It has been a rough couple of weeks for anyone that has been even casually following world news events. For our future visitors, I (and I suspect many other people) learned a new word this week.
Insurrection. If you are lucky enough to be reading this without the burning pain of having this event stuck in your long-term memory, searching the term Insurrection 2021 should tell you all you need to know.
Please note that the event of which I am speaking is the occurrence of January 6, 2021, in Washington DC. Anything that you discover that may follow, has not happened yet.
Note: In the time that this has been sitting in my drafts queue, President Trump has been officially impeached for his role in the violent insurrection (January 13, 2021). This makes him the first POTUS in history to be impeached twice. What an era to be alive . . .
And I thought that Millenials and zoomers would never witness any interesting history. Well, aside from the seemingly slow but insanly paced technocal innovations in many sectors of the past 30 years alone. And of course, the extremly dark winter that awaits us all a few decades from now on account to the many choices of todays mature Trump-voting adults. But enough with the bleakness. . .
With that out of the way, time to move on to some snippets from around the net that I found interesting. Marijuana research is slowly coming to fruition, for better or for worse.
Let’s start with a usage survey of sorts that tracks the use of marijuana (and other recreational drugs) throughout the year.
“We found that marijuana use is consistently higher among those surveyed later in the year, peaking during late fall or early winter before dropping at the beginning of the following year. We think this may be due, in part, to a ‘Dry January’ in which some people stop drinking alcohol or even stop using marijuana as part of a New Year’s resolution,” said Joseph Palamar, PhD, MPH, an associate professor of population health at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, an affiliated researcher with the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research (CDUHR) at NYU School of Global Public Health, and the study’s lead author. “We’re now in the time of year when people are the least likely to use marijuana.”
Prior research shows that alcohol and drug use vary by time of year, with drug use often increasing during summer months, possibly due, in part, to social events. These seasonal variations can inform interventions — for instance, studies show that programs to reduce heavy drinking among college students should begin during the summer.
To better understand seasonal trends in marijuana use, Palamar and his colleagues analyzed data from 282,768 adolescents and adults who responded to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2015 to 2019. The survey asked participants about their past-month use of marijuana and other substances, and the researchers estimated their use within each calendar quarter: January through March, April through June, July through September, and October through December.
Each year, as the calendar year progressed, marijuana use grew, increasing in summer and fall months before dropping as each new year began. While 8.9 percent reported using marijuana in January through March, 10.1 percent reported using in October through December, a 13-percent relative increase.
These seasonal trends occurred independently of annual growth in marijuana use and were seen across nearly all groups surveyed, regardless of sex, race/ethnicity, and education level. Teens were one exception; their marijuana use grew in the summer but declined in the fall months back to winter and spring levels.
It’s an interesting set of observations of which I suspect will be flipped on its head for the previous year. But such is going to be the legacy of 2020. The great outlier.
The data (as collected and presented) does make a lot of sense. However, I have some disagreement that the dropoff during the early part of the year is necessarily driven by goals for a new year.
Let’s start our year in the spring and summer. As the researchers note, the improving weather and the rejuvenating landscape of the warm months bring people outdoors and spurs more social gatherings. In this year of 2021, I expect this to definitely be a noticeable trend (once vaccine distribution has ramped up, anyhow).
Drug use continues to remain steady and climb going into the fall and early winter months, which makes sense. With Fall comes Thanksgiving, Halloween and the lead up to Christmas (which is made up of many parties and celebrations). Speaking of Christmas, preparations for the upcoming holiday itself is a big source of stress and financial burden for many people, which in itself likely drives some drug use.
Christmas and New Years’ are all about chemical consumption.
Thus bringing us into January. A month when many of us are broke, and facing the lasting financial hangover that occurs when the credit card bill arrives.
As for the data regarding teen use, again, this makes perfect sense. Kids that are living with parents are prone to use drugs more often during periods of more free time. Summer break.
Recreational use may be driving the growth throughout the year, as similar small increases occurred among those living in states with and without legal medical marijuana, and among those without a prescription for medical marijuana. Seasonal marijuana use also increased among those who reported using other substances, including alcohol, nicotine, and especially LSD.
The researchers note that the consistent dip in marijuana use during winter months could be a result of a variety of factors: a lower supply this time of year from cannabis harvests, colder weather keeping people inside who usually smoke outdoors, or people quitting marijuana as a New Year’s resolution.
This more or less follows the pattern I hypothesized. I certainly smoked fewer cigarettes during the winter back when I was a smoker.
That is it for that piece. Let’s move on to our next pick.
No, Science Has Not Proven Marijuana Lowers Your IQ
As with so many things between 2016 and 2020, the idea that marijuana damages IQ became popular in some circles because soon-to-be-former President Donald Trump said it.
In audio secretly recorded in 2018 and leaked in early 2020, President Trump told a group gathered at a White House dinner party that marijuana “does cause an IQ problem. It lowers your IQ.”
Uh. So much for avoiding the news of the day.
Interestingly, his son, Donald Trump Jr., disagreed with him, saying: “I will say this, between that and alcohol, as far as I’m concerned, alcohol does much more damage. You don’t see people beating their wives on marijuana. It’s just different.”
Research shows that the belief marijuana lowers IQ is mostly a myth. But the IQ thing stuck. In December, North Carolina Rep. David Rouzer Tweeted that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) “states that regular marijuana use can reduce IQ by 8 points.”
That sounds very authoritative. But it’s not true, according to the NIH itself.
NIH did release a report in July 2020 about marijuana, and it touched on the subject of IQ. However, it did not state that cannabis lowers IQ.
Here’s what it states: “Some studies have also linked marijuana use to declines in IQ, especially when use starts in adolescence and leads to persistent cannabis use disorder into adulthood. However, not all of the studies on the link between marijuana and IQ have reached the same conclusion, and it is difficult to prove that marijuana causes a decline in IQ when multiple factors can influence the results of such studies.”
Those factors, according to the NIH, include:
- Family environment
- Age of first use
- Frequency of use
- Having a cannabis use disorder
- Duration of use
- Duration of the study
That’s a far cry from stating that cannabis “does cause an IQ problem” or that it can “reduce IQ by 8 points.”
If you were prone to believing that talking point, now you know. Let it forever be relegated to the hopefully ignorant and the hopelessly disingenuous.
On to the next.
Smoking weed may expose you to the same type of toxic chemicals found in tobacco smoke, a new study finds.
People who only smoked marijuana had higher blood and urine levels of several smoke-related toxins such as naphthalene, acrylamide and acrylonitrile than nonsmokers, according to the study published Monday in the journal EClinicalMedicine.
“Marijuana use is on the rise in the United States with a growing number of states legalizing it for medical and nonmedical purposes – including five additional states in the 2020 election,” said senior author Dr. Dana Gabuzda, a principal investigator in cancer immunology and virology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, in a statement.
“The increase has renewed concerns about the potential health effects of marijuana smoke, which is known to contain some of the same toxic combustion products found in tobacco smoke,” Gabuzda said.
First off, note the source, a potentially Sinclair Media affiliated local news platform. These types of platforms are notorious for latching onto any marijuana negative that is found in the press, then running with it. Having said that, however, it is important to note that smoking anything is not necessarily good for the lungs. Though the wise marijuana advocate knows to use the word harmless in the context of other substances, others not being so careful drive the sharing of articles like this in the echo chambers of the ignorant.
I will also note (for anyone interested), my look into the chemical acrylamide as explored several years ago now.
The new research presented data from three studies of 245 HIV-positive and HIV-negative participants. Researchers said they chose to study people with HIV infection because of the high prevalence of tobacco and marijuana smoking typically found in this population.
I can understand the utility of such a choice. However, it still seems a bit of a slap in the face to that cohort. As manageable as HIV has become in recent years (compared to its status even when I was a child!), we’re still dealing with what was for all intents and purposes, a fatal medical condition.
But then again, what better person does one have to study the effects of chemotherapy than a consenting cancer patient. Maybe I am being unreasonable, after all. Feel free to make your views known in the comments.
Medical records were compared to blood and urine samples of various chemicals produced by the breakdown of nicotine or the combustion of tobacco or marijuana.
Tobacco and tobacco-marijuana smokers had higher levels of naphthalene, acrylamide and acrylonitrile than marijuana-only smokers. Tobacco smokers also had increased levels of a chemical called acrolein in their blood and urine. Acrolein is a known contributor to cardiovascular disease in tobacco smokers.
Marijuana smokers, however, did not have higher levels of acrolein in their bodies.
“This is the first study to compare exposure to acrolein and other harmful smoke-related chemicals over time in exclusive marijuana smokers and tobacco smokers, and to see if those exposures are related to cardiovascular disease,” Gabuzda said.
Acrolein is a chemical with a burnt, sweet, pungent odor created by the burning of fuels such as gasoline or oil and organic matter such as tobacco. The chemical is not added to cigarettes; acrolein is produced by the burning of sugars present in tobacco when smoked.
Short-term exposure to acrolein can cause upper respiratory tract irritation and congestion. At extreme levels, it can be toxic to humans following inhalation, oral or dermal exposures, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
This explains a lot of the pain of sitting in a closed-in space with a heavy smoker, or a number of smokers. And of course, the horror that was the bingo hall that my dad once worked in during the mid to late 90’s. Though you always got used to the literally tons of smoke that was contained in that room (or any space with a smoker), you never notice the stench until your home.
That is one part of smoking anything that I don’t miss.
While weed smokers had higher amounts of naphthalene, acrylamide and acrylonitrile in blood and urine than nonsmokers, even higher levels were found in people who smoked tobacco or a combination of marijuana and tobacco.
Acrylamide is a chemical used to make paper, plastics and dyes, but is also produced when vegetables such as potatoes are heated to high temperatures. It is also a component of tobacco smoke.
“People are exposed to substantially more acrylamide from tobacco smoke than from food. People who smoke have three to five times higher levels of acrylamide exposure markers in their blood than do non-smokers,” stated the National Cancer Institute.
According to the American Cancer Society, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies acrylamide as a “probable human carcinogen,” while the US National Toxicology Program says it’s “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen,” based on animal studies.
Acrylonitrile is typically used in the manufacturer of plastics and fibers. “Cigarette smoking can be a significant source of acrylonitrile indoor air pollution,” according to the World Health Organization.
Symptoms of acrylonitrile poisoning include “limb weakness, labored and irregular breathing, dizziness and impaired judgment, cyanosis, nausea, collapse, and convulsions,” the US Environmental Protection Agency said. And a “statistically significant increase in the incidence of lung cancer has been reported in several studies of chronically exposed workers.”
The EPA classifies acrylonitrile as a “probable human carcinogen.”
Naphthalene, which is used in mothballs, can cause “headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, malaise, confusion, anemia, jaundice, convulsions, and coma,” according to the EPA.
The highest concentrations of naphthalene in indoor air occurs in the homes of cigarette smokers, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
To add another personal touch to this, this makes me recall a time whilst riding in the car of a family friend (who was a smoker), and finding myself feeling a headache and increasingly nauseous on account of the smoke. It was odd to me at the time having been a smoker, and been in a number of smokey environments with various people before (and since). The variable seemed to be the brand of cigarettes.
New to the Canadian market, Viceroy. I don’t know what was in these suckers, but they sure didn’t agree with me.
Either way, the message in this article seems fairly clear-cut. Smoking cigarettes isn’t doing anyone any favours (in terms of their health), and smoking marijuana is likely not any better. Good thing that we have edibles, then!
Though before going down that path, make sure you consult someone with a knowledge of dosages so your first brush with edibles won’t result in a bad trip. This is VERY important.
I thank KDRV TV (Medford, Oregan) for that surprisingly unbiased and to point article. Granted, the audience likely has a lot to do with that. Oregan has already decided on this issue.
On to the next.
Women who use cannabis could have more difficulty conceiving: U.S. study
Women who consumed cannabis while trying to conceive were less likely than non-users to conceive or to become pregnant over the study period, notes new research from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).
NIH researchers considered women who were trying to conceive and had used cannabis or hash in the weeks before pregnancy or had THC-positive urine tests.
Published this week in Human Reproduction, the study found that cannabis users were 41 per cent less likely to conceive per monthly cycle than non-users. “Similarly, a smaller proportion of cannabis users than non-users became pregnant during the study — 42 per cent versus 66 per cent,” notes a statement from the NIH.
There was a lower chance of conceiving “despite an increased frequency of intercourse,” the study abstract states.
If pregnancy was achieved, however, study authors found no differences in miscarriage rates between cannabis users and non-users.
Participants were part of a larger group of 1,228 women between the ages of 18 and 40 who had had one or two prior miscarriages. From 2006 to 2012, women participated for as many as six monthly cycles while trying to get pregnant and throughout pregnancy, if conception occurred, the NIH reports.
Women self-reported preconception cannabis use as many as four times over the course of the study: at baseline, after six months of follow-up or at the beginning of the conception cycle, and weeks four and eight of pregnancy.
Researchers make clear that any conclusions about cannabis use and fertility should be tempered because the study included just a small number of cannabis users, amounting to five per cent. Only 1.3 per cent of participants used cannabis during the first eight weeks of gestation, the abstract notes.
The bold and italics were added by me to make clear the bias of the article, as reported by the publication itself.
Additionally, the NIH points out, researchers did not take into account cannabis use among the women’s partners, which could have influenced conception rates.
Researchers further point out that compared to non-users, cannabis users “had higher levels of luteinizing hormone and a higher proportion of luteinizing hormone to follicle stimulating hormone,” differences that “could potentially have influenced their likelihood of conception.”
All that said, “the authors say their results suggest that women trying to conceive should exercise caution with cannabis use until more definitive evidence is available,” according to the NIH. “Cannabis use continues to rise despite limited evidence of safety during critical windows of pregnancy establishment,” adds the study abstract.
The final paragraph is left unaltered since it equates to common sense. If trying to conceive and/or pregnant, one should be careful of any drugs they are taking, including substances like caffeine. That is to say, substances that most people view as benign in nature (mainly on account of how laws and statutes regulate them).
Findings from research on cannabis use and pregnancy have been mixed. Some recent studies have linked marijuana use during pregnancy to conditions or behaviours in offspring, including psychotic-like behaviours and autism.
A study review published last year, however, concluded that “current evidence does not suggest that prenatal cannabis exposure alone is associated with clinically significant cognitive functioning impairments.”
Only a handful of studies have explored the impact of cannabis use on female fertility, notes a post from the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Women’s Mental Health. “We will continue to recommend that women (and their male partners) who are pregnant or attempting to conceive should not use cannabis,” the post states.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, too, has remained steadfast in its advice to refrain from using CBD, THC and cannabis “in any form during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.”
I decided to include this paragraph on account of Autism being a common card among the arsenal of attention-grabbing traits utilized by health-oriented snake oil peddlers of either fake cures or scientific non-sense. From vaccinations to gluten-free bread, you never know where it’s going to turn up next. I thank the article’s author for making this clear.
As for the rest of the paragraph (and the article), we again come back to the lack of research in the area of cannabis. Though the pace is picking up even since 2018/2019 (when I started engaging in the topic a lot more), we still have a long way to go. Until these gaps are slowly filled in overtime, we must use common sense as our guide.
Since I hate the term common sense (because people are stupid), I prefer the notion of best practices. Some that come to mind:
1.) Smoking anything isn’t necessarily good for the health. Unfortunately for people like me, this also includes things like meats. If in doubt, pass on the smoke . . . be it a blunt or a steak. It is better for the environment to eat less meat anyway, so get creative!
2.) Moderation is the key to keeping many bad outcomes in life at bay. Consumption of any substance is best done in moderation. Be it smoked or edible cannabis, smoked meats, or other substances.
3.) If looking to conceive or carrying a child, it’s likely best to avoid anything that could be troublesome. Starting with most drugs is a good rule of thumb. Maybe even smoked meats as well. If the chemicals could be messing with DNA and otherwise doing damage to our own bodies, what might they be doing to that of a fetus?
On an interesting note, this study recommends fathers quit smoking (or risk congenital defects in their offspring). As for barbecued meat, this study seems to make the case for avoidance during pregnancy.
Since I am much akin to Dr. Phil (I have no medical degree!), I expect no one to take me at my word. Talk to a real doctor, and use your best judgement.
I thank the London Free Press (London, Ontario) for that article. And now, on to the next. Some awesome news coming out of Mexico (courtesy of Mexico News Daily).
After 3-year delay, medical marijuana will be legal as of Wednesday
More than three years after Congress approved the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, it will finally become legal on Wednesday.
President López Obrador on Tuesday published regulations for the production, research and use of medicinal marijuana.
The Congress-approved reform to legalize medicinal marijuana was originally published in June 2017 but not promulgated, although then president Enrique Peña Nieto was supposed to sign off on the law within 180 days.
It wasn’t until July 2020 that a regulatory framework developed by the federal Health Ministry was put out for public consultation, paving the way for its implementation.
Published in the federal government’s official gazette, the new regulations authorize the government to oversee the production of marijuana for research and medicinal purposes. Companies growing medicinal marijuana and/or using the plant to manufacture medications must be authorized by the health regulator Cofepris.
The regulations allow pharmacies to supply cannabis-based medicines to authorized patients in possession of prescriptions. Drugstores will be required to maintain a registry of people with approval to purchase them.
In addition, the regulatory framework permits the importation to Mexico of seeds, cannabis derivatives to be used in medicinal products and processed marijuana-based medications.
This is excellent news for the citizens of Mexico. Not only will residents benefit from having a legal (presumably non-cartel) source for their cannabis crops, citizens will also benefit from the cannabis products of other nations. This will be good for trade with Canada, the US and others embracing this new era of legalization. Whilst medicinal marijuana is a small step, it’s proved a universal stepping stone for many regions that are now fully embracing legal cannabis markets. Once the US finally changes its policies, I suspect that Mexico will not be far behind.
To put it another way . . . about BLOODY time. After all, prohibition has not just been costly in terms of resources, it’s been extremely costly in terms of lives.
That is it for this exploration of marijuana in the news.