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Teens Who Use Marijuana
at Risk of Schizophrenia
 
In a preclinical study, researchers from Western University in Ontario, Canada, studied the effects of long-term exposure to THC in both adolescent and adult rats.
 
They found changes in behavior as well as in brain cells in the adolescent rats that were identical to those found in schizophrenia. These changes lasted into early adulthood long after the initial THC exposure.
 
The young rats were “socially withdrawn and demonstrated increased anxiety, cognitive disorganization, and abnormal levels of dopamine, all of which are features of schizophrenia,” according to the article. The same effects were not seen in the adult rats.
 
“With the current rise in cannabis use and the increase in THC content, it is critically important to highlight the risk factors associated with exposure to marijuana, particularly during adolescence,” the researchers warn.
 
Read Medical News Today story here. Read study abstract in the journal Cerebral Cortex here.
 
Marijuana Has Become a Media Darling,
But Are Journalists Too Soft on Pot?
 
Marijuana reporter Joel Warner asks if the media is currently biased in support of marijuana legalization.
 
He cites a recent incident brought to his attention by Kevin Sabet, founder of SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana), who had received a tip that the next-day release of the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health would show that marijuana use in Colorado has reached the highest levels in the nation. Sabet wrote a press release which fell on deaf ears. A Google analysis shows only 17 stories were written about this consequence of legalization in Colorado.
 
In contrast, a few weeks before, the release of the 2015 Monitoring the Future Survey showed a slight downturn in past-month marijuana use among 8th, 10th, and 12th grade students nationwide. It was hyped by some in the press as a signal that legalization is of no consequence. A total of 156 news stories covered the results of this survey.
 
Warner notes that there are now “marijuana-business newspapers and marijuana culture magazines, full-time marijuana-industry reporters (this writer included), and even a marijuana-editorial division at the Denver Post called the Cannabist, staffed with a marijuana editor and cannabis strain reviewers,” like Jake Browne, pictured above.
 
He asks if the data supports it, could marijuana journalists “be expected to conclude that legalization has been a failure, if that means they would also be writing the obituaries for their own jobs?”
 
Read Joel Warner’s thoughtful International Business Times article here.
 
Twins Study Finds No Evidence that
Marijuana Lowers IQ in Teens
 
Two recent studies, one in Great Britain and this one from the University of Southern California, contradict the findings of a rigorous 25-year-long study done with a birth cohort in Dunedin, New Zealand a few years ago. That study found that persistent marijuana use that continued into adulthood resulted in an 8-point drop in IQ. The two new studies find the opposite.
 
The UCLA study looked at 789 pairs of adolescent twins from two ongoing studies—one in Los Angeles and one in Minnesota—who enrolled between ages 9 and 11. Over 10 years, five IQ tests were administered along with confidential surveys of marijuana use. Marijuana-using twins lost 4 IQ points, but so did their non-using twins, leading researchers to conclude that something other than marijuana was lowering IQ.
 
The other study compared teens who reported daily marijuana use for six months or longer with teens who used the drug less than 30 times and found no difference in IQ.
 
But critics say both studies are flawed in that they did not measure heavy marijuana use over a long 25-year period like the Dunedin study did.
 
Dr. Madeline Meier, lead researcher of the Dunedin study, writes, “Our 2012 study (Meier et al. PNAS 2012) reported cognitive decline among individuals with a far more serious and far more long-term level of cannabis use. That is, we found cognitive decline in individuals followed up to age 38 who started cannabis use as a teen and who thereafter remained dependent on cannabis for many years as an adult. This new study is different; the two papers report about completely different doses of cannabis, and about participants 2 decades apart in age.  The new study reports cognitive test scores for individuals followed up to only age 17-20, fewer than half of whom had used cannabis more than 30 times, and only a fifth of whom used cannabis daily for > 6 months. This new study and our prior study agree and both report the same finding: no cognitive decline in short-term low-level cannabis users. The message from both studies is that short-term, low-level cannabis use is probably safer than very long-term heavy cannabis use. The big problem remains that for some teens, short-term low-level teenaged cannabis use leads onward to long-term dependence on cannabis when they become adults. That is what is cause for concern.”
 
Read Science story here. Read Dr. Meier’s rebuttal here.
 
Researchers Issue Important Correction: Chronic Marijuana Use DOES Lead to Development of Psychosis, Depression, and Asthma
 
A University of Pittsburgh Medical Center study published in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors last September found that chronic marijuana use during adolescence did not lead to depression, anxiety, psychosis, or asthma by mid-life.
 
The U.K.’s Independent was one of many newspapers that celebrated the news, scoffing at the National Health Service help page that warns: “Your risk of developing a psychotic illness is higher if you start using cannabis in your teens.”
 
Now, however, the journal has run a correction. It turns out that the researchers misinterpreted their data. They checked it again after criticism of their study and found that there was a two-and-one-half-fold increase in psychotic disorders in midlife after chronic marijuana use that began in adolescence.
 
The director of the Maryland chapter of SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) caught the error and notified the journal which lead to the correction. SAM is calling on all media who reported the original incorrect story to correct their account of it now.
 
Read Independent story here.  Read SAM account of the correction here.
 
Note: There was a broken link to the Vermont Marijuana Health Impact Assessment in last week's The Marijuana Report. The report can be accessed here.
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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