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Weekly Medicinal Cannabis Research Wrap – 24/06/2020

Medical Cannabis showing benefits in seniors as an alternative to opioids

It is well established that as humans age, the incidence of contracting a chronic disease rises sharply. In the United States the majority of patients with chronic health conditions are over 65 with 80% of these older adults having one chronic condition and approximately 50% reporting a diagnosis of two or more. These conditions include, but are not limited to; chronic arthritis, chronic headaches and spine pain. A recent study at the DENT Neurologic Institute in the United States focused on 204 patients between the ages of 75 and 102, all with chronic diseases. These individuals are looking for alternatives to opioids, which are the current norm for the treatment of chronic pain.

CBD is generally considered the part of the cannabis plant that provides the most therapeutic benefits, however this study found that a 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD provided the most beneficial treatment ratios with the least amount of side effects. About 70% of study participants reported notable increases in their quality of life, with more than 30% able to stop taking their opioid based painkillers completely. The results of this study suggest that THC plays a much bigger role in producing beneficial medical relief than what was previous thought.

The idea that THC could be beneficial when used in conjunction with CBD is a scary thought for many, as THC is the component of the plant that produces its stigmatised psychoactive effect. Ultimately though, this isn’t about elderly people getting high or wanting an escape. This is about elderly people seeking a better quality of life, which this study suggests medicinal cannabis can do.

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CBD shows promise as an alternative treatment for depression

Current medication for the treatment of depression tends to have significant lag times from first dose to notable improvement in the patient’s condition. These lag times could be anywhere from weeks to months depending on the medication. A study (1) published by researchers from the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil and Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark suggest CBD could provide a treatment for depression with a significantly lower lag time than current conventional medication. The study tested CBD on male rodents. The aim of the study was to investigate whether CBD could provide rapid and sustained antidepressant effects after a single dose and determine the cause of these beneficial effects.

The results of the study showed that CBD helped the mice and rats experience notable antidepressant effects, caused by increased protein levels in their prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. In simple terms, the study showed that under the influence of a single dose of CBD the mice exhibited significantly less behavioural despair when put through certain tests aimed to increase stress and despair.

This study is extremely significant for the progression of the treatment methods of depression. This is mainly due to the substantial lag time of conventional treatment options, but also due to the large number of listed side effects that come with them, which include nausea, insomnia, fatigue and increased appetite and weight gain along with many others.

1 - Sales, A.J., Fogaça, M.V., Sartim, A.G. et al. Cannabidiol Induces Rapid and Sustained Antidepressant-Like Effects Through Increased BDNF Signaling and Synaptogenesis in the Prefrontal Cortex. Mol Neurobiol 56, 1070–1081 (2019).

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Genetics can reveal your risk of psychosis when taking THC

One of the biggest barriers to the use of THC to treat various medical conditions and ailments is the potential for negative effects on the mental health of the patients. Some widely perceived short-term effects of using THC include short-term memory problems and severe anxiety with some people showing long term risks of developing schizophrenia.

However, it is important to understand that THC is metabolised differently in everybody depending on their genetic composition. While some users may experience a wide spectrum of these side effects, others may experience none at all. Simply put, THC isn’t for everyone, but putting a blanket on its use by everyone is detrimental to the potential benefits that it can provide for the right person.

A Toronto based company, Lobo Genetics, is investigating possible genetic markers that can predict the risks of experiencing the different negative side effects associated with using THC. Using a simple cheek swab, Lobo Genetics is able to examine how three specific genes effect the way a patient’s body will interact with THC. The ability to predict how a patient will respond to the use of THC medically is potentially a huge breakthrough that would help physicians to be sure that the beneficial effects of the treatment will not be outweighed by the potential detrimental side effects.

While the studies carried out by Lobo Genetics are based on a very small number of subjects and larger studies are needed to show conclusive results, the potential for this type of testing to prevent prescription of THC to patients with unsuitable genetic structure is extremely promising. Eventually, as more tests are carried out much more accurate predictions can be made, and this will prove beneficial to not only medical users, but recreational as well.

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