Adverse Effects

False Memory Formation Does not Differ between Cannabis Users and Controls

Title: False memory formation in cannabis users- a field study

This new study has revealed that although cannabis use does not increase the rate of false memory acquisition, cannabis use did increase the uncertainty of participants. It was also determined that intoxicated cannabis users were less accurate when recognizing true events, providing evidence that cannabis intoxication hinders memory formation.

This research provides a basis of knowledge for those interviewing people under the influence of cannabis for legal proceedings to determine the validity of their statements. If cannabis intoxication increases the uncertainty and liberal answers provided by users then their statements should be used sparingly or well-corroborated. 


This research highlights the importance of understanding cannabis for legal proceedings. More and more state governments are legalizing medical and recreational cannabis, each year, increasing the amount of those eligible to legally consume cannabis. As cannabis use continues to climb in popularity, witnesses or others interviewed in legal settings may not provide the most accurate information. Acute cannabis use should be a consideration related to legal proceedings so that the users’ statements can be weighed appropriately.  

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Benjamin Caplan, MDFalse Memory Formation Does not Differ between Cannabis Users and Controls
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In Vivo Availability of Cannabinoid 1 Receptor Levels in Patients With First-Episode Psychosis

A 2019 study found that patients with early-stage psychotic disorders had lower levels of CB1-R (Cannabinoid Receptor – 1) compared to healthy individuals. These findings suggest that targeting CB1R with cannabis-based products could potentially treat psychotic disorders. Interestingly, reductions in CB1R levels were associated with greater symptom severity and poorer cognitive functioning but only in male patients. More research is needed into the intersections of gender and psychotic disorders.

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Benjamin Caplan, MDIn Vivo Availability of Cannabinoid 1 Receptor Levels in Patients With First-Episode Psychosis
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More Research Needed to Determine Impacts of Cannabis Use During Pregnancy

Cannabis Use in Pregnancy

With rates of cannabis use during pregnancy more than doubling between 2002 and 2017, a need for more studies, over longer periods of time, which investigate prenatal cannabis use has emerged. Existing data ranges from reporting an increased risk for preterm birth and low birth weight to cannabis reducing the risk of preeclampsia and gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Concerns are historically informed by preliminary alcohol and cocaine studies that falsely suggested no gestational harm, despite the eventual recognition that these substances ultimately carry significant risk. Pregnant women should exercise caution in their cannabis use until more definitive conclusions are found, regarding maternal cannabis use.

The decision of where, if anywhere, cannabis fits in relationship to pregnancy is populated with more questions than answers. There are a handful of good quality, long-term studies, to date, that show a pattern that informs some degree of generalization: by and large, the less frequently consumed, and the later during the pregnancy the consumption, the less potential risk. But, for the sake of any pregnant woman and her baby, this type of decision should always be made in direct consultation with the obstetrician supporting the pregnancy.

Additional Point: A lack of high-quality studies relating to cannabis use and gestational risk has resulted in conflicting evidence surrounding prenatal cannabis use. However, historical context involving prenatal alcohol and cocaine use studies informs the need to exercise caution before definitive conclusions are made

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Benjamin Caplan, MDMore Research Needed to Determine Impacts of Cannabis Use During Pregnancy
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Supplementing Antipsychotics with CBD Enhances Psychotic Symptom Treatment

Cannabidiol (CBD) as an Adjunctive Therapy in Schizophrenia: A Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial

Most schizophrenia medications function by blocking the action of the dopamine D2 receptor and effectively treat positive psychotic symptoms, such as delusions or hallucinations, but fail to treat negative psychotic symptoms, such as lack of motivation or the lack of an ability to feel pleasure. Anecdotal evidence has pointed toward the potential for CBD to attenuate psychotic symptoms in conjunction with normally prescribed antipsychotics; additionally, CBD is not hypothesized to act on the D2 receptor, suggesting that it may afford unique advantages over anti-psychotics.

Researchers interested in further exploring this conducted the first known placebo-controlled CBD trial among schizophrenia patients. Although results did not suggest a potential for CBD to treat negative psychotic symptoms, in conjunction with antipsychotics, the CBD group experienced marked lower levels of positive psychotic symptoms. Both the placebo and CBD groups experienced equal levels of treatment-induced adverse events, suggesting that CBD is well-tolerated.

These results suggest that CBD may be effective in treating not only schizophrenia but also psychotic symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease and THC-induced psychosis.

Additional Point: CBD has shown to act in a neuroprotective manner and reduce the psychoactive effects of THC, making it a viable option for patients who have experienced negative side effects with THC.

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Benjamin Caplan, MDSupplementing Antipsychotics with CBD Enhances Psychotic Symptom Treatment
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Video: Cannabinoids, Internal States, and Anxiety

A new literature review summarizing the recent findings relating to cannabis and anxiety.

Researchers conclude that CBD and low-dose THC can cause relaxation and decrease anxiety and self-spun thoughts. Some studies show that high-dose THC can cause psychotic symptoms; however, studies also show that CBD can protect against those THC-induced symptoms. Therefore, using cannabis extracts with THC and CBD could be a safe way to reduce anxiety. 

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Benjamin Caplan, MDVideo: Cannabinoids, Internal States, and Anxiety
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One theory for why cannabis affects people differently

Something still not entirely understood is why cannabis affects people differently. A study looking at THC interactions in the brain show that rewarding and adverse effects are produced by anatomically different areas. Individual experiences likely differ due to genetic variation.

http://bit.ly/2Jnjg8q 

Benjamin Caplan, MDOne theory for why cannabis affects people differently
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Current Numbers for Cannabis Use Among Pregnant Women in the United State

Self-reported Medical and Nonmedical Cannabis Use Among Pregnant Women in the United States 

An observational study has revealed that the prevalence and frequency of cannabis use in pregnant women have increased over the past two decades.

No trends were seen although except a slight decrease in fetal growth in women who frequently used during the first two trimesters. The data concerning fetal growth, such as length and weight, were not statistically significant and would require further studies to appropriately indicate a correlation between cannabis use and decreased fetal growth.

The authors acknowledge that cannabis use may suffer from recall bias as women may underestimate the amount of cannabis they consumed or purposely withheld some information due to stigma, although some of the surveyed women were using recommended medical cannabis.  

This article highlights the large issue surrounding women consuming cannabis while expecting. Cannabinoids are able to cross the placenta and therefore affect the fetus during development. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommend the cessation of any cannabis consumption while pregnant although there has been limited data discussing the actual effects on fetal development. A previously featured article on this blog stated that cannabis use had no effect on birth outcomes but also noted uncertainty in the possible effect on fetal growth. Considering this uncertainty, physicians should push for more research so that women who take medical cannabis can accurately discern whether or not to cease consumption while pregnant. 

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Benjamin Caplan, MDCurrent Numbers for Cannabis Use Among Pregnant Women in the United State
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A Report on the Psychiatric Effects of Cannabis Demonstrates the Progress and the Gaps in Cannabis Knowledge

Psychiatric effects of cannabis 

A report published by the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2001 demonstrates the progress the medical community has made but also what gaps still need to be filled in when utilizing cannabis. This report found that excess consumption of cannabis leads to feelings of panic and anxiety and that 15% of those willing to respond to a survey experienced acute psychotic symptoms. It was also found that cannabis dependence can occur, as well as withdrawal, which can last for close to a week.  This article was a review that synthesized relevant studies but also claimed that the casual conclusions of these papers were difficult to find or replicate. 

This paper is interesting given its age considering it put out what was current data but then ended by stating the casual conclusions of each paper may not stand. 18 years later, some of the data has stood, and some have not. Users can gain a tolerance to cannabis but many are looking to mitigate it. The author uses the word dependence when discussing cannabis which is a word that holds weight and is up for debate. Intoxicating cannabinoids, like THC, affect the reward center, but non-altering cannabinoids, such as CBD, tend to work more noticeably outside of the brain, although all have mixed effects in both regions. Cannabinoids are not all the same, apply quite differently to various ailments, and have divergent effects. Blanketing an entire crop with a misinformed warning label seems irresponsible and unduly harsh. Users or those looking into cannabis-based medicine are encouraged to do their research. 

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Benjamin Caplan, MDA Report on the Psychiatric Effects of Cannabis Demonstrates the Progress and the Gaps in Cannabis Knowledge
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Volume of Brain (Lateral Orbitofrontal Cortex) Predicts Drug Use

Orbitofrontal cortex volume prospectively predicts cannabis and other substance use onset in adolescents

Researchers have recently unveiled that the volume of the lateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) is able to predict future substance use in adolescents. Individuals were followed for 13 years after undergoing magnetic functional resonance imaging and surveyed for cannabis and alcohol use. Interestingly, the authors chose to utilize those who had used cannabis, but in limited quantities, as a control group instead of including them in their cannabis users group. Similarly, the alcohol only group of participants also included those who used cannabis multiple times within the past year. Nevertheless, the authors conclude that the size of the lateral OFC is able to predict drug use in adolescents although not without admitting the need for replication and validity. 

This paper represents an important example of biased information within the medical community. Bias is inherent, there is no way around it. But, it is the duty of researchers to publish their findings while remaining as objective as possible, and to do so, transparently. The grouping decisions for the study groups here, and the choices the authors made regarding statistical analysis of this data are odd, considering their definitions and broad claims. This may be due to the views of the organization funding the research, or the bias of the research team members themselves, but the limitations of the study should be considered strongly. Even beyond the groupings, the fact that this research took place in a state where cannabis use is legal for recreational and medical use is a reason to consider other confounding variables. Scientists have an obligation to pursue the truth and not extrapolate their findings to fit a personal or professional agenda. Many articles cherry-pick statistics and extrapolate small findings of data, leaving readers and media outlets to polularize findings that do not represent a full picture. It falls on discerning readers to read mindfully and consider a study’s methodolgy and demographics, as carefully as possible. 

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Benjamin Caplan, MDVolume of Brain (Lateral Orbitofrontal Cortex) Predicts Drug Use
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Benin Republic Hemp Improves Male Fertility

Cannabinoid-deficient Benin republic hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) improves semen parameters by reducing prolactin and enhancing antioxidant status

Cannabis sativa, specifically Nigerian hemp, has been found to have adverse effects on male fertility. It’s use has been linked to a decrease in semen parameters, germ cell proliferation, and reproductive organ weight. It can induce hyperprolactinemia, a condition causing infertility in 11% of men with low sperm count.

Data from the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency in Nigeria has suggested users preferentially obtaining hemp from the Benin Republic. In a recent study investigating the composition of Benin republic hemp, a lack of THC and lower levels of cannabinol were observed. Additionally, an ethanol extract of Benin republic hemp increased sperm count, morphology, and viability.   

Additional Point: Certain phytocannabinoids found in cannabis have demonstrated a detrimental effect on male fertility. However, analysis of hemp from the Benin republic shows a low to no levels of these toxic cannabinoids and evidence points to this particular hemp enhancing male fertility.

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Benjamin Caplan, MDBenin Republic Hemp Improves Male Fertility
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