NHL Alumni Study Centres on CBD, Puts THC on Ice

When Glenn Healy, head of the NHL Alumni Association, recently announced that a hundred retired players would be given CBD in a study examining the compound’s possible role in treating pain and post-concussion neurological disorders, many former athletes celebrated–especially those struggling with depression, post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), and dementia from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). But one question lingered in the minds of some people: “What about THC?”

“I know some former players who are using THC instead of CBD to cope,” said Rob Frid, who suffered dozens of concussions while playing junior and minor league hockey and now suffers from chronic pain and debilitating neurological problems. (The 43-year-old has been diagnosed with dystonia, a disorder that causes painful muscle spasms.) “There is no doubt in my mind that studying THC would be beneficial,” he told Leafly.

Researchers have been pointing to THC as a possible treatment for brain injuries for decades. In 1998, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States published a report outlining the neuroprotective properties of cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Those findings formed the basis of a US government-held patent on cannabis compounds as antioxidants and neuroprotectants. The government stated that both compounds could play a role in limiting neurological damage following stroke and trauma.

In 2013, Israeli researchers discovered that cannabis may prevent long-term brain damage when THC is administered before or shortly after injury. They found that doing so induces the biochemical processes necessary to protect critical brain cells while preserving long-term cognitive function. In fact, Israel Defense Force doctors have administered CBD or low-dose THC as a first-line treatment to soldiers who suffer brain trauma.

In recent years, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard University, Lester Grinspoon, has made waves by stating his belief that cannabis can make athletes more CTE-resistant. Grinspoon, who made his case for cannabis in an open letter to the NFL in 2014, also believes that THC stimulates healing after traumatic brain injury.

THC plays a role in pain management, according to Tony Iezzi, a psychologist who specializes in treating patients dealing with brain injury and chronic pain. “CBD alone won’t always cut it when it comes to treating pain. You need something more, and that is where THC comes in,” he told Leafly, adding that the two compounds work in tandem to treat pain.

Iezzi, who is affiliated with the London Health Sciences Centre in London, Ontario, believes that only CBD is front and centre in the NHL Alumni Association study in part because of the stigma associated with THC, which has psychoactive properties. “I think they chose to focus on CBD because it’s the more socially acceptable of the two cannabis compounds. They have to start somewhere,” he added. “At some point they will have to devote some attention to the effects of THC.”

His views are echoed by Mark Ware, the chief medical officer at Canopy Growth, an Ontario-based licensed producer that has partnered with the NHL Alumni Association and Neeka Health Canada to conduct this clinical research.

Ware, who has been an associate professor of family medicine and anesthesia at McGill University and is a well-known cannabis researcher, sees potential in THC to treat pain and post-concussion neurological disorders.

But it’s not front and centre in this study partly because of the stigma, he told Leafly. “There is a long history of people thinking of THC as a substance of abuse. We have to be conscious of that.” He cites another factor, too. Having THC in their system might pose a problem for study participants required to undergo drug tests for employment or insurance purposes. “There are many reasons to be careful with regards to THC, especially among those who must test clean for it,” he said.

That being said, Ware has not ruled out incorporating THC into this study, which is expected to begin this summer and take a year to complete. He explains that the study has three arms. The first group of participants will take CBD, the second group will be given a placebo and the third group will administer CBD along with one other element–one that is yet to be determined. Will it be THC?

“Nothing is written in stone at this point,” said Ware, adding that the goal of the study is to help determine “the secret sauce” that can be used to treat pain and post-concussion neurological disorders.

Ware said that if THC isn’t examined in this study it could very well be incorporated into a future study. “There is no scientific reason for not looking at it,” he conceded.

Though Frid is disappointed that THC is not at the fore of the upcoming NHL alumni study, the former hockey enforcer sees the initiative as a positive development. “NHL alumni are no longer saying, ‘Let’s wait for the science.’ They are making it happen. They are taking a step forward,” said Frid. “It’s amazing news.”

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Sploofs 101: How to Reduce the Smell When Smoking Cannabis

Regardless of whether weed is legal where you live, we still have to contend with roommates, parents, and neighbours, some of whom might take issue with the conspicuous scent of smoking cannabis.

So, strike a compromise: Continue smoking but take actions to minimize the risk they’ll smell it in the first place.

We all know about the trick of stuffing a towel under the crack of your closed door. But there’s something else that helps that you need to look into: a sploof.

These are handheld devices that typically contain carbon filters. You blow through one end, and out the other comes a whisper of the smoke you exhaled into it. They’re never 100% effective but using a sploof should be the difference between having happy roommates and getting an eviction notice.

Smokebuddy

Photo by Jesse Milns for Leafly

We couldn’t write a sploof review without first bringing up the Smokebuddy. You’ve probably seen them being sold at your local headshop–this brand really seems to have a stranglehold across North America, as you can find the device in smoke shops across Canada and the US.

While the SmokeBuddy can be held in your hand, it is probably too big for your pocket.

It comes in a variety of visually designs, including tie-dye, camo, or your favourite primary and secondary colours.

The company boasts that it can last up to 300 exhales through regular use, at which point you’ll find a ton of resistance when you try to blow into the Buddy.

We won’t lie, we didn’t count how many exhales it lasted us, but the Smokebuddy easily lasted more than a month of regular use.

What didn’t we like? The plastic packaging is a real pain to open: You’ll need a pair of heavy duty scissors and a calm mind. And Smokebuddies are for one-time use: there is no replaceable filter system and the device’s outer plastic shell makes it nearly impossible to recycle.

Americans can buy the Smokebuddy right on Amazon for $12.50 USD, while Canadians will need to shell out $24.95.

The Smokebuddy also has a smaller “junior” model as well as a larger “mega” model. So if portability or long-lasting use are your top wants, you might want to try those variations.

Eco Four Twenty

sploof
Photo by Jesse Milns for Leafly

This small, cylindrical, device is a heavyweight that exudes, “I am unbreakable.” It’s billed as a sploof made with “aircraft grade aluminium casing” and including a “2 stage medical grade filter.” While it costs a bit more than the Smokebuddy, the Eco Four Twenty also boasts a replaceable cartridge system that uses activated carbon as well as HEPA, good for 500 exhales.

The Eco Four Twenty feels good in your hand. And the thought of buying replacements that are cheaper than purchasing a new Smokebuddy really piqued my interest.

There’s just one problem: The filter lasted for less than a week of regular use–we tried twice. There is no way in hell this thing lasts anywhere close to advertised 500 exhales. If we had to guestimate it lasted us a fifth of that, at most. Maybe they’re testing it on bong-smoking ants?

Still, the Eco Four Twenty does have some positive points, especially due to its small size and the sleek design that makes it the sploof you would most want to see on your coffee table. That replaceable filter, also makes it one of the more eco-friendly options.

The creators behind the EFT are Canadian, so if you live north of the US border chances are you can find it in your local headshop. You can also expect fast shipping from Toronto if you order it directly from the company.

The device costs $26.95 USD and a pack of two replacements

Sploofy

sploof
Photo by Jesse Milns for Leafly

One of the first competitors of Smokebuddy, the Sploofy, has a legion of fans. The device has now gone through three iterations, begging the question–how much did the first version suck? Well, pretty badly, at least when we first tried it. A significant amount of smoke leaked from the front of the device before it even had a chance to go through the filter.

Having recently released a third generation, the V3 redeems itself with a re-designed mouthpiece, and in our tests it alleviated the problems that we had with the first version. The V3 also boasts a HEPA filter that the Smokebuddy doesn’t.

While Sploofy’s website doesn’t estimate how many exhales you get, this bad boy lasted us quite a while. It’s even taller in size as the Smokebuddy and just as wide, and it appears that the filter is bigger than the SB–meaning you may get even more use out of it.

The device is covered with a sheath of hard plastic, which reveals an ugly undercarriage containing the filter and a big wad of glue holding a mesh screen on to the filter. But hey, does anyone’s car look clean under the hood?

The bulky filter cartridge is also replaceable. The Sploofy V3 retails on online for $19.99 USD.

Angel

sploof
Photo by Jesse Milns for Leafly

A new competitor will soon be on the block, and Leafly was able to snag its hands on a prototype. Coming in a hot-red plastic casing, Angel hopes to disrupt the commercial sploof market and take on the Sploofies and Smokebuddies of the world with a design that easily slips into your pocket and allows for a tight grip when being used.

We didn’t test it to its limits, but if we had to guess, its smaller size likely makes it last for a shorter period of time than the Smokebuddy and Sploofy (but hopefully more than the Eco-Four Twenty).

Flow Filters, the developer behind the device, tells Leafly that they are hoping to sell it at the same or lower price than the Smokebuddy.

While not on the market just yet, we’re cautiously optimistic that the Angel sploofy will turn out to be a big hit: the team is taking months to perfect the design and the filtering medium, so you have a sense they want to put out a quality product when it comes time to hit the shelves.

A DIY Solution

sploof
Photo by Jesse Milns for Leafly

Need a sploof fast and at practically no cost?

All you need to McGyver your own is: a finished toilet paper roll, dryer sheets, and elastic bands.

Stuff the roll with dryer sheets, and then take a few more dryer sheets and lay them flat on one end of the roll. Use the elastic bands to secure the dryer sheets snuggly on to the end of the roll.

And there you have it, a sploof that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

You can even decorate it too. Want to call it “David Blowie,” in honour of the rockstar’s 1976 arrest for marijuana? Go right ahead! You can even bedazzle it with fake jewels if you’re into arts and crafts.

What’s great about the home-made sploof is that it masks and freshens the air around you, something none of the store-bought sploofs can do (we smell an opportunity). Conversely, the store-bought units may not do as good a job at masking but it

Look, your home-made sploof isn’t going to be as air tight as the chamber holding the filter of a manufactured sploof, so you’re always going to have at least a little bit of smell linger. But if you have marijuana-skeptic roommates or parents in your residence, the decision between no sploof and a home-made sploof is easy.

Which sploof is the best? That’s a hard question because there’s so many factors, and each sploof has its own pros and cons. In our tests, all of them were able to dissipate the smoke, leaving only a very transient whiff of cannabis odor. So whether you’re looking for something that fits in your pocket, starts a conversation while sitting on your coffee table, or that provides a long-lasting solution, there’s a sploof for you.

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THC versus Breast Cancer

By Alex Andia On March 18, 2019

It’s no secret that many cancer patients are using cannabis to help manage pain, fatigue, nausea, and other side effects of chemotherapy. Less well known is the fact that extensive preclinical research shows that plant cannabinoids – most notably, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) – produce antitumor responses in various animal models of cancer.

The vast majority of this preclinical research has examined the anticancer activity of pure compounds, mainly THC isolates. But medical cannabis patients aren’t using pure, single-molecule THC to battle cancer. Instead, they are consuming whole plant cannabis oil extracts that include hundreds of compounds, many of which also have therapeutic properties. These artisanal cannabis oil preparations are available in licensed dispensaries in states where medical cannabis is legal and elsewhere via the unregulated black market.

Thus far, however, few rigorous studies have analyzed the effects of whole plant cannabis extracts. So a team of Spanish researchers, led by Cristina Sanchez at Complutense University in Madrid, decided to compare the efficacy of pure THC isolates and THC-rich oil extracts in a series of preclinical experiments that focused on breast cancer. (The oil extracts were provided by Aunt Zelda’s, a California-based medical cannabis producer.) The researchers also investigated the effects of pure THC and an artisanal THC-rich oil formulation when each was combined with standard chemotherapy drugs.

Their findings were reported in a 2018 article – “Appraising the ‘Entourage Effect’: Antitumor action of a pure cannabinoid versus a botanical drug preparation in preclinical models of breast cancer” – which was published in the journal Biochemical Pharmacology. The phrase “entourage effect” in this context refers to the full-spectrum synergistic interplay between numerous cannabis compounds – cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids – that impart a therapeutic impact that’s greater than the sum of the plant’s individual components.

Spoiler alert: Both THC and the artisanal THC-rich oil were shown to have antitumoral properties, but the oil worked better than the THC isolate for three different breast cancer subtypes.

Tricky to Treat

It is estimated that one in eight women will develop breast cancer. Breast cancer is tricky to treat because there are few biomarkers that signal when someone has the disease, and many patients show or develop resistance to current therapies. Moreover, several specific types of breast cancer respond poorly to modern treatment. These difficulties underscore the importance of exploring new treatments for breast cancer.

Two biomarkers frequently used to diagnose breast cancer are hormonal receptors (the estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor) and the HER2 oncogene (a gene which can transform a normal cell into a tumor cell). But a more aggressive malignancy, known as “triple-negative breast cancer,” doesn’t express hormonal receptors or the HER2 oncogene. No targeted therapy exists for triple-negative breast cancer, so patients are treated with harsh chemotherapies that indiscriminately kill proliferating cells, whether cancerous or not.

These three types of cancer – hormone-sensitive, HER2, and triple-negative – were used as models for “Appraising the entourage effect.”

In all models of breast cancer studied, in vitro as well as in vivo, the whole plant extract was significantly more effective at producing anticancer effects than single-molecule THC. These results were largely consistent for type of cancer and type of model. Researchers tested the compounds in cell cultures (petri dishes) and in rodent models (mice).

THC & Hormone-Sensitive Breast Cancer

In the case of hormone-sensitive breast cancer cells, whole plant extract was found to be 15-25% more potent than THC alone. In live-animal models single molecule THC exhibited no significant antitumor response, unlike the whole plant extract, which had a pronounced antitumor effect. Testing on lab animals is a necessary step towards establishing the efficacy of a specific clinical treatment.

When the cannabinoid preparations were added to tamoxifen, a standard chemotherapy drug, in a cell plate, the combined therapy was about 20-25% more effective than chemotherapy alone. But these results were not replicated in live-animal trials. Importantly, the cannabinoids also did not negatively impact the efficacy of the chemotherapy. This suggests that at the very least using cannabis as an add-on treatment to deal with common side effects of chemotherapy, like nausea and appetite loss, won’t impede chemotherapy’s ability to destroy cancer cells.

In hormone-sensitive breast cancer, it appears that THC produces effects via interaction with the CB2 cannabinoid receptor. CB2 receptor activation has received significant attention because of its potential to treat diseases while avoiding the “high” mediated by the CB1 cannabinoid receptor, which THC also activates. When THC binds to CB1, it causes the swimmy-headed feelings of intoxication associated with cannabis consumption.

THC & HER2-Positive Breast Cancer

Whole plant extract was found to be significantly more potent than THC for HER2-positive breast cancer cells. Both single-molecule THC and whole plant extract showed antitumor effects when the experiment was replicated in mice. Additionally, both THC and the whole plant extract amplified the anticancer effects of lapatinib, the standard chemotherapy drug for HER2 breast cancer.

As with hormone-sensitive breast cancer, THC’s antitumoral effect in HER2-positive breast cancer experiments was shown to be mediated by the CB2 cannabinoid receptor. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, a subsequent report by Cristina Sanchez and other Spanish scientists noted that HER2 and CB2 receptors are often found in the same exact place on cells.

CB2 actually conjoins with HER2 – forming what is called a dimer – and this dimerization is associated with poor treatment outcome for breast cancer. The PNAS report shed new light on THC’s anticancer mechanism of action: When THC binds to the CB2 receptor, it breaks up the CB2-HER2 dimer, triggering a chain reaction of signals that culminates in tumor regression.

THC & Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

Triple-negative, the breast cancer subtype with the worst prognosis, does not generally respond well to chemotherapy. But the Spanish group found that THC and THC-rich cannabis oil both offer some hope in improving treatment outcomes for this highly aggressive cancer. Again, the whole plant extract was found to be more effective than THC alone in decreasing the viability of cancer cells in vitro as well as in mouse model studies.

There are several other examples where a combination of plant cannabinoids and standard chemotherapy agents have produced a heightened antitumoral response that exceeded the potency of either therapy alone. A phase 2 clinical trial tested the strength of Sativex, an equal THC and CBD mixture, combined with temozolomide, the “gold-standard” chemo for brain cancer, and the results were positive.

Cancer patients are often treated with several single-compound drugs in an effort to create a treatment that can hit multiple targets. “Although current medicine is mostly based on the use of pure compounds that have single targets,” the Spanish scientists write, “it is increasingly obvious that for diseases as complex as cancer, multi-target approaches could conceivably be more effective.”

The results of the Spanish study, along with compelling data from other researchers, suggest a promising future for whole plant cannabis oil extracts and multitarget cancer therapies. But the Western medical system and its typical drug development procedures are not conducive to the approval of complex botanical preparations as multitarget medicaments – in part because elucidating a precise mechanism of action when numerous compounds are involved is much more difficult than studying a single-molecule pharmaceutical that’s geared toward a single, primary outcome.

The Takeaway

The fact that both the THC isolate and the whole plant cannabis extract were shown to be effective at reducing tumor viability is truly groundbreaking and should be an impetus for advancing the development of nontoxic, cannabinoid-based treatments for breast cancer.

Cannabinoid therapies are particularly promising for tumor-producing cancers given that “no overtly cannabis-resistant tumors have been described so far,” according to the Spanish researchers. “Considering how different cancer subtypes are, and the fact that the viability of non-transformed cells is not affected by cannabinoids at the concentrations they kill tumor cells, it is tempting to speculate that these compounds tackle essential, as yet unidentified, cellular functions that all cancer cells share, and that are absent in their non-cancerous counterparts.”

The Spanish breast cancer study underscores the importance of the entourage effect by demonstrating that full spectrum artisanal cannabis oil extract with numerous components is more effective than pure THC.* “[A]lthough the pharmacology of cannabis drug preparation extracts is obviously more complex to study,” the researchers acknowledge, “this therapeutic approach has the potential to produce better therapeutic responses than pure cannabinoids.”

The Spanish scientists emphasize that the whole plant cannabis drug preparation “did not, in any case, diminish the antitumor efficacy of any of the standard treatments.” That’s good news for cancer patients who use cannabis to manage the adverse side effects of chemo. Cannabis is very likely a safe add-on therapy for treating pain and nausea and for appetite stimulation. And it may also increase the efficacy of standard chemotherapy treatments, which means that chemo could be more effective – requiring lower and less toxic doses – when used in combination with cannabis.

Alex Andia, who holds his PhD in Chemistry, teaches Organic Chemistry at the City University of New York – City College. He is also the brains behind Chemical Makeup, a non-profit dedicated to promoting the queer voice in science.

Copyright, Project CBD. May not be reprinted without permission.

Footnote

*An interesting finding from the Spanish breast canceer study pertains to the not fully understood role of terpenes, the aromatic compounds that give cannabis its distinctive smell. The scientists created a “terpene cocktail” composed of the 5 most prominent terpenes in the full-spectrum cannabis oil extract: beta-caryophyllene, alpha-humulene, nerolidol, linalool, and beta-pinene. When added to the THC isolate, however, this terpene cocktail failed to increase the antitumoral efficacy of the single-molecule cannabinoid. This could mean that mixing a few terpenes with pure THC does not adequately recreate the qualities of a full-spectrum cannabis oil extract. Or it could be that other compounds in the oil extract are responsible for enhancing THC’s anticancer impact. The authors note that the whole plant cannabis oil extract used in the study also contained measurable amounts of cannabigerol (CBG) and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA – the ‘raw’ form of THC that won’t get you high). CBG has demonstrated effectiveness against colon cancer in preclinical models, and THCA is known to interact with a PPAR (nuclear) receptor that mediates apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cell lines. A combination of all these compounds may be required to achieve the antitumoral response observed in the Spanish breast cancer study.

References

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  • Blasco-Benito, S.; Seijo-Vila, M.; Caro-Villalobos, M.; Tundidor, I.; Andradas, C.; Garcia-Taboada, E.; Wade, J.; Smith, S.; Guzman, M.; Perez-Gomez, E.; Gordon, M.; Sanchez, C. Appraising the “Entourage Effect”: Antitumor Action of a Pure Cannabinoid versus a Botanical Drug Preparation in Preclinical Models of Breast Cancer. Biochem. Pharma. 2018, 157, 285.
  • Bray, F.; Ferlay, J.; Soerjomataram, I.; Siegel, R. L.; Torre, L. A.; Jemal, A. Cancer Statistics, 2018. Ca-Cancer J. Clin. 2018, 68, 394.
  • Caffarel, M. M.; Andradas, E.; Perez-Gomez, M.; Guzman, M.; Sanchez, C. Cannabinoids: a New Hope for Breast Cancer Therapy? Cancer Treat. Rev. 2012, 38, 911.
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  • ElSohly, M.; Waseem, G. Handbook of Cannabis, Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom, 2014, pp. 3.
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What Types of Pain Can Cannabidiol (CBD) Treat?

Pain, when used as an umbrella term, is more vast than the Pacific Ocean. Using CBD to treat pain can be effective only under the pretense that the type of pain is well-understood and properly diagnosed.

Most of us have crossed paths with the loud, piercing, cuss-worthy persona of acute pain: an elbow dings the edge of the table or a pinky toe that has found the bed frame yet again at 3 a.m. Other types of pain produce less shock value but are no less odious in nature.

For the sake of this article, I’ll simply go into the types of pain that CBD has shown to treat effectively: neuropathic and inflammatory pain.

Types of Pain

CBD treats neuropathic pain like Cinderella’s foot fit the magic shoe–a blissful, but unexpected, union. Neuropathic pain is largely created and sustained due to the glutamenergic system, which is a major excitatory neuronal pathway. Glutamate is the neurotransmitter that is responsible for turning neurons on, which is great, sometimes.

Inflammatory pain is related to neuropathic pain, except it is not limited to neurons. Examples of inflammatory pain include all types of arthritis, a few autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, and simple conditions like headaches, cramps, muscle aches, and pains.

For humans, communication is key, not only interpersonally but also molecularly. Problems arise in paradise when cells become damaged due to injury or chronic illness. When the body senses this damage, it cranks inflammation to HIGH and begins pumping inflammatory agents on its cells.

The point is to promote death of the damaged cell, otherwise called apoptosis. Our bodies don’t enjoy malfunctioning cells and would prefer that they throw in the towel–this is important in ridding ourselves of possible cancer and maintaining optimal functioning. However, when this becomes a chronic condition, it is named inflammatory pain.

How CBD Works for Pain

CBD inhibits glutamate release and other inflammatory agents, which makes it ‘neuroprotective‘ and excellent at dulling the prickling, tingling and burning sensations that neuropathic pain is characterized for. CBD can be used as a supplement to help manage neuropathic pain, alongside other natural supplements such as magnesium glycinate.

Pain due to inflammation is not as easily characterized as other types of pain, mostly because its origins of pain vary and so does the experience. On the bright side, CBD is good at calming inflammation, no matter what the root cause.

The anti-inflammatory mechanism of cannabidiol is unique to cannabis. It doesn’t work like other anti-inflammatory drugs by inhibiting COX-1 and COX-2 receptors, which means you don’t run the risk of developing gastrointestinal ulcers or heart attacks, hooray! Some studies have shown that cannabinoids (CBD and THC) are up to twenty times more potent anti-inflammatory agents when compared to NSAIDs (eg. ibuprofen).

When taken regularly alongside other natural anti-inflammatory supplements (eg. curcumin, Omega-3), CBD can provide systemic relief of inflammation. Usually taken three times per day, dosing at each interval depends on your unique needs. Typically patients start with 0.5 ml per dose and increase until maximum relief.

Cannabidiol can be an effective, non-psychotropic alternative to THC when used correctly. However, we are still in the infancy stage of incorporating CBD into health and medicine, so it is important to consult your physician when contemplating the use of CBD to treat pain.

It’s important to remember that CBD, like other nutraceuticals, can interact with medications.

The takeaway? CBD isn’t effective in treating all types of pain–for that reason, it’s important to understand your pain: does it worsen with the weather, cause swelling, or is it persistent and stabbing? If you feel that you experience inflammatory or neuropathic pain, talk to your doctor. CBD supplementation could be right for you.

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What Getting High Alone Can Teach You About Yourself

A Canadian study published last month in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review looked for differences between people who consume cannabis socially versus those who consume cannabis solo, and found:

Compared to individuals reporting their most recent cannabis-using occasion as social, solitary users were significantly more likely to screen positive for psychosis, endorse more symptoms of cannabis abuse/dependence, report using cannabis to cope, and use cannabis on more days within the previous 30 days.

In its own words, the study “sought to examine the extent to which the social context of cannabis use is related to patterns of use and associated harms.”

Harms, but What About Benefits?

Please note that this statement of purpose doesn’t even consider the possibility that there may be associated benefits to cannabis in addition to associated harms. In fact, Toni Spinella–a master’s student in psychology and neuroscience and the study’s lead author–seems to think anyone who uses cannabis for “coping” treads in dangerous waters.

The study’s author seems to assume that anyone who uses cannabis for ‘coping’ treads in dangerous waters. But don’t we all cope with something?

“It’s possible that they lack other coping strategies,” Spinella told the CBC. “If you’re alone, why are you using alone? That’s something that you might want to ask yourself and if you realize, ‘OK, I’m using alone because I’m sad tonight or I’m stressed,’ then maybe that’s a red flag that you should think more about.”

Fair enough, but a red flag compared to what other coping mechanisms? Whiskey? Junk food? Internet scrolling? Gambling? Binge watching? Xanax?

Is Solo Smoking Making Me Psychotic?

As for the idea that consuming cannabis alone might lead to psychosis, allow me to start by asking a couple of common sense questions:

  • Is it possible that people with mental health conditions are more likely to use cannabis in an attempt to self-medicate that condition?
  • Is it possible that people using cannabis to treat mental health conditions would be more likely to do so alone rather than in a social setting?

The answer to both questions is pretty clearly yes.

Studies have shown that cannabis and cannabinoids can improve the symptoms of schizophrenia, PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. And if you’re using cannabis to treat one of these conditions, doesn’t that seem like something you’re more likely to do at home with some frequency (compared to someone who smokes weed maybe once a month whenever it’s offered to them at a party)?

A Link Is Not a Cause

So while there may indeed be a correlation between psychosis and getting high alone, that’s a far cry from causation. Even the study’s author admits this. That’s why the CBC had to use a fudge term in its otherwise alarming headline:

Getting High Alone Linked to Psychosis, Dependence, Study Suggests

Can you can spot the fudge term?

Trick question. There are two of them: linked to and suggests.

Linked to means there’s no actual evidence to show that cannabis causes psychosis. Rather, someone with psychosis may be more likely to use cannabis than someone without psychosis.

Suggests means that even the evidence showing a “link” between the consumption and the medical condition is pretty paltry.

In Defense of Crutches

Toni Spinella’s aversion to using cannabis as a coping mechanism reminds me of a joke by Doug Benson, a longtime cannabis comedian and the host of Getting Doug With High.

Some people say marijuana is a crutch. Yeah. Crutches help people walk.

Someone should tell Spinella that while we’d all like to live in a world where nobody ever gets stressed out or feels sad, that just ain’t happening. In the meantime, we need to find relatively healthy ways to cope.

A Therapeutic Option

Even if you live the life of a fully-optimized self-actualizing perfect person, you’re still going to be touched by trauma, depression, and anxiety–all of which can be treated with cannabis, a therapeutic option that’s demonstrably safer and less habit-forming than pharmaceutical drugs.

Cannabis has even been shown to help those suffering from loneliness itself, which the medical establishment increasingly sees as a real and growing epidemic. A recent study by Cigna, a health insurance company, found that a full 47 percent of Americans often feel lonely or left out. Thirteen percent say not one person knows them well. This has serious health consequences.

Loneliness as a Public Health Issue

In 2010, researchers at Brigham Young University published a groundbreaking study that showed chronic loneliness can take about 15 years off of a person’s life expectancy–roughly the same impact as obesity, or smoking nearly a pack of cigarettes per day.

But the good news is cannabis can greatly diminish the negative impacts of loneliness.

In 2013, researchers at the University of Kentucky published findings from a study that asked, “Can marijuana reduce social pain?” The answer was yes:

Marijuana buffered the lonely from: negative self-ratings of self-worth and mental health, depression over time, and even distress following exclusion… Marijuana has been used to treat physical pain, and the current findings suggest it may also reduce emotional pain.

Again, the researchers make clear that cannabis also has potential harms. And that coping with loneliness is not the same as overcoming it.

Put another way: You don’t want to use crutches for the rest of your life, but it’s better than trying to walk on a broken leg

You Don’t Have to Be Lonely to Be A Lone Stoner

“The Lonely Stoner seems to free his mind at night.”Kid Cudi

We’ve already pointed out that Toni Spinella’s research ignores the considerable evidence that cannabis may be a therapeutically beneficial treatment for someone dealing with loneliness and depression. But she also fails to recognize that a relatively healthy person may find significant benefit from a little alone time with the bong.

I don’t have a study to back me up here, but I do speak from personal experience when I say that just as getting high together can help two or more people connect in a profound or at least interesting way (i.e. “get on the same wavelength”), cannabis can also help us connect with our own authentic selves.

Enlighten Up Yourself

“When you smoke the herb,” Bob Marley once said, “it reveals you to yourself.”

What’s revealed is not always flattering, but even a difficult realization about one’s self can yield helpful insights and spur true psychological growth.

Again, I can’t cite a study for this since most cannabis research continues to ignore the plant’s benefits, but I can call in an expert witness: Famed astronomer Dr. Carl Sagan, best known as the host of Cosmos, a 13-part exploration of far-out space science that became the most widely watched series in the history of American public television.

Astronomer Carl Sagan, professor of astronomy and space science at Cornell University, was one of the first scientists to speak out about the positive properties of cannabis. (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon)

Sagan contributed an anonymous essay to Marijuana Reconsidered (1971), a book written by eminent cannabis researcher Dr. Lester Grinspoon, one of Sagan’s closest friends. Identified only as Mr. X., Sagan explained that his support for ending cannabis prohibition was not just political, but also deeply personal.

He found real value in using cannabis introspectively:

Sometimes a kind of existential perception of the absurd comes over me and I see with awful certainty the hypocrisies and posturing of myself and my fellow men. And at other times, there is a different sense of the absurd, a playful and whimsical awareness… that we spend a lifetime being trained to overlook and forget and put out of our minds.

A sense of what the world is really like can be maddening; cannabis has brought me some feelings for what it is like to be crazy, and how we use that word ‘crazy’ to avoid thinking about things that are too painful for us.

There is a myth about such highs: the user has an illusion of great insight, but it does not survive scrutiny in the morning. I am convinced that this is an error, and that the devastating insights achieved when high are real insights; the main problem is putting these insights in a form acceptable to the quite different self that we are when we’re down the next day.

Tips for a Solo Flight

As the author of a book called How to Smoke Pot (Properly), I feel compelled to close with a few practical thoughts on how to optimize your solitary cannabis experiences.

  • Before you get stoned, decide what you’re going to do after you get stoned, and then do it.
  • If possible, get out into nature before you spark up. This is particularly good advice if you’re battling depression.
  • Turn off your phone and instead utilize an archaic technology known as a “notebook” to jot down all your brilliant highdeas before they slip away.

In his hit song “Day and Night,” Grammy winner Kid Cudi introduced The Lonely Stoner, an alter-ego based on a period in his life when he spent a lot of time engaged in what jazz musicians used to call woodshedding. Which back in the day literally meant spending a few months holed up in a woodshed practicing your instrument nonstop. Often with the help of a little reefer to keep in the flow.

You probably don’t have a few months to spare right now to fully focus on a creative pursuit, but why not try it for a day? Find a time and place to be alone for 24 hours without distraction, track down some strains known to boost creativity, and set the intention of creating or learning something new.

Then drop a note in the comments and let us know how it went.

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How Vegas Chefs Use Cannabis to Unwind and Get Creative After Hours

Chef Dan Krohmer opened Other Mama four years ago in Las Vegas, and the venture quickly got enthusiastic reviews and drew enough business to pay for itself within the first year. The establishment was instrumental in bringing attention to the local neighborhood dining scene that’s currently exploding off the Strip, away from big resorts, celebrity chefs, and menus drafted by hotel executive committees.

This year, he’ll open two more restaurants, so it’s safe to say Krohmer is one of the hardest working chefs in Las Vegas.

He’s also a cannabis smoker.

(Courtesy of Sabin Orr)

“Marijuana helps take the edge off the rest of life, to capture whatever that inner passion is for me,” says Krohmer. “I do smoke on a daily basis. I don’t wake up and get super stoned. I’m not smoking heavy amounts, but I find that marijuana allows you to get lost in your own creativity and slow down a little bit instead of just go, go, go.”

Marijuana helps take the edge off the rest of life, to capture whatever that inner passion is for me.

Dan Krohmer, Chef, Other Mama

The chef tried marijuana at 13 and has been a steady consumer ever since–a notable exception being his time in Japan, where he learned authentic cooking techniques on his own dime. The country remains strict about punishing those caught with cannabis.

As his career evolved, Krohmer’s perception of cannabis evolved as well. As time went by and he felt the sting of a few missed opportunities, Krohmer decided to revisit his view of cannabis.

“I believe you can abuse anything,” he says. “I stopped lying to myself about what is a realistic amount–the difference between getting stoned and doing something that allows me to achieve my goals.”

(Courtesy of Other Mama)

The chef now uses cannabis to wind down at home, fall asleep easier, reduce the anxiety that comes with everyday life, and boost his own creativity. “Allowing myself to relax and be hungry makes me want to think about food more and makes me want to create food more,” he says.

Other Mama doesn’t test for drug use when hiring, but employees need to perform at the top of their game, whether on the floor, behind the bar, or in the kitchen.

“My philosophy is: I don’t care what you’re on or what you’re doing, but if I can tell [you’re high], then you’re in trouble,” he says. “I would never be disrespectful to my customers. It would be insulting to my customers if someone felt they needed to be stoned to work here.”

Healing With Cannabis

(Courtesy of Hemant Kishore)

Hemant Kishore might be the best Indian chef in Las Vegas. He built his reputation as The 6 Pack Chef, running a meal-prep service before opening up a restaurant called The Toddy Shop. The food was incredible, but despite being a critic’s favorite, The Toddy Shop struggled to find a regular audience and didn’t last. Kishore now spends most of his time catering special events and pop-up dinners.

The day before he was scheduled to host a New Year’s Day brunch, he slipped on a chair and fractured his right ankle, putting him out of action for two weeks. He was prescribed hydrocodone to treat the pain.

“My doctors gave me a warning about how addictive it is,” the chef remembers. “They said It should be used only in cases of unbearable pain. So I wanted to get off it as quickly as I could.”

Kishore instead turned to cannabis, including tinctures and edibles, for relief. The chef was a long-time recreational cannabis consumer in India, but it wasn’t until he moved to the United States that he saw the herb’s medicinal value.

“I mainly use it for sleep. And sleep is something that chefs or anyone else in the service industry needs. If they don’t get enough, it can cause a lot of stress.”

He appreciates how cannabis is tested and regulated in the United States compared to India, where everything is sold on the black market. “It’s viewed as taboo and very frowned upon,” he says. “You can go to jail for a long time if you’re found in possession. It’s not tolerated at all.”

Meanwhile, he hopes a new generation can promote the benefits of cannabis back home in India and secure some degree of legalization in the near future. The process, unfortunately, is expected to be a slow one.

“Because of the corruption in India, it takes too long for things to happen,” he says. Everybody’s doing it, but nobody talks about it.”

Cannabis as a Recreational Vehicle

When you forget to buy a gift for someone’s birthday or another big event, It’s On Me can be your saving grace. The online service and smartphone app partners with bars and restaurants to provide instant digital gift cards, covering things like a cocktail or a multicourse wine pairing dinner, which can be sent instantly via text or email.

Here’s the irony: The founder stopped being a social drinker, in favor of cannabis.

“I gave up alcohol for a little over 20 weeks,” says David Leibner. “It allowed me to take a step back and realize how much more I appreciate what cannabis does for me versus alcohol.”

He’ll still have a glass of wine with dinner, but the entrepreneur prefers the overall benefits of marijuana, whether from smoking or taking edibles.

“Cannabis has been part of my life since I was 13,” he says. “It’s a much better recreational vehicle than alcohol. Cannabis has never affected my life in a negative way. It’s never affected my ability to do work the next day, it’s never affected a relationship I was in, it’s never affected me emotionally.”

It’s no secret that alcohol consumption is popular with those who serve food and drinks for a living, but with laws around the country loosening, more industry professionals are turning to cannabis when not on the clock, whether in social settings or relaxing at home.

Leibner’s appreciation for cannabis grew when he suffered a tennis injury last year, breaking his leg and requiring two surgeries and 12 weeks in bed. “They prescribed me so many pain pills,” Leibner says of his doctors. “I ate too many of them, because I was in so much pain, I didn’t know what else to do.”

Within a couple weeks, Leibner started including cannabis in his pain therapy in multiple forms, including topicals. “The results delivered a higher result in pain management with none of the downside,” he recalls. “No hurting my stomach or making me weird in the head. It was a big deal to me.”

Although he prefers marijuana to alcohol, Leibner believes there’s plenty of room for tourists to split vices in Sin City, as does the city, as it is expected to introduce consumption lounges this year. “I think most people are going to do both,” he says. “I think a lot of casual users are the people who will casually drink and casually smoke weed.”

Cannabis and Creativity

(Courtesy of Sabin Orr)

Brian Howard worked in restaurants on the Strip for years, mastering his craft in hot destinations like Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bistro at the Venetian and Kerry Simon’s Cathouse at the Luxor. When it was time to break out with his own vision, he opened Sparrow + Wolf in Chinatown, one of the most ambitious, experimental, and compelling culinary ventures in a district already overflowing with a diverse array of cuisine.

With more than two decades of experience, Howard knows that chefs often view the kitchen as a safe space and tend to be closed-off when outside of that comfort zone.

Personally, I’ve found that the right dose of cannabis allows me to be more social outside the kitchen and enhances my creativity.

Brian Howard, Chef, Sparrow + Wolf

“Personally, I’ve found that the right dose of cannabis allows me to be more social outside the kitchen and enhances my creativity,” he says. “I can come up with 40 menu items in one sitting, rather than writing them down in increments over a few days.”

Since opening in 2016, Sparrow + Wolf has proven to be a restaurant that knows no limits. The menu changes frequently, and the venue was recently given an upgrade with a living-room feel to balance the modern tone of the dining room. The chef says cannabis helps the creative elements take shape, allowing him to conceptualize new and unique ideas for the restaurant.

“There’s a stigma around cannabis that people are introduced to smoking to get stoned,” he adds. “It’s really all about finding that balance where it enhances your work rather than slowing you down.”

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