Entries in Weed (9)


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


Chong Treats Prostate Cancer With Cannabis

Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic(NEW YORK) -- Actor-comedian Tommy Chong, one-half of the pot-loving pair “Cheech and Chong,” said he’s treating his “slow stage-one” prostate cancer with his favorite plant.

“I’ve got prostate cancer, and I’m treating it with hemp oil, with cannabis,” Chong, 74, told CNN Saturday. “So [legalizing marijuana] means a lot more to me than just being able to smoke a joint without being arrested.”

Chong told the news site that he was diagnosed with the illness about a month ago, but he first experienced symptoms of the cancer about eight years ago while in jail after selling drug paraphernalia.

He no longer smokes marijuana because of “health reasons,” he told CNN, and he consumes the hemp oil at night so he “won’t be woozy all day.”

Cannabis has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to relieve symptoms of nausea and vomiting, and to help increase appetite in people with cancer and AIDS, according to the American Cancer Society. The most potent ingredient of medical marijuana is THC. The product comes in the form of an inhaler, pills and oil and it can also be smoked.

There are no other drugs that work as well as cannabis for treating the nausea and anorexia associated with cancer and its treatments, Dr. Donna Seger, associate professor of clinical medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn., told ABC News in March.

It is unclear whether Chong has undergone chemotherapy or other treatments for the cancer, but treatment of stage 1 prostate cancer, which is only found in the prostate, is often approached by the “watchful waiting” technique, when doctors allow time to pass to see the progression of the disease before they suggest surgery or medical intervention.

At least one doctor believes Chong’s promoting his self-described treatment is a disservice to other men with the disease.

“As a comedian, this is a really funny skit,” said Dr. Leonard G. Gomella, chairman of the department of urology at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. “As a public figure who can get a forum, it is irresponsible. Had he been suffering from widely metastatic disease with bone pain and other devastations, perhaps there may be a role, but not for early disease.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


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


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


Driving Stoned: Safer Than Driving Drunk?

Hemera/Thinkstock(DENVER) -- Drivers who get behind the wheel stoned instead of drunk may actually be making the roads safer in states that allow medical marijuana, according to new research.

Economists Daniel Rees of the University of Colorado Denver and Mark Anderson of Montana State University looked at traffic fatalities in thirteen states that enacted medical marijuana laws between 1990 and 2009.  They found that on average, traffic fatalities in those states fell nearly 9 percent after medical pot became legal.

“What’s going on is that young adults– especially males– were drinking less when medical marijuana became legal,” Rees tells ABC News, pointing to data from the Beer Institute that showed a drop in beer sales in states with new medical marijuana laws.  “You legalize medical marijuana and the highways become safer.”

Why?  Rees and Anderson have two theories.

“One hypothesis is that it’s just safer to drive under the influence of marijuana than it is drunk,” Rees says.  “Drunk drivers take more risk, they tend to go faster.  They don’t realize how impaired they are.  People who are under the influence of marijuana drive slower, they don’t take as many risks.”

The other theory, Rees says, is that people smoking marijuana simply don’t go out as much.

Could other factors be at work?  For example, some states like Tennessee and Virginia, have seen declines in traffic fatalities since 1994 even without medical marijuana laws.   And in Colorado–where medical marijuana is legal–police have seen increasing numbers of stoned drivers.  In 2010, 32 people involved in fatal crashes had ingested marijuana, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Rees says he and Anderson stand by their research, which they note has not yet been peer-reviewed by colleagues.  They say they carefully accounted for nationwide trends and other policy changes — such as seat belt laws or lower speed limits– that could also be responsible for lowering traffic deaths.

“It’s really hard to think, once you’ve accounted for all those things, what could be reducing alcohol consumption and be correlated with legalization of medical marijuana,” Rees said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


DEA Rejects Weed as Medicine; Marijuana Advocates Threaten to Sue

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Although 16 states recognize marijuana as a drug with important medicinal properties, the Drug Enforcement Administration has shot down a petition to reclassify marijuana as such, citing that it has "no accepted medical use." The result is that marijuana will remain within the strictest categorization of restricted substances, alongside heroin and LSD.

"As a doctor and medical researcher, I find the DEA's decision unfortunate," said Dr. Igor Grant, a neuropsychiatrist and director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California-San Diego. "It looks like they underplayed what positive information there is in the literature about marijuana. This policy is guided more by certain kinds of beliefs in the dangers of marijuana, at the expense of advance of medical knowledge for patients."

The DEA's refusal, laid out in a June 21 letter from DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart to the organizations who filed the petition back in 2002, marks yet another bump in the road for patients, doctors, and activists fighting for improved access to what they deem a vitally therapeutic medication.

"The statement 'it has no accepted medical use' is simply wrong as a statement of fact," said Rob MacCoun, psychologist and professor of Law and Public Policy at University of California Berkeley Law School. "There is now considerable evidence showing medical benefits, at or exceeding standards of evidence for many other pharmaceuticals. Prescribing physicians in over a dozen states clearly see an accepted medical value for their patients."

Americans for Safe Access, one of the organizations petitioning the DEA, already has plans to appeal the decision, taking the federal government to court, and if necessary, the Supreme Court, in order to argue for the medicinal value of marijuana.

"Frankly, we're ready to go head to head with the Obama administration on this issue," said Kris Hermes, spokesman for Americans for Safe Access. "We have science on our side and we're hopeful the court will see it that way."

Calls made to the DEA for comment were not returned.

The original petition sent to the DEA in 2002 called for reclassifying marijuana into schedule III, IV, or V, drugs, all of which would acknowledge its potential for medical use and place its threat as a potentially harmful and/or addictive substance as less severe than class I and II drugs such as heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, and morphine.

Such a change means that marijuana would remain a controlled substance, but that its use in medical contexts would not be considered illegal under federal law, as is the case now.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


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


Legalize Marijuana, Says Inventor of 'Spice' Chemicals

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When John W. Huffman invented a whole class of chemicals that mimic the effect of marijuana on the human brain, he never intended for them to launch a whole "legal marijuana" industry.

But now that "Spice" and other forms of imitation pot are sending users to emergency rooms across America, the retired professor has an idea of how to stem the epidemic. If the federal government would legalize the real thing, says Huffman, maybe consumers wouldn't turn to the far more dangerous fake stuff.

Huffman, who developed more than 400 "cannabinoids" as an organic chemist at Clemson University, says that marijuana has the benefit of being a known quantity, and not a very harmful one. "The scientific evidence is that it's not a particularly dangerous drug," said Huffman.

The "JWH" class of compounds that Huffman invented to mimic marijuana's effects, meanwhile, have not been tested the same way. "The physiological compounds effects of [JWH] compounds have never been examined in humans," said Huffman. What we do know, he says, is that "it doesn't hit the brain in the same way as marijuana, and that's why it's dangerous."

While they are known to elevate blood pressure -- unlike marijuana -- and to cause increased heart rate and anxiety, to date most of the evidence of their effects is anecdotal, and comes from things like visits to emergency rooms. "There have been a number of people who've committed suicide after using them," said Huffman.

Huffman began working on the cannabinoids in the early 1990s using a grant from the National Institute for Drug Abuse. He published academic papers that gave information on the chemical steps to make the compounds, including JWH-018, one of the easiest of the class to make and the one most often found in Spice products.

"JWH-018 can be made by a halfway decent undergraduate chemistry major," said Huffman, "in three steps using commercially available materials."

In 2008, says Huffman, someone sent him an article from the German magazine Der Spiegel about a young man using the JWH chemicals to get high. He subsequently learned that the "imitation marijuana" drugs based on his chemicals had popped up in Europe in 2006, not long after he'd published a paper describing how to make the compounds. The compounds were also being used commercially in South Korea as a plant growth product, and Huffman speculates that they migrated from there to China, where they are now being manufactured for use in Spice.

"I figured that somewhere along the line, some enterprising individual would try to smoke it," said Huffman. He didn't figure that it would become a global industry.

Anyone who ingests it recreationally, Huffman stressed, is "foolish" and playing "Russian Roulette," and the head shop owners who are selling it know what they are doing. "They can read the newspapers, they can watch TV," said Huffman. "They know what's in it. And I think they're exploiting the young people who buy them." A representative of a head shop trade group told ABC News that the products should be regulated but not outlawed.

Huffman, who opposes prohibition in general, doubts that a ban on the substances will keep kids away from it. "We declared marijuana illegal in 1937. The federal government passed the law. Now, that really did a lot of good to keep people from smoking marijuana, didn't it?"

Huffman said that making all the JWH compounds illegal would probably have similar results, but emphasizes that any decision to legalize JWH compounds should hinge on a thorough study of how they affect humans. The DEA currently bans five cannabinoids, including JWH-018 and one other JWH chemical, but Congress is weighing a more sweeping ban.

Huffman does believes marijuana should be legalized, since its effects are known. "It should be sold only to people 21 and older. It should be heavily, heavily taxed."

One of the benefits of decriminalizing marijuana, he said, would be diminishing the allure of its more dangerous substitutes.

"I talked to a marijuana provider from California, a doctor, a physician," explained Huffman, "and he said that in California, that these things are not near the problem they are in the rest of the country simply because they can get marijuana. And marijuana, even for recreational use is quite easy to get in California, and it's essentially decriminalized. And marijuana is not nearly as dangerous as these compounds."

The trouble with trying to keep people from using drugs like Spice, said Huffman, is that "people are going to do what they're going to do," even if some kid is spending "$25 bucks on a bag of green stuff, and he doesn't know what's in it, and he doesn't know what it does."

"You can't tell a 17-year-old anything, because they consider that they're immortal."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


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