Pot smokers more prone to false memories: Study

MRI scans showed weed smokers had lower levels of activation in portions of the brain linked to memory and recall.
By Brooks Hays | April 21, 2015, UPI.com
BARCELONA, Spain, April 21 (UPI) -- Stoners don't make for good eye witnesses. According to new research, their accounts are more likely to be plagued by false memories.

Previous research has shown that long-term cannabis use can impair a person's short- and long-term memory. But the latest study -- published in the Journal of Molecular Biology -- proves pot smokers are more likely to supplement their faulty memory with false ones. Researchers proved as much using word games to test smokers' memory skills.

Study participants were first shown lists of words and asked to memorize them. After a few minutes, the participants were shown the original words, as well as new words (some semantically related, others not), and asked to identify which belonged to the original list.

Chronic cannabis users were more likely than their pot-free peers to falsely identify semantically related new words as belonging to the original list.

Researchers also coupled their semantic word quiz with real-time brain scans. The imaging showed weed smokers had lower levels of activation in portions of the brain linked to memory and recall.

"These findings indicate that cannabis users have an increased susceptibility to memory distortions even when abstinent and drug-free, suggesting a long-lasting compromise of memory and cognitive control mechanisms involved in reality monitoring," researchers wrote in their newly published paper.

A study published earlier this year by researchers at Northwestern Medicine showed adults who had smoked weed regularly in their teens were more likely to have abnormal hippocampus and exhibit memory problems.

"The memory processes that appear to be affected by cannabis are ones that we use every day to solve common problems and to sustain our relationships with friends and family," said Dr. John Csernansky, a behavioral scientist at Northwestern.


Teens who smoke pot early and often risk lowering their IQs, Substance Abuse Centre says

Elizabeth Payne, Postmedia News | April 20, 2015
Teens who start smoking marijuana early and do so frequently risk lowering their IQ scores, according to research from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, which found evidence that early and frequent cannabis use can alter the structure of the developing brain.

The research, part of a larger study due out in June, was released Monday — on April 20 — a day that has become a counterculture holiday to celebrate marijuana, as part of a bid to raise awareness about the negative effects of marijuana use among adolescents.

In past years, thousands of people, the majority teenagers and young adults, have flocked to Parliament Hill on April 20 to smoke marijuana. Similar rallies take place around the world.

While use of marijuana among Canadian teens and adults has decreased in recent years, it remains the most commonly used illegal drug among Canadian youth — at about three times the rate of adults. And Canadian youth are the top users of cannabis in the developed world, according to a 2013 UNICEF report......click "Read More" below to continue.....


Medical marijuana dispensaries lull teens, parents into thinking it’s harmless, say expert

By Erin Ellis, Vancouver Sun,  April 13, 2015
Medical marijuana shops popping up all over Metro Vancouver are giving parents and their children the wrong impression about weed, says an addictions specialist.

“Using the term ‘medical’ is giving a false impression to people — parents and kids,” says Dr. Siavash Jafari, who works out of several Vancouver Coastal Health clinics in Vancouver and also the Burnaby Centre for Mental Health and Addiction.

Photo by: Mark van Manen
“To say ‘medical’ means it is supported by the medical community. It is not. That’s a misconception among the public.” he says.

“Parents feel that it’s not dangerous so they don’t talk to their kids about it.”

The scientific evidence is simply not there for most health claims made by dispensaries, he says, with the exception of its use for patients in palliative care.

Jafari says he routinely talks to patients with health problems who don’t even think to mention how much marijuana they smoke — or how often — because they have been convinced that it’s a natural, harmless herb.

“They don’t even consider the health issues. It affects them from brain to toe.”

Far less addictive than heroin or tobacco, notes Jafari, studies show 10 per cent of people who use it regularly will become dependent on it. Problems increase with the amount consumed over time, he added, with little risk to someone who smokes weed once or twice a year, for instance.

Confusion over what’s safe and what’s not is the topic of a public forum being held Tuesday for parents and teenagers. It is sponsored by the Vancouver school board, Vancouver Coastal Health and SACY, the school board’s substance use prevention initiative.

The forum was prompted by the lack of information for parents and because one of the largest celebrations of cannabis culture in North America takes place outside the Vancouver Art Gallery every April 20: the 4/20 “smoke out.”

Panelist Joy Johnson, vice-president of research at Simon Fraser University, says teenagers want to hear factual information about marijuana but often have a hard time finding it. First off, it’s still illegal — a fact that gets lost as dozens of medical marijuana dispensaries have opened across the city in the last year.

“I’ll be frank, we’ve lost our credibility because young people go home and see their parents smoking it,” says Johnson.

The ‘just-say-no’ approach doesn’t work, she says, and should be replaced with a rational conversation about the effect cannabis can have on the human brain, which continues to develop into the early 20s.

“We’ve had pretty good public health messaging in terms of alcohol consumption. We tell kids not to drink and drive, to not binge drink, to watch the amount they’re drinking. I don’t think we’ve had very good messaging about marijuana, in part because we don’t have a lot of great evidence. But one of the things we do know is that you should delay use because of brain development.”

A study by researchers from Harvard Medical School published this month concluded that participants who started smoking marijuana regularly before the age of 16 had lower scores on a test used to determine brain damage than subjects who started later and people who had never smoked.

Teens and Cannabis, a free public forum, will be held Tuesday from 7-9 p.m. in the auditorium of Vancouver Technical Secondary School at 2600 East Broadway.
Related topic...

The over-selling of ‘medical’ marijuana

School's principal office fears to offend potheads

Surrey student says anti-pot T-shirt got him and two others hauled into vice-principal’s office
By Cassidy Olivier, The Province, April 14, 2015
High school student Connor Fesenmaier says he’s unsure why school administrators at Surrey’s Princess Margaret secondary asked him to consider removing the anti-pot T-shirt he wore to classes on Monday, given the anti-drug message the school preaches.

The 18-year-old, his twin brother Duncan and a friend wore shirts featuring a crossed-out marijuana leaf to promote their opposition to the legalization and overall use of pot. The teens are involved in Smart Approaches to Marijuana Canada, a non-profit group focused on the science of marijuana use, he explained.

Fesenmaier said they were individually pulled into the vice-principal’s office as soon as they entered the school Monday morning.

Each was told to consider removing or covering up the shirts because the message could be confusing to the younger students, said Fesenmaier.

“I completely disagree with that,” Fesenmaier told the Province.

“I have not had a single person misinterpret it yet. Either someone is giving me a hate stare, because they are against me supporting (the anti-legalization movement) or they pat me on the back. I’ve never seen anyone not know that the anti-symbol is.”

Fesenmaier said all three declined the request, at which point they were allowed to leave and return to classes unpunished.

Doug Strachan, spokesman for the Surrey School District, described the conversation with the students as “mature.”

“The fundamental principle is that there was no ban,” Strachan said.

“It certainly appears with the amount of media calls and some distribution of statement that the shirts were banned, that there certainly was a desire to get media attention for something.”

Fesenmaier has been involved with the anti-pot movement for several years. He said he’s particularly troubled by the “whole medical marijuana aspect” of the debate, as it creates the “illusion” that pot is a medicine, not an illegal drug.

He plans on protesting next week’s so-called annual 4/20 “smoke out” at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

“It’s only damaged the whole outlook on how kids look at marijuana,” he said. “They tend to use it and say ‘Hey man, it’s only medicine, what’s the worst it can do?’

“And that is a terrible thing for a kid to be confused with.”

The teen said he remains confused by the school’s request.

“I see kids walking around the school with marijuana paraphernalia,” he said

“Shirts with marijuana leaves on them, backpacks with marijuana leaves on them, cellphone cases with marijuana leaves on them.

“And I’ve never seen those kids have their items confiscated or asked to remove or replace them with something else.”

Wild claims from "medical marijuana" dispensaries

The over-selling of ‘medical’ marijuana

(One of the more creative signs raises high expectations outside a "medicinal dispensary" at Broadway near Alma, which calls itself the Cannabis Cellar. Just don't mention studies pointing to addiction and lower IQs.)
Even though researchers have found benefits to marijuana use for some ailments, Metro Vancouver’s 60 new marijuana outlets are making exaggerated, to put it politely, claims about the medicinal value of their pot, which a strong story in The Vancouver Sun shows is often obtained illegally.

The Metro Vancouver medical marijuana scene is becoming surreal — with dispensary signs suggesting pot can cure, heal or otherwise be the salvation of people struggling with everything from cancer to psoriasis, anxiety to multiple sclerosis, chronic pain to depression. ....click "Read More" below to continue....


Decline of America: legalizing drug addiction and mental harms for revenues

Hash explosions prompt proposed changes in legal pot states
DENVER (AP) — Alarmed by a rash of explosions and injuries caused when amateurs make hash, lawmakers in Colorado and Washington are considering spelling out what's allowed when it comes to making the concentrated marijuana at home.

The proposals came after an increase in home fires and blasts linked to homemade hash, concentrated marijuana that can be inhaled or eaten.

In Colorado, at least 30 people were injured last year in 32 butane explosions involving hash oil — nearly three times the number reported throughout 2013, according to officials with the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a state-federal enforcement program......click "Read More" below to continue.....


Pot joins alcohol on the roads

More B.C. drivers using pot
1 Apr 2015, 24 Hours Vancouver
Research finds more drivers are under the influence of cannabis on B.C. roads
More B.C. drivers are behind the wheel while under the influence of cannabis. Anarticle in the April issue of the BC Medical Journal points to a recently-released 2012 study that found cannabis in 5.4% of drivers, compared to 4.6% in 2008.

Even in 2008, an article in the journal stated, “The rate of cannabis use in B.C. drivers is particularly high.”

Research of injured drivers from the BC Trauma Centre found “12.6% of (injured) drivers tested positive for cannabis metabolites, and 7.3% were positive for THC, indicating recent use.” They also found, “Cannabis was more common in males and in drivers younger than 30 years of age.” A limousine driver was at Vancouver City Hall Tuesday morning, appealing a decision to have his permit revoked after a police officer found cannabis in the limo and determined hewas too impaired to operate the vehicle. The driver, Mohammed Samrat Showkat, was pulled over after officers alleged the vehicle was swerving, speeding and changing lanes without signaling. The officer called as a witness testified that she saw and smelled cannabis in the limo and the drivers eyes had an “overall pink hue ... distinctive to marijuana.”

She said she then performed several tests to determine his level of intoxication. These included having him walk in a straight line while counting his steps.

“While he was counting, he became very confused,” she said, adding that he walked with his arms raised, “that appeared to be for balance.” She also tested his ability to track an object with his eyes and how long he could stand on one foot —“he put his foot down after count one,” she said.

The driver’s appeal was denied Tuesday afternoon.

Vancouver Police Chief Const. Jim Chu spoke out Tuesday about a November arrest, also involving an allegedly impaired driver, whichwas caught on video.

“Marijuana smoke billowing from the car made the cause of that impairment obvious,” he said. “In order to make the arrest, force became necessary when the person refused to exit the vehicle, which is understandable since he allegedly knew what would be found in his car if he did.”

The video, available on YouTube, has prompted criticism of the officer smashing the car window. Chu said the officer was “criticized for doing his job.”

Chuck Varabioff, director of the BC Pain Society — an illegal dispensary that sells marijuana for medical use — said there are some types of marijuana that are safe to use while driving.

“The only marijuana that would be completely safe to use while driving would be a CBD (Cannabidiol) strain without THC,” he said.

Since people metabolize drugs at more diverse rates than alcohol, there are no specified generic amounts for how much marijuana is safe to use before getting behind the wheel. According to the BC Medical Journal, “Cannabis slows reaction times, causes weaving, creates difficulty maintaining a constant speed, and predisposes to distraction,” and “Evidence suggests that acute cannabis use approximately doubles the risk of crashing.”

Doctors are recommending governments work together to establish better screening tools and improve legislation around drug-impaired drivers.
Related topic:
Pot-smoking drivers prompt warning from Vancouver ER doctor