Ten amazing current cannabis studies
Amazing The political discussion around cannabis keeps returning to the results of studies. Now that the opponents of cannabis are faced with the positive experiences in many US states, Uruguay and Canada, their arguments are petering out, so instead, they have begun referring to what they claim is a lack of results from studies on cannabis. So far...
The fault lies with those who refused to approve such studies for years, and who ensured that by means of this tactic and others, Germany’s largest manufacturer of plant-based medicines moved its research on medicinal cannabis over the border, to Austria. The same powers that are now speaking out against the legalisation of cannabis are those who for years have blocked any large and meaningful studies taking place on either medicinal or “recreational” cannabis. The latest examples of this were the 2016 rejection of the Coffee shop model trial in Berlin and the refusal of the Federal Ministry of Health to evaluate the data of several hundred cannabis patients, as they had offered to do many years ago. And you are paranoid if you think this is deliberate. Some of the studies quoted here can be found at drugcom.de, the German federal government’s information site. As such, most of the most recent studies on cannabis quoted here are therefore not from Germany. Instead, they come from the US, Canada or Israel. In Germany, researchers are currently mainly allowed to devote themselves to mini-studies that examine at rather narrow issues.
At the end of 2015, the University of Düsseldorf published the “Riding a bicycle when high study”, which made headlines in early 2016 across Germany. The head of the study, Dr Benno Hartung, a scientist at the University of Düsseldorf, sent 14 people out onto a cycle track before and after consuming one, two then three joints, to see how well they could ride under the influence of cannabis. All 14 of them were regular consumers of cannabis who claimed to consume between one gram per week and one gram per day. The participants smoked a total of 38 Bedrocan joints during the tests, and after each joint, they had to go around the track one more time. The scientists’ evaluation showed no changes in the way they rode the bikes. They pedalled their way around the track after one, two or three joints just as well as they did at the start. Because the study is not significant due to the small number of participants, Dr Hartung warns against any over-interpretation of the results. Traffic experts have criticised the fact that it was far too difficult to obtain support in Germany for studies into the effects of illegal substances on road traffic.
In Colorado, according to a publication by the local Department of Health, the number of high school students who have consumed cannabis within the last 30 days is falling. In 2011, 22% of students had consumed cannabis within the last month, but in 2015, two years after its decriminalisation, this figure had dropped to 21.2%. In the rest of the United States, the so-called 30-day prevalence among young people has risen slightly and now stands at 22%. “The survey shows that cannabis use has not risen since legalisation, because four out of five young people do not use it even occasionally,” the Department of Health commented on the latest figures.
It also seems that type of school plays a part in who smokes the occasional joint or not. In 2016, the Hamburg Office for Prevention of Addiction carried out a survey of teachers on the use of addictive substances in schools close to the Dutch border. “The lower Rhine is especially interesting for our study, because the drugs policy in the neighbouring Netherlands regarding hashish and cannabis is relatively liberal,” explained the head of the project, Mr Baumgärtner. But young people in the region that borders the Netherlands do not smoke joints any more or less than the those in the rest of the country. The study concluded that there was no discernible increase in consumption. “Cannabis is present everywhere and has nothing to do with where you live.” On the other hand, the study did find a connection between consumption of drugs and type of school. “We know that pupils at academic schools often consume more drugs than pupils at other types of schools,” says Baumgärtner. This is not a common perception; after all, popular opinion is that it is the lower social classes that are more likely to resort to drugs.
I have already published a detailed blog article about this. One study had found that regular cannabis use can cause early changes in the development of the brain in male adolescents, which can affect the cortical thickness of the cerebral cortex. The authors of the latest study, which was published at the beginning of August 2015, state that “there is no connection between cannabis use in young people and psychoses, cancer or other health issues.” Whether and to what extent the development of the cerebral cortex is linked to the development of schizophrenia is also disputed by scientists. In 2016, this insight was even accepted on drugcom.de:
“According to current studies, cannabis appears not to fundamentally damage the brain. At least, a comparison between identical twins, one of whom uses cannabis and the other does not, did not reveal any differences between their brains. A further study did, however, find that smoking cannabis can, under certain conditions, have an effect on the brain’s development. This apparently only affects male adolescents who have a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia. Whether these young people actually increase their risk of psychosis by smoking cannabis is still not clear. But it has been established that we cannot rule out an effect on the brain’s development.”
In the UK, they wanted to test whether, and to what extent, the effects of cannabis differ between adolescents aged 15-17, and adults. The results were surprising: Adults got stoned more quickly than the younger test subjects. Additionally, adolescents tend to be more prone to a problematic pattern of consumption. This study also confirms that the greatest problems arise with cannabis use if young people consume it at too young an age and too much.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia documented the potential of cannabis as a withdrawal drug. “The results of the study show clearly that cannabis can be used as a withdrawal drug for substances with much more damaging effects and can help reduce the consumption of painkillers containing opioids.” The head of this study and his colleagues concluded that substitution patients use cannabis to reduce pain and to help with psychological stability.
Researchers in the US have established a link between a person’s body mass index (BMI) and regular cannabis use. Despite the so-called munchies, cannabis users seldom have problems with their weight. Scientists suspect that this effect is linked to the blood sugar reducing properties of cannabis. The latest study about
also relates to this. By activating cannabinoid receptor 2, mice were better able to metabolise insulin they were dosed. The CB2 receptor is responsible for the absorption and effect of naturally occurring and externally supplied cannabinoids such as Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Researchers see the CB2 receptor as a promising target for therapeutic developments to tackle insulin resistance and obesity-related diabetes. In an older study in 2013, researchers identified better blood sugar values in cannabis users than in non-users. Subjects in the study who regularly smoked cannabis had values 16% lower than subjects who had never consumed cannabis. In addition, they were less at risk of becoming insulin resistant, and had more “good” HDL cholesterol in their blood.
A new study comparing the effects of alcohol and cannabis use has now demonstrated scientifically what most people knew already: cannabis reduces your potential for aggression.
Of 61 people with an average age of 22, 20 drank up to 50 glasses of alcoholic drinks per week. 20 people regularly consumed cannabis, while 21 abstainers formed the control group. While performing various tests, the people in the alcohol group tended more towards aggressive responses, while the cannabis lovers reduced their potential for aggression as their consumption increased.
Based on a survey of a representative sample, the study on “The effect of cannabis on sick leave” proclaimed that the number of absences due to sickness fell following the legalisation of medicinal cannabis.
This effect in US states with liberal regimes for medicinal cannabis is strongest among full-time, male, middle-aged employees who form the largest group of cannabis patients.
This is just a small selection of current studies on cannabis. In the areas of cancer, Alzheimer’s and epilepsy research, there are also new, highly promising research results to be found. NORML Director Paul said back in 2010 that cannabis was one of the best researched substances and pointed in this context to the more than 20,000 studies and scientific works on cannabis and cannabinoids that already existed seven years ago.
This statement is underlined by a newly published book, that for the first time brings together in a clear form the research results from around the world on medicinal cannabis. “The health effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids” was published by the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. A bound version of the book is on sale, but it can be downloaded free of charge as a PDF document. Given the new law on medicinal cannabis, this 440 page work belongs in every medical practice in Germany and beyond.