All posts tagged: Case Study

Adolescent Cannabis Use Linked to Sleep Disturbances

Sleep Disturbances, Psychosocial Difficulties and Health Risk Behavior

Summary info:

A Dutch study investigated sleep disturbances in adolescents. Sleep disruption was linked to cannabis use, psychosocial difficulties, health risk behavior, and increased suicidality. Additionally, gender disparity in results suggests that girls may be more susceptible to sleep disturbances than boys , a result consistent with past recognition of some gender discrepancies in cannabis activity. These results highlight the importance of discouraging haphazard cannabis use, during adolescence, and the need for further gender-focused research surrounding sleep habits and cannabis use.

Dr Caplan, CED Foundation, and the #MDTake:

There are a few important issues that converge in this review. Generally, the question of adolescents’ use, (as an alternative way of describing the question of effects on a developing brain.) Also, this paper raises valuable questions about how cannabis may be interacting with sleep hygiene, for better or for worse. Psychosocial impact and risky behaviors are very complex topics to engage, even with a fairly large population sample of (n=16,781.) There are lots of intercorrelated topics assessed, analyzed, and discussed in the review, and it is all-too-easy to want to find causal patterns that are not apparent, again for better or worse, unless one chooses to construe the results or interpretation with causation in mind. Realistically, it is very likely to find overlap in a population of adolescents who have psychosocial difficulties, engage in risky behaviors, have increased risk of suicidality, and consume cannabis. To point to one of the components, arbitrarily, as the primary cause of the others is to unnecessarily and unjustly oversimplify a complex set of circumstances. The essential tenet, different genders seem to react differently with cannabis, is an excellent take-away, and also that we have much more still to learn.

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Benjamin Caplan, MDAdolescent Cannabis Use Linked to Sleep Disturbances
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Hope for Cannabis as a Future Treatment for Tourette’s Syndrome

Single center experience with medical cannabis in Gilles de la Tourette syndrome

A small study on adult Tourette’s patients demonstrated a reduction in tics after treatment with medical cannabis. Treatment with cannabis resulted in a global impression of efficacy score of 3.85 out of 5, signifying an improvement of symptoms. However, many patients reported undesirable effects that resulted in their withdrawal from the trial. Cannabis holds potential for Tourette’s syndrome treatment, however, more work is required to better understand what is causing the positive effects and to flush out reproducible benefits while minimizing the undesirables.

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Benjamin Caplan, MDHope for Cannabis as a Future Treatment for Tourette’s Syndrome
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Vape-Gate 2019: Review of The Risks of vaping

Risks on the Production Side of the Market:

  • Bacteria: Within facilities that lack appropriate oversight, any bacteria present during the manufacturing of a vaped product can be a source of risk for the consumer.
  • Fungus: Similarly, fungus can be a normal part of ambient air and life on earth, particularly around plants and soil. If production facilities do not have state-of-the-science monitoring or control mechanisms to limit mold, fungus can accumulate during the manufacturing process and can be transmitted to consumers.
  • Particles: Nicotine- or cannabis-containing products that are not produced in regulated facilities (home-grown and/or street-sold real or counterfeit products) may contain dangerous solvents, including solutions that contain lipid content that does not belong inside human lungs. Equally concerning, even in states with strict regulatory oversight over cannabis, the regulations may not cover particulate matter which may come into the consumer’s body from the containers that store tested cannabis products. For example, labs across the US have identified particles of vapor cartridge construction materials that become airborne during the heating process of vaporization. There is currently no testing standard for such circumstances. More, the sheer volume of particles emitted by a tool producing vapor is unregulated. With respect to its effects on the lungs, it is likely that there are meaningful differences (and potential risk differences) between a vaporizer which produces a small cloud of particles compared with one that produces a large, dense cloud.
  • Nicotine/E-liquids: Many nicotine vaporizers contain flavoring, coloring, preservative liquids that can be irritating to the lungs and breathing architecture. Non-nicotine liquid mixers can include sugary substances which promote dangerous growth of bacteria, inside the lungs.
  • Supervision: Street or home-produced products lack quality control measures to ensure that they are made safely, and/or contain safe ingredients, and are being delivered inside safe devices. In contrast, most FDA-overseen nicotine products and state-overseen cannabis production facilities limit many risk factors for currently-known threats to health

Risks on the Consumer Side of the Market:

  • Bacteria: Once purchased, products exposed to everyday life can acquire potentially dangerous bacteria after they are produced and sold. When used with poor maintenance practices, or by a consumer with hygiene practices that may add additional risk, bacterial infections can arise.
  • Fungus: Like bacteria exposure and potential infections, mold/fungus can accumulate after a vaping product is purchased. Good maintenance/cleansing practices help to prevent this risk, and appropriate hygiene around the consumption of vaping products typically minimizes this concern.
  • Particulate Matter: When using and re-using vaporizer tools (pens, vaporizer ovens, edibles), foreign particulate matter may break-off from cartridges, or may accidentally enter into products that were previously free of these contaminants. Many of the popular vaporizer cartridges, for example, seem to come from three facilities in China and are sold, worldwide, because of the attractive low price-point. Across the US, lab evidence has discovered evidence of small particles of the cartridges themselves (plastics, metals, other materials.) These particles can cause irritation to the lungs and may stimulate an inflammatory response.
  • Coughing: Vaporizing a product which causes the user to cough excessively can risk the accidental aspiration of bacteria or particles from the mouth. These particles, if small enough, can cause inflammation or infection in the lungs.
  • Nicotine: In addition to the well-documented increased risk of cancer from the consumption of nicotine, this chemical is an irritant to the tissues with which it interacts, causing arterial wall constriction and thickening. It increases blood pressure and heart rate, promotes increased inflammation and suppresses normal immune system function. More, it also artificially elevates dopamine, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine, with poorly understood consequences that are unlikely to be healthy for the lungs.
  • Maintenance: Vaporizing old or poorly-kept products may ignore the very real effects of deterioration of materials which may pose health concerns. A product which is not well-maintained or regularly cleaned may contain infectious particles, irritating particles, toxic elements which may also be found in a pocket or storage container (insecticides, animal poisons, other chemicals which may preserve or protect during production or travel)

Individual Differences:

Between the production and the consumer sides of the vaporization arena, individual differences and outside influences can have a tremendous impact on the experience of vapor. Someone with a history of lung disease may tolerate a very different product than someone without such a history. Similarly, someone with a weakened immune system may have a more difficult time healing from an average exposure (to an irritant or an infectious particle) than someone with different circumstances. These are not likely to explain a large incidence of illnesses, but in addition to the concerns above, they may help explain a smaller portion.

Some of the Medical Illnesses Potentially Associated with Vaping:

1. Pneumonia (bacterial)

2. Aspiration Pneumonia

3. Idiopathic Acute Eosinophilic Pneumonia

4. Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis (extrinsic allergic alveolitis)

Typically this is related to the components of e-cigarettes: nicotine, propylene glycol/glycerol, ethylene glycol, any of >7000 flavorings, metals including tin, lead, nickel, chromium, manganese, and arsenic (have all been found in e-cigarette liquids), also nitrosamines common to tobacco, carbonyl compounds, volatile organic compounds, and phenolic compounds.

General Recommendations for Safer Consumption:

  • Use state-supervised companies, including dispensaries for cannabis-related vaporizer materials, and reputable nicotine suppliers
  • Convection vaporizer ovens that involve safe heating materials (ceramic, glass, quartz) are preferable to vaporizer cartridges.
  • Any means of detaching product from direct contact with a heat source is preferable. For example, stainless-steel containers that hold product, and are then placed into a heating chamber, is likely to be safer than placing product directly against heat.
  • Safe heating elements: chamber-based convection/conduction heating
  • Avoid direct contact with coils, and avoid combustion
  • Use fresh products from state-sponsored dispensaries or stores
  • Avoid products that are repeatedly reused (including vaporizer pens and vaporizer heating tools that stay full of organic material for more than a brief period of time
  • Prefer systems that include the opportunity to easily clean and replace individual used components
  • Use rubbing alcohol to clean any heating tools regularly

Sample Reference News Articles:

1.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/31/health/vaping-marijuana-ecigarettes-sickness.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share

2.

3.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2019/09/05/contaminant-found-vaping-products-linked-deadly-lung-illnesses-state-federal-labs-show/

4.

https://www.foxbusiness.com/healthcare/electronic-cigarettes-vapes-scott-gottlieb

5.

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/08/26/fake-juul-pods-fill-shelves-after-vaping-giant-pulled-fruity-flavors.html

6.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-08-25/knockoff-cannabis-products-headache-for-california-legal-weed

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Benjamin Caplan, MDVape-Gate 2019: Review of The Risks of vaping
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Psychiatric Disorders Reduce Survival Among Immune-Mediated Inflammatory Disease Patients

Psychiatric comorbidity increases mortality in immune-mediated inflammatory diseases

Summary Information:

A new study finds that a diagnosis of depression, anxiety, and/or bipolar disorder increases mortality rates for patients of one of three immune-mediated inflammatory diseases (IMID):

1) multiple sclerosis (MS), or

2) inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or

3) rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Depression and bipolar disorder can cause poor health behaviors in patients, as depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders are “associated with increased inflammation and immune dysregulation.” Suicide risk and attempts are increased among IMID patients with mental illness, compared with IMID patients who are not also suffering from one of these additional battles. Given that cannabis has shown promise in treating both inflammation and a range of psychiatric disorders, there is reason to be optimistic for further cannabis research to uncover multifunctional treatment options.  

Dr Caplan and the #MDTake:

Clinically, it’s rare to see medical patients who have only one concern. Sure, there are some who are hoping that cannabis will help them to treat seizures, headaches, anxiety, sleep troubles, or terrible back pain, but more often, it is a combination of several troubles that each add to a cumulative tipping point.

Naturally, very few individual systems act alone. When a body part is injured, sleeping (or not sleeping) effects the course of illness. Similarly, feeling less anxious, or improving sleep, may make symptoms of a struggle with consistent headaches seem more tolerable. Even when there aren’t direct connections between symptoms, a treatment which implements a systemic treatment can have multiplied benefits.

Many patients have found that cannabis offers them a way to attack more than one problem, with a single actor. Some with Diabetes are finding that some formulations are not only helping them reduce blood sugar levels, but also reducing appetite. Similarly, some patients with ADD are turning to cannabis options which may help them focus, without their ability to get to sleep at night.

To a related note, many elderly patients are treated with too many medications. Modern Western medical treatment often compels patients into silos of treatments by isolated specialists, who are not always monitoring the patient as a being beyond individual organ systems. Medications, such as cannabis, which have the opportunity to treat more than one system, without multiplying the risk of potential drug-drug interactions presents a much safer approach to care

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Benjamin Caplan, MDPsychiatric Disorders Reduce Survival Among Immune-Mediated Inflammatory Disease Patients
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Medical Marijuana Offers Benefits Comparable to Prescription Medication, Without the Side Effects

Title: Preferences for Medical Marijuana over Prescription Medications Among Persons Living with Chronic Conditions: Alternative, Complementary, and Tapering Uses

In a survey of 30 patients using medical cannabis for a range of diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, hepatitis C, PTSD, among others, patients reported an array of benefits they have reaped from cannabis use. Patients successfully used cannabis in several ways: as an alternative to prescription medication, complementarily with prescription medicine, and to gradually replace use of prescription medication.

Benefits described by participants included the effects of cannabis lasting longer than that of opioids, lower risk of addiction, fewer side-effects. Patients also saw their sleep, anxiety, appetite, and adverse reactions improve with the use of medical cannabis. Larger, more controlled studies may suggest cannabis more affirmatively as an alternative or complementary therapy with prescription medications.

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Benjamin Caplan, MDMedical Marijuana Offers Benefits Comparable to Prescription Medication, Without the Side Effects
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The Effect of Chronic Cannabis Use on Volumetric Alterations in Brain Regions

Title: Neuroanatomical alterations in people with high and low cannabis dependence

A recent article has been published revealing some volumetric alterations in specific brain regions in people who report dependence on cannabis. Magnetic resonance imaging revealed that the volume of certain regions, including the hippocampus, the cerebellum, and the caudate, in cannabis dependent users, were all reduced in size, relative to recreational cannabis users who did not use cannabis chronically. Future research will likely focus on the effects of the structural alterations on patients’ reward, stress, and addiction-relevant circuitry to examine the possible relevance of cannabis dependance on those circuits. 

There are certainly possibilities that suggest this volume difference could be of concern, but there are also a great number of explanations (more than likely) whereby this is related to another variable that we have not yet fully appreciated.

Currently, cannabis use is thought to have a little-to-no risk of addiction (beyond any “normal” product of medical value, such as coffee or eyeglasses), because it does not act directly on the reward circuit. Opioids have a high risk of addiction, and therefore a concerning safety profile, in part because of the direct effect of the opioid system on the reward pathway of the central and peripheral nervous systems. While the endocannabinoid system has been observed to act directly up the reward circuit, it does so in subtle, soft ways, making it an ideal adjunct therapy for opioids to help with pain management. Current research provides inconsistent results and appropriately emphasizes a need for more testing to validate the possibility of cannabis as a recommended pain medication. 

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Benjamin Caplan, MDThe Effect of Chronic Cannabis Use on Volumetric Alterations in Brain Regions
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Cannabinoids Treat Chronic Gastrointestinal Disorders

Title: Nabilone administration in refractory chronic diarrhea- a case series

A new study reveals the efficacy of treating chronic gastrointestinal disorders with cannabinoids, such as Nabilone. Researchers followed case studies in which patients were given nabilone which greatly reduced symptoms of chronic diarrhea and weight gain, over a period of three months.

The cannabinoid treatment also reduced the abdominal pain felt by patients and improved their overall quality of life. Considering the favorable safety profile of cannabinoids and the effectiveness demonstrated in the patients, cannabinoids were deemed an appropriate and clinically beneficial method for the treatment of chronic gastrointestinal disorders, such as chronic diarrhea. 

Highlighted by this article are the many symptoms cannabis used to treat before the prohibition of cannabis and the scheduling of the medication under the Controlled Substances Act. Cannabis has been used in eastern medicine, for thousands of years, and used to be a prevalent medication in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and has just recently been re-recognized as an option to treat anorexia associated with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, and various sleep disorders. Cannabis was once a well-recognized medication, but it has been mercilessly slandered by politicians. The rise and fall of cannabis have largely been politically driven pushes, and the plant and its effects deserve further study to examine the scope and efficacy of its therapeutic benefits. 

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Benjamin Caplan, MDCannabinoids Treat Chronic Gastrointestinal Disorders
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The Current Research on Cannabis-Alcohol Interactions and Risk Factors for Using Them Together

Title: Cannabis and Alcohol- From Basic Science to Public Policy

This new analysis summarizes the most recent preclinical trials and epidemiological studies concerning the interactions between cannabis and alcohol, as well as possible risk factors for co-use. Specific risk factors, such as frequency of use or belonging to particular groups, were found to be significant within studies (but not across separate studies.) The compiled data reveals that previous research is inconsistent and emphasizes the need for further research to elucidate at-risk populations.  


This article highlights a few secondary findings which all focus on the gaps in our knowledge concerning cannabis, of which there are many. There may be potential concerns with the integration of cannabis into modern culture, which has essentially normalized alcohol consumption. Future research will undoubtedly evaluate these concerns, and highlight potential advantages that cannabis consumption may offer as an alternative option.

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Benjamin Caplan, MDThe Current Research on Cannabis-Alcohol Interactions and Risk Factors for Using Them Together
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A Call for More Research: Adolescent Cannabis Use and Mental Health Risks

Title: Adolescent Cannabis Use and Risk of Mental Health Problems – The Need for Newer Data

Here, an article presenting a case, justifying the need for new research to determine how cannabis use in adolescents may affect their risk for mental health. Few recent studies have come out discussing mental health and adolescent use. This is problematic because, over the years, cannabis products have been curated to be significantly more potent than in the past. Considering how vulnerable the brain is, during adolescence, because it is still developing, longitudinal studies need to be conducted to fully elucidate the effects of cannabis on development. 


This review highlights how poorly adolescents consuming cannabis seem to be at titrating their dose, or correctly self-regulating consumption of cannabis. There is an overall need for greater education before cannabis is acquired, from a dispensary or otherwise. For adults and teens seeking to self-regulate their use of cannabis, irrespective of the consumption method, it is difficult to succeed, considering the gross lack of knowledge and sophistication around the dosage. The wide variability in choice and make-up of cannabis products, added to the complexity associated with how each patient may process the myriad of cannabinoids within the products consumed leads to a complexity of confounding variables, and here, a call for more studies to be conducted on more than just adolescents. 

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Benjamin Caplan, MDA Call for More Research: Adolescent Cannabis Use and Mental Health Risks
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The Endocannabinoid System may Provide Biomarkers for Endometrial Cancer

Title: Identification of Novel Predictive Biomarkers for Endometrial Malignancies- N-Acylethanolamines

A recent study has demonstrated that specific members of the endocannabinoid system may serve as potential biochemical markers for endometrial cancer. Elevated levels of two products of the endocannabinoid system (N-palmitoylethanolamine and N-arachidonoylethanolamine), reflect the production of endometrial tumors.

By screening for elevated levels of those substances, it may be easier for physicians to more quickly recognize the possible presence of endometrial tumors, leading to a potentially sooner diagnosis and intervention. Further research should be conducted to see if there is an even stronger connection between the dysregulation of the endocannabinoid system and endometrial cancer. 


This study highlights the far-reaching arms of the endocannabinoid system that are still so poorly understood. Until the federal government supports the research of cannabis and helps the general public to recognize it as a medically useful substance, research will continue to be limited and stifled. Government-sponsored research is required to boost the growing data that is currently limited by a reliance on private funding. State governments continue to legalize medical marijuana and recognize the medical and economic benefits of cannabis-based medicines. As local legislature demonstrates the success of medical cannabis programs, many patients continue to look to the federal government to follows suit, to further support our fellow citizens in need. 

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Benjamin Caplan, MDThe Endocannabinoid System may Provide Biomarkers for Endometrial Cancer
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