2014 has been an incredible year for the cannabis reform movement, with two more states, several cities and the District of Columbia voting in favor of legalization. In addition, it’s been an excellent year for cannabis science, with numerous studies being released that demonstrate its medical potential and diversity, and the benefits of its legalization. Below we breakdown what we believe to be the top 10 cannabis studies of 2014.
A study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine in January found that states that have legalized medical cannabis have seen a drastic reduction in opioid overdose mortality rates. According to the study; “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.” Researchers note that the reduction was almost immediate, as every state that legalized medical cannabis saw a dramatic decrease in opioid overdose deaths within the first year (averaging about 20% less). The decline continued each year after. By the 5th year, states had experienced a decrease in opioid deaths ranging up to 50.9%.
A study published in the American Journal of Public Health in January found that states which have legalized medical cannabis have seen a significant reduction in suicides, especially among young adults aged 20 to 29.
Researchers, who “obtained state-level suicide data from the National Vital Statistics System’s Mortality Detail Files for 1990–2007″. and “used regression analysis [studying economic conditions, state policies, and state-specific linear time trends] to examine the association between medical marijuana legalization and suicides per 100 000 population”, found that; “Legalization was associated with a 10.8% and 9.4% reduction in the suicide rate of men aged 20 through 29 years and 30 through 39 years, respectively.”
A study published August in the journal Biochemical Pharmacology, and published online by the National Institute of Health, found that cannabinoids can increase a cancer cell’s susceptibility to cytolysis, which occurs when a cell bursts due to an imbalance.
The presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in a person’s system is associated with increased survival rates in those who experience traumatic brain injury (TBI), according to a study published in the American Journal of Surgery.
The study, which examined 446 individuals (18.4% of which had THC in their system), found that the mortality rate for the THC positive group was just 2.4% (two deaths total), compared with 11.5% (forty two deaths total) in the THC negative group; a 479% decrease. The study concludes; “A positive THC screen is associated with decreased mortality in adult patients sustaining TBI.”
A study published in the June issue of the International Journal of Cancer found that cannabis use, even regular long-term use, is not associated with an increased risk of lung cancer.
For the study, researchers investigated data collected from 2,159 lung cancer cases and 2,985 controls, which were “pooled from 6 case-control studies in the US, Canada, UK and New Zealand within the International Lung Cancer Consortium.” After conducting the study, researchers concluded; ” Results from our pooled analyses provide little evidence for an increased risk of lung cancer among habitual or long-term cannabis smokers”.
A study published last year in the journal Annals of the American Thoracic Society came to a similar conclusion, finding that cannabis use does not increase the risk of lung cancer, and may actually lead to a decreased risk.
A nearly 10-year long study conducted by researchers at California Pacific Medical Center’s Research Institute, and published by the British Journal of Pharmacology, found that cannabinoids can combat breast cancer progression.
While conducting the study, researchers found that cannabidiol reduced breast cancer metastasis by up to 75% in mice; “CBD reduced breast cancer metastasis in advanced stages of the disease as the direct result of down-regulating the transcriptional regulator Id1.. this was associated with moderate increases in survival”.
The study concludes; “[Cannabinoids] prolonged survival in advanced stages of breast cancer metastasis. Developing compounds that can simultaneously target multiple cannabinoid antitumor pathways efficiently may provide a novel approach for the treatment of patients with metastatic breast cancer.”
A study published in the July issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, and published online by the U.S. National Institute of Health, found strong evidence to suggest that THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) may provide a treatment option for Alzheimer’s disease.
“The purpose of this study was to investigate the potential therapeutic qualities of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) with respect to slowing or halting the hallmark characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease”, claims the study’s researchers. After incubated “N2a-variant amyloid-β protein precursor (AβPP) cells” with THC, researchers found that; “These sets of data strongly suggest that THC could be a potential therapeutiase through multiple functions and pathways.”
A separate study, which was published by the National Institute of Health around the same time, found that a naturally occurring cannabinoid may treat “neurodegenerative diseases, such as AD [Alzheimer’s disease].”
A study published in February’s issue of the journal AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses found that THC may provide an effective, safe and natural treatment for those with HIV.
The study, conducted by researchers from the Departments of Physiology, Pharmacology, and Medicine at Louisiana State University, found that, “Chronic Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) administration results in a generalized attenuation of viral load and tissue inflammation in simian immunodeficiency virus”. Researchers state that, “Gut-associated lymphoid tissue is an important site for HIV replication and inflammation that can impact disease progression,” and concluded that, “Our results indicate that chronic THC administration modulated duodenal T cell populations, favored a pro-Th2 cytokine balance, and decreased intestinal apoptosis. These findings reveal novel mechanisms that may potentially contribute to cannabinoid-mediated disease modulation.”
A study published by the journal PLOS ONE has found that legalizing medical cannabis doesn’t lead to an increase in crime, and may decrease homicides and assaults.
Using data from FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, researchers from the University of Texas examined crime rates across the country over a 16 year period and analyzed the association between state MML [medical marijuana laws] and state crime rates for all Part I offenses collected by the FBI.
According to researchers, “Results did not indicate a crime exacerbating effect of MML on any of the Part I offenses. Alternatively, state MML may be correlated with a reduction in homicide and assault rates, net of other covariates.”
The study concluded that; “These findings run counter to arguments suggesting the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes poses a danger to public health in terms of exposure to violent crime and property crimes.”
Researchers hypothesized that the possible reduction in crime may be due to people substituting alcohol for cannabis, and state that the results “fall in line with recent evidence and they conform to the longstanding notion that marijuana legalization may lead to a reduction in alcohol use due to individuals substituting marijuana for alcohol. Given the relationship between alcohol and violent crime, it may turn out that substituting marijuana for alcohol leads to minor reductions in violent crimes that can be detected at the state level.”
A study published this year in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine found that cannabidiol, or CBD, can prevent damage to the liver caused by alcohol consumption.
Researchers from the the School of Public Health and the State Key Laboratory of Oncology at Sun Yat-sen University in China, and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York evaluated whether cannabidiol can protect the liver from alcohol-generated oxidative stress-induced steatosis.
Results showed that cannabidiol protects the liver from acute alcohol-induced steatosis through multiple mechanisms, including attenuation of alcohol-mediated oxidative stress, prevention of JNK MAPK activation, and increasing autophagy.
[Editor’s Note: Sources are hyperlinked throughout the article.]