was widely used in producing fiber and various other products. According to Junichiro Takayasu, director of Japan’s only cannabis museum, “The cannabis-fiber weaving technique used by Japanese craftsmen is very conscientious handwork, and I think it is important to carry on the tradition. The clothes from genuine cannabis fiber are cool in summer and warm in the winter, which is perfect for the Japanese climate.”

Struggling for cannabis acceptance and legalization

Despite of the strict laws surrounding the cannabis industry, groups of legalization advocates are emerging in the country. Green Zone Japan and Japanese Clinical Association of Cannabinoids are among the most prominent names that are striving to secure a legal status for cannabis in the country.

 Aim of Green Zone Japan

Green Zone Japan is a medical cannabis advocacy group that came into being in 2017. The main aim of the founders Naoko Miki and Yuji Masakata is to bring up to date medical cannabis information to Japanese medical professionals and the general public in order to educate them on the subject.

In a recent move towards its legalizing efforts, Green Zone is adding subtitles to a documentary called CBD Nation. The documentary will be virtually screened for members all year long for maximum viewership.

Aim of Japanese Clinical Association of Cannabinoids

Japanese Clinical Association of Cannabinoids is the official partner of the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines. It was established in 2015 to aid healthcare workers in conducting cannabinoid researches in Japan.

They are working to analyze and evaluate CBD clinical researches and the effects of foods infused with it.

Businesses using cannabis derivative, CBD

The lack of awareness about therapeutic benefits of CBD and the stringent laws have negatively affected businesses in the country.

It was among the most important agricultural crops when a complete ban was placed on it. The resulting outrage and disapproval by the most hard hit farmers forced the government to revise the laws. What we see today is the “revised” version due to the retaliation.

Today, cultivation of hemp is still possible, but under the strict control of the government. Growers have to obtain a cultivation license and permission before they can begin plantation. The bureaucratic process for obtaining and maintaining a license is so long and tiresome that agricultures are discouraged.

Despite of this, Japan is advancing small steps towards cannabis normalization. Entrepreneurs like Kota Shimomura, owner of CBD Coffee in Tokyo’s Meguro Ward, are giving new business ideas and clientele to the cannabis industry. Due to the increasing demand, he believes that the CBD market will surpass tobacco in the nest five years. He is also planning to open a second location in Shinjuku by the end of this year.

Then there is another line of beauty products launched by Priyanka Yoshikawa, a model and former Miss World Japan. “I wanted to have my own skin care line for a long time. And I saw that no one was really doing a good, CBD-based skin care line.” She also believes that CBD will provide the much needed relief to the workaholic population of Japan. It will allow them some “relaxation and one-on-one time”.

This industry is expected to bring in a lot of job opportunities for it agricultural revival. According to Masakata, a neurologist by profession and volunteer at Green Zone, this revival will bring young people to come back to the countryside.

 

 

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Looking at Hemp and Marijuana through a law maker’s lens

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Hemp and marijuana belong to the same plant family, but there are key differences

Hemp and marijuana (cannabis) are cousins that belong to the same plant family. Although they are often mistaken as two distinct species, reality is that both of them stem from the same Cannabis plant.

Their key difference emanates from their varied THC concentration levels. Both hemp and marijuana can produce high levels of CBD, but THC levels can be distinctive, giving each plant its unique set of therapeutic qualities.

The uniqueness of properties also differentiates them in the eyes of law-makers. While hemp and its derivatives are largely legal throughout the United States, marijuana still has a long way to go. Its tendency to intoxicate has categorized it as a Schedule 1 drug. Whether or not this is fair is a separate debate which you can read here.

So why does marijuana intoxicate users, while hemp does not? Lets dig in to the reasons.

THC – The psychoactive compound

THC is a psychoactive compound that is found in cannabis, meaning that it is present in both hemp and marijuana. The key difference – it is more abundant in marijuana and sparse in hemp.

It can bind directly with the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain, allowing it to react efficiently with the endocannabinoid system of the body.

According to research THC’s chemical structure is very similar to anandamide, a brain chemical that influences pleasure, memory, movement, coordination and perception.

Having a similar structure with a chemical that already exists in the brain allows THC to be easily recognized by the body. This gives it an edge in acting through the cannabinoid receptors, allowing it to activate the brain’s reward system.

These reward stimuli lead to the expression of dopamine – a neurotransmitter and feel good hormone of the body. THC not only stimulates its production, but the levels it expresses are notably higher than what the body would naturally produce in response to a similar stimuli.

As a result of this over-expression, THC leads to the euphoric high in its users. Due to this, THC poses a substantial likelihood of addiction among its users.

Hemp VS Marijuana – who has a higher THC concentration?

Having understood the psychological impact of THC, it will now be easier to contemplate the difference in the legal statuses of hemp and marijuana.

Hemp and Hemp Seeds

The hemp plant is capable of producing a wide range of cannabinoids including THC and CBD. What’s unique about THC produced by hemp is that the concentration levels of the compound are not high enough for inflicting intoxicating effects. Due to this hemp and its derivatives are legally accepted in all 50 states of USA.

By definition, hemp is classified as a cannabis plant that does not contain more than 0.3% THC in the United States. This threshold for legality varies between countries. For instance it is 0.2% in the European Union and zero in Great Britain.

Hemp seeds have been used for a number of purposes for the past many years. Due to their nutritional properties, hemp infused products are found in alternative health clinics as well as health food stores. They have been in use particularly due their anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and calming properties.

In addition to this, hemp seeds and oil also improve heart health and aid in rejuvenation of skin, bones and muscles by providing protein. Moreover, they help with hormones, boost brain health, relieve pain and improve digestion.

Marijuana and marijuana seeds

The marijuana plant is classified as a cannabis strain that contains more than 0.3% THC. The seeds of these plants are generally more expensive and the plants require some exclusive care measures.

Not only do marijuana seeds need to be grown in controlled settings, but their growth cycle is significantly shorter. While it is 108-120 days for hemp, marijuana seeds take about 60-90 days. Medical marijuana has to be grown with extra caution with proper spacing between each plant.

While hemp is used in a number of industries, marijuana is solely grown for medicinal and recreational uses.

Can they be grown together?

Although hemp and marijuana look very similar to each other, they cannot be grown together. It is highly possible for the pollen from hemp to dilute marijuana’s psychoactivity, ruining both crops.

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