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medical marijuana

5/31/13 10:57am

Could Marijuana Treat Schizophrenia?

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Cannabidiol and THC affect the brain
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A compound found in marijuana can help treat schizophrenia as effectively as standard antipsychotic drugs—and with fewer side effects—according to the results of a new clinical trial, reports The Fix columnist Maia Szalavitz in Time. Researchers at University of Cologne in Germany studied 39 people with schizophrenia, all hospitalized for a psychotic episode. Twenty of the patients were given cannabidiol (CBD), a substance found in marijuana that is associated with its mellowing, anti-anxiety effects (not THC—the main ingredient in marijuana, which has been found to worsen schizophrenia). The other participants were given amisulpride, an antipsychotic medication. At the end of the four-week trial, both groups showed significant clinical improvement in their schizophrenic symptoms. “The results were amazing,” says Daniele Piomelli, professor of pharmacology at the University of California-Irvine and a co-author of the study. “Not only was [CBD] as effective as standard antipsychotics, but it was also essentially free of the typical side effects seen with antipsychotic drugs.” Antipsychotic medications can cause serious, sometimes permanent movement disorders and other side effects such as weight gain and movement problems. In the study, these side effects were observed in those taking amisulpride, but not in those taking CBD. “These exciting findings should stimulate a great deal of research,” says Dr. John Krystal, chair of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine, who was not associated with the study. He noted that CBD, in addition to having fewer side effects, also seemed to work better on schizophrenia’s negative symptoms, which are notoriously difficult to treat, including: social withdrawal, blunting of pleasure, and lack of motivation.

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By Valerie Tejeda

headlines

5/31/13 5:00am

Morning Roundup: May 31, 2013

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Diego Pellicer: America's first name brand
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By Victoria Kim

quitting smoking

5/30/13 5:27pm

China's Smoking Cessation Clinics Are a Flop

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China's smokers exceed the entire US
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China is the top consumer of cigarettes in the world (burning through 50,000 cigarettes a second). But subsidized smoking cessation clinics are reportedly failing as the nation's staggering number of smokers seem largely unwilling to quit. In a country with 300 million smokers (more than the entire US population), 600,000 people develop lung cancer every year, accounting for one-third of global cases. A few years ago, it seemed like the perfect recipe for a booming smoking cessation market."If all of these smokers began seeking professional help in their struggle to quit smoking, China could find itself with a burgeoning new market," said Xiao Dan, director of a smoking cessation clinic in a Beijing hospital, in 2011. The country's response to these treatment centers has reportedly been so unenthusiastic that many have been forced to shut down. Treatment costs about 2,000 yuan (around $320)—less than what a heavy smoker might spend on cigarettes each year. And in Beijing, where 29% of the city's 20 million residents are smokers, the cost of treatment will now be covered by public health insurance. But most Beijing hospitals have already closed their smoking cessation clinics due to low attendance. One clinic in a Chongqing hospital received only 10 patients last year, a drop from 100 patients in 2008 when the clinic first opened. And a doctor in Chongqing said that many of those who do manage to quit in treatment end up returning to the habit. A law issued by the government in 2011 banned smoking in enclosed public spaces, but its enforcement has been lacking since it doesn't stipulate any penalties for offenders. Previous anti-smoking efforts, including a nationwide ban on smoking in hospitals, were met with dissent.

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By Victoria Kim

drug policy

5/30/13 4:37pm

Graph: Drugs Get Cheaper as Arrests Rise

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Cocaine is getting cheaper and cheaper
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A graph published in the Washington Post (below) illustrates the "embarrassing" results of government attempts to stymie illegal drug supply. The prices of cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine—which collectively account for 90% of drug-related incarceration—plunged between 1980 and 2008, just as drug-related incarceration rose from fewer than 42,000 in 1980 to 562,000 in 2007. In the paper which produced the figures on which the graph is based—Long-Run Trends in Incarceration of Drug Offenders in the USJonathan Caulkins and Sarah Chandler of Carnegie Mellon University note that a major aim of drug-related incarceration is to drive up prices and reduce consumption by constraining the illegal drug supply. Law enforcement attempts to make drugs more expensive include crop eradication overseas, interdicting smuggling routes, street-level policing and busting dealers. But the numbers reveal an opposite outcome to that intended. "[The] relationships between incarceration, prices, and [use] seem perverse," say the researchers. "Price plummeted and [use] soared precisely when drug-related incarceration was increasing dramatically, exactly the opposite of what one would expect or hope for." The US has budgeted to spend $24.5 billion on drug control in 2013, 38% of it towards demand reduction (treatment, education, and prevention) and 62% towards supply reduction (law enforcement and interdiction).

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By Victoria Kim

cannabis candy

5/30/13 3:20pm

The Marijuana-Candy Man: Now in NYC

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Izsraael and some happy customers.
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Judah Izsraael hands out colorful lollipops on the NYC streets, but this is no typical candyman. His treats come in flavors like White Widow, O.G. Kush and Blueberry Dream, and are laced with THC—the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that gets you stoned. The 43-year-old activist and co-owner of Weed World Candies has traveled across the US in his marijuana leaf-adorned van—from South Beach, Florida to New Orleans—and landed in the Big Apple in April, where he's been seen hawking his goods in the West Village and around Union Square. At $5 a pop, or 4 for $20, they're not cheap. But Iszraael insists Weed World Candies is more than just a business endeavor—they have a higher mission. "We're all about educating the people," he says. "Marijuana has had a bad rap for too many years, man...Its time is now." Izsraael says he's no drug dealer—his candies contain only trace amounts of THC, so they're legal, and won't necessarily get you buzzed. "We can't guarantee that everyone is going to get high," he says. "We're not giving out blunts." Regardless, most of his prospective buyers seem to be seeking more than just a sugar rush. "Marijuana is the best thing ever," says 26-year-old Reynilda Fernandez, who purchased a Sour Diesel candy. "But it's going to take me like 20 of these things to get high."

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By May Wilkerson

hepatitis c

5/30/13 2:44pm

Is the War on Drugs Driving a Hep C Pandemic?

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Drug laws don't help drug users. Photo via

Anti-drug rhetoric and policies stemming from the "war on drugs" are to blame for rising rates of hepatitis C across the globe, according to a new report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP). Enforcing drug laws cost approximately $545 billion over the past 40 years, in the US alone—and billions more across the globe. But experts say resources should be redirected towards treatment and prevention for the estimated 16 million people worldwide who inject drugs—10 million of whom are living with hepatitis C, an infectious liver disease that is often contracted by sharing needles. The Global Commission—which includes seven former presidents, ex-UN chief Kofi Annan and other world leaders—says that criminalizing drugs only makes it more difficult for users to get public health services, and increases the spread of infection. "The war on drugs is a war on common sense," says commissioner Ruth Dreifuss, who is also the former president of Switzerland. "Repressive drug policies are ineffective, violate basic human rights, generate violence and expose individuals and communities to unnecessary risks. The hepatitis C epidemic, totally preventable and curable, is yet another proof that the drug policy status quo has failed us all miserably."

According to the report, the highest number of infections are in the US, China and the Russian Federation—some of the countries with the strictest drug policies. On the other hand, the Commission praised Scotland’s Hepatitis C Action Plan, which launched in 2006 and has driven down the rates of infection by offering health services and sterile injecting equipment to users. “If you compare rates of hepatitis C in drug users in countries with good harm reduction and more enlightened drug policies with those in countries without, it is clear that regarding drug use exclusively as a criminal justice issue is a health disaster,” says a spokesperson for the World Hepatitis Alliance. “Hepatitis C, its prevention, care and treatment must be addressed and must be addressed as the health issue it is."

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By Chrisanne Grise

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