Tag Archives: cannabis

Is Kratom Really As Dangerous As the FDA Makes It Out to Be?

America is in the midst of one of the worst epidemics in its history over opioids, which may be one of the reasons the FDA recently issued a warning that kratom, a plant-based supplement often used for pain, is potentially addictive since it has opioid-like qualities.

Kratom has also been used by some people to treat withdrawal from opioids. However, the agency stated that there is “no reliable evidence” to support this and “significant safety issues exist.” The FDA also said it has received reports of 44 deaths related to kratom use. However, as a recent Reason.com blog pointed out, in many of these cases, other substances were found along with kratom in the systems of the deceased, making it difficult to prove kratom was the cause of death.

In one of those deaths, a 22-year-old man had a cocktail of drugs in his system that included the antidepressant Prozac (fluoxetine), antipsychotics Seroquel (quetiapine) and Zyprexa (olanzapine), Lyrica (pregabalin), which is used for nerve pain, and several benzodiazepines (tranquilizers) – in addition to kratom. Also, as Jacob Sullum argued in another Reason.com blog, more people have died from prescription and over-the-counter pain relievers than kratom.

So is kratom really as dangerous as the FDA makes it out to be?

It’s hard to say. But it may be harder to get your hands on kratom. The FDA has already blocked importation of the substance. And in 2016, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) ruled to classify kratom as a Schedule 1 drug, putting it in the same class as marijuana, LSD and heroin as substances with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. The DEA backpedaled a bit later in the year following outcry from the public. However, the FDA’s warning could make it more likely for kratom’s Schedule 1 designation to go through.

To me, it seems the FDA is making a bit of a rash decision. Although the FDA says it conducted its own medical analysis of kratom, there is a lot of existing research supporting kratom as effective for conditions such as PTSD and depression. Did they consider this before issuing a warning?

Much like the FDA’s and DEA’s position on marijuana, it seems that decisions are being made based on incomplete examinations of the positives and negatives of herbal substances. The FDA and DEA owe it to patients who use kratom and find benefit from it to conduct a more thorough investigation before deeming it unsafe for public consumption.

Can We Answer Questions About Marijuana Once and For All?

It probably comes as little surprise that many teens smoke marijuana. Some have experimented with pot, while others smoke it recreationally. What may be surprising is that smoking marijuana during adolescence can drastically increase the risk of having a psychotic experience.

Late adolescents who toked up were 3 times more likely to experience “reefer madness” compared with peers who didn’t touch the Mary Jane, according to a new study from JAMA Psychiatry. And if the adolescents started using earlier in their teens, the risk was even higher.

It’s been thought that psychotic experiences could also make it more likely a teen would use marijuana, but researchers didn’t find this to be the case. Also, little evidence was found that smoking cigarettes can increase psychosis in this young population.

“We found little evidence that psychotic experiences in childhood led to increased cannabis use,” the study’s authors wrote. “As other observational studies have indicated, the self-medication hypothesis does not appear to adequately explain the association between cannabis use and psychosis. Such a relationship for tobacco use is also not well supported by our data.”

While the results might appear to cast a negative light on marijuana use, the reality is not as clear. The number of states allowing recreational pot use is rising (8 states and the District of Columbia do so, and many others allow marijuana use with a doctor’s note). Yet, evidence of marijuana’s medical benefits — or drawbacks — is not conclusive.

Last year, MedShadow began a petition asking the DEA to change marijuana’s classification from a Schedule II to a Schedule I drug. Doing so would allow for much more research that could firmly establish the plant’s potential benefits, as well as its side effects.

Unfortunately, it appears we are no closer to this happening than we were when we launched the petition last year. Earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded a series of guidelines put into place by the Obama Administration that essentially told federal prosecutors to lay off arresting people for minor marijuana possession. While those 8 states and DC have decriminalized possession of small amounts, it still remains illegal under federal law.

A national poll released last year found that 52% of Americans have tried marijuana and 56% find the practice socially acceptable. Given the debate over legalization, we owe it to our country’s citizens to get some clear research conducted on marijuana’s positives and negatives.

Medical Marijuana May Curb Use of Prescription Drugs

Patients who use marijuana for medicinal purposes tend to cut down on their use of prescription drugs, and the reason for many is that cannabis has fewer side effects.

Researchers from DePaul University and Rush University in Chicago interviewed 30 people who were receiving medical marijuana legally through an Illinois program that allows those with certain conditions to receive cannabis for their ailment. About 40 chronic conditions, such as cancer, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, HIV/AIDS and post-traumatic stress disorder, qualify for medical marijuana treatment in the state. Many of the illnesses involve inflammation, pain or seizures.

Survey questions in the study were open-ended. The most common reasons for people to use medical cannabis were to taper off of prescription medications, to use marijuana along with prescription drugs, or as an alternative to prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. People also used marijuana to deal with the side effects of prescribed medications.

Why did patients want to reduce their use of prescription meds? Their concerns included dependence, tolerance and toxicity. Many also said that cannabis relieved symptoms better, worked faster and lasted longer than prescription drugs.

Cannabis was used most often as a substitute for opioid pain drugs, the survey results, published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, found. Patients also used fewer OTC painkillers, anticonvulsant and anti-inflammatory meds after using marijuana as a treatment.

“These findings align with previous research that has reported substitution or alternative use of cannabis for prescription pain medications due to concerns regarding addiction and better side-effect and symptom management, as well as complementary use to help manage side-effects of prescription medication,” the researchers wrote.

Other studies have also found a positive association between medical marijuana laws and declining opioid use. A 2014 JAMA study found that states that adopted such legislation saw prescription opioid overdose death rates go down, and the decline increased over time. And a recently published study from the University of Georgia found that areas with a medical marijuana dispensary saw a 20-percentage point decrease in hospital admissions for opioid painkiller abuse the first 2 years the dispensaries were in business.

Quick Hits: Antidepressant Use Soars, FDA Looks at Presenting Fewer Risks in Drug Ads and Marijuana Linked to Hypertension

Between 1999 and 2014, antidepressant use by Americans increased by 65%. By 2014, 1 in 8 Americans (12.7%) 12 and over reported using an antidepressant recently. In 1999, only 7.7% did, according to a new report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Results also showed that women are twice as likely to take an antidepressant than men. Between 2011 and 2014, 24.4% of women had taken an antidepressant in the last month compared to 12.6% of men. Whites were more likely to use antidepressants than any other racial or ethnic group, with 16.5% of them admitting to doing so in the last month. That compares to 5.6% of blacks, 5% of Hispanics and 3.3% of Asians. Researchers also found that most people are using antidepressants over a long period of time. For example, 25% of people surveyed reported taking an antidepressant for 10 years or more, and 68% were taking one for 2 years or more. The findings are based on responses from a national health survey of more than 14,000 people conducted between 2011 and 2014, which were compared to responses from the same survey done in 1999. Posted August 16, 2017. Via NCHS.

The long list of risks mentioned in TV prescription drug ads may be whittled down to only covering the most severe risks and side effects. The FDA says research it has conducted found that “a more targeted presentation of risks” presented in direct-to-consumer (DTC) ads can lead consumers to remember more of the most relevant risks and side effects rather than overwhelming them with every single one. The agency noted that it wants to ensure consumers who are viewing these ads are walking away “properly informed” of the key benefits and risks associated with an advertised medication. The FDA is exploring the possibility that DTC ads will include only the most severe (life-threatening) side effects, along with a note that there are other risks not included in the advertisement. The FDA is also asking for comments from the public. “To inform our policies on how risks should be disclosed, we’re asking consumers, providers and other members of the public to help us better understand what risk information is most useful in TV and other broadcast ads,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement. Posted August 18, 2017. Via FDA.

Regular marijuana use may more than triple the risk of dying from hypertension (high blood pressure). In addition, the risk increases with each year of smoking cannabis. Researchers from Georgia State University analyzed data from 1,213 people aged 20 and older who had been involved in an ongoing National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The information collected on marijuana use among the group was merged with mortality data from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics in 2011. Researchers found that marijuana users had a 3.4 times higher risk of death from hypertension than non-users. Posted August 8, 2017. Via European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

Petition to Allow Greater Research of Marijuana

This week, Su and Jonathan discuss why MedShadow is sponsoring a petition asking the DEA to change marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule II drug. The little research we currently have about marijuana — medical or recreational – is of poor quality. We need stronger research, and for that to happen, the DEA and other agencies must change the classification.

Su Robotti: Hello, my name is Su Robotti and I’m the founder of MedShadow.

Jonathan Block: I’m Jonathan Block, and I’m the content manager at MedShadow.


SR: Today, Jonathan and I would like to talk to you about why we feel it’s very, very important that marijuana be moved from a Schedule I class drug to a Schedule II or lower. And that reason is summed up by saying, we need research. It’s a drug that many people are using for medical reasons, and recreational reasons, and we don’t know what the effects are, really. Before we get too far into why we need more research, let’s explain what a Schedule I drug means.

JB: Sure. Schedule I drug means that the government has determined that that drug has no medical value.

SR: LSD and heroin are Schedule I drugs, and so is marijuana, which seems a bit — I don’t know — subjective. When a drug is a Schedule I drug, it’s difficult to use it to clinical trials because the government has put very high hurdles into place. For example–

JB: Sure, for example, let’s say a researcher actually does want to conduct research for marijuana. What they would have to do is they would have to submit a bunch of paperwork to agencies such as the DEA. There is only one main source of marijuana that can be used for research — that’s at the University of Mississippi. And to be honest with you, there are so many hoops you have to go through that a lot of researchers just get exhausted and don’t even move forward with it. And that’s one of the reasons why we’re trying to, why we’re having this petition for Schedule II, which would make it a heck of a lot easier for these researchers to get access to marijuana legally.

SR: Yes the point of this video is to ask you to sign our petition at medshadow.org asking the DEA and all the affiliated government organizations that have to sign off on this, like the attorney general and the FDA and Health and Human Services. All of these have to agree and sign off on the schedule change for marijuana.

So we need to tell them that people really want this to happen, because people use marijuana recreationally, widely. People use it for medical care, for pain management, for seizure management, for many reasons. Yet, we don’t know what the risks are.

The studies that are out there are, well, frankly they’re mostly pretty crappy. They are observational, which means scientists go to people and say, “Oh, do you use marijuana? How many times have you used it in the past year? Okay, let’s take that as if it’s fact, as if somebody would particularly know or maybe not exaggerate or maybe under state it.” That’s bad research.

Most of the research coming from other countries isn’t much better. There is enough research though, observational and low quality, to tell us that there’s something there that needs to be looked at much more closely.

JB: Right, and the only other thing I wanted to add is that as our audience knows, there is a lot more states now that have legalized marijuana whether for medical use or for recreational use. So there’s the kind of this feeling that when it’s decriminalized that it must be okay, and we don’t know that. And that’s another reason why it’s important to get this research done, and for you watching this video, to sign our petition, which as Su mentioned, is on our webpage at medshadow.org and you’ll find it on the side of the page and it only takes about two minutes to go and sign, so please do so if you agree with us.

SR: And ask your friends to sign it, it’s something that’s very important for yourself, for your kids, for your parents, for anybody who may want or need marijuana. We need to know what we’re doing when we use it, We have the right to. Okay?

JB: Okay.

SR: Thank you, please go to our website.

Let’s Answer the Questions About Marijuana

I’ve written in the past about the unknowns of marijuana. We don’t have concrete proof confirming the medical benefits that cannabis proponents make. The “high” experienced is different every time for every person. We don’t have a way of measuring impairment that drug creates. There are many strains which all have differing effects and so much more.

It seems crazy, but marijuana is still classified as a “Schedule 1” drug according to the Controlled Substances Act. That means officially the US government’s stance on cannabis is that it has “no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse.” This puts it in the same group as drugs such as heroin, LSD and ecstasy.

We Need Research

Marijuana is believed to have many medical benefits but it also has side effects. There is evidence that it can help with pain, stimulate the appetite for people undergoing chemotherapy and treat glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease and seizures, but it is mostly anecdotal or observational in nature. To unleash all the benefits of marijuana and to make sure it is used safely, we need research.

But research is limited because legal access by scientists for study is restricted because it’s a Schedule 1 drug. It’s such a long and cumbersome process requiring paperwork from many different federal agencies that it discourages many researchers from even trying. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) tightly controls access to marijuana for research and has just one main location, the University of Mississippi, where it is grown for this purpose.

Reassign Pot to Schedule II

A solution would be to reassign marijuana as a Schedule 2 drug. This would allow much more research to take place that we can find out if marijuana truly has all the benefits people are talking about and what the risks are. For more information on this topic, please read Pot Research: Why It Matters.)

At MedShadow Foundation, we’ve drafted a petition that will be sent to the DEA and other federal agencies asking them to change marijuana from a Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 drug, which will facilitate medical research on it. If you agree we need more research now, please, sign our petition. And share it with you friends and family too.

Illicit Cannabis Use Rises More in States with Medical Marijuana Laws

States that passed laws legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes saw a bigger increase in illegal marijuana use as well a higher rate of cannabis dependence compared to states without such laws.

Researchers examined data from 3 national health-related national surveys involving more than 118,000 adults. Between 1999 and 2013, illicit cannabis use increased 1.4 percentage points more and cannabis-use disorders 0.7 percentage points more in states that passed medical marijuana laws compared to those without the laws, they reported in JAMA Psychiatry.

“A prudent interpretation of our results is that professionals and the public should be educated on risks of cannabis use and benefits of treatment and prevention/intervention services for cannabis disorders should be provided,” the authors conclude.

An accompanying editorial written by researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse noted that in recent years, the cannabis available to people is 3 to 4 times more potent than in the past. They also wrote that people with mental illness are more likely to engage in marijuana use, which in turn can exacerbate psychiatric symptoms.