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Entries in Pot (9)

Monday
Sep102012

Marijuana Use Tied to Testicular Cancer Risk

iSrtockphoto/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Young men who use marijuana have a higher risk of testicular cancer, a new study found.

The study of 455 Californian men found those who had smoked pot were twice as likely to have been diagnosed with testicular germ cell tumors, the most common form of testicular cancer in men younger than 35.

"Testicular cancer is on the rise," said study author Victoria Cortessis, assistant professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles. "So we asked, 'What is it that young men are doing more frequently that could account for the increased risk?'"

Cortessis and colleagues used interviews to probe recreational drug use among 163 men diagnosed with testicular cancer and 292 healthy men of the same age, and found those who smoked marijuana had double the risk of testicular tumors compared with men who passed on grass. On top of that, their tumors tended to be faster-growing and tougher to treat.

"Most men who get testicular cancer today survive, and that's wonderful. But as a result of treatment, they may have problems with fertility or sexual function," said Cortessis. "So we're talking about the risk of developing the cancer in the first place as well as the subsequent effects of the cancer and its treatment."

The study, published today in the journal Cancer, adds to mounting evidence that smoking marijuana may have lasting effects on men's fertility and overall health.

"We now have three studies connecting marijuana use to testicular cancer, and no studies that contradict them," said Stephen Schwartz, an epidemiologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle and author of the first study linking marijuana use to testicular cancer in 2009. "I think we should start taking notice."

The National Cancer Institute estimates more than 8,500 men will be diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2012. About 360 of them will die from it.

But how marijuana affects the risk of testicular cancer is unclear. In animal studies, marijuana smoke and the cannabis chemical tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, reduce levels of circulating hormones like testosterone.

"We know testosterone is an important regulator of testes development and function," said Cortessis. "It may be that marijuana use disrupts this regulation in a way that makes the testes much more vulnerable to cancer."

Cortessis suspects boys who experiment with marijuana during puberty might be particularly susceptible. In her study, the risk of testicular cancer was higher among men who smoked less than once a week and for fewer than 10 years.

"Guys who tried it and abandoned it may have been very young," she said, adding that her study was too small to tease out age-related risks. "We plan to investigate the possibility that men who use marijuana during puberty may be especially vulnerable, which makes sense if marijuana is disrupting the hormone signaling that directs the testes to maturity."

But other factors could be at play, as men who use marijuana are more likely to drink and use other drugs. However, Cortessis found men who used cocaine were actually less likely to develop testicular cancer – a result that might reflect the drug's toxic effects.

"My suspicion is that the effect of cocaine is to kill the germ cells so they're not there," she said, describing how cocaine cuts testicular size and function in mice. "It's more analogous to a mastectomy to reduce the risk of breast cancer. And for a young guy, that would be high price to pay."

Cortessis and Schwartz agree more work is needed to uncover how marijuana use affects testicular cancer risk, but said men "shouldn't assume smoking marijuana has no impact on your health," according to Schwartz.

"I think at this stage of knowledge men deserve to be informed of this," said Cortessis. "It's not a huge body of work, but the results are so consistent that it's very unlikely this is due to chance."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug272012

Teenage Marijuana Use May Hurt Future IQ

BananaStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Teenagers lighting joints may end up less bright, according to new research released Monday.

In a study of more than 1,000 adolescents in New Zealand, those who began habitually smoking marijuana before age 18 showed an eight-point drop in IQ between the ages of 13 and 38, a considerable decline. The average IQ is 100 points. A drop of eight points represents a fall from the 50th percentile to the 29th percentile in terms of intelligence.

The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, charted the IQ changes in participants over two decades.

Researchers tested the IQs of all of the study subjects at age 13 before any habitual marijuana use. They then split the study into five “waves” during which time they assessed cannabis use -- ages 18, 21, 26, 32, and 38. They again tested IQ at age 38. The authors also controlled for alcohol use, other drug use and education level.

The eight-point drop in IQ was found in subjects who started smoking in adolescence and persisted in “habitual smoking” -- that is, using cannabis at least four days per week -- in three or more of the five study waves.

People who started smoking in adolescence but used marijuana less persistently still had a hit to their IQ’s, but it was less pronounced than the group that used it early and persistently.

In contrast, those who never used marijuana at all gained nearly one IQ point on average.

Madeline Meier, lead researcher and a post-doctoral associate at Duke University, said that persistent use of marijuana in adolescence appeared to blunt intelligence, attention and memory. More persistent marijuana use was associated with greater cognitive decline.

“Collectively, these findings are consistent with speculation that cannabis use in adolescence, when the brain is undergoing critical development, may have neurotoxic effects,” Meier writes in the study.

Of particular worry is the permanence of these effects among people who began smoking marijuana in adolescence. Even after these subjects stopped using marijuana for a year, its adverse effects persisted and some neurological deficits remained. People who did not engage in marijuana smoking until after adolescence showed no adverse effects on intelligence.

Experts in child development said the reasons adolescents may be more susceptible to the harmful effects of marijuana may have to do with a substance called myelin. Myelin can be thought of as a kind of insulation for nerve cells in the brain that also helps speed brain signals along -- and in adolescent brains, the protective coating it forms is not yet complete.

The study appears to lend credence to “stoner” stereotypes in popular media. However, no previous studies can provide data for this phenomenon, since establishing whether a drop in IQ has actually occurred requires that a baseline IQ be obtained before a person ever started using marijuana.  This study did just that.

“[The findings] provide evidence for the actual -- rather than ideological and legal -- basis for concerns regarding cannabis use,” said Dessa Bergen-Cico, a assistant professor of public health, food studies and nutrition at Syracuse University.  “These findings reinforce recommendations on the importance of primary prevention, evidence based drug education and policy efforts targeting not only adolescents, but elementary age children before they start.”

Though the study was conducted among New Zealand young people, the findings could be extended to adolescents in the United States as well. According to statistics released in June by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American teenagers today are more likely to be using marijuana than tobacco products. Of particular worry is the attitude that marijuana is one of the more harmless drugs.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb092012

Pot Smoking Raises Risk of Fatal Car Crashes

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Driving after smoking pot can double a person’s risk of being in a serious or fatal car crash, according to a review of studies published Thursday in the British Medical Journal.

While it may seem like the review is just reinforcing advice to put it in park when under the influence, it’s actually the first review of studies to look at the risk of crashing under the influence of marijuana independent of any other substances such as alcohol, according to the authors.

The results of the review “provide a more definitive statement on the direction that efforts in public policy and intervention should take in addressing road safety,” the researchers wrote.

The findings did not change the policy of NORML, an organization advocating the legalization of marijuana.

“Just like alcohol, there’s a difference between use and abuse,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML.

The organization condemns driving under the influence, he said.  

Researchers in Canada reviewed nine studies that totaled nearly 50,000 people and found those who smoked within three hours before driving were twice as likely to get into a serious car accident. The risk was even higher among drivers aged 35 or younger.

Marijuana plays less of a role in car crashes than alcohol, but smoking pot, even in low doses, can put drivers at risk, researchers found. The studies didn’t clarify what role marijuana plays in minor car crashes.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan102012

Marijuana Smoke Not As Damaging As Tobacco, Says Study

Hemera/Thinkstock(BIRMINGHAM, Ala.) -- Occasionally puffing the magic dragon does not appear to have long-term adverse effects on lung function, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and University of California at San Francisco analyzed marijuana and tobacco use among 5,000 black and white men from the national database CARDIA (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study), which was intended to determine heart disease risk factors over a 20-year period.

Measuring participants' lung function for air flow and lung volume five times throughout the study period, the researchers found that cigarette smokers saw lung function worsen throughout the 20-year period, but marijuana smokers did not. Only the heaviest pot smokers (more than 20 joints per month) showed decreased lung function throughout the study.

But, cautioned Dr. Stefan Kertesz, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and principle investigator on the study, the research should not be viewed as a green light to spark up.

Among the study participants, the average pot smoker lit up two to three times per month. The average tobacco user smoked eight cigarettes per day.

Those who smoked less than the heaviest actually saw a slight increase in air flow and lung function. But otherwise, researchers actually saw a slight increase in lung function among marijuana users.

While an adult male blows out about 4 liters of air in one second, those who occasionally smoked weed could blow out those 4 liters, plus another 50 milliliters -- about one-seventh of a soda can. Kertesz said that the enhanced lung capacity could be due to the extended and heavy inhalations done while smoking marijuana rather than any beneficial effect.

Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the U.S. About 16.7 million Americans 12 and older reported using marijuana at least once in the month prior to a survey conducted in 2009 by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Still, the debate goes on as to whether pot should be legalized. So far, 16 states have legalized the substance for medical use to curb symptoms in patients with pain, AIDS, cancer and several other conditions.

As an institute on studying drug abuse, the National Institute of Drug Abuse noted that the results should not overshadow other established harmful effects of marijuana, such as adverse effects on cognition, potential for psychosis or panic during intoxication and the risk of addiction, which occurs in nine percent of users.

Some health experts have questioned whether the study's findings are conclusive. Robert MacCoun, professor of public policy and law at University of California at Berkeley, said that while the study was carefully conducted, the results are purely correlational.

Experts agreed that the study does not provide evidence that marijuana smoking is healthy for the lungs, but that marijuana is indeed a complex substance.

"I think what is most striking about the results is that we are so accustomed to studies emphasizing, and sometimes exaggerating, how dangerous marijuana is for users' health," said MacCoun. "So this study is a cautionary note that we still have a lot to learn about this complex psychoactive plant."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jan062012

200 Million People Use Illicit Drugs, Study Finds

Doug Menuez/Thinkstock(SYDNEY) -- Roughly 200 million people worldwide use illicit drugs such as marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine and opioids each year, according to a new study. The figure represents about one in 20 people between the ages of 15 and 64.

Using a review of published studies, Australian researchers estimated that as many as 203 million people use marijuana, 56 million people use amphetamines including meth, 21 million people use cocaine and 21 million people use opioids like heroin. The use of all four drug classes was highest in developed countries.

“Intelligent policy responses to drug problems need better data for the prevalence of different types of illicit drug use and the harms that their use causes globally,” reads the report, published Friday in The Lancet. “This need is especially urgent in high-income countries with substantial rates of illicit drug use and in low-income and middle-income countries close to illicit drug production areas.”

The 200 million number does not include people who use ecstasy, hallucinogenic drugs, inhalants, benzodiazepines or anabolic steroids -- just one reason it’s likely a vast underestimate of illicit drug use, according to lead author Louisa Degenhardt of the Sydney-based National Drug and Alcohol Research Center.

“Drug use is often hidden, particularly when people fear the consequences of being discovered for using drugs, such as being imprisoned,” Degenhardt said in a press conference.

Up to 39 million people are considered “problematic” or dependent drug users and up to 21 million people inject drugs, according to the report.

“It’s likely that injectable drug users have increased,” said Degenhardt, adding that the practice, “is a major direct cause of HIV, hepatitis C and to some extent hepatitis B transmission globally.”  Cocaine, amphetamine and heroin can be injected either alone or in combination.

Illicit drugs can have dangerous health effects, including overdosing, accidental injury caused by intoxication, dependence and long-term organ damage. While they may not cause immediate death, they’re thought to shave 13 million years off the life spans of users worldwide, according to the report.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun152011

Most Men Arrested Are On Drugs, Report Says

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Most of the men arrested last year in ten participating U.S. cities were on at least one drug when apprehended, according to a report issued Wednesday by the Office of National Drug Policy.

In Chicago, 83 percent of the men arrested were found to be on drugs -- the most of any of the cities cited in the government report. In Washington, D.C., the percentage of those on drugs when arrested was 52 percent -- the lowest on the list.

[Read the entire report on the Office of National Drug Control Policy's website.]

The report says the findings highlight the link between drug use and crime and "illustrate why we must approach our Nation's drug problem as a public health and safety problem," according to Gil Kerlikowske, the director of National Drug Control Policy.

Fewer adult males tested positive for cocaine in 2010, the study found, and are instead using drugs such meth, marijuana, and oxycodone.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May052011

Montana Dad Gives Cancer-Stricken Toddler Medical Marijuana

David McNew/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Doctors said two-year-old Cash Hyde would likely die after they found a stage 4 brain tumor surrounding his optic nerve just a year ago this week.

And he nearly did.  After being subjected to seven different chemotherapy drugs, the little boy from Missoula, Montana suffered septic shock, a stroke and pulmonary hemorrhaging.

Cash was so sick he went 40 days without eating.  His organs were threatening to shut down.  His father, Mike Hyde, intervened, slipping cannabis oil into his son's feeding tube.

In Montana, medical marijuana is legal.  Hyde had used it himself to treat his attention deficit disorder.  When Cash was diagnosed in May 2010, Mike got him a marijuana card and purchased the drug from his own supplier.

Cash, now three, made a miraculous recovery at Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City, but his father's bold action -- taken behind doctors' backs -- has raised serious questions about a parent's role in medical treatment.

Hyde said he believes it was the marijuana oil that helped Cash eat again and that the drug -- illegal in most states, including Utah, can cure cancer.

"Not only was it helpful," Hyde, 27, told ABC News.  "It was a godsend."

Dr. Linda Granowetter, a professor of pediatrics at New York University and chief of the Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, told ABC News that Hyde's intervention was "fascinating" but "somewhat bothersome."

Granowetter said she agrees that cannabis -- the chemical form, THC can be found in the prescription drug Marinol -- is effective in treating adult nausea that accompanies chemotherapy.  But there have been no clinical trials in children.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar012011

Study Links Marijuana Use to Psychosis

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(THE NETHERLANDS) -- Marijuana may cause schizophrenia, according to a European study.

Almost 2,000 German participants ranging 14 to 24 years of age were monitored over a 10-year period for signs of psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations.  None of them had a reported history of smoking pot or psychotic symptoms at the beginning of the study. 

The study participants were re-assessed after 3.5 years and again after 8.5 years for both marijuana use and psychotic symptom experiences.  The authors found that the participants who reported having smoked pot at 3.5 years into the study were 90 percent more likely to report experiencing psychotic symptoms during the later part of the study. 

Furthermore, those youths reporting continuous use throughout the study period were 2.2 times more likely to report persistent psychotic symptoms as well. 

Because pot use was reported before the onset of psychotic symptoms, the authors conclude that smoking pot can increase the risk of developing psychotic symptoms.

The study was released Tuesday by the British Medical Journal.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Tuesday
Jan252011

Capitalizing on Medical Marijuana: Pot Soft-Drinks

Photo Courtesy - KGO-TV San Francisco(SAN FRANCISCO) -- California and Colorado have more liberal medical marijuana laws than most states, and one entrepreneur wants to capitalize on those tolerant policies by marketing a line of marijuana soft drinks.

Clay Butler tells The Mercury News he's never smoked marijuana, but he thinks there's a market in marijuana dispensaries for a line of soft drinks that contain THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

The resident of Soquel, Calif., has partnered with Diavolo Brands to produce five soft drink flavors: Canna Coke, a Dr. Pepper-like beverage called Doc Weed, lemon-lime Sour Diesel, Grape Ape, and the orange-flavored Orange Kush.

Butler hopes to launch the products in Colorado next month, and in California by springtime. 

The soft drinks will sell for between $10 and $15 per 12-ounce bottle.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio