Addiction Policy Forum Blog

6 min read

Why marijuana doesn't help with stress

By Mark Gold, MD on February 18, 2020

Higher levels of stress are associated with an increased risk of substance use disorders (SUDs) and other mental health conditions like depression. Stress may exacerbate underlying conditions and weaken individual response systems that process events and build resilience. It can also make licit and illicit substance use more appealing as a treatment for anxiety. In popular culture and many ordinary associations, cannabis use is often presented as a stress-relieving substance, a mostly harmless escape from life’s ups and down. It’s also seen as an option for those just seeking to unwind. These urban myths are rarely evaluated in real time. Recent scientific research has not validated this self-medication approach to stress and anxiety. If anything, research suggests that such substance use is a major warning sign. The use of cannabis or other THC products may carry special risks for those self-medicating and shouldn’t be so lightheartedly rendered as a relaxation tool. 

Use of THC products is widespread. Rates of cannabis smoking and vaping are similar to those reported for cigarettes and cigarette smoking is related to marijuana use. I have studied and written about these associations for many years: to summarize, both have important second and third hand exposure risks and it may well be that learning to smoke is the most important gateway event.1 THC use is also rising in many states that have legalized the substance, and among the young, for whom the effects of THC are different and likely more dangerous than they are for older individuals. The NIH’s 2019 Monitoring the Future survey also found a spike in rates of youth vaping marijuana, concerning because of the substance and the risky delivery route.2 

But whether it’s logical to use THC products for stress relief, instead of exercising or meditating or taking a walk or doing yoga or talking to a friend or therapist, is a different question from why some individuals do it. People often report anxiety as a primary motivation for using THC products, and it isn’t hard to find someone who will swear by the substance as a tranquil godsend without which life would be far less interesting and considerably more fraught. In January, researchers published the results of a study on the manifestation of stress and anxiety in the brain. It provides one answer to the question of why some individuals turn to marijuana for stress relief—a molecule that manages anxiety and stress is involved in the same brain functions affected by marijuana. This study also suggests that stress is a risk factor that might make smoking more reinforcing.

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3 min read

“185aDay” Campaign to Raise Awareness of Drug Overdose Deaths

By Addiction Policy Forum on February 11, 2020

 “185aDay” Campaign to Raise Awareness of Drug Overdose Deaths

New CDC data reveals an average of 185 Americans die each day from drug overdose

February 11, 2020 - North Bethesda, MD - Today Addiction Policy Forum, a national nonprofit, launched the 185aDay campaign to raise awareness of the 185 lives that are lost (on average) to a drug overdose every day in the United States. The 185aDay campaign gives families and friends a national platform to share their stories of loved ones lost to drug overdose while also increasing public awareness of the opioid epidemic.

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5 min read

The newly discovered brain path linking nicotine to diabetes

By Mark Gold, MD on February 6, 2020

The 2019 Monitoring the Future survey finds that around 35 million U.S. adults use cigarettes, about 12 percent of high school seniors use vaping products on 20 or more of the previous 30 days, and over a quarter did so within the past 30 days—an increase  from 11 percent in 2017. Around 2,000 Americans under the age of 18 smoke their first cigarette every day, and over 16 million Americans have smoking-related diseases, including diabetes.1 Diabetes appears at much higher rates in individuals who use tobacco products than in those who don’t. The CDC says that tobacco products elevate the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes by 30-40 percent, and that use of tobacco products makes managing the condition much more difficult while also increasing the chances of complications, including limb damage, heart disease, and impaired blood flow.2 

Yet it’s not clear to scientists exactly why individuals who use tobacco products face much higher risks of type 2 diabetes (T2DM), especially when we normally think of weight gain as the cause of the majority of T2DM cases. A recent NIDA-funded study investigated whether certain regions of the brain might play a role in this T2DM risk. It tested the theory that nicotine control causes tobacco addiction through effects on the brain, which may then influence functions of the pancreas, blood sugar, insulin, and diabetes at the same time. 

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2 min read

Addiction Policy Forum Supports the House Extending the Emergency Scheduling of Fentanyl

By Addiction Policy Forum on January 30, 2020

 

On January 29th, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed S. 3201, the Temporary Reauthorization and Study of the Emergency Scheduling of Fentanyl Analogues Act, which extends the temporary classification of fentanyl analogs as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act (CDA) for 15-months.

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1 min read

Statement: Drug Overdose Deaths Decline for the 1st Time in Over a Decade

By Addiction Policy Forum on January 30, 2020



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6 min read

Punishment, the brain, and compulsive drinking

By Mark Gold, MD on January 28, 2020

Experts, analysts, and officials sometimes find certain mysteries of alcohol use disorder (AUD) frustrating. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if we could find a single, or even primary, cause of the condition? Or if we could know with certainty which interventions would work best for patients and under which conditions? We know that the share of all individuals who have used alcohol heavily is relatively high, but a much smaller share of that population develops AUD. Heavy drinking and binge drinking on their own, while still risky, are not the only problem. In a study published in Science, researchers took up this question: what leads only some individuals who drink heavily to drink compulsively? They tracked neuron activity in mice to gauge how experiences of punishment in the brain might affect compulsive drinking patterns.

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