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Third of teens with chronic health conditions treat symptoms with cannabis

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Researchers analysed data from 451 participants between the age of 14 and 18

Research from Harvard Medical School reveals that US teenagers suffering from chronic health conditions are using cannabis to relieve symptoms, including anxiety, pain and nausea. 

Researchers analysed data from 451 participants between the age of 14 and 18 who were receiving treatment for chronic medical conditions.

The teens had all enrolled in a clinical trial testing an intervention to prevent the misuse of alcohol.

Focusing on seventy-three participants who had reported using cannabis in the last 12 months, the study involved several surveys looking at their behaviour and health beliefs.

Just under a third (30.1 percent) of cannabis consumers reported using the drug to treat symptoms or side effects associated with their condition; researchers refer to these as ‘instrumental users’.

The rest of the cohort (69.9 percent) used cannabis recreationally.

Anxiety, pain and appetite issues were amongst the most common symptoms that teenagers used cannabis to address. Of the 30 percent of teenagers identifying as ‘instrumental’ users, 68.2 percent used cannabis for anxiety, 50 percent for pain, 45.5 percent for appetite and 40.9 percent for nausea.

“In the short run, marijuana can offer temporary relief for a number of physical and mental health symptoms the youth might be struggling with, such as mood, anxiety, appetite and pain, especially if these symptoms aren’t being addressed via some other intervention, for example psychotherapy,” lead study author Joe Kossowsky told Medscape.

“On the flip side, it can cause short-term paranoia, panic, and sleep disturbances that can increase pain levels.”

Kossowsky, who is an assistant professor of anesthesiology at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, said that teenagers often feel worse when they stop taking cannabis, potentially leading to frequent or heavier use.

This poses the risk of cannabis dependence. According to a 2008 study, people who begin using cannabis before the age of 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop a cannabis use disorder than those who start in adulthood.

There is also a risk of young people developing psychiatric disorders. Although cannabis alone will not cause mental illness or psychosis, it can be a contributing factor for those who are already at risk.

Several studies have linked cannabis use to psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, depression and anxiety, however this association has yet to be proven.

For example, one research paper has shown that early cannabis use may lead to a quicker onset of psychosis and those with a history of psychosis in their family double their risk of developing the mental health issue if they consume the drug.

With an average age of 17.2 years old, participants of the study were too young to buy cannabis legally, however 70.8 percent reported buying the drug themselves of having it bought for them.

The majority said they got their cannabis from a friend or at a party, while others said they sourced the drug from a person at school.

A smaller number of participants reported that a sibling or relative gave them the drug and just over one percent said they got cannabis from a parent or guardian. Several participants said they took cannabis from their house without permission.

The authors recognised several factors that were associated with increased odds of ‘instrumental’ cannabis use.

Those who started using cannabis at a younger age, those who used cannabis more frequently and those who substituted cannabis for alcohol due to their condition were more likely to class themselves as instrumental cannabis users.

Acknowledging the small size of the study, the researcher also pointed out that data was sourced from just one institution and participants were predominantly white.

They recommended that larger, more diverse studies should be carried out to provide a better understanding of young people’s use of cannabis for managing chronic health conditions.

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Weekend digest: Six big stories from the cannabis world you might have missed

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Another week, another rollercoaster in the fast-moving world of cannabis.

At Cannabis Health, our in depth coverage of the ongoing growth of cannabis as a medical and wellness product continues

Meanwhile, over at Cannabis Wealth, we’ve been following all the big industry and policy news in a week which has seen some important developments..

Been busy and want to get caught up in a hurry?

Here are the six things you need to read to stay in the loop this week.

1. Products pulled from shelves

Two batches of medical cannabis products have been recalled by regulators as investigations are carried out, following reports they may be contaminated with mould.

Medical cannabis pharmacy, Dispensary Green and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have issued a ‘precautionary’ product recall since being made aware of ‘defects’ in patient’s medication.

Concerns were initially raised after a number of medical cannabis patients spotted what they believed to be mould spores in their prescriptions.

Full story here.

2. NFL turns to medical cannabis

The National Football League (NFL) in America is providing $1 million in funding for research into pain management and cannabinoids.

The NFL is funding research into medical cannabis.

The pain management committee of the NFL and the NFL Players Association announced it would stump up the funding on Tuesday 8 June.

According to the organisation’s news platform, the move is the next step in a shifting attitude towards players who use medicinal cannabis to manage pain from injuries.

You can read more here.

3. More medical cannabis evidence

Researchers have found that the cannabinoids CBD and CBG, when used in combination, are beneficial for treating inflammation in the lungs.

Scientists at King’s College London, working in collaboration with Sativa Wellness Group have published the first results from a study into the impact of cannabinoids on respiratory diseases.

It aimed to investigate the anti-inflammatory effects of the two non-psychotropic cannabinoids alone and in combination, in a model of pulmonary inflammation.

Full details here.

4. Germany to vote for reform?

Germany’s national election on September 26 could be a landmark moment for Europe’s cannabis industry.

As Chancellor Angela Merkel prepares to leave the stage, the European Union’s most influential country looks destined for a political shakeup.

Annalena Baerbock could become Germany’s first pro-drug reform Chancellor.

It could mark a huge moment for the cannabis industry as Germany’s parliament might swing in favour of legislation.

Here’s everything you need to know about it.

5. Adapt or fail

The pro-drug reform lobby must accept it has failed and change to push its agenda ahead, leading experts have warned.

Speaking at a Global Cannabis Intelligence event about the state of advocacy in the UK, three leading policy advocates set out how they think greater access can be achieved.

The discussion comes week after the 50-year anniversary of the passage of the The Misuse of Drugs Act.

Read the full story here.

6. Isle of Man steps up

The Isle of Man government has declared it is open for business to the medical cannabis industry.

In a big to create 250 new jobs and generate £3m a year for the island, policymakers want it to become ‘a world-leading exporter’.

Applications are now open for licences to produce and distribute treatments on the island, as well as to use it as an export base.

Full details here.

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New tracking app launches for UK medical cannabis patients

Through the app patients will be able to monitor their own symptoms and medication usage

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The free health monitoring app is already being used elsewhere in the world.

UK medical cannabis suppliers Grow Pharma have teamed up with an Australian tech firm to launch a new app for patients.

The partnership with OnTracka will see them launch Calyx, a free health monitoring app already being used elsewhere in the world.

Users will be able to monitor their own symptoms and medication usage, speak securely with their doctor and contribute to gathering evidence about the use of medical cannabis.

The app will also be available in Ireland and the Channel Islands after successful launches in Australia, the US and South America.

Users will be able to monitor their own symptoms and medication usage

Pierre Van Weperen, CEO of Grow Pharma said: “Grow Pharma is currently fulfilling around a third of all prescriptions for the UK’s medicinal cannabis patients.

“Our prominent role gives us a significant advantage to building data insights into how patients are managing their health.

“This is integral to pave the way towards increasing access for patients in the UK through providing doctors with confidence around the safety and efficacy of these products.

“Using the app will generate important insights to provide real-time evidence to doctors and regulators.”

Grow Pharma hopes the app will help ‘rapidly accelerate an understanding of the safety, quality, and efficacy’ of medical cannabis.

Insights gained via the app will ‘advance the industry forward in the service of patients, shaping future legislation and policy based on patient experiences’ by providing real-world data to regulators.

Grow is in the process of raising £6 million worth of capital via a private funding round expect to be completed later this month.

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Isle of Man launches medical cannabis export sector

The Isle of Man is open for business to the medical cannabis industry.

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The move could 250 new jobs and generate £3 million a year for the island

The Isle of Man government has declared it is open for business to the medical cannabis industry.

In a big to create 250 new jobs and generate £3 million a year for the island, policymakers want it to become ‘a world-leading exporter’.

Applications are now open for licences to produce and distribute treatments on the island, as well as to use it as an export base.

The island’s regulator – the Gambling Supervision Commission – has set out conditions for the licensing of high-THC cannabis and hemp.

Enterprise minister Laurence Skelly said: “The growing global medicinal cannabis market provides significant opportunity for economic development in the Isle of Man, and the new regulatory framework and guidance will offer stringent and flexible licensing of a broad range of cannabis products, which ranges from outdoor grown industrial hemp to indoor grown medicinal products.

“The Isle of Man Government has every confidence that the GSC will provide a world class regulatory structure required to regulate this new and complex industry.

The Isle of Man wants to be a major player in Europe’s growing medical cannabis industry.

“I am delighted to welcome licence applications and look forward to attracting quality businesses to the Island, transforming the cannabis export sector into a key contributor to the Isle of Man’s post-Covid economic recovery.”

The self-governing British Crown Dependency, which has a population of 83,000, approved new medical cannabis laws in January.

The island’s parliament – the Tynwald – moved to attract the industry to its shores after a public consultation showed 95 percent of residents were in favour of the policy.

Mark Rutherford, director of policy at the island’s regulator, said: “The GSC already has a sophisticated framework for supervising gambling.

‘We have worked carefully to apply the best of that framework to the risks in the new sector and we have educated ourselves in the technical areas that are new to us.

“What we now have will ensure that all stakeholders will be competent, crime free and capable of building a sector that is safe, trusted and efficient.

“As regulators, we aspire to put our regulatory umbrella above as many consumers as possible so that they can benefit from regulations that are well thought out and properly supervised.

“Years of prohibition mean that the markets in which our licensees will be participating are still in their infancy and still contain many uncertainties.

“To address this situation, it is our aim to ensure that consumers who purchase Isle of Man products will be able to understand exactly what their product contains through accurate labelling and independent testing.

“The GSC recognises there are many stakeholders in this newly created field and intends to extend its ethos of cooperation with other government authorities into its approach to cannabis regulation.”

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