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Editor’s Note: Some factors scientists consider when they conduct research or evaluate others’ include what or who was studied (cells in the laboratory, animals, or humans), number of research subjects, whether the study was published in a peer reviewed journal, and source of funding. Such factors (along with others) lead to scientific consensus. A result in a laboratory study may not hold up in an animal study and one in animals may not occur in humans. One needs similar results in all three levels of investigation and then in increasingly larger numbers of people to reach scientific consensus that a new result has been proven. When the information is available, The Marijuana Report will flag these factors to help readers evaluate where each study we summarize appears on the knowledge-development scale.
Humans
A Literature Review
Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences
  National Institutes of Health Grant  
Marijuana Use May Impair Your Coordination
 
A new review of the relevant literature reveals that marijuana use may impair people’s coordination and other motor skills even when they are not high.
 
Researchers conducting the review found that compared to nonusers, marijuana users had differences in a certain part of their brains that affect motor learning and control, areas that can affect reaction time, memory, and the ability to switch between tasks.
 
Marijuana “may change the way brain regions process information and communication,” researchers told Live Science. “These changes may be the basis of potential impairments in the processing of cognitive and motor information thus affecting the ability to learn new motor skills.”
 
They noted that the implications of marijuana related motor impairments are crucial to public health and safety.
 
Read Live Science summary here. Read abstract and full text of article here.
 
Animals and Humans
A Literature Review
Nature
Medical Research Council (UK) Grant

Marijuana and Mental Illness:
Low Dopamine Levels May Play a Role
 
Long-term marijuana use has been linked to mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety, but the mechanisms underlying this association have been unclear.
 
This research team reviewed studies in animals and humans examining how the primary psychoactive component in marijuana, THC, affects the brain. There is now substantial evidence, they say, that short-term exposure to THC increases, but long-term exposure to THC reduces, levels of dopamine. Dopamine is a brain neurotransmitter that is involved with learning, movement, motivation, emotion, and reward.
 
Reduced dopamine is associated with mood changes, fatigue, depression, and a lack of motivation, as well as certain neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
 
The acute dopamine increase might explain how people become addicted to marijuana.
 
Read Live Science summary here. Read study abstract here.
 
Humans 
982 People with a Marijuana Use Disorder
92 Healthy Controls
Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease

Could Marijuana Use
Increase Vulnerability to Alzheimer's?

Compared to healthy controls, people with a marijuana use disorder had severely reduced blood flow in nearly all areas of the brain. Researchers saw the largest reduction in blood flow in the hippocampus, the brain region associated with memory and learning and the first area to be affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

When blood flow in the brain is reduced, the amount of oxygen reaching brain cells is reduced, which can cause brain tissue damage and cell death.

"Our research demonstrates that marijuana can have significant negative effects on brain function. The media has given the general impression that marijuana is a safe recreational drug, this research directly challenges that notion," one of the researchers says.

It also has implications for those using marijuana for medical reasons.

Read Medical News Today summary here. Read study abstract here.
 
Psychiatrist Links 'Shatter' Marijuana Use
to Psychosis Increase

A Victoria emergency psychiatrist warns of a dramatic new increase in severe mental illness cases linked to the use of shatter and other marijuana concentrates with high THC levels. 

In the last year, Dr. Kiri Simms has treated ten patients after they used a marijuana concentrate. 

They are “very ill and with the kind of psychotic experience that requires a stay in our psychiatric intensive care or on one of our in-patient wards,” she says.

In the past, the infrequent cases of psychosis usually were patients with a family history of schizophrenia, Dr. Simms notes.

But it’s not like the old days when such symptoms would disappear in a few hours or days. Now it takes weeks or even months before there is clearing, she says.

“Almost all our patients, even our young patients tell us they can easily obtain these products in the local dispensaries,” she notes.

Read CBC news article here.

The Marijuana Report is a weekly e-newsletter published by National Families in Action in partnership with SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana). Visit our website, The Marijuana Report.Org, to learn more about the marijuana story unfolding across the nation.
 
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About National Families in Action (NFIA)
NFIA consists of families, scientists, business leaders, physicians, addiction specialists, policymakers, and others committed to protecting children from addictive drugs. Our vision is:
  • Healthy, drug-free kids
  • Nurturing, addiction-free families
  • Scientifically accurate information and education
  • A nation free of Big Marijuana
  • Smart, safe, FDA-approved medicines developed from the cannabis plant (and other plants) 
  • Expanded access to medicines in FDA clinical trials for children with epilepsy 
About SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana)
SAM is a nonpartisan alliance of lawmakers, scientists and other concerned citizens who want to move beyond simplistic discussions of "incarceration versus legalization" when discussing marijuana use and instead focus on practical changes in marijuana policy that neither demonizes users nor legalizes the drug. SAM supports a treatment, health-first marijuana policy.  SAM has four main goals:
  • To inform public policy with the science of today's marijuana.
  • To reduce the unintended consequences of current marijuana policies, such as lifelong stigma due to arrest.
  • To prevent the establishment of "Big Marijuana" - and a 21st-Century tobacco industry that would market marijuana to children.
  • To promote research of marijuana's medical properties and produce, non-smoked, non-psychoactive pharmacy-attainable medications.
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