Can prescribed medical cannabis use reduce the use of other more harmful drugs?

SAGE Journals“There is growing recognition of the potential utility of medical cannabis as a harm reduction intervention.

Although used for this indication in other countries, there is an absence of UK clinical guidelines that supports such an approach. We administered a short survey to gain a better understanding of the potential role of medical cannabis by 39 people who were currently using illicit cannabis and accessing a specialist substance misuse treatment service.

It was identified that 36 (92.3%) respondents found that cannabis positively impacted upon their physical and/or mental wellbeing and 56.4% reported that they used less of other substances which are known to be more harmful as a result.

Therefore, while we acknowledge the small sample size, given the notable potential positive impact that medical cannabis could have as a harm reduction intervention, we propose that the use should be trialled within a specialist drug treatment setting.” 

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Beta‐caryophyllene, a dietary terpenoid, inhibits nicotine‐taking and nicotine‐seeking in rodents

British Journal of Pharmacology banner“Beta-caryophyllene (BCP) is a dietary plant-derived terpenoid that has been used as a food additive for many decades.

Recent studies indicate that BCP is a cannabinoid CB2 receptor (CB2R) agonist with medical benefits for a number of human diseases. However, little is known about its therapeutic potential for drug abuse and addiction.

The present findings suggest that BCP has significant anti-nicotine effects via both CB2 and non-CB2 receptor mechanisms, and therefore, deserves further study as a potential new pharmacotherapy for cigarette smoking cessation.”

“β-caryophyllene (BCP) is a common constitute of the essential oils of numerous spice, food plants and major component in Cannabis.”

“Beta-caryophyllene is a dietary cannabinoid.”

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The impact of cannabis access laws on opioid prescribing.

Journal of Health Economics“While recent research has shown that cannabis access laws can reduce the use of prescription opioids, the effect of these laws on opioid use is not well understood for all dimensions of use and for the general United States population. Analyzing a dataset of over 1.5 billion individual opioid prescriptions between 2011 and 2018, which were aggregated to the individual provider-year level, we find that recreational and medical cannabis access laws reduce the number of morphine milligram equivalents prescribed each year by 11.8 and 4.2 percent, respectively. These laws also reduce the total days’ supply of opioids prescribed, the total number of patients receiving opioids, and the probability a provider prescribes any opioids net of any offsetting effects. Additionally, we find consistent evidence that cannabis access laws have different effects across types of providers, physician specialties, and payers.”

“The results of this study suggest that passing cannabis access laws reduces the use of prescription opioids across several different measures of opioid prescriptions. Thus, the passage of Recreational cannabis laws (RCLs) or Medical cannabis laws (MCLs) may be a valid policy option for combating the ongoing opioid epidemic, even if these laws were not originally conceived for that purpose.”

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THC exposure during adolescence does not modify nicotine reinforcing effects and relapse in adult male mice.

 This study investigated the effects of adolescent exposure to the main psychoactive component of cannabis, ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), in the reinforcing properties of nicotine in adult male mice. Possible alterations in relapse to nicotine-seeking behaviour in adult animals due to THC adolescent exposure were also evaluated.


Adolescent THC treatment did not modify acquisition and extinction of nicotine self-administration in adulthood. Moreover, THC exposure did not alter relapse to nicotine seeking induced by stress or nicotine-associated cues.


These results suggest that a history of exposure to THC during adolescence under these particular conditions does not modify the reinforcing effects and seeking behaviour of nicotine in the adult period.”

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The influence of carboxylesterase 1 polymorphism and cannabidiol on the hepatic metabolism of heroin.

Chemico-Biological Interactions“Heroin (diamorphine) is a highly addictive opioid drug synthesized from morphine. The use of heroin and incidence of heroin associated overdose death has increased sharply in the US.

Heroin is primarily metabolized via deacetylation (hydrolysis) forming the active metabolites 6-monoacetylmorphine (6-MAM) and morphine. A diminution in heroin hydrolysis is likely to cause higher drug effects and toxicities.

In this study, we sought to determine the contribution of the major hepatic hydrolase carboxylesterase 1 (CES1) to heroin metabolism in the liver as well as the potential influence of one of its known genetic variants, G143E (rs71647871).

Furthermore, given the potential therapeutic application of cannabidiol (CBD) for heroin addiction and the frequent co-abuse of cannabis and heroin, we also assessed the effects of CBD on heroin metabolism.

CBD exhibited potent in vitro inhibition toward both heroin and 6-MAM hydrolysis, which may be of potential clinical relevance.”

“Cannabidiol is a potent in vitro inhibitor of the two-step hydrolysis of heroin.”

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Characteristics of Dispensary Patients that Limit Alcohol after Initiating Cannabis.

Publication Cover “Many patients have reported that they decrease their use of opioids after starting medical cannabis (MC) but less is known for alcohol.

The objective of this exploratory study was to identify any factors which differentiate alcohol abaters from those that do not modify their alcohol use after starting MC (non-abaters).

Comparisons were made to identify any demographic, dosing, or health history characteristics which differentiated alcohol abaters (N = 47) from non-abaters (N = 65). Respondents selected from among a list of 37 diseases/health conditions (e.g. diabetes, sleep disorders).

Abaters and non-abaters were indistinguishable in terms of sex, age, or prior drug history. A greater percentage of abaters (59.6%) than non-abaters (40.6%, p < .05) reported using MC two or more times per day. Abaters were more likely to be employed (68.1%) than non-abaters (51.1%, p < .05). Abaters also reported having significantly more health conditions and diseases (3.3 ± 2.0) than non-abaters (2.4 ± 1.4, p < .05).

This small study offers some insights into the profile of patients whose self-reported alcohol intake decreased following initiation of MC. Additional prospective or controlled research into the alcohol abatement phenomenon following MC may be warranted.”

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Cannabinoids and the Microbiota-Gut-Brain-Axis: Emerging Effects of Cannabidiol and Potential Applications to Alcohol Use Disorders.

Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research banner“The endocannabinoid system (ECS) has emerged in recent years as a potential treatment target for alcohol use disorders (AUD).

In particular, the non-psychoactive cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) has shown preclinical promise in ameliorating numerous clinical symptoms of AUD.

There are several proposed mechanism(s) through which cannabinoids (and CBD in particular) may confer beneficial effects in the context of AUD. First, CBD may directly impact specific brain mechanisms underlying AUD to influence alcohol consumption and the clinical features of AUD. Second, CBD may influence AUD symptoms through its actions across the digestive, immune, and central nervous systems, collectively known as the microbiota-gut-brain-axis (MGBA).

Notably, emerging work suggests that alcohol and cannabinoids exert opposing effects on the MGBA.

Alcohol is linked to immune dysfunction (e.g., chronic systemic inflammation in the brain and periphery) as well as disturbances in gut microbial species (microbiota) and increased intestinal permeability. These MGBA disruptions have been associated with AUD symptoms such as craving and impaired cognitive control.

Conversely, existing preclinical data suggest that cannabinoids may confer beneficial effects on the gastrointestinal and immune system, such as reducing intestinal permeability, regulating gut bacteria and reducing inflammation. Thus, cannabinoids may exert AUD harm-reduction effects, at least in part, through their beneficial actions across the MGBA.

This review will provide a brief introduction to the ECS and the MGBA, discuss the effects of cannabinoids (particularly CBD) and alcohol in the brain, gut, and immune system (i.e., across the MGBA), and put forth a theoretical framework to inform future research questions.”

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Alcohol Binge-Induced Cardiovascular Dysfunction Involves Endocannabinoid-CB1-R Signaling.

 JACC: Basic to Translational Science“Excessive binge alcohol drinking may adversely affect cardiovascular function. In this study we characterize the detailed hemodynamic effects of an acute alcohol binge in mice using multiple approaches and investigate the role of the endocannabinoid-cannabinoid 1 receptor (CB1-R) signaling in these effects. Acute alcohol binge was associated with elevated levels of cardiac endocannabinoid anandamide and profound cardiovascular dysfunction lasting for several hours and redistribution of circulation. These changes were attenuated by CB1-R antagonist or in CB1-R knockout mice. Our results suggest that a single alcohol binge has profound effects on the cardiovascular system, which involve endocannabinoid-CB1-R signaling.”

“Alcohol is one of the most frequently used intoxicants in the United States. Binge alcohol drinking is a major contributor of emergency department visits. Binge alcohol drinking may adversely affect cardiovascular function. Here we show that acute alcohol intoxication is associated with elevated levels of cardiac endocannabinoid anandamide and profound cardiovascular dysfunction and blood redistribution lasting for several hours. The adverse cardiovascular effects of acute alcohol intoxication are attenuated by CB1-R antagonist or in CB1-R knockout mice. A single alcohol binge has profound effect on the cardiovascular system, which involves endocannabinoid-CB1-R signaling.”

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Does Integrative Medicine Reduce Prescribed Opioid Use for Chronic Pain? A Systematic Literature Review.

Image result for pain medicine journal“Chronic pain (CP) is a major public health problem. Many patients with CP are increasingly prescribed opioids, which has led to an opioid crisis.

Integrative medicine (IM), which combines pharmacological and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), has been proposed as an opioid alternative for CP treatment.

The majority of the studies showed that opioid use was reduced significantly after using IM. Cannabinoids were among the most commonly investigated approaches in reducing opioid use, followed by multidisciplinary approaches, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and acupuncture. The majority of the studies had limitations related to sample size, duration, and study design.


There is a small but defined body of literature demonstrating positive preliminary evidence that the IM approach including CAM therapies can help in reducing opioid use. As the opioid crisis continues to grow, it is vital that clinicians and patients be adequately informed regarding the evidence and opportunities for IM/CAM therapies for CP.”

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Frequency of cannabis and illicit opioid use among people who use drugs and report chronic pain: A longitudinal analysis.

Image result for plos medicine“Ecological research suggests that increased access to cannabis may facilitate reductions in opioid use and harms, and medical cannabis patients describe the substitution of opioids with cannabis for pain management.

We aimed to investigate the longitudinal association between frequency of cannabis use and illicit opioid use among people who use drugs (PWUD) experiencing chronic pain.

The most commonly reported therapeutic reasons for cannabis use were pain (36%), sleep (35%), stress (31%), and nausea (30%). After adjusting for demographic characteristics, substance use, and health-related factors, daily cannabis use was associated with significantly lower odds of daily illicit opioid use (adjusted odds ratio 0.50, 95% CI 0.34-0.74, p < 0.001).


We observed an independent negative association between frequent cannabis use and frequent illicit opioid use among PWUD with chronic pain. These findings provide longitudinal observational evidence that cannabis may serve as an adjunct to or substitute for illicit opioid use among PWUD with chronic pain.”

“In conclusion, we found evidence to suggest that frequent use of cannabis may serve as an adjunct to or substitute for illicit opioid use among PWUD with chronic pain in Vancouver. The findings of this study have implications for healthcare and harm reduction service providers. In chronic pain patients with complex socio-structural and substance use backgrounds, cannabis may be used as a means of treating health problems or reducing substance-related harm. In the context of the current opioid crisis and the recent rollout of a national regulatory framework for cannabis use in Canada, frequent use of cannabis among PWUD with pain may play an important role in preventing or substituting frequent illicit opioid use.”

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