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Study Shows “Skunk-Like” Marijuana Can
Damage Nerve Fibers in Key Brain Structure
A first-of-its-kind study of the effects of high-potency marijuana on brain structure shows it can damage the corpus callosum (imaged above), a huge section of white matter that consists of nerve fibers responsible for communicating between the two halves of the brain. This part of the brain is rich in receptors to which THC binds.

Study results “reflect a sliding scale where the more cannabis you smoke and the higher the potency, the worse the damage will be,” says Dr. Paoloa Dazzan, reader in neurobiology of psychosis at the institute of psychiatry, psychology, and neuroscience at King’s College London and senior researcher of the study.
Scientists recruited 56 people reporting a first-episode psychosis and 43 people without psychosis and administered clinical and brain imaging assessments to all. The structure of the white matter of high-potency marijuana users in both groups – those with and those without psychosis – was significantly damaged.
High-potency marijuana they used contained from 16-22% THC and 0.1% CBD. The Brits call this “high-potency” and “skunk,” while U.S. marijuana dispensaries and pot shops in legal states call this average. Here, marijuana concentrates such as wax or shatter contain much higher levels of THC, from 50-75%.
The researchers note that their study cannot confirm that THC caused the structural changes – it may be that people with damaged white matter are more likely to smoke marijuana. But what they can say is that if you smoke marijuana frequently and it is high-potency, your brain is different from the brains of those who use low-potency marijuana infrequently or not at all. 

Read The Guardian article here. Read Science Daily article here. Read Psychological Medicine study here
Marijuana Use During Pregnancy
Exposes Mom and Baby to Health Risks
The October/November 2015 issue of Nursing for Women's Health, the clinical practice journal of the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, published an article that addresses best practices for nurses working in this field. Some 10 percent of pregnant women use marijuana during their pregnancy. This poses health risks to themselves and their babies, in some cases even before mothers-to-be know they are pregnant.

“Consuming marijuana in large doses can result in acute marijuana intoxication, with symptoms including rapid heart rate, anxiety, paranoia, and even hallucinations," say the authors.

"Marijuana can enter the bloodstream within seconds, the brain within minutes, and cross the placenta to reach the fetus. Repeated marijuana use can also alter receptors in the brain during fetal development as early as two weeks after conception, leading to problems with attention, memory, and problem solving.

"Marijuana exposure can also affect an infant's birth weight, decrease length of gestation, and increase risk for preterm labor,” they warn.

The article advises nurses who care for pregnant women to screen them for drug use, including marijuana use, at the first prenatal visit to safeguard the health of both mother and baby.
Read Medical Express News article here.
States Must Invest More Money in Prevention to Reduce Medicaid Costs of Substance-Related Neonatal and Maternal Hospital Stays 

The number of substance-related neonatal stays per 1,000 neonatal stays rose from 5.1 in 2006 to 8.7 in 2012, a total cumulative increase of 71%, according to a Health Cost and Utilization Project Statistical Brief by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The number of substance-related maternal stays per 1,000 maternal stays rose from 13.4% in 2006 to 17.9% in 2012, a total cumulative increase of 33%.

Most of the 30,653 substance-related neonatal stays involved neonatal drug withdrawal or unspecified narcotics. Only 1.5% involved fetal alcohol syndrome. Of the 65,855 substance-related maternal hospital stays, most involved cannabis (33.9%) and opiates (23%). 

Aggregate costs for substance-related neonatal stays in 2012 were $594.6 million compared to $253.4 million in 2006, while 2012 costs for substance-related maternal stays were $349.3 million in 2012, compared to $258.2 million in 2006.

Of particular interest to states, Medicaid paid for 79.9% of all substance-related neonatal hospital stays and 75% of all substance-related maternal hospital stays.

Read Statistical Brief here.
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The Marijuana Report is a weekly e-newsletter produced by National Families in Action in partnership with SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana). Subscribe to The Marijuana Report and visit our website, The Marijuana Report.Org, to learn more about the marijuana story unfolding across the nation.

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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