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Heavy Pot Use Tied to IQ Drop Reviewed by Robert Jasmer, MD; Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco and Dorothy Caputo, MA, BSN, RN, Nurse Planner Action Points Individuals repeatedly diagnosed with cannabis dependence during young adulthood had noticeable declines in IQscores by age 38, especially when the heavy use started in their teens. Note that the study findings are consistent with speculation that cannabis use in adolescence, when the brain is undergoing critical development, may have neurotoxic effects.[/background] Individuals repeatedly diagnosed with cannabis dependence during young adulthood had noticeable declines inIQ scores by age 38, especially when the heavy use started in their teens, researchers said. A small to medium decline in mean between tests taken on the eve of adolescence and again at age 38 was seen in those diagnosed at least three times with cannabis dependence, according to Madeline Meier, PhD, of Duke University, and colleagues, who reported on data from 1,037 participants in a New Zealand birth cohort. In the small group of participants who became cannabis dependent before age 18 -- a total of 23 cohort members -- the decline translated to an average of about 8 points, whereas 14 participants who also showed heavy cannabis use but only beginning in adulthood showed only a very small in full-scale scores (P=0.02), Meier and colleagues indicated online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers also reported that the size of the mean decline increased with the number of cannabis dependence diagnoses that participants had received in five evaluations conducted from ages 18 to 38 (P<0.0001 for trend). "Collectively, [the study's] findings are consistent with speculation that cannabis use in adolescence, when the brain is undergoing critical development, may have neurotoxic effects," Meier and colleagues wrote. Study participants were members of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study. It attempted to track all children born in Dunedin, New Zealand, from April 1972 to March 1973 starting at age 3. At age 38, the investigators had data on testing and cannabis dependence diagnoses on 874 cohort members. Besides assessing cannabis use, the five structured interviews in adulthood also elicited information on use of other illicit drugs and alcohol. tests were conducted initially at ages 7 to 13 and again at age 38. Among participants included in the current analysis, 242 never reported cannabis use in the structured interviews nor were they ever diagnosed with dependence; 479 indicated some use but never received a diagnosis; and 80, 35, and 38 had received one, two, or three or more dependence diagnoses in the adult evaluations. Baseline mean scores were similar and close to the standardized population average of 100 in these cannabis-use subgroups. However, at age 38, the mean scores had diverged considerably. The change from baseline was as follows (P values not reported): Never used, never diagnosed: +0.80 Used, never diagnosed: -1.07 One diagnosis: -1.62 Two diagnoses: -2.47 Three or more diagnoses: -5.75 Meier and colleagues reported other changes over time in "standard deviation units," in which changes of 0.20, 0.50, and 0.80 should be considered small, medium, or large, respectively. For participants with three or more diagnoses, the change was -0.38 units. The researchers also stratified participants into two groups according to whether, at a given interview, they reported using cannabis at least once a week on average ("regular user"). Individuals classed as regular users at least three times in the study also showed the largest declines in between tests (mean -5.23 IQ points, -0.35 standard deviation units, P value not reported), whereas little change was seen in those never reporting regular use. Similar patterns were seen in subdomain scores. These small to medium declines were also seen in this participant group in tests of memory, processing speed, and executive function. Meier and colleagues sought to rule out potential confounding factors, taking educational attainment and use of alcohol and other drugs into account. When they restricted their analysis to 278 participants who did not get beyond high school, again those with three or more dependence diagnoses showed medium-level declines in (mean -0.48 standard deviation units) whereas those in the never-used, never-diagnosed category had essentially no change (mean -0.03 units, P=0.0009 for trend). The pattern also held up when the researchers excluded participants with persistent dependence on tobacco, alcohol, and "hard" drugs, and also those with diagnoses of schizophrenia. However, the strongest relationships between persistent dependence and decline applied to those who began heavy use in adolescence. Meier and colleagues suggested that, actually, the relationship between dependence and decline may be entirely driven by this group. The 23 participants with adolescent-onset dependence and at least three diagnoses overall showed a mean decline of about 0.53 standard deviation units, compared with a of about 0.13 among those with three diagnoses that all came during adulthood (P=0.02). Nonsignificant trends toward greater declines in were also seen in those teen-onset dependence but fewer total diagnoses of dependence. "In fact, adult-onset cannabis users did not appear to experience decline as a function of persistent cannabis use," Meier and colleagues wrote. They cautioned that their data did not prove that heavy cannabis use actually caused the decline. "There may be some unknown 'third' variable that could account for the findings. The data also cannot reveal the mechanism underlying the association between persistent cannabis dependence and neuropsychological decline," they wrote. They also acknowledged that their data relied on self-report of cannabis use, without confirmation from blood or urine testing. But these caveats did not stop them from speculating on causal mechanisms and the implications of a causal relationship. Meier and colleagues noted that animal studies as well as theories of neural development during adolescence support a neurotoxic effect of cannabis in the young adult brain. Moreover, they argued, their findings should inform public health programs. "Prevention and policy efforts should focus on delivering to the public the message that cannabis use during adolescence can have harmful effects on neuropsychological functioning, delaying the onset of cannabis use at least until adulthood, and encouraging cessation of cannabis use particularly for those who began using cannabis in adolescence," they wrote. Duke University, in a press release, was even less circumspect in a press release headlined, "Adolescent pot use leaves lasting mental deficits." Its first sentence claimed that "the persistent, dependent use of marijuana before age 18 has been shown to cause lasting harm to a person's intelligence, attention and memory" in the study. The Dunedin cohort study was funded by the New Zealand Health Research Council. The current analysis was supported by the U.K. Medical Research Council, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and the Jacobs Foundation. No potential conflicts of interest were reported. Primary source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Source reference: Meier M, et al "Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife" Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2012; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1206820109.
Number of Babies Born Addicted to Painkillers Has Tripled in the Last Decade http://gawker.com/5906530/number-of-babies-born-addicted-to-painkillers-has-tripled-in-the-last-decade Missing from this discussion is mention of a scientifically proven non-toxic medicine that has proven to not have any negative effects on new born babies. It is called cannabis. Jamaican Study of Pregnant Mothers Shows That Marijuana Doesn’t Harm Newborns http://ireadculture.com/2011/06/news/smoking-marijuana-pregnancy/ Back in the '80s and '90s hospitals saw a surge in babies born addicted to crack, but the last decade has been all about babies born addicted to painkillers. Babies who are hooked on Vicodin or Oxycontin experience neonatal abstinence syndrome. It's the same for babies addicted to heroin, but prescription drug abuse is on the rise. The number of pregnant women who used or abused narcotic painkillers increased fivefold from 2000 to 2009, his study found. These mothers now account for 5.6 out of 1,000 hospital births a year, the study found. As CDC researcher Andreea Creanga notes, it's not that more pregnant women are using drugs — it's that more of the pregnant women who use drugs are using prescription painkillers. Babies born addicted to these drugs are treated with methadone for withdrawal symptoms. In the meantime, they cry a lot and are generally miserable. The study's author Stephen Patrick describes it "like a colicky baby times 10." There is some speculation that pregnant women don't realize prescription drugs can hurt their fetuses, since the drugs are legal. But painkillers are prescribed for use with pain, not for good times. And not to be a total killjoy, but the number of overdoses from prescription pain meds also tripled (from 1991 to 2007). Pregnant or not, be careful with your opiates. Jamaican Study of Pregnant Mothers Shows That Marijuana Doesn’t Harm Newborns http://ireadculture.com/2011/06/news/smoking-marijuana-pregnancy/ By Janelle Stone It’s almost too taboo to discuss: pregnant women smoking marijuana. It’s a dirty little secret for women, particularly during the harrowing first trimester, who turn to cannabis for relief from nausea and stress. If you were to inquire about pot and pregnancy on the Web, Baby Center offers a strongly worded warning from Gerald Briggs, pharmacist clinical specialist. Briggs says that pot affects the baby’s growth and development and—gasp!—may even cause childhood leukemia. But there are no facts or studies attributed to back up the claims. More than 50 pages of comments were posted to the site about Briggs’ statements. Some proclaimed the virtues of smoking marijuana while pregnant, offering proof of healthy children and stories of functioning during pregnancy thanks to cannabis. Other comments viciously showed disdain for pregnant patients, resorting to name-calling. Pregnant women in Jamaica use marijuana regularly to relieve nausea, as well as to relieve stress and depression, often in the form of a tea or tonic. In the late 1960s, grad student Melanie Dreher was chosen by her professors to perform an ethnographic study on marijuana use in Jamaica to observe and document its usage and its consequences among pregnant women. Dreher studied 24 Jamaican infants exposed to marijuana prenatally and 20 infants that were not exposed. Her work evolved into the book Women and Cannabis: Medicine, Science and Sociology, part of which included her field studies. Most North American studies have shown marijuana use can cause birth defects and developmental problems. Those studies did not isolate marijuana use, however, lumping cannabis with more destructive substances ranging from alcohol and tobacco to meth and heroin. In Jamaica, Dreher found a culture that policed its own ganja intake and considers its use spiritual. For the herb’s impact when used during pregnancy, she handed over reports utilizing the Brazelton Scale, the highly recognized neonatal behavioral assessment that evaluates behavior. The profile identifies the baby’s strengths, adaptive responses and possible vulnerabilities. The researchers continued to evaluate the children from the study up to 5 years old. The results showed no negative impact on the children, on the contrary they seemed to excel. Plenty of people did not like that answer, particularly her funders, the National Institute on Drug Abuse. They did not continue to flip the bill for the study and did not readily release its results. “March of Dimes was supportive,” Dreher says. “But it was clear that NIDA was not interested in continuing to fund a study that didn’t produce negative results. I was told not to resubmit. We missed an opportunity to follow the study through adolescence and through adulthood.” Now dean of nursing at Rush University with degrees in nursing, anthropology and philosophy, plus a Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia University, Dreher did not have experience with marijuana before she shipped off for Jamaica. The now-marijuana advocate says that Raphael Mechoulam, the first person to isolate THC, should win a Pulitzer. Still, she understands that medical professionals shy from doing anything that might damage any support of their professionalism, despite marijuana’s proven medicinal effects, particularly for pregnant women. CASE CLOSED Dr. Melanie Dreher’s study isn’t the first time Jamaican ganja smoking was subjected to scientific study. One of the most exhausting studies is Ganja in Jamaica—A Medical Anthropological Study of Chronic Marijuana Use by Vera Rubin and Lambros Comitas, published in 1975. Unfortunately for the National Institute of Mental Health’s Center for Studies of Narcotic and Drug Abuse, the medical anthropological study concluded: “Despite its illegality, ganja use is pervasive, and duration and frequency are very high; it is smoked over a longer period in heavier quantities with greater THC potency than in the U.S. without deleterious social or psychological consequences [our emphasis].”