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Concept: Psychoactive drug


The classical serotonergic psychedelics LSD, psilocybin, mescaline are not known to cause brain damage and are regarded as non-addictive. Clinical studies do not suggest that psychedelics cause long-term mental health problems. Psychedelics have been used in the Americas for thousands of years. Over 30 million people currently living in the US have used LSD, psilocybin, or mescaline.

Concepts: Health care, Psychology, Clinical trial, Serotonin, Mental disorder, Psychoactive drug, Controlled Substances Act, Timothy Leary


To assess the association between medical marijuana laws (MMLs) and the odds of a positive opioid test, an indicator for prior use.

Concepts: Cannabis, Psychoactive drug, Recreational drug use, Legality of cannabis by country


Because long-term opioid use often begins with treatment of acute pain (1), in March 2016, the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain included recommendations for the duration of opioid therapy for acute pain and the type of opioid to select when therapy is initiated (2). However, data quantifying the transition from acute to chronic opioid use are lacking. Patient records from the IMS Lifelink+ database were analyzed to characterize the first episode of opioid use among commercially insured, opioid-naïve, cancer-free adults and quantify the increase in probability of long-term use of opioids with each additional day supplied, day of therapy, or incremental increase in cumulative dose. The largest increments in probability of continued use were observed after the fifth and thirty-first days on therapy; the second prescription; 700 morphine milligram equivalents cumulative dose; and first prescriptions with 10- and 30-day supplies. By providing quantitative evidence on risk for long-term use based on initial prescribing characteristics, these findings might inform opioid prescribing practices.

Concepts: Opioid, Pain, Morphine, Psychoactive drug, Medical prescription, Chronic pain, Recreational drug use, Hydromorphone


To describe the incidence of recorded mental illness and challenging behaviour in people with intellectual disability in UK primary care and to explore the prescription of psychotropic drugs in this group.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Drug, Opioid, Psychoactive drug, Ketamine, Recreational drug use


Despite its cultivation as a source of food, fibre and medicine, and its global status as the most used illicit drug, the genus Cannabis has an inconclusive taxonomic organization and evolutionary history. Drug types of Cannabis (marijuana), which contain high amounts of the psychoactive cannabinoid Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), are used for medical purposes and as a recreational drug. Hemp types are grown for the production of seed and fibre, and contain low amounts of THC. Two species or gene pools (C. sativa and C. indica) are widely used in describing the pedigree or appearance of cultivated Cannabis plants. Using 14,031 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) genotyped in 81 marijuana and 43 hemp samples, we show that marijuana and hemp are significantly differentiated at a genome-wide level, demonstrating that the distinction between these populations is not limited to genes underlying THC production. We find a moderate correlation between the genetic structure of marijuana strains and their reported C. sativa and C. indica ancestry and show that marijuana strain names often do not reflect a meaningful genetic identity. We also provide evidence that hemp is genetically more similar to C. indica type marijuana than to C. sativa strains.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Evolution, Cannabis, Psychoactive drug, Recreational drug use, Cannabis sativa


Combined use of marijuana (MJ) and tobacco is highly prevalent in today’s population. Individual use of either substance is linked to structural brain changes and altered cognitive function, especially with consistent reports of hippocampal volume deficits and poorer memory performance. However, the combined effects of MJ and tobacco on hippocampal structure and on learning and memory processes remain unknown. In this study, we examined both the individual and combined effects of MJ and tobacco on hippocampal volumes and memory performance in four groups of adults taken from two larger studies: MJ-only users (n=36), nicotine-only (Nic-only, n=19), combined marijuana and nicotine users (MJ+Nic, n=19) and non-using healthy controls (n=16). Total bilateral hippocampal volumes and memory performance (WMS-III logical memory) were compared across groups controlling for total brain size and recent alcohol use. Results found MJ and MJ+Nic groups had smaller total hippocampal volumes compared to Nic-only and controls. No significant difference between groups was found between immediate and delayed story recall. However, the controls showed a trend for larger hippocampal volumes being associated with better memory scores, while MJ+Nic users showed a unique inversion, whereby smaller hippocampal volume was associated with better memory. Overall, results suggest abnormalities in the brain-behavior relationships underlying memory processes with combined use of marijuana and nicotine use. Further research will need to address these complex interactions between MJ and nicotine.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Cognitive psychology, Nicotine, Cognition, Memory, Hippocampus, Psychoactive drug


A comparative risk assessment of drugs including alcohol and tobacco using the margin of exposure (MOE) approach was conducted. The MOE is defined as ratio between toxicological threshold (benchmark dose) and estimated human intake. Median lethal dose values from animal experiments were used to derive the benchmark dose. The human intake was calculated for individual scenarios and population-based scenarios. The MOE was calculated using probabilistic Monte Carlo simulations. The benchmark dose values ranged from 2 mg/kg bodyweight for heroin to 531 mg/kg bodyweight for alcohol (ethanol). For individual exposure the four substances alcohol, nicotine, cocaine and heroin fall into the “high risk” category with MOE < 10, the rest of the compounds except THC fall into the "risk" category with MOE < 100. On a population scale, only alcohol would fall into the "high risk" category, and cigarette smoking would fall into the "risk" category, while all other agents (opiates, cocaine, amphetamine-type stimulants, ecstasy, and benzodiazepines) had MOEs > 100, and cannabis had a MOE > 10,000. The toxicological MOE approach validates epidemiological and social science-based drug ranking approaches especially in regard to the positions of alcohol and tobacco (high risk) and cannabis (low risk).

Concepts: Tobacco, Cigarette, Nicotine, Toxicology, Drug addiction, Heroin, Psychoactive drug, Methamphetamine


Questions surrounding the effects of chronic marijuana use on brain structure continue to increase. To date, however, findings remain inconclusive. In this comprehensive study that aimed to characterize brain alterations associated with chronic marijuana use, we measured gray matter (GM) volume via structural MRI across the whole brain by using voxel-based morphology, synchrony among abnormal GM regions during resting state via functional connectivity MRI, and white matter integrity (i.e., structural connectivity) between the abnormal GM regions via diffusion tensor imaging in 48 marijuana users and 62 age- and sex-matched nonusing controls. The results showed that compared with controls, marijuana users had significantly less bilateral orbitofrontal gyri volume, higher functional connectivity in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) network, and higher structural connectivity in tracts that innervate the OFC (forceps minor) as measured by fractional anisotropy (FA). Increased OFC functional connectivity in marijuana users was associated with earlier age of onset. Lastly, a quadratic trend was observed suggesting that the FA of the forceps minor tract initially increased following regular marijuana use but decreased with protracted regular use. This pattern may indicate differential effects of initial and chronic marijuana use that may reflect complex neuroadaptive processes in response to marijuana use. Despite the observed age of onset effects, longitudinal studies are needed to determine causality of these effects.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Neuroanatomy, Brain, Neuroimaging, Magnetic resonance imaging, Cerebrum, Cerebellum, Psychoactive drug


A total of 1,215 young Danish men aged 18-28 years were recruited between 2008 and 2012 when they attended a compulsory medical examination to determine their fitness for military service. The participants delivered a semen sample, had a blood sample drawn, and underwent a physical examination. They responded to questionnaires including information on marijuana and recreational drug use during the past 3 months (no use, use once per week or less, or use more than once per week). A total of 45% had smoked marijuana within the last 3 months. Regular marijuana smoking more than once per week was associated with a 28% (95% confidence interval (CI): -48, -1) lower sperm concentration and a 29% (95% CI: -46, -1) lower total sperm count after adjustment for confounders. The combined use of marijuana more than once per week and other recreational drugs reduced the sperm concentration by 52% (95% CI: -68, -27) and total sperm count by 55% (95% CI: -71, -31). Marijuana smokers had higher levels of testosterone within the same range as cigarette smokers. Our findings are of public interest as marijuana use is common and may be contributing to recent reports of poor semen quality.

Concepts: Drug, Semen analysis, Opioid, Semen, Cannabis, Psychoactive drug, Recreational drug use, Prohibition


Therapeutic cannabis administration is increasingly used in Western countries due to its positive role in several pathologies. Dronabinol or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) pills, ethanolic cannabis tinctures, oromucosal sprays or table vaporizing devices are available but other cannabinoids forms can be used. Inspired by the illegal practice of dabbing of butane hashish oil (BHO), cannabinoids from cannabis were extracted with butane gas, and the resulting concentrate (BHO) was atomized with specific vaporizing devices. The efficiency of “cannavaping,” defined as the “vaping” of liquid refills for e-cigarettes enriched with cannabinoids, including BHO, was studied as an alternative route of administration for therapeutic cannabinoids. The results showed that illegal cannavaping would be subjected to marginal development due to the poor solubility of BHO in commercial liquid refills (especially those with high glycerin content). This prevents the manufacture of liquid refills with high BHO concentrations adopted by most recreational users of cannabis to feel the psychoactive effects more rapidly and extensively. Conversely, “therapeutic cannavaping” could be an efficient route for cannabinoids administration because less concentrated cannabinoids-enriched liquid refills are required. However, the electronic device marketed for therapeutic cannavaping should be carefully designed to minimize potential overheating and contaminant generation.

Concepts: Tetrahydrocannabinol, Cannabis, Psychoactive drug, Cannabidiol, Hashish, Recreational drug use, Vaporizer