Nicotine changes marijuana’s effect on the brain

How scientists study the effects of marijuana on the brain is changing. Until recently marijuana research largely excluded tobacco users from its participant pool, but scientists at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas have found reason to abandon this practice, uncovering significant differences in the brains of individuals who use both tobacco and marijuana and the brains of those who only use marijuana.

In a study that appears online in the journal Behavioural Brain Research, scientists report an association between smaller hippocampal brain volume and marijuana use. Although the size of the hippocampus, an area of the brain associated with memory and learning, is significantly smaller in both the marijuana group and marijuana plus tobacco group compared to non-using controls and individuals who use tobacco exclusively, the relationship to memory performance is unique.

Hippocampal size of nonusers reflects a direct relationship to memory function; the smaller the hippocampus, the poorer the memory function. Individuals who use marijuana and tobacco show an inverse relationship, i.e., the smaller the hippocampus size, the greater memory the function. Furthermore the number of nicotine cigarettes smoked per day in the marijuana and nicotine using group appears to be related to the severity of hippocampal shrinkage. The greater the number of cigarettes smoked per day, the smaller the hippocampal volume and the greater the memory performance. There were no significant associations between hippocampal size and memory performance in individuals who only use tobacco or only use marijuana.

“Approximately 70% of individuals who use marijuana also use tobacco,” explained Francesca Filbey, Ph.D., the study’s principal investigator and Director of Cognitive Neuroscience of Addictive Behaviors at the Center for BrainHealth. “Our findings exemplify why the effects of marijuana on the brain may not generalize to the vast majority of the marijuana using population, because most studies do not account for tobacco use. This study is one of the first to tease apart the unique effects of each substance on the brain as well as their combined effects.”

Dr. Filbey’s research team used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine the hippocampus; an area of the brain that is know to have altered size and shape in association with chronic marijuana use. Participants completed a substance use history assessment and neuropsychological tests three days prior to an MRI head scan. The team compared four groups: nonusers (individuals who have not had any marijuana or tobacco in the past three months), chronic marijuana users (individuals who use marijuana at least four times per week), frequent nicotine users (10 or more times daily) and chronic marijuana plus frequent nicotine users (at least four marijuana uses per week and 10 or more nicotine uses per day).

“We have always known that each substance is associated with effects on the brain and hypothesized that their interaction may not simply be a linear relationship. Our findings confirm that the interaction between marijuana and nicotine is indeed much more complicated due to the different mechanisms at play,” said Filbey. “Future studies need to address these compounding effects of substances.”

She continued, “The combined use of marijuana and tobacco is highly prevalent. For instance, a ‘blunt’ is wrapped in tobacco leaf. A ‘spliff’ is a joint rolled with tobacco. We really need to understand how the combined use changes the brain to really understand its effects on memory function and behavior.”

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Center for BrainHealth. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Francesca M. Filbey, Tim McQueeny, Shrinath Kadamangudi, Collette Bice, Ariel Ketcherside. Combined effects of marijuana and nicotine on memory performance and hippocampal volume. Behavioural Brain Research, 2015; 293: 46 DOI: 10.1016/j.bbr.2015.07.029
Posted on August 24, 2015 and filed under Medical.

Bud Buddies: Project Storm

In April 2013 this film set out to investigate the increasing number of claims that cannabis oil can treat cancer. This has been done through the lives of terminal cancer patients living in the UK. 

It includes contributions from world leading research labs, the pharmaceutical industry and an illegal medical organisation that produces and provides cannabis oil to cancer patients. 

This film is an objective investigation in to the potential role cannabis can play as part of an integrated and open minded approach to oncology.

Posted on December 30, 2014 and filed under Documentary, Film.

The 41st Shade - A Documentary about Cannabis in 21st Century Ireland

The 41st Shade: 

The intention of this documentary is to explore the role of cannabis in 21st Century Ireland, not least due to growing usage within the mainstream, but also because of our failure to prevent its distribution. For this reason, we need to question the resources ploughed into the ‘war on drugs’ and whether both the time and manpower called upon is justifiable when it appears that all other progressive nations are either entirely decriminalising cannabis or relaxing their laws on its possession. Maybe it is just a matter of semantics. Perhaps we should just stop calling cannabis a ‘drug’ and refer to it by its proper title, a plant, at which point the war will finally stop and we can redirect our severely stretched resources to persue those who are committing real crime.

Cannabis and Ireland : a Contradiction in Progress..? As cannabis becomes more acceptable throughout Europe and North America we need to address the place of this substance in Irish society, not least in terms of its recreational usage but also its medicinal properties which have been known for centuries. So unlike other controlled substances like alcohol and tobacco which cannot claim any medicinal qualities what so ever, we need to confront our tentative relationship with what has been hailed by many as providing a cure for apparently the most incurable illnesses. Every day we hear stories of grow houses being raided and people going to jail for criminal offences but we also hear of plans for the Irish government to introduce some form of medical cannabis in the near future. So is there a contradiction here? on the one hand we are being told cannabis is bad, and illegal but on the other we are being told it can be really helpful to you, but only if you are sick. We feel there are questions to be answered and we hope to get some.

Posted on December 30, 2014 and filed under Film, Documentary.

Former US senator to head cannabis company

Former US senator Mike Gravel has been appointed as the head of cannabis company Kush, which produces marijuana products for recreational and medicinal use, its parent company said Tuesday.

Gravel will be in charge of marketing marijuana products, including a cannabis lozenge called "Kubby," Cannabis Sativa said.

Marijuana is still an illegal drug across much of the United States, but some states have begun to decriminalize its use, sometimes for medical purposes but also in some cases for recreation.

Former US senator Mike Gravel, seen here in August 2007, has been appointed as the head of cannabis company Kush, which produces marijuana products for recreational and medicinal use, its parent company said ©Robyn Beck (AFP/File)

Former US senator Mike Gravel, seen here in August 2007, has been appointed as the head of cannabis company Kush, which produces marijuana products for recreational and medicinal use, its parent company said ©Robyn Beck (AFP/File)

Nevada-based Kush is a subsidiary of Cannabis Sativa, but will now operate independently under Gravel, who has been a director at the company since it was founded.

"I'm anxious to assist in bringing this important resource to a broader market in a serious and credible way," Gravel said.

Gravel, 84, served as Democratic senator in Alaska from 1969 to 1981 and was a candidate in the 2008 presidential elections.

He was a vocal critic of the Vietnam War and the "War on Drugs," waged by former president Richard Nixon in the 1970s.

Cannabis Sativa praised Gravel's new role and said his previous advocacy will be valuable at the company.

"Senator Gravel stood up to Nixon, stood up to the Pentagon, and now he is standing up to those in power who would keep the healthful benefits of cannabis from those who need them," said Steve Kubby, chairman of Sativa's board.

Kubby said Gravel "brings invaluable perspective and connections to our group. He's a true American hero and we're excited to have him serving in this capacity."

Cannabis Sativa, run by former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, produces several natural pot products, including marijuana-laced foodstuffs.

According to its website, the company believes "cannabis is destined to become the next gold rush and we're prepared to shape its future in a legal environment ."

Posted on December 30, 2014 and filed under Industry.

The Year in Marijuana Legislation: a NORML View of 2014


This past year was a historic one for the enactment of marijuana law reform at the state and federal level. While the passage of voter initiatives legalizing pot in Alaska and Oregon, as well as voters’ approval of a municipal measure depenalizing marijuana offenses in Washington, DC, will no doubt garner the top spots in most activists’ year-in-reviews (and deservedly so), let’s not overlook the many other legislative successes we enjoyed in 2014.

Feds Back Off Medical Marijuana
For the first time, Congress took steps to protect the sovereignty of state-sanctioned programs authorizing the production and distribution of medicinal cannabis. In December, Congress and the President signed off on a provision prohibiting the Justice Department from spending any taxpayers’ dollars for the purpose of interfering in the implementation of “state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.” Commenting on the measure’s passage, California Democrat Sam Farr – who co-sponsored the amendment along with California Republican Dana Rohrabacher said: "The federal government will finally respect the decisions made by the majority of states that passed medical marijuana laws. This is great day for common sense because now our federal dollars will be spent more wisely on prosecuting criminals and not sick patients."

Congress Legalizes State-sponsored Hemp Cultivation
In February, members of Congress and President Barack Obama approved provisions in the federal farm bill permitting states to move forward with hemp cultivation research. Federal lawmakers, including (then) Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), advocated for provision, which acts as an end-run around the federal government’s longstanding ban on industrial hemp production. It states, “The amendment authorizes an institution of higher education or State department of agriculture to grow or cultivate industrial hemp for research purposes if the laws of the State permit its growth and cultivation.” Since the federal passage of the amendment, numerous state governments have enacted pilot programs enabling US farmers for the first time in decades to legally cultivate the crop.

Two of the Nation's Largest Cities Decriminalize 
Members of the Washington, DC city council overwhelmingly passed municipal legislation in Marchreducing minor marijuana possession violations in the District from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by up to 6 months incarceration and a maximum fine of $1,000) to a civil violation (punishable by a $25 fine, no arrest, no jail time, and no criminal record). The new law took effect this summer. City lawmakers in Philadelphia took similar action in September, voting 13 to 3 in favor of a local ordinance depenalizing minor pot offenses from a misdemeanor to a non-summary civil offense, punishable by a $25 fine. 

So Does the State of Maryland
In April, Maryland lawmakers approved Senate Bill 364, which amends statewide penalties for marijuana possession offenses involving ten grams or less from a criminal misdemeanor (formerly punishable by arrest, up to 90 days in jail, a $500 fine, and a criminal record) to a non-arrestable, non-criminal, fine-only offense ($100 fine for first-time offenders, $250 for second-time offenders). The new law took effect on October 1. An ACLU analysis of state-by-state marijuana arrests data reported that, prior to the change in law, Maryland possessed the fourth highest rate of marijuana possession arrests in the nation.

Colorado Funds Clinical Research Evaluating the Efficacy of Medical Pot
Colorado health officials approved an estimated $8 million in grant funding late this year to pay for a series of clinical trials to assess the safety and efficacy of cannabis therapy. Studies will evaluate the use of cannabis and/or CBD in the treatment of pain, cancer, brain tumors, Parkinson’s disease, and pediatric epilepsy. State lawmakers this spring approved legislation earmarking up to $10 million to fund the research.

States Recognize CBD
Eleven states in 2014 approved legislation seeking to permit the use of the cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD), by qualified patients — primarily children with intractable epilepsy. Unfortunately, to date, none of these nascent programs have yet to be successfully implemented. Only two of these states – Florida and Missouri – provide for a in-state source for CBD. The other nine states either rely on CBD from the federal government (administered to patients during the course of an FDA-approved trial) or expect qualified patients to acquire the cannabinoid from some other medical marijuana state, such as Colorado or California.

(Image via cool-patches)

Posted on December 30, 2014 and filed under Story.