Cannabis Use Linked to Enhanced Empathy

“Summary: A new study suggests regular cannabis users may have a heightened ability to understand others’ emotions. Psychological assessments coupled with brain imaging revealed that users show stronger connectivity in brain regions associated with empathy. The research, involving 136 participants, could have implications for treating social interaction deficits.

Key Facts:

  1. Regular cannabis users may have a greater empathetic understanding of others compared to non-users.
  2. Brain imaging indicates enhanced connectivity in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region related to empathy, among cannabis users.
  3. The study’s findings may inform potential treatments for social interaction deficits in various psychological conditions.”


“PURPOSE: Marijuana use is becoming increasingly prevalent worldwide, yet the full spectrum of its effects largely remains unknown. Although cannabinoids have immunomodulatory properties, there remains a significant gap in our understanding of the potential impact of marijuana use on COVID-19 outcomes. The purpose of the study is to compare the outcomes of COVID-19 infection on individuals who use marijuana and those who do not.

METHODS: National Inpatient Sample Database was used to sample individuals admitted with the diagnosis of COVID-19. Patients were divided into two groups based on marijuana use. Baseline demographics and comorbidities were collected using ICD-10 codes. Patients with missing data or age under 18 were excluded. Greedy propensity matching using R was performed to match marijuana users to non-users 1:1 on age, race, gender, and 17 other comorbidities including chronic lung disease. Univariate analysis pre- and post-match were performed. Binary logistic regression was performed post-match. A p-value of <0.05 was considered statistically significant.

RESULTS: Out of 322,214 patients included in the study, 2,603 were marijuana users. Marijuana users were younger and had higher prevalence of tobacco use. However, other comorbidities including obstructive sleep apnea, obesity, hypertension, and diabetes mellitus were more prevalent in marijuana non-users. On univariate analysis, marijuana users had significantly lower rates of intubation (6.8% vs 12%), acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) (2.1% vs 6%), acute respiratory failure (25% vs 52.9%) and severe sepsis with multiorgan failure (5.8% vs 12%). They also had lower in-hospital cardiac arrest (1.2% vs 2.7%) and mortality (2.9% vs 13.5%). After 1:1 matching, marijuana users had lower rates of intubation (OR: 0.64 [0.51-0.81]; p<0.01), ARDS (OR: 0.39 [0.26-0.58]; p<0.01), acute respiratory failure (OR: 0.53 [0.47-0.61]; p<0.01), severe sepsis with multiorgan failure (OR: 0.68 [0.52-0.89]; p<0.01) and lower mortality (OR: 0.48 [0.33-0.69]; p<0.01)

CONCLUSIONS: Marijuana smokers had better outcomes and mortality compared to non-users. The beneficial effect of marijuana use may be attributed to its potential to inhibit viral entry into cells and prevent the release of proinflammatory cytokines, thus mitigating cytokine release syndrome.

CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: The significant decrease in mortality and complications warrants further investigation of the association between marijuana use and COVID-19. Our study highlights a topic of future research for larger trials especially considering the widespread use of marijuana.”

“Study Finds Cannabis Users Had Better Covid-19 Outcomes”

Changes in Prescribed Opioid Dosages Among Patients Receiving Medical Cannabis for Chronic Pain, New York State, 2017-2019

JAMA editors name the journal's best articles of the decade | American  Medical Association

“Importance: Patients with chronic pain often receive long-term opioid therapy (LOT), which places them at risk of opioid use disorder and overdose. This presents the need for alternative or companion treatments; however, few studies on the association of medical cannabis (MC) with reducing opioid dosages exist.

Objective: To assess changes in opioid dosages among patients receiving MC for longer duration compared with shorter duration.

Design, setting, and participants: This cohort study of New York State Prescription Monitoring Program data from 2017 to 2019 included patients receiving MC for chronic pain while also receiving opioid treatment. Of these, patients receiving LOT prior to receiving MC were selected. Individuals were studied for 8 months after starting MC. Data were analyzed from November 2021 to February 2022.

Exposures: Selected patients were divided into 2 groups based on the duration of receiving MC: the nonexposure group received MC for 30 days or fewer, and the exposure group received MC for more than 30 days.

Main outcomes and measures: The main outcome was opioid dosage, measured by mean daily morphine milligram equivalent (MME). Analyses were conducted for 3 strata by opioid dosage prior to receiving MC: MME less than 50, MME of 50 to less than 90, and MME of 90 or greater.

Results: A total of 8165 patients were included, with 4041 (median [IQR] age, 57 [47-65] years; 2376 [58.8%] female) in the exposure group and 4124 (median [IQR] age, 54 (44-62) years; 2370 [57.5%] female) in the nonexposure group. Median (IQR) baseline MMEs for the exposure vs nonexposure groups were 30.0 (20.0-40.0) vs 30.0 (20.0-40.0) in the lowest stratum, 60.0 (60.0-70.0) vs 60.0 (60.0-90.0) in the middle stratum, and 150.0 (100.0-216.2) vs 135.0 (100.0-218.0) in the highest stratum. During follow-up, significantly greater reductions in opioid dosage were observed among the exposure group. A dose-response association of patients’ opioid dosage at baseline was observed with the differences in the monthly MME reductions between exposure and nonexposure groups, with a difference of -1.52 (95% CI, -1.67 to -1.37) MME for the lowest stratum, -3.24 (95% CI, -3.61 to -2.87) MME for the middle stratum, and -9.33 (95% CI, -9.89 to -8.77) MME for the highest stratum. The daily MME for the last month of the follow-up period among patients receiving longer MC was reduced by 48% in the lowest stratum, 47% in the middle stratum, and 51% in the highest stratum compared with the baseline dosages. Among individuals in the nonexposure group, daily MME was reduced by only 4% in the lowest stratum, 9% in the middle stratum, and 14% in the highest stratum.

Conclusions and relevance: In this cohort study of patients receiving LOT, receiving MC for a longer duration was associated with reductions in opioid dosages, which may lower their risk of opioid-related morbidity and mortality.”

“This cohort study found that receiving MC for longer was associated with opioid dosage reductions. The reductions were larger among individuals who were prescribed higher dosages of opioids at baseline. These findings contribute robust evidence for clinicians regarding the potential benefits of MC in reducing the opioid burden for patients receiving LOT and possibly reduce their risk for overdose.”

“State DOH: Medical cannabis may reduce opioid burden in managing chronic pain”

Recreational cannabis and opioid distribution

“Twenty-one U.S. states have passed recreational cannabis laws as of November 2022. Cannabis may be a substitute for prescription opioids in the treatment of chronic pain. Previous studies have assessed recreational cannabis laws’ effects on opioid prescriptions financed by specific private or public payers or dispensed to a unique endpoint.

Our study adds to the literature in three important ways: by (1) examining these laws’ impacts on prescription opioid dispensing across all payers and endpoints, (2) adjusting for important opioid-related policies such as opioid prescribing limits, and (3) modeling opioids separately by type. We implement two-way fixed-effects regressions and leverage variation from eleven U.S. states that adopted a recreational cannabis law (RCL) between 2010 and 2019.

We find that RCLs lead to a reduction in codeine dispensed at retail pharmacies. Among prescription opioids, codeine is particularly likely to be used non-medically. Thus, the finding that RCLs appear to reduce codeine dispensing is potentially promising from a public health perspective.”

“When recreational cannabis is legal, codeine demand drops”

Anhedonia, apathy, pleasure, and effort-based decision-making in adult and adolescent cannabis users and controls

CINP Journal

“Background: Cannabis use may be linked with anhedonia and apathy. However, previous studies have shown mixed results and few have examined the association between cannabis use and specific reward sub-processes. Adolescents may be more vulnerable to harmful effects of cannabis than adults. This study investigated (1) the association between non-acute cannabis use and apathy, anhedonia, pleasure, and effort-based decision-making for reward, and (2) whether these relationships were moderated by age-group.

Methods: We used data from the ‘CannTeen’ study. Participants were 274 adult (26-29 years) and adolescent (16-17 years) cannabis users (1-7 days/week use in the past three months), and gender- and age-matched controls. Anhedonia was measured with the Snaith-Hamilton Pleasure Scale (n=274), and apathy was measured with the Apathy Evaluation Scale (n=215). Effort-based decision-making for reward was measured with the Physical Effort task (n=139), and subjective wanting and liking of rewards was measured with the novel Real Reward Pleasure task (n=137).

Results: Controls had higher levels of anhedonia than cannabis users (F1,258=5.35, p=.02, ηp2=.02). There were no other significant effects of User-Group and no significant User-Group*Age-Group interactions. Null findings were supported by post hoc Bayesian analyses.

Conclusion: Our results suggest that cannabis use at a frequency of three to four days per week is not associated with apathy, effort-based decision-making for reward, reward wanting, or reward liking in adults or adolescents. Cannabis users had lower anhedonia than controls, albeit at a small effect size. These findings are not consistent with the hypothesis that non-acute cannabis use is associated with amotivation.”

“Cannabis users no more likely to lack motivation than non-users: Study breaks ‘stoner’ stereotype”

Association between cannabis use with urological cancers: A population-based cohort study and a mendelian randomization study in the UK biobank

“Background: Legislation of cannabis use has been approved in many European and North American countries. Its impact on urological cancers is unclear. This study was conducted to explore the association between cannabis use and the risk of urological cancers.

Methods: We identified 151,945 individuals with information on cannabis use in the UK Biobank from 2006 to 2010. Crude and age-standardized incidence ratios of different urological cancers were evaluated in the entire cohort and subgroups. Cox regression was performed for survival analysis.

Results: Previous use of cannabis was a significant protective factor for renal cell carcinoma (HR = 0.61, 95%CI:0.40-0.93, p = 0.021) and prostate cancer (HR = 0.82, 95%CI:0.73-0.93, p = 0.002) in multivariable analysis. The association between previous cannabis use and both renal cell carcinoma and bladder cancer was only observed in females (HRRCC = 0.42, 95%CI:0.19-0.94, p = 0.034; HRBCa = 0.43, 95%CI:0.21-0.86, p = 0.018) but not in men. There was no significant association between cannabis use and testicular cancer incidence. Mendelian randomization demonstrated a potential causal effect of cannabis use on a lower incidence of renal cell carcinoma.

Conclusions: Previous use of cannabis was associated with a lower risk of bladder cancer, renal cell carcinoma, and prostate cancer. The inverse association between cannabis and both renal cell carcinoma and bladder cancer was only found in females but not in males.”

“Cannabis, also known as marijuana, is the most used substance derived from Cannabis Sativa which can be used for recreational or medical purposes. Some evidence also suggested that cannabinoids might induce apoptosis of cancer cells and inhibit oncogenesis, indicating a potential treatment effect”

“Previous Cannabis Use Linked to Lower Risk of Some Genitourinary Cancers”

Cannabis Use and Sinonasal Symptoms in US Adults

Medflixs - JAMA Otolaryngology Formation

“Importance: Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit substance in the US and worldwide. Understanding the association between cannabis use and sinonasal symptoms may help clinicians and patients better understand the symptomatology associated with cannabis use.

Objective: To assess the association between frequency of cannabis use and presence of sinonasal symptoms in a nationally representative sample of US adults.

Design, setting, and participants: This population-based, retrospective cross-sectional study included adults aged 20 to 69 years who had completed data on sinonasal symptoms and substance use for the 2013 to 2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The data were analyzed in February 2022.

Exposures: Cannabis use frequency.

Main outcomes and measures: Presence of sinonasal symptoms, demographic information, and medical history were obtained from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey questionnaires. Presence of any sinonasal symptoms was defined as responding yes to any of a series of questions assessing rhinologic symptoms. Regular cannabis users were defined as using cannabis 15 or more times within the last 30 days. Nonregular users were defined as using cannabis fewer than 15 times within the last 30 days. Multivariable models were used to examine the association between frequency of cannabis use and presence of sinonasal symptoms while adjusting for demographic characteristics and medical comorbidities.

Results: The study included 2269 adults with a mean (SD) age of 36.5 (12.4) years (1207 women [53.2%]; 330 Asian [14.5%], 739 Black [32.6%], 461 Hispanic [20.3%], and 656 White [28.9%] individuals). The prevalence of sinonasal symptoms among regular cannabis users (45.0%; 95% Cl, 38.9%-51.1%) was lower than the prevalence among never users (64.5%; 95% Cl, 58.3%-68.8%). Compared with adults who had never used cannabis, regular cannabis users were less likely to have sinonasal symptoms (odds ratio, 0.22, 95% CI, 0.10-0.50). Current tobacco smokers were more likely to have sinonasal symptoms (odds ratio, 1.96; 95% CI, 1.17-3.28). The most common sinonasal symptoms reported were nasal congestion (62.8%; 95% Cl, 60.2%-65.4%) and change in smell (17.8%; 95% Cl, 15.2%-20.9%).

Conclusions and relevance: This cross-sectional study found that the prevalence of sinonasal symptoms was lower among regular cannabis users. Further research is needed to elucidate the mechanisms underlying the association between cannabis use and sinonasal symptoms.”


Cannabis decriminalization and racial disparity in arrests for cannabis possession

Social Science & Medicine

“Rationale: Minorities often bear the brunt of unequal enforcement of drug laws. In the U.S., Blacks have been disproportionately more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than Whites despite a similar rate of cannabis use. Decriminalizing cannabis has been argued as a way to reduce racial disparity in cannabis possession arrests. To date, however, the empirical evidence to support this argument is almost non-existent.

Objectives: To examine whether cannabis decriminalization was associated with reduced racial disparity in arrests for cannabis possession between Blacks and Whites in the U.S.

Methods: Using FBI Uniform Crime Report data from 37 U.S. states, cannabis possession arrest rates were calculated separately for Blacks and Whites from 2000 to 2019. A difference-in-differences framework was used to estimate the association between cannabis decriminalization and racial disparity in cannabis possession arrest rates (Blacks/Whites ratio) among adults and youths.

Results: Cannabis possession arrest rates declined over 70% among adults and over 40% among youths after the implementation of cannabis decriminalization in 11 states. Among adults, decriminalization was associated with a roughly 17% decrease in racial disparity in arrest rates between Blacks and Whites. Among youths, arrest rates declined among both Blacks and Whites but there was no evidence for a change in racial disparity between Blacks and Whites following decriminalization.

Conclusions: Cannabis decriminalization was associated with substantially lower cannabis possession arrest rates among both adults and youths and among both Blacks and Whites. It reduced racial disparity between Blacks and Whites among adults but not youths. These findings suggested that cannabis decriminalization had its intended consequence of reducing arrests and may have potential to reduce racial disparity in arrests at least among adults.”

“Cannabis decriminalization decreased arrests in both adults and youths.•

Cannabis decriminalization decreased arrests in both Blacks and Whites.•

Cannabis decriminalization decreased racial disparity in arrests only in adults.”

“Cannabis Decriminalization Reduces The Racial Disparity, A New Study Suggests”

The Effectiveness and Safety of Medical Cannabis for Treating Cancer Related Symptoms in Oncology Patients

Frontiers in Pain Research (@FrontPain) / Twitter

“The use of medical cannabis (MC) to treat cancer-related symptoms is rising. However, there is a lack of long-term trials to assess the benefits and safety of MC treatment in this population. In this work, we followed up prospectively and longitudinally on the effectiveness and safety of MC treatment.

Oncology patients reported on multiple symptoms before and after MC treatment initiation at one-, three-, and 6-month follow-ups. Oncologists reported on the patients’ disease characteristics. Intention-to-treat models were used to assess changes in outcomes from baseline. MC treatment was initiated by 324 patients and 212, 158 and 126 reported at follow-ups.

Most outcome measures improved significantly during MC treatment for most patients (p < 0.005). Specifically, at 6 months, total cancer symptoms burden declined from baseline by a median of 18%, from 122 (82–157) at baseline to 89 (45–138) at endpoint (−18.98; 95%CI= −26.95 to −11.00; p < 0.001). Reported adverse effects were common but mostly non-serious and remained stable during MC treatment.

The results of this study suggest that MC treatment is generally safe for oncology patients and can potentially reduce the burden of associated symptoms with no serious MC-related adverse effects.

The main finding of the current study is that most cancer comorbid symptoms improved significantly during 6 months of MC treatment.

Additionally, we found that MC treatment in cancer patients was well tolerated and safe.”

“Cancer Pain Treatment Using Marijuana Safe and Effective, Large Study Finds”

Cannabinol inhibits oxytosis/ferroptosis by directly targeting mitochondria independently of cannabinoid receptors

“The oxytosis/ferroptosis regulated cell death pathway recapitulates many features of mitochondrial dysfunction associated with the aging brain and has emerged as a potential key mediator of neurodegeneration. It has thus been proposed that the oxytosis/ferroptosis pathway can be used to identify novel drug candidates for the treatment of age-associated neurodegenerative diseases that act by preserving mitochondrial function. Previously, we identified cannabinol (CBN) as a potent neuroprotector. Here, we demonstrate that not only does CBN protect nerve cells from oxytosis/ferroptosis in a manner that is dependent on mitochondria and it does so independently of cannabinoid receptors. Specifically, CBN directly targets mitochondria and preserves key mitochondrial functions including redox regulation, calcium uptake, membrane potential, bioenergetics, biogenesis, and modulation of fusion/fission dynamics that are disrupted following induction of oxytosis/ferroptosis. These protective effects of CBN are at least partly mediated by the promotion of endogenous antioxidant defenses and the activation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) signaling. Together, our data highlight the potential of mitochondrially-targeted compounds such as CBN as novel oxytotic/ferroptotic inhibitors to rescue mitochondrial dysfunction as well as opportunities for the discovery and development of future neurotherapeutics.”