420, smoking weed, and drug problems : Marijuana facts

Co-authored by: Jamie Felzer

It’s April 20th, or 4-20, and anyone who smokes marijuana knows what that means – It’s time to smoke weed- a lot of weed!

In honor of this “stoner” holiday, or perhaps in reverence of its implications, I wanted to put together a post that explored some recent findings having to do with the most commonly used illegal substance in the U.S.
These two studies deal specifically with smoking weed, teenagers, and drug problems.

Study 1 – Misconceptions of marijuana use prevalence

An article in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs has revealed that most young adults greatly overestimate how many of their peers smoke weed. Teens surveyed believed that 98% of their peers smoked marijuana at least once a year – In reality, only 51.5% off the teens reported actually ever smoking marijuana.

To make matters worse, even though only 15% of the teens reported using once a month or more, the estimate among peers was closer to 65%!!! Since we know that perception of peer behavior affects adolescents greatly, such misconceptions can easily lead to false peer-pressure towards marijuana use.

So next time instead of assuming everyone smokes weed, think again.It’s one of the most commonly used drugs but the notion that everyone smokes weed is simply wrong.

Reference: Kilmer, Walker, Lee, Palmer, Mallett, Fabiano, & Larrimer (2006). Misperceptions of College Students Marijuana use: Implications for Prevention. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 67, pp. 277-281.

Study 2 – Teens reducing use can reduce marijuana dependence risk

This next study dealt with early patterns of weed smoking as possible predictors of later problems use. They followed more than 1500 respondents from adolescence (ages 15-17) into young adulthood (ages 21-24).

The article revealed some interesting overall patterns, but I’ll keep the results short and simple, it is 4-20 after all…

The good news? Teens who reduced their use during the first phase of the study (the teens years) were at a significantly lower risk for marijuana dependence and regular use in early adulthood. This suggests that successful interventions may be effective at reducing later problem use.

The bad news? All marijuana smokers who used at least weekly showed the highest risk for later problems even if they reduced their use… This is not that surprising of a finding though since dependence usually involves regular use.

The bottom line? Reducing marijuana use at any stage will lower your risk for later problem use, but those who find themselves smoking often are most likely to end up in some trouble even if they try to cut down. Knowledge is power, so if you think you might be at risk and are concerned, talking to someone can’t hurt. Knowing marijuana facts can’t hurt either.

Reference: Swift, Coffey, Carlin, Degenhardt, Calabria & Patton (2009). Are adolescents who moderate their cannabis use at lower risk of later regular and dependent cannabis use? Addiction, 104, pp 806-814.

For a different view on 420, see this video:


Opioid prescription overdose and abuse – Staying safe while reducing pain

A new article just published in JAMA (see here) reports a strong relationship between high-dose opiate prescribing and accidental overdose deaths. The authors focused on a sample of Veterans and found that those prescribed more than 50mg of morphine per day, or the equivalent of other opiate drugs, we much more likely to die of such overdose than patients being prescribed lower doses. Fortunately, only about 20% of the patient-months (a measure of how many people were prescribed a specific dose for how long) were prescribed these high doses but the rate of overdose for this group was 3 to 20 times higher! Continue reading “Opioid prescription overdose and abuse – Staying safe while reducing pain”

ADHD and neurocognition – Knowing what to remember

Kate Humphreys

ADHD In children and adults – Symptoms and tests

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD, formerly known also as ADD) are classically seen as the kids in class who have trouble staying in their seats and paying attention during long lessons. Underlying these problematic behaviors is a confluence of factors, with evidence pointing to genetics, neural function, and environmental factors (including parenting and lead exposure) that can all affect ADHD behavior. Many children diagnosed with ADHD seem to simply “grow out” of their symptoms. They may learn particularly effective strategies for managing inattention and disorganization (I myself am a notorious list maker), or learn to control some of the fidgeting and restlessness or channel that energy into sports or other activities. Continue reading “ADHD and neurocognition – Knowing what to remember”

About Addiction: Alcohol and the Elderly, Oxycontin, and Drug Stigma

Are you ready for some more exciting information about addiction? Well, it’s here anyway so you might as well look. We try to make A3 the central place where you can find out about addiction matters (saving you the typing work) so if there are any topics we’re not covering, make sure to write us!

Drugs- Reducing Stigma, and Oxycontin

Victoria NewsStigma is often discussed when talking about addiction. The stigma a drug user is stamped with often deters them from seeking treatment. AIDS Vancouver Island is promoting Anti-Stigma Week, which runs until Feb. 14. Hopefully an activity like anti-stigma week will allow individuals to leave behind their fears about being stigmatized and seek treatment for their addictions. Continue reading “About Addiction: Alcohol and the Elderly, Oxycontin, and Drug Stigma”

Addiction Treatment Admissions in the United States: Everyone, meet TEDS

Dirk Hanson

What a difference a decade makes.

Do you know what drug use trends are ongoing?Between 1998 and 2008, addiction treatment admissions in the U.S. increased markedly for methamphetamine (crystal meth), prescription opiates, and marijuana. Treatment admissions for alcohol and cocaine declined over the same period, while heroin admissions remained roughly the same.

The Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS), which the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) uses to compile its report, includes only those addiction treatment facilities that receive state alcohol or drug agency funds, and which are represented in state administrative data systems. Despite this caveat, the TEDS study matters, because states use reports of this kind to shift limited resources from one treatment focus to another, based on demand. Continue reading “Addiction Treatment Admissions in the United States: Everyone, meet TEDS”

THC for HIV: Is smoking weed the only way?

The medical marijuana debate is still raging and I have little doubt that it will be around for at least a decade to come. In the mean time, there is little doubt that marijuana, and more specifically its most active ingredient THC, are useful for individuals suffering from a number of medical conditions (see medical uses of marijuana). One of those conditions is HIV, where THC is particularly useful for helping patients fight the anorexia that often goes along with the infection and treatment. While a number of states (15 and the District of Columbia at last count) allow for medical marijuana prescriptions, most others require that patients get their THC in a synthetic form known as dronabinol.

Synthetic THC in a capsule

I’m not getting into the discussion of whether putting THC in a synthetic form is the American government’s way of directing money towards the pharmaceutical industry. The bottom line is that smoking marijuana, like smoking cigarettes, causes pulmonary (as in lung) problems including an increased risk of cancer as well as a host of other diseases like emphysema and such. New(ish) devices like vaporizers may help reduce that risk, but until more data comes in, I doubt those are going to cause any movement in terms of legislation. And since smoking marijuana is still illegal in most states, patients are pretty much left with the dronabinol pill.

The only problem is that something like 30% of HIV patients report smoking marijuana any way for relief of disease-associated symptoms and no one ever assessed the effectiveness of dronabinol on these patients until now. In this recent study, researchers assessed the efficacy of a very high dose of dronabinol (10mg – twice the recommended daily dose and half of the allowed daily maximum dose) on HIV/AIDS patients who smoke marijuana recreationally. Not surprisingly these patients showed a reduced response to the drug and even this high dose was only effective for the first half (eight days – during which they consumed 350 more calories a day and slept better) of the experimental period, after which it was no more effective than placebo at improving caloric intake and sleep.

The researchers’ conclusion in this article is that is seems higher doses are necessary for these patients, although I wonder about the rates of lying about regular marijuana use by patients given its legal status in most states. The patients in this study all smoked marijuana but while some smoked sporadically (2 days a week), others were daily or near daily smokers. I would assume that those two groups reacted differently to the dronabinol, but this paper didn’t address any such differences.

So… Do you have to smoke weed to get the medical benefit of THC?

Overall this study, like a few others before it, shows that synthetic THC is effective in treating a number of the effects of HIV/AIDS infection and treatment. Nevertheless, there is little doubt that HIV patients who use marijuana require different dosing than patients who don’t smoke weed, an effect that was probably predictable. Given the high prevalence of marijuana smoking among HIV/AIDS patients, it seems that more research should be carried out in order to fully develop a recommended dose range for such patients.

For HIV/AIDS patients who live in states where medical marijuana use is legal, it is likely easier and more cost effective to get their THC from marijuana leaves, though given their increased risk of infection and the lung effects of inhaling smoke, they should likely play it safe and use a vaporizer rather using more traditional methods (as in joint, bowl, or bong). The last thing HIV patients need to do is to put their body at any increased risk of any sort of medical complication. However, since dosing can be an issue this way, and since not everyone objects to the notion of taking pills instead of smoking weed, dronabinol might be a good options for those who are simply looking to counteract their infection complications and not to light up.

Citations:

Gillinder Bedi, Richard W. Foltin, Erik W. Gunderson, Judith Rabkin, Carl L. Hart, Sandra D. Comer, Suzanne K. Vosburg & Margaret Haney (2010). Efficacy and tolerability of high-dose dronabinol maintenance in HIV-positive marijuana smokers: a controlled laboratory study. Psychopharmacology, 212, 675-686.

Arno Hazekamp, Renee Ruhaak1, Lineke Zuurman, Joop van Gerven, Rob Verpoorte (2006). Evaluation of a vaporizing device (Volcano®) for the pulmonary administration of tetrahydrocannabinol. Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 95, 1308-1317.

About Addiction: Marijuana use, cigarette smoking, and crystal meth

Hey ! After a brief period of inactivity we are back and better as always ready to provide you with your 30 minute tidbit of information about addiction. If you want to learn more about marijuana use, (cigarette) smoking, and addiction stigma then read on!

Marijuana use: Harmless?

Fox News– While many think that Marijuana a harmless drug (read our marijuana driving input), a guy high on weed drove his car into a group of cyclists in Italy. Eight cyclists were killed and an additional four people were injured. This accident can serve as a lesson that marijuana is not as “harmless” as a lot of people make it out to be. Educating the public about the dangers of driving under the influence of marijuana may help in preventing future incidents.

The Dome-Nobody is a stranger to the fact that voters in a number of states have been trying to legalize marijuana. But Illinois legislators just went the other way and struck down a bill which would allow medical marijuana to be legal. The legislators stuck this down with the fear that if this practice were legalized then there would be widespread use of marijuana. Right now fifteen states (and Washington DC) allow the use of medical marijuana but apparently Illinois decided they are not going to be the sixteenth.

Psychology Today– Can recreational pot smokers become addicted to marijuana? A large number of individuals only smoke marijuana recreationally and do not ever become addicted (see here), but about 10% to 30% of regular users will develop marijuana dependence (my vote is actually probably more for the 10%-20% range). About 9% will have a serious addition. Marijuana use in the U.S. has gone through quite an evolution from its early introduction in the 1970’s as an anti war statement to today when it is mostly used by teenagers and those who have been smoking for a long time. Most individuals quit when they are parents or homeowners (which is true of most drugs by the way), and this contributes to the thinking by some that marijuana is not very addictive.

Quitting smokingthrough personal stories

Bloomsburg Buisnessweek– Anti-smoking advertisements have been relying on fear appeals to persuade individuals to avoid or quit smoking smoking. But the commercials that show patients with a hole in their throat or the magazine ads showing a black and diseased lung have not really been very effective. However new research shows that advertisements that target emotions more broadly seem to work best when trying to prevent smoking. Personal testimonies seem to be the most effective because  they allow the individuals who are viewing them to emotionally identify with the person in the ad helping them find reasons why they themselves should quit smoking.

Guardian- Passive tobacco smoking kills more than 600,000 people in the world every year including about 165,000 children.  The most problematic regions in terms of these smoking deaths are third world countries due to the combination of the dangerous effects of second hand smoke and infectious diseases. Second hand smoke is most problematic in the home and although women smoke less they are more likely to be exposed to second hand smoke in the house.

Addiction Inbox– The electronic cigarette is finally here although in the past the FDA wanted to prevent these cigarettes from being marketed in the US. The decision to allow the marketing of these cigarettes was established as long as they are not targeted to minors. In addition marketing individuals cannot make any claims that the products are safe alternatives to tobacco. These products are a battery powered device that allow its users to “smoke” and inhale nicotine vapor without any fire, smoke, ash or carbon monoxide.

Alcoholism stigma and seeking treatment for drug addiction

Med– Individuals who are diagnosed with alcoholism are 60% less likely to seek treatment because they fear the stigma that is attached to alcoholism. To be an alcoholic means belonging to a stigmatized group, and no one likes that. The goal then should be to educate individuals in order to try to alleviate the stigma that is associated with alcoholism in order to allow more people to seek treatment from it. Reducing the stigma of addiction is a goal we at A3 take very seriously.

Recovery Now-If there is one thing that teenagers hate it is snooping parents by far. What is the parent is snooping for a good reason however? Is snooping around with concern that your child is using drugs or alcohol okay? Although a controversial topic this article looks at the implication of snooping and when it is okay to snoop in teenagers stuff. It is a great read, enjoy!

Crystal meth and Suicide-Veterans and Substance abuse

Honolulu advertiser– Hawaii has the worst crystal meth problem in the country and a school in Hawaii held a national crystal meth awareness day assembly. Forty percent of people arrested by police in Honolulu test positive for meth, and about 30,000 Honolulu residents are hard-core users of meth (with as many as three times more being recreational users). Government officials in Hawaii want to increase spending to make more drug treatment programs available to prison inmates. In addition the general public needs to be educated about the dangers of crystal meth.

Breaking the cycles-“Veterans at Higher Risk for Suicide,” is a radio broadcast which talks about the impacts of war on the mental health of all veterans in California. The issues that the radio broadcasts focuses on are anxiety, depression, and PTSD. The radio broadcast reported that veterans are at higher risk of committing suicide than other individuals who are not in the military. This article continues to address the topics of mental illness and how mental illness is a key risk factor to developing a substance abuse problem.