All posts tagged: Mental Health

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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New Developments of Cannabinoid-Based Drugs

Title: Novel approaches in clinical development of cannabinoid drugs

A pamphlet has recently been published that highlights new approaches in the clinical development of cannabinoid-based therapies. The pamphlet begins with a look into how current cannabinoids affect patients based on gender, stress, physiological variations, and also delves into how cannabis works on the body in general.

A novel therapy that features an oral version of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and a synthetic activator of cannabinoid-receptor-1 (CB1) is explored in this piece and frames it to be a promising future therapy. The pharmacological properties of these two novel therapies were optimized during development after various analysis techniques, forming medications that the authors hope to see in future clinical trials. 

Although the authors remain hopeful that their cannabis-based therapies will reach clinical trials soon, trials featuring cannabinoids are difficult to test in a formal setting because of a dire lack of funding. The federal government still lists cannabis as a Schedule I substance, under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning that the federal government does not support the idea that cannabis has any medical use. Considering the legal status of cannabis, only privately-funded studies are able to take place, and unfortunately, that leaves cannabis research in an area of complete bias and prohibitively underfunded. Considering the massive literature supporting a myriad of novel therapeutic benefits, this is a costly reality to the health and well-being of millions.


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Benjamin Caplan, MDNew Developments of Cannabinoid-Based Drugs
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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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Student-Athletes are at an Increased Risk for Binge Drinking and Substance Use

Title: Psychological correlates and binge drinking behaviours among Canadian youth- a cross-sectional analysis of the mental health pilot data from the COMPASS study

A recent study has examined data from the COMPASS program and found that student-athletes in Canada were more likely to engage in binge-drinking and illicit substance use. Researchers focussed on the measure of flourishing, defined as an overall healthy mental state and emotional connectedness, and how flourishing related to concerning drinking and substance use behavior. Student-athletes were found to be the most at risk for binge-drinking, defined as consuming 5 or more drinks in a single session, and those more likely to binge-drink were also more likely to co-use illicit substances. This research provides evidence for the formation of targeted prevention programs.

Cannabis use is banned among athletes by most sports organizations. Cannabis appeals to athletes considering the many different consumption methods, allowing discreet consumption and personalization with variable potential opportunities for relief. Cannabinoids are generally naturally occurring substances unless clearly manufactured, and have been shown to be beneficial for post-workout recovery, muscle soreness, anxiety, sleep, and relaxation. All of those symptoms, including the emotionally driven ones, are common among student-athletes who often feel an immense amount of pressure to perform in competition. As in most other areas of modern culture, Cannabidiol (CBD) finds itself in a grey area for most sports organizations’ substance regulations given that it is not intoxicating and readily available with a notable safety profile. Even if cannabis is not federally legal, CBD is so widely available that many athletes are embracing it, in lieu of more dangerous, or potentially addictive, medications.

Tweet: A recent study has examined data from the #COMPASS program and found that #studentathletes in Canada were more likely to engage in #binge-drinking and illicit substance use. Read this and other linked studies:

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Benjamin Caplan, MDStudent-Athletes are at an Increased Risk for Binge Drinking and Substance Use
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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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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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This paper is also stored here:     http://bit.ly/2JnOpss    inside the CED Foundation Archive

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Benjamin Caplan, MDVideo: Cannabinoids, Internal States, and Anxiety
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