Is All Cannabis Use Self-Medication?

By Susan Boskey

Recently I was invited to be on a panel about cannabis use for seniors. In an email exchange with one of the organizers I asked, “Are you referring to recreational or medicinal use?” The response I received back was unexpected. She said, “I see no reason to treat medical and recreational differently. Everyone is using cannabis for medicine whether they realize it or not.”

Really? I have been pondering her response ever since. Seems like this concept has gained traction as a cannabis-culture meme.

First of all, I think her response has something to do with the fact of living in Washington State where both adult-use and medical are legal. What I mean is . . . probably in the 10 states and DC that have legality for both, more people use cannabis than in medical-only states. That’s pretty obvious.

But what’s not so obvious, to me, anyway, is the thought that ALL of these users are using cannabis in an attempt to get better in their own way. That would include those using cannabis products containing an extremely high percentage of THC, say 15+ percent and smoking/using it several times a day and others who go ‘blotto’ to the extent of becoming non-functional on a regular basis.

Self-medicating? Interesting but I’m not so sure it’s true.

I guess it depends on how you define self-medicating. The online Cambridge Dictionary defines it as: “to take medicine or drugs to help you with a condition without asking a doctor”

If someone determines to help a condition they experience by using cannabis, wouldn’t they also want to learn the best ways to use it to accomplish that?

If they don’t have a conscious intent to use cannabis to help their health and wellbeing and consistently use more than necessary to do so, is that an act of medication or potential self-destruction?

Do we give unconscious use of cannabis a high-five pass because it’s cannabis whereas we might not if it were alcohol?

Where do addictive personality traits enter the conversation?

Is the blank-check assertion of self-medication instead cover for denial? Here are some indicators of possible cannabis addiction:

  1. Tolerance and withdrawal
  2. Using more than intended
  3. Unable to cut down or stop use
  4. Lots of time spent getting high
  5. Reduced activities
  6. Continuing to get high despite the problems it causes
  7. Using it to escape from problems
  8. Depending on it to be creative or to relax or enjoy yourself
  9. Choosing relationships and activities based on whether or not you will be able to get high
  10. An inability to attend to daily responsibilities [1]

I have more questions than answers at this point. But what I know for certain is that cannabis is an amazing and beneficial plant and that I am committed to learning and sharing its whole story. In my world every story has at least two sides. Methinks those who paint something as being all one way, may possibly have something to gain by doing so.


Susan is a Certified Cannabis Practitioner and graduate of the Holistic Cannabis Academy with over 45 years of personal involvement in the spectrum of wellness modalities. Her mission today is to intervene in the noise of modern life and help her clients identify and remove stressors that trigger their dis-ease. She personalizes care plans regarding the best cannabis strain, dose and delivery system to address her client’s issue. As a non-physician coach Susan enjoys the added flexibility of also providing protocols for simple lifestyle changes to accelerate the healing process. Visit her website: LifestyleWellnessRx.com 

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Mount Sinai Study Finds CBD Treats Opioid Addiction By Reducing Cravings and Anxiety

Mount Sinai study finds CBD is effective at treating opioid addiction by reducing cravings and anxiety without harmful side effects

Cannabidiol (CBD) reduced cue-induced craving and anxiety in individuals with a history of heroin abuse, suggesting a potential role for it in helping to break the cycle of addiction, according to research conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and published May 21 in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

The study also revealed that CBD tended to reduce physiological measures of stress reactivity, such as increased heart rate and cortisol levels, that are induced by drug cues.

The wide availability and use of heroin and prescription opioid medications in the United States during the past decade has resulted in an unprecedented epidemic involving more than 300,000 deaths. Despite this staggering toll, limited non-opioid medication options have been developed. Two of the current options, methadone and buprenorphine, are opioid substitution therapies which work on the same opioid receptors (mu receptors) as heroin and other potent opioid agonists.

These medications, however, carry a stigma as well as their own addiction risk, are mired in tight governmental regulation, and therefore are underutilized by the millions of people diagnosed with opioid use disorder. Such a treatment gap highlights the urgent need to develop novel therapeutic strategies that do not target the mu opioid receptor.

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“To address the critical need for new treatment options for the millions of people and families who are being devastated by this epidemic, we initiated a study to assess the potential of a non-intoxicating cannabinoid on craving and anxiety in heroin-addicted individuals,” says Yasmin Hurd, PhD, the Ward-Coleman Chair of Translational Neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Director of the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai and first author of the study. “The specific effects of CBD on cue-induced drug craving and anxiety are particularly important in the development of addiction therapeutics because environmental cues are one of the strongest triggers for relapse and continued drug use.”

Previous preclinical work conducted by Dr. Hurd and her lab team at Mount Sinai, in animals with a history of heroin self-administration, demonstrated that CBD reduced the animals’ tendency to use heroin in response to a drug-associated cue. To determine whether the preclinical work could be translated to humans, her lab then conducted a series of clinical studies that demonstrated CBD was safe and tolerable in humans.

The current study used a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled design to explore the acute (one hour, two hours, and 24 hours), short-term (three consecutive days), and protracted (seven days after the last of three consecutive daily administrations) effects of CBD administration on drug cue-induced craving and anxiety in drug-abstinent individuals with heroin use disorder. Secondary measures assessed participants’ positive and negative affect, cognition, and physiological status.

Through the study, 42 drug-abstinent men and women were randomly assigned to receive either 400 mg or 800 mg of an oral CBD solution or a matching placebo. Participants were then exposed to neutral and drug-related cues during the course of three sessions: immediately following administration, 24 hours after CBD or placebo administration, and seven days after the third and final daily CBD or placebo administration. Neutral cues consisted of a three-minute video showing relaxing scenarios, such as scenes of nature, while drug-related cues included a three-minute video showing intravenous or intranasal drug use and exposure to heroin-related paraphernalia like syringes, rubber ties, and packets of powder resembling heroin. Measures of opioid craving, anxiety, positive and negative affect, and vital signs (skin temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and oxygen saturation) were obtained at different times during the sessions.

The study team found that CBD, in contrast to placebo, significantly reduced both the craving and anxiety induced by drug cues compared with neutral cues in the acute term. CBD also showed significant protracted effects on these measures seven days after the final short-term exposure. In addition, CBD reduced the drug cue-induced physiological measures of heart rate and salivary cortisol levels. There were no significant effects on cognition, and there were no serious adverse events. The capacity of CBD to reduce craving and anxiety one week after the final administration mirrors the results of the original preclinical animal study, suggesting that the effects of CBD are long-lasting, even when the cannabinoid would not be expected to be present in the body.

Our findings indicate that CBD holds significant promise for treating individuals with heroin use disorder,” says Dr. Hurd. “A successful non-opioid medication would add significantly to the existing addiction medication toolbox to help reduce the growing death toll, enormous health care costs, and treatment limitations imposed by stringent government regulations amid this persistent opioid epidemic.”

Dr. Hurd’s research team is working on two follow-up studies: one delves into understanding the mechanisms of CBD’s effects on the brain; the second paves the way for the development of unique CBD medicinal formulations that are likely to become a significant part of the medical arsenal available to address the opioid epidemic.

Article published by Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

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Multiple Studies Show That Alcohol Is The Real “Gateway Drug” For Teens

By John Vibes

According to a series of studies that have been conducted by researchers at the University of Florida over the past several years, alcohol is the real “gateway drug” for teens in the United States. This research finally gives some scientific opposition to the popular myth that cannabis is a gateway drug for young people, that supposedly leads them towards more dangerous drugs like meth or heroin.

The first study was conducted in 2012 and was titled, “Alcohol as a Gateway Drug: A Study of US 12th Graders.” In this study, researchers examined surveys of high school students to determine their interest in specific drugs and see how they got involved in the lifestyle. The results showed that a vast majority of the teens tried alcohol before anything else, and that alcohol was the drug that was causing the most trouble for young people.

“The findings from this investigation support that alcohol should receive primary attention in school‐based substance abuse prevention programming, as the use of other substances could be impacted by delaying or preventing alcohol use,” the study concluded.

The second study, which expanded upon these findings was titled “Prioritizing Alcohol Prevention: Establishing Alcohol as the Gateway Drug and Linking Age of First Drink With Illicit Drug Use.”

This new study picked up right where the conclusion of the previous research left off, by seeking to show that an increased focus on the dangers of alcohol in drug education programs would reduce the likelihood that a teenager would start down a path of drug addiction.

The researchers concluded that “Alcohol is the most commonly used substance, and the majority of polysubstance-using respondents consumed alcohol prior to tobacco or marijuana initiation. Respondents initiating alcohol use in sixth grade reported significantly greater lifetime illicit substance use (M = 1.9, standard deviation [SD] = 1.7, p < .001) and more frequent illicit substance use (M = 6.0, SD = 6.5, p < .001) than those initiating alcohol use in ninth grade or later. Overall, effect sizes for these differences were large (eta squared = 0.30 and 0.28, respectively).”

According to the study’s co-author, Adam E. Barry, the later in life that a person consumes alcohol, the less likely they are to abuse drugs. Also, it seems that in most cases, alcohol and tobacco use comes earlier in life than the use of marijuana.

“By delaying the onset of alcohol initiation, rates of both licit substance abuse like tobacco and illicit substance use like marijuana and other drugs will be positively affected, and they’ll hopefully go down,”  Barry said in an interview with Raw Story after the first study.

Barry said that his studies were intended to correct some of the propaganda that has infected American culture since the Reefer Madness era.

“Some of these earlier iterations needed to be fleshed out, that’s why we wanted to study this. The latest form of the gateway theory is that it begins with [marijuana] and moves on finally to what laypeople often call ‘harder drugs.’ As you can see from the findings of our study, it confirmed this gateway hypothesis, but it follows progression from licit substances, specifically alcohol, and moves on to illicit substances,” Barry said.

“So, basically, if we know what someone says with regards to their alcohol use, then we should be able to predict what they respond to with other [drugs]. Another way to say it is, if we know someone has done [the least prevalent drug] heroin, then we can assume they have tried all the others. I think [these results] have to do with level of access children have to alcohol, and that alcohol is viewed as less harmful than some of these other substances,” Barry added.

Is alcohol the real gateway drug for teenagers? One recovered addict thinks so. Hear more from him tonight on News 2 at 6. #TeensAndDrugs http://bit.ly/2wfhXzC

Posted by WKRN-TV Nashville on Thursday, September 28, 2017

It is important to note that in the conclusion of the most recent study, the researchers also seem to advocate for drug testing teenagers and even elementary school students.

“Findings underscore the importance of screening for substance use, even among youth enrolled in elementary/middle school. In addition, school prevention programs should begin in elementary school (third grade) and target alcohol use,” the text of the study said.

While this research is certainly informative, the very idea of a “gateway drug” could be entirely flawed to begin with. Perhaps our society has a “gateway drug effect” because we have a very rudimentary and immature perspective on drugs. As we grow, we are taught that “drugs are bad” and to “stay away from drugs,” which gives the impression that all drugs are on equal ground in terms of danger and physical harm.

Obviously, this is not the case, some drugs are very safe while others are very harmful. To make matters even more confusing, illegal drugs are often less harmful than the legal ones. Perhaps it is this mentality that creates the “gateway drug effect.” According to David Nutt’s breakthrough study “Development of a rational scale to assess the harm of drugs of potential misuse,” alcohol is more dangerous than crack or heroin, while psychedelics and cannabis are some of the safest psychoactive substances in popular use.

researchgate.net / David Nutt


IMAGE CREDIT: lacamerachiara

John Vibes is an author and journalist who takes a special interest in the counter culture, and focuses solutions-oriented approaches to social problems. He is also a host of The Free Your Mind Conference and The Free Thought Project Podcast. Read More stories by John Vibes

This article was sourced from Truth Theory.

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April is National Alcohol Awareness Month — Time for Education and Action about Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism


By Arjun Walia

April is National Alcohol Awareness Month, and the first weekend in April is Alcohol Free Weekend. This is a campaign to inform and change social norms about drinking.

Every day hundreds of Americans die because of alcohol abuse and alcoholism, and thousands more are admitted into hospitals, psychiatric facilities, or jails and prison. Alcohol places thousands more at risk for divorce, unemployment, bankruptcy, and physical and emotional problems such as depression. Because it affects so many people, alcoholism is considered the number one public health problem in America – even surpassing cancer and heart disease, and is the third leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.

Alcohol Awareness Month

Alcohol Awareness Month (AAM) is a national grassroots effort that was started by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence in 1987, and it quickly spread throughout the country. AAM highlights the need to support education, prevention and treatment for alcoholism and alcohol-related problems. It is an opportunity for families and communities, together, to educate themselves about the critical issues of alcohol abuse and alcoholism, and reach out and educate their children on the reasons to stay alcohol free.

Alcoholism is a disease that affects children, families and communities across the nation. In fact, most people know someone who has been affected by this disease as over half of all adults have a family history of alcoholism or alcohol problems. In this regard, alcoholism does not just affect the alcoholic but others around, and therefore it is also called a family disease.

Alcohol is a toxic and addictive drug. Each year there are well over 88,000 deaths because of alcohol, and according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), there may be as many as 15.1 million individuals with an alcohol problem or alcoholism in the United States. Alcoholism was, is, and remains one of the most pervasive and tragic diseases affecting society.

Alcohol Free Weekend

Alcohol Free Weekend is a special opportunity for parents to teach about alcohol in their homes. For at least one weekend each year people are saying that America does not need to rely on alcohol for pleasure or pastime. This also gives parents opportunity to further reflect upon the dangers and consequences of drinking with their children.

Prevention is the Best Policy

Although it is among the nation’s most deadly diseases, alcoholism is preventable. Each year AAM offers an opportunity to work in a unified effort to raise awareness about the negative consequences of drinking and to do something about it. It also asks families to look at the level of emotional pain that alcohol has caused in their lives and encourages adults to talk about alcoholism with spouses, children, and friends.

The best prevention is to help send the message to youth that one does not need to drink in order to enjoy leisure activities and have a fulfilling and healthy life. In fact, at least 34 percent of Americans do not drink at all.

Referral Information

AAM also encourages individuals with an alcohol problem to seek treatment. Help is only a telephone call away. If a person believes that he or she or a family member may have an alcohol problem or if one is hurting or in emotional pain because of alcohol, it is best to contact a local treatment agency or call the national referral helpline operated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 1-800-662-HELP.

Sources:

https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics

https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/alcohol-use-facts-resources-fact-sheet.pdf

Arjun is an independent researcher, writer, speaker and a consciousness activist. He writes for Activist Post and Natural Blaze.

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