Thursday, June 26, 2014

Marijuana Use on the Rise in U.S. but Decreasing Globally: U.N. Report /By JOIN TOGETHER STAFF JUNE 26TH, 2014 Marijuana use is increasing in the United States as Americans change their attitude about the drug’s risks, according to a new report by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Globally, marijuana use seems to be decreasing. The number of Americans ages 12 or older who used marijuana at least once in the previous year increased to 12.1 percent in 2012, from 10.3 percent in 2008, Reuters reports. More Americans are seeking help for marijuana-related disorders. It is too early to understand the impact of the legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington state and Colorado, the report noted. “For youth and young adults, more permissive cannabis regulations correlate with decreases in the perceived risk of use, and lowered risk perception has been found to predict increases in use,” the UNODC wrote. The report also noted there has been a surge in opium production in Afghanistan, and a fall in the global availability in cocaine. Worldwide output of heroin increased last year. Overall, drug use prevalence is stable around the world, the report concluded. About 5 percent of the world’s population ages 15 to 64 used an illicit drug in 2012. “There remain serious gaps in service provision. In recent years only one in six drug users globally has had access to or received drug dependence treatment services each year,” Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of UNODC, said in a news release. He added that about 200,000 drug-related deaths occurred in 2012.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Harvard Scientists Studied the Brains of Pot Smokers, and the Results Don't Look Good By Eileen Shim April 16, 2014 Harvard Scientists Studied the Brains of Pot Smokers, and the Results Don't Look Good Image Credit: AP The news: Every day, the push toward national legalization of marijuana seems more and more inevitable. As more and more politicians and noted individuals come out in favor of legalizing or at least decriminalizing different amounts of pot, the mainstream acceptance of the recreational use of the drug seems like a bygone conclusion. But before we can talk about legalization, have we fully understood the health effects of marijuana? According to a new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers from Harvard and Northwestern studied the brains of 18- to 25-year-olds, half of whom smoked pot recreationally and half of whom didn't. What they found was rather shocking: Even those who only smoked few times a week had significant brain abnormalities in the areas that control emotion and motivation. "There is this general perspective out there that using marijuana recreationally is not a problem — that it is a safe drug," said Anne Blood, a co-author of the study. "We are seeing that this is not the case." The science: Similar studies have found a correlation between heavy pot use and brain abnormalities, but this is the first study that has found the same link with recreational users. The 20 people in the "marijuana group" of the study smoked four times a week on average; seven only smoked once a week. Those in the control group did not smoke at all. "We looked specifically at people who have no adverse impacts from marijuana — no problems with work, school, the law, relationships, no addiction issues," said Hans Breiter, another co-author of the study. Using three different neuroimaging techniques, researchers then looked at the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala of the participants. These areas are responsible for gauging the benefit or loss of doing certain things, and providing feelings of reward for pleasurable activities such as food, sex and social interactions. "This is a part of the brain that you absolutely never ever want to touch," said Breiter. "I don't want to say that these are magical parts of the brain — they are all important. But these are fundamental in terms of what people find pleasurable in the world and assessing that against the bad things." Shockingly, every single person in the marijuana group, including those who only smoked once a week, had noticeable abnormalities, with the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala showing changes in density, volume and shape. Those who smoked more had more significant variations. What will happen next? The study's co-authors admit that their sample size was small. Their plan now is to conduct a bigger study that not only looks at the brain abnormalities, but also relates them to functional outcomes. That would be a major and important step in this science because, as of now, the research indicates that marijuana use may cause alterations to the brain, but it's unclear what that might actually mean for users and their brains. But for now, they are standing behind their findings. "People think a little marijuana shouldn't cause a problem if someone is doing OK with work or school," said Breiter. "Our data directly says this is not so

Friday, June 13, 2014

Research on Marijuana’s Role in Car Crashes Expands as Drug Availability Grows /By Join Together Staff June 10th, 2014/ As marijuana becomes more readily available, a growing number of researchers are studying the possible link between marijuana and fatal car crashes, USA Today reports. A study published earlier this year by Columbia University researchers found marijuana contributed to 12 percent of traffic deaths in 2010. The study of almost 24,000 fatal car accidents found marijuana was linked to three times as many traffic deaths compared with a decade earlier. According to a 2010 survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), one in eight high school seniors said they drove after smoking marijuana. Almost one-quarter of drivers killed in drug-related crashes were younger than 25, the article notes. In addition, almost half of fatally injured drivers who tested positive for marijuana were under age 25. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and NHTSA have been conducting a three-year study to determine how inhaled marijuana impacts driving performance. NIDA notes on its website, “Considerable evidence from both real and simulated driving studies indicates that marijuana can negatively affect a driver’s attentiveness, perception of time and speed, and ability to draw on information obtained from past experiences. Research shows that impairment increases significantly when marijuana use is combined with alcohol.” NIDA notes it is difficult to measure the exact contribution of drug intoxication to driving accidents, because blood tests for drugs other than alcohol are inconsistently performed, and many drivers who cause accidents are found to have both drugs and alcohol in their system, making it hard to determine which substance had the greater effect. Lawmakers in Washington state, where recreational marijuana use is now legal, are trying to determine how police officers can identify drivers impaired by marijuana use. There is no consensus on what blood level of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, impairs driving, the newspaper notes. Breathalyzers cannot be used for marijuana.