People with heart rhythm disorders may be more at risk and should “be careful” when using cannabis, warn researchers.
A study of 2.4 million hospitalised cannabis users has found that those with an arrhythmia were 4.5 times more likely to die while in hospital than those without.
The research is presented at EHRA 2021, an online scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).
There is limited knowledge about safety of cannabis in people with cardiac arrhythmias.
The study examined the burden of arrhythmias in drug users admitted to hospital, and compared length of hospital stay and deaths in hospital between those with and without an arrhythmia.
Researchers used the National Inpatient Sample database, which covers 97 percent of the US population. The study included 2,457,544 adult cannabis users admitted to hospital in 2016 to 2018. Of those, 187,825 (7.6 percent) patients had an arrhythmia. Atrial fibrillation was the most common, followed by abnormally slow heart rate and abnormally fast heart rate.
Patients in arrhythmia group were older: the average age was 50.5 years compared to 38.3 years for those without an arrhythmia. Those with arrhythmias also had more co-existing health conditions.
The researchers compared deaths between the two groups after adjusting for factors that could influence the relationship including age, sex, race, income, diabetes, heart failure, chronic kidney disease, obesity, and hospital location.
Cannabis users with an arrhythmia had a 4.5 times higher odds of in-hospital mortality compared to those without an arrhythmia. Patients with an arrhythmia had a longer length of hospital stay (5.7 days) compared to those without (5.1 days).
“People should be aware of this devastating outcome and be careful when using cannabis if they have a concomitant heart problem,” said study author Dr. Sittinun Thangjui of Bassett Healthcare Network, Cooperstown, US.
“Our study highlights that heart rhythm disorders may be a warning sign for an increased risk of death in people who use cannabis.
“More studies are needed to confirm our results. In the meantime, it seems sensible to screen these patients for arrhythmias if they present to hospital so that those with a heart rhythm problem can be closely monitored.”
Science finds a way for medical cannabis to relieve pain without side effects
Researchers have developed a molecule that allows THC to fight pain without the side effects.
Scientists may have developed a molecule which could allow medical cannabis to provide pain relief without any side effects.
Many people live with chronic pain, and in some cases, cannabis can provide relief.
But the drug also can significantly impact memory and other cognitive functions.
Now, researchers have developed a peptide that, in mice, allowed THC to fight pain without the side effects.
According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) around 20 percent of adults in the states experienced chronic pain in 2019.
Previously, researchers identified two peptides [molecules which are made up of amino acids] that disrupt an interaction between a receptor that is the target of THC and another that binds serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates learning, memory and other cognitive functions.
When the researchers injected the peptides into the brains of mice, the mice had fewer memory problems caused by THC.
Now, this team, led by Rafael Maldonado, David Andreu and colleagues, has gone one step further to improve these peptides to make them smaller, more stable, orally active and able to cross the blood-brain barrier.
Based on data from molecular dynamic simulations, the researchers designed two peptides that were less than half the length of the original ones but preserved their receptor binding and other functions.
They also optimised the peptide sequences for improved cell entry, stability and ability to cross the blood-brain barrier.
Then, the researchers gave the most promising peptide to mice orally, along with a THC injection, and tested the mice’s pain threshold and memory.
Mice treated with both THC and the optimised peptide reaped the pain-relieving benefits of THC and also showed improved memory compared with mice treated with THC alone.
Importantly, multiple treatments with the peptide did not evoke an immune response.
Reporting in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, researchers say that these findings suggest the optimised peptide is an ideal drug candidate for reducing cognitive side effects from cannabis-based pain management.
The abstract that accompanies this paper can be viewed here.
Dutch Government to supply medical cannabis for UK patients until 2022
The Department of Health has reached an agreement to continue the supply of Bedrocan oils
The Department of Health has reached an agreement with Dutch officials to extend the supply of medical cannabis oils to existing patients in the UK until 2022.
Medical cannabis patients, living with severe, life-threatening epilepsy were left without access to medication when the UK left the EU at the end of last year.
Families, whose children are prescribed Bedrocan oils in the UK but must obtain their prescription through the Transvaal pharmacy in the Netherlands, were given two weeks notice that their medication could no longer be dispensed following the end of the Brexit transition period on 31, December 2020.
After outrage from campaigners, the Dutch government agreed to continue supplying the life-saving products until 1 July, 2021 while a more permanent solution was reached.
This waiver period has now been extended until 1 January, 2022.
Health ministers promised to work with officials in the Netherlands to find a “long-term” solution, but according to those at the forefront of the campaign, there is still “some way to go”.
Hannah Deacon’s son Alfie Dingley, who is prescribed Bedrocan products for a rare form of epilepsy, recently celebrated one year seizure-free.
In a letter to Deacon on Thursday 13 May, the DofH said it was working with the Dutch government, Bedrocan and the Transvaal pharmacy to proceed as “quickly as possible” with the UK production of these medicines.
It added that domestic production is “complex” and that manufacturing “unlicensed herbal medicines” comes with “significant challenges”.
Deacon said that the UK production of Bedrocan products was the “only solution”.
While other cannabis-based medicines are available in the UK, experts have warned that there is ‘significant variation’ from one product to the next and switching an epilepsy patient’s treatment could be ‘life-threatening’.
“With the 1 July deadline for Bedrolite supply to cease from the Netherlands looming ever closer, we made it clear we wanted an extension to the agreement to stop the situation becoming dangerous for Alfie and the other patients receiving this vital medicine,” commented Deacon.
“The long term solution of Bedrocan products being made in the UK still has some way to go, but it can be the only solution and we thank everyone who is working very hard to achieve this.
“This is still a long way off from being okay, but for now we have the pressure taken off on the supply issue.”
With limited access to medical cannabis on the NHS, families are still calling for the Government to help fund their children’s prescriptions, which can cost thousands of pounds each month.
Deacon added: “The ever-pressing issue of financial burden on the many families and patients wishing to use medical cannabis in the UK remains and this is a huge issue which needs dealing with.
“There are many ways in which the Government could step in and help access for very vulnerable people and we will continue working as hard as we can to make things better for all.”
“It made me feel human again” – Medical cannabis and anxiety
Sylv reveals how medical cannabis is helping her manage severe anxiety brought on by the pandemic.
Struggling with severe anxiety brought on by the pandemic, Sylv has spent the last year taking anti-depressants, which caused acute side effects and withdrawal symptoms. Now she is taking medical cannabis, which she says is “making her feel human” again.
“My anxiety wasn’t horrific until the start of the pandemic,” says, Sylv, 41.
Sylv has suffered from anxiety for a number of years and has learned how to manage the condition and keep her mental health under control.
But in March last year, as the country was plunged into lockdown, she was hit with a wave of anxiety that she hadn’t experienced before.
She was taking the beta-blocker, propranolol, at the time. It was “perfect” for managing her anxiety, but would often trigger her asthma, a common side effect of the drug.
As Sylv sat at home “wheezing” from her asthma, she started to panic, believing she had caught Covid-19.
From there, she says, her mental health began to spiral out of control. She soon found that things as simple as going shopping, would leave her crippled with anxiety.
“The fear I had about leaving the house and going out was what affected me the most,” Sylv says.
“It became so strong that I felt uncomfortable touching things and I would get so anxious that it would make me nauseous.
“At one point I was in the queue at a shop, and somebody was standing too close behind me. I came home and I burst into tears.”
Sylv tried multiple medications before being prescribed Venlafaxine, a strong anti-depressant that came with an array of “awful” side effects.
After being signed off from work for six months, Sylv rarely left the house for fear of triggering her anxiety and, as a result of her medication, started experiencing nausea, headaches and insomnia. She would regularly be awake for 36 hours at a time.
Sylv worked as an admin assistant for a care agency. Due to the nature of the job, it was impossible for her to work from home.
In November, she says she felt ready to try to return to work again.
“It was very hard having to go to work in those circumstances. I did try and get a bus in one time, but it was horrible,” she says.
Caring for the elderly on a daily basis meant talk of the pandemic was all around her, which only fed into her anxiety.
“We had some clients and staff members that had Covid, so when I was at work it was constantly being mentioned. It was just continuous, 24/7, it was all that was talked about,” she says.
Sylv managed to work for two months until it became too much. The Venlafaxine was “dulling” her brain to the extent that she wasn’t able to focus on her work and she was signed off sick again in January.
Shortly after going on sick leave, Sylv’s doctor increased her dose of venlafaxine to 225 mg. This time, she noticed problems with her vision and a loss of balance caused her to fall over.
And it wasn’t just her physical health that was affected. While taking Venlafaxine, Sylv says she lost the “zeal” to do things she loved. An avid cook before lockdown, Sylv says she didn’t cook a meal from scratch for almost a year.
In February, her friend suggested she give medical cannabis a try.
“I didn’t really believe it to start off with, but I looked into it and decided to go for it,” she says.
Sylv chose The Medical Cannabis Clinics for her prescription and was accepted onto the Project Twenty21 scheme that offers to subsidise costs for eligible patients.
Her first prescription came through the door in March.
“It was like being six-years-old on Christmas Day,” she says.
Sylv was prescribed with two strains: 30gm of CMC, a balanced CBD-THC sativa and 30mg of MVA, a THC-dominant indica.
The two types of cannabis together helped “immensely” with her anxiety and also relieved the chronic back pain that she had been suffering from for a number of years. She felt the benefits immediately.
“Literally from the first puff, I could tell that the quality was good and it was doing what it was supposed to. It’s like your mum coming up and putting a blanket around you, that feeling of being comforted,” she says.
With the help of medical cannabis, Sylv is now coming off venlafaxine, but with that, has come extreme withdrawal symptoms.
First, she started to experience “brain zaps”, also known as paraesthesia.
“It affects the nerve endings in your head,” Sylv explains.
“You suddenly feel something like an electric shock going through your head.”
Her nausea also reached a new peak, to the extent where she had to stop driving.
“I drove to my corner shop, which is a two-minute drive away. On the way back, I was trying to stop myself from vomiting in the car,” Sylv says.
Thankfully, Sylv is close to coming off venlafaxine completely, replacing the anti-depressant with her new prescription.
“Medical cannabis, for me, has been life-changing,” she says.
“My dad says I sound so much brighter. I feel joy. It enables me to laugh and feel relaxed and I find that I enjoy things more now.”
Sylv and her friend have now started a help group on Telegram, an instant messaging platform that allows users to create an anonymous account.
The pair are helping others gain access to a medical cannabis prescription, providing peer-to-peer support and explaining the process to people who might otherwise be unaware.
“Medical cannabis has improved my wellbeing, my motivation, my self-confidence. It has made me want to share what I have with others and help people because I feel very privilege,” says Sylv.
“We’re trying to reach people who are self-medicating, who maybe need a hand and give people the information they need so that they can check for themselves and see if they qualify for it.
“We’re trying to give back a little bit and inform people that there is such a thing as medical cannabis.”
Sadly, as a result of her struggles with anxiety over the last year, Sylv was made medically redundant from her job in early April and her husband was made redundant less than a week later.
Now facing a difficult financial situation, Sylv is uncertain about what the future holds for her prescription, which costs her £300 per month.
Even with the help of Project Twenty21, her medication, which makes her “feel like a human being again”, is at risk.
“If I have to stop [my prescription] because I can’t afford it, it will feel like a leap backwards; from almost being back to my normal self to somebody that might not even be able to go out of the house,” Sylv adds.
“It’s going to feel like a limb has been cut off; it’s like a lifeline.”
Introducing our new B2B title
- Six big cannabis sector stories you might have missed this week
- Science finds a way for medical cannabis to relieve pain without side effects
- Dutch Government to supply medical cannabis for UK patients until 2022
- Novel food regulations look set to dramatically shrink the CBD sector
- Calls for workplace cannabis drug-testing to be scrapped for nurses
- What is cachexia – and could cannabis be a potential treatment?
News10 months ago
NHS lines up cannabis medicine manufacturing
News6 months ago
Community extends support to cannabis icon Rick Simpson
Case Studies1 year ago
CBD oil and fibromyalgia – a case study
Feature11 months ago
Medical cannabis could help long-term effects of COVID-19, says David Nutt
Insight7 months ago
I’ve gone from a wheelchair to walking thanks to cannabis
News8 months ago
Cancer survivor claims cannabis oil helped her beat brain tumour
Industry4 months ago
“Game changer” for the sector: First cannabis company expected to list on LSE next month
News8 months ago
“I’m not a bad person” – chronically ill woman convicted of growing medical cannabis