LifeAlerts – Substance Abuse

Substance Abuse

USA – States that legalized marijuana experience skyrocketing workforce positive rates

According to national data released by Quest Diagnostics, rates of marijuana positive testing in the workforce have sharply risen both over the last year (2018-2019), and since legalization was implemented. “Marijuana continues to be an enduring presence in the U.S. workforce. Changing attitudes toward its use could pose heightened risks especially in safety-sensitive positions and those states exploring legalization,” said Barry Sample, PhD, senior director, science and technology for Quest Diagnostics in a press release. Marijuana continues to top the list of the most commonly detected illicit substances across all workforce categories. Read more

USA – Association between Marijuana and Heart Disease risks

More than 2 million people with heart disease currently use marijuana or have used it in the past, either recreationally or “medical” reasons, according to estimates published in a research review in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. That’s alarming for researchers, who may have found an association between using cannabis and cardiovascular risks. “Our review suggests that smoking marijuana carries many of the same cardiovascular health hazards as smoking tobacco” lead author Muthiah Vaduganathan, M.D., a cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital Heart and Vascular Center in Boston said. “While the level of evidence is modest, there is enough data for us to advise caution in using marijuana for our highest-risk patients, including those who present with a heart attack or new arrhythmia, or who have been hospitalized with heart failure. The review also cautions that marijuana can interfere with certain medications for cardiovascular problems. For example, if you’re taking lipid-lowering statins and using marijuana your statin levels can climb—that’s because both drugs are metabolized by the same liver enzymes in the body. And if you use marijuana while taking blood thinners, like warfarin, it’s a similar result: The levels of the blood thinners in your blood can increase. Read more

USA – Cannabis impairs driving skills long after the high is gone

A recent study published widely confirms what Doctors For Life International (DFL) has been cautioning for years: that cannabis influences your driving skills long after you have smoked or used the drug. The study revealed that whether it is running red lights, driving at high speeds, crossing center lines into the opposite lanes, getting into accidents or even hitting pedestrians, these were some of the dangerous driving behaviors of regular, heavy users of recreational cannabis who began using before the age of 16. But more concerning is that users drove this badly even when they were no longer high. The study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, asked chronic, heavy marijuana users to drive in a customized driving simulator. “Heavy use was defined by daily or near daily use, a minimum of four or five times a week, with a lifetime exposure of 1,500 times,” said lead author Staci Gruber, director of the Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery (MIND) program at McLean Hospital, the largest psychiatric teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. 

Despite having little THC in their system, heavy users consistently performed worse on driving tasks than non-users, making critical, dangerous mistakes. Although both Gruber and Dahlgren claim it’s too early to tell how significant these ‘results’ may be, data in states where cannabis has been legalised reveal the shocking reality. Both Colorado and Washington for example, experienced a significant increase in fatal motor vehicle accidents since cannabis has been legalised recreationally. Gruber does however admit that is worrisome that weed appears to be replacing cigarettes in recent USA national surveys. “Daily cigarette use among 12th graders was 2.4% and marijuana use was 6.4%,” she said. Read more

France – Man hallucinates and kills woman while high on marijuana

A French appeals court ruled that a suspect will not stand trial for killing a female doctor while being high on marijuana. Kobili Traore, a Malian immigrant to France, allegedly beat the doctor for an hour while calling her a “demon” and shouting about “Allah.” This is nothing new, the impact of high potency marijuana and frequent use are well documented. A 6-year study done in 2015 by British Psychiatrists found that daily users of high potency marijuana are five times more likely to suffer psychosis than those who never touch it. The finding suggests that about 60,000 people in Britain are currently living with conditions involving hallucinations and paranoid episodes brought on by the abuse of high-potency cannabis. Read more at National Review, The Telegraph

New Study: Use of High Potency Marijuana Increases Risk of Anxiety Disorders

Editor’s note: This is posted with permission from SAM

Today’s highly potent marijuana drastically increases the risk of mental health issues according to a new study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. The study, conducted with 1,087 twenty-four-year olds who reported recent marijuana use, found that users of high potency marijuana were four times more likely to abuse the substance and twice as likely to develop anxiety disorders.  

“Studies such as this continue to prove what we have been saying for some time: today’s pot is light years away from the weed of Woodstock,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana and a former senior drug policy advisor to the Obama Administration. “As we have routinely pointed out, the science behind today’s pot is sorely lacking. As it catches up, we are certain to see more studies such as this.” 

In addition to increases in anxiety, the study also found that users of high potency marijuana were more likely to use the drug once a week, twice as likely to have used other substances in the past year, and more than three times as likely to be tobacco users.  

Marijuana commonly used in the 60’s, 70’s, and even 90’s barely registered above 4% THC content. Today, following the commercialization of the drug, average THC content has exploded some 500%. Average marijuana “buds” can feature up to 30% THC while marijuana concentrates can contain upwards of 99% THC.  

As the science struggles to catch up with the rising potency of today’s marijuana, we are only seeing the first signs that marijuana use has become much more harmful to the human brain. Last year, a groundbreaking study confirmed a link between the use of high potency marijuana and greater rates of psychosis at the population level. Daily users of high potency pot were more than 4x more likely to develop psychosis.  

“When it comes to tobacco, we didn’t see truly drastic harms until big corporations saw the potential for massive revenues and started altering tobacco to make it more addictive,” continued Dr. Sabet. “We are beginning to see the same take place with marijuana. A massive industry, ironically featuring billions in investment from Big Tobacco, is working to expand marijuana commercialization while also driving up THC content. Meanwhile, warnings from public health researchers and experts are ignored. We cannot allow this to continue.”

Association of High-Potency Cannabis Use With Mental Health and Substance Use in Adolescence


Editors Note: This article first appeared in the New York Post

To contain the coronavirus, governments have scaled down society to its bare bones, allowing only essential services to operate. Hospitals. Grocery stores. Takeout restaurants and pharmacies. Things that literally mean life or death.

Does getting high count? Of course, it doesn’t.

Yet several governors have bowed to pressure from Big Weed and added pot shops to the short list. In Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis initially restricted marijuana businesses to curbside or takeout-style service only. It took less than a week, however, before he caved to pot-industry lobbyists and reversed course, allowing full indoor sales to carry on.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker wasn’t so easy to bend, so last week, Big Weed filed a lawsuit against him, demanding he deem recreational-marijuana businesses “essential” and allow them to operate.

While the industry lawyers are fighting for pot rights, legal pot peddlers are celebrating massive increases in sales. One executive has even gone so far as to claim that marijuana is “recession-proof.” ­According to CNBC, one California-based chain is enjoying a 20 to 25 percent increase in sales.

Given this rise in sales, it’s worth pointing out that a host of public-health organizations have raised the alarm about the dangers of smoking marijuana, or anything for that matter, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we face down a disease that targets lungs and the immune system, promoting pot is dangerous.

Today’s marijuana isn’t Woodstock weed. Pot packaged and sold in shops can be up to 99 percent THC, the active ingredient. And those shops don’t primarily serve the sick and dying. Regardless, there are Food and Drug ­Administration-approved, marijuana-based medications still at pharmacies for those people who truly rely on these products to deal with end-of-life care or ­severe illness.

But giving pot shops a free pass at a time like this is the wrong thing to do.

First, smoking or vaping marijuana may make COVID-19 symptoms worse. According to the National Institutes of Health (corona czar Dr. Anthony Fauci’s mother organization), the World Health Organization and the American Lung Association, there are certain groups of people more susceptible to developing a severe case of COVID-19, and among them are those who use marijuana or tobacco.

In a recent blog post, Dr. Nora Volkow, director of one NIH institute, stated that “because it attacks the lungs . . . COVID-19 could be an especially serious threat to those who smoke ­tobacco or marijuana or who vape.” Marijuana smoke is ­extremely harmful to the lungs and has even been found to contain many of the same harmful components as tobacco smoke.

There is even evidence that it leads to the development of chronic bronchitis. Plus, research suggests that marijuana use ­increases the risk of infections such as pneumonia, a condition commonly seen in the most severe COVID-19 cases.

And you aren’t out of the woods if you take edibles, either. THC has been shown in studies to hurt the immune system and jeopardize overall health. In fact, THC can be an immunosuppressant, according to studies.

When a foreign viral body, such as the novel coronavirus, enters the body, your immune system shoots into overdrive and creates proteins that work to destroy the foreign invader. THC works against the body’s ability to create these proteins, giving the viral ­infection the upper hand. The ­result: more severe symptoms or a longer road to full recovery.

The marijuana lobby, concerned only with profits, has now even demanded government-bailout money.

What are they smoking?

Instead of bowing to the ­demands of Big Weed and their well-funded lobbyists, we should be doing everything in our power to mitigate the harms associated with this outbreak. In the interest of the health and safety of Americans, marijuana stores shouldn’t be deemed “essential” — they should be closed. And not a dime of taxpayer money should go to them while they’re reaping record profits.

Finally, we need to discourage dangerous pot use while people are shut in. Prior generations sacrificed far more in times of crisis. We can give up a little pot.

Dr. Kevin Sabet, a former drug-policy adviser to President Barack Obama, is president of Smart ­Approaches to Marijuana.

Legalized marijuana threatens public health and safety impact report reveals

Reviewed by researchers from: University of Colorado at Denver, Harvard Medical School, Boston Children’s Hospital, University of Connecticut, Yale University University of Kansas, and more.


Today’s highly potent marijuana represents a growing and significant threat to public health and safety, a threat that is amplified by a new marijuana industry intent on profiting from heavy use. State laws allowing marijuana sales and consumption have permitted the marijuana industry to flourish, and in turn, the marijuana industry has influenced both policies and policy-makers. While the consequences of these policies will not be known for decades, early indicators are troubling. This report, reviewed by prominent scientists and researchers, serves as an evidence-based guide to what we currently observe in various states. We attempted to highlight studies from all the “legal” marijuana states (i.e., states that have legalized the non-medical use of marijuana). Unfortunately, data does not exist for several “legal” states, and so this document synthesizes the latest research on marijuana impacts in states where information is available.

Full Impact Report link HERE

How Legal Weed Shops Feed the Vaping Crisis

Source: Wall Street Journal

As marijuana use has become more socially accepted in the United States, those pushing for legalization should examine the recent harm that vaping has inflicted on thousands of people, many of whom were using marijuana products.

Dr. Kevin Sabet, Founder and President Smart Approaches to Marijuana, wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal laying out how the marijuana industry is to blame for more cases of this debilitating illness than was initially thought, using recent data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

As you know, the marijuana industry has been working non-stop to push the fact that its “regulated” products are not involved in the ongoing marijuana vaping crisis. But as more data are released, and the picture becomes clearer, it becomes clearer that our efforts have never been more crucial.

Proponents of the marijuana industry have dismissed the “pot vaping crisis,” with its deaths and lung injuries, as an aberration of the illicit market. Legal pot, they say, is regulated and thus not to blame for the recent spate of problems. Victims and families who came forward to warn about purchases made at state-licensed shops were lambasted by legalization advocates. When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised against using all marijuana vaping products, industry insiders questioned their motives and called the warnings conspiracy theories.


Wall Street Journal article and video link HERE

Dagga industry is successfully hooking our kids on today’s high potency dagga

New state-level data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the most authoritative study on drug use conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), finds that marijuana use in “legal” states among youth, young adults, and the general population continued its climb. 

Dagga use rates in “legal” states continue to drastically outnumber the use of marijuana/dagga in states that have not legalized the drug. Highlights include:

  • Past-month marijuana use among young people aged 18-25 in “legal” states has increased 8 percent in the last year (30.94% versus 28.62%). Use in this age group is 50 percent higher in “legal” states than in non-legal states (30.94% versus 20.66%).
  • Past-month youth use (aged 12-17) in states with commercial sales continued its recent upward trend. Since last year, “legal” Washington experienced the largest surge in past month youth use with an 11 percent increase (9.94% versus 8.96%). Colorado experienced a four percent increase (9.39% versus 9.02%). 
  • Massachusetts overtook Colorado as the top-ranking state for overall first-time use, which is now number two.
  • Past-month youth use in “legal” states is 40% higher than in non-legal states (8.92% versus 6.26%). Past-year youth use in “legal” states is roughly 30% higher than in non-legal states (15.82% versus 12.10%).
  • First-time youth use in “legal” states is 30% higher than non-legal states (6.96% versus 5.38%)

“This data shows that the marijuana industry is achieving its goal of hooking our kids on today’s highly potent marijuana,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet, a former senior drug policy advisor to the Obama Administration. “As we learned just this week from the Monitoring the Future survey, the number of young people who perceive marijuana as being harmful is at a historic low. Given the recent data linking high potency marijuana with serious mental health issues, addiction, and future substance abuse, this is extremely concerning.

Download PDF version of the state-level data

Source Link:

Marijuana Vaping Outbreak — Not Just a Black Market Issue

By Colton Grace

• 86 percent of the cases of illness and at least 2 deaths in this marijuana vaping outbreak have been connected to THC oils.

• At a time when we are investigating the causes of this rash of deaths and illnesses connected to marijuana oils and vapes, all marijuana legalization efforts and THC vaping oil sales should pause.

• This is not a black-market issue, it is the result of allowing Big Marijuana – an addiction- for-profit drug industry backed by Big Tobacco and companies like Juul – to mass produce these oils and vapes, along with candies, gummies, and other dangerously potent forms of the drug.

• Big Tobacco, E-Cigarette and Vaping Companies and the Marijuana industry share many of the same investors. The industries are connected by billions in investments.


Is the Vaping Crisis a reason to legalize marijuana?

No. Many “licensed, regulated” pot shops are selling the vapes at the center of this crisis, such as a confirmed case in Delaware and a death in Oregon. This crisis is an indication that a legalized marijuana industry will be just as difficult to regulate and as detrimental to public health as the tobacco industry (which is now invested in marijuana). All legalization efforts should pause given this crisis only 6 years into recreational legalization in Colorado and Washington State.

What’s more, researchers are still quite unclear as to the culprit responsible for the illness and death. The only unifying factor in the majority of cases is the presence of THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana. As such, no amount of “regulation” or “testing” can guarantee these devices are safe to use. The CDC and the FDA seem to agree, as they have urged Americans to avoid using any marijuana vaping device

Is the vaping crisis exclusively a black-market problem?

No. The CDC and FDA are asking the public to stop using all THC vapes, whether from the black market or “licensed” pot shops. Many “licensed, regulated” pot shops are selling the vapes at the center of this crisis, such as a confirmed case in Delaware and a death in Oregon. A recent study out of Colorado found that in cheap marijuana vaping devices, a soldering material may leak harmful heavy metals into vaping liquids when heated. This backs up a recent study by the Mayo Clinic finding several lung tissue samples from victims of the illness feature what resemble chemical burns, similar to the effects of mustard gas.

Logically, cheap vaping devices make greater targets for diversion to the black market, given the possibility of a greater profit margin. We have long known that the legal market fuels the illegal market and it was recently discovered that a marijuana vaping device producer in Californiawas supplying devices that couldn’t pass inspections to the black market.


• At least 37 people have died from severe respiratory complications associated with vaping. At least 1,888 cases have been reported across the United States.i

• 84 percent of the deaths investigated have been associated with THC.ii

• Two of the deaths have been connected to marijuana products, one of which was associated with marijuana oil purchased at a legal dispensary in Oregon.iii No other states have released information about the kinds of vapes that were linked to the deaths.

• Reports link marijuana vapes to 86 percent of the lung illnesses being reported in the wake of the vaping epidemic.iv

• Though the marijuana industry blames illicit vaporizers exclusively for using Vitamin E acetate, one source working within the industry, Andrew Jones of Mr. Extractor, has said that 60 to 70 percent of all vapes contain Vitamin E acetate. Even still, no health official has pointed to any individual cause.v

• New York state has issued subpoenas to several vape companies as the investigation

• Medical marijuana users in Maryland have reported symptoms consistent with the lung illnesses resulting from vaping.vii

• According to the CDC, 36 percent of the victims of the vaping-related illnesses are 20 years old or younger.viii

• A recent study showed adolescents who vaped were 3.5 times as likely to smoke marijuana.ix

• Since Monitoring the Future (MTF) first began recording vaping trends among young people in 2017, the survey has demonstrated significant increases among key demographics. In 2017, 1.6 percent of 8th graders, 4.3 percent of 10th graders, and 4.9 percent of 12th graders reported past-month marijuana vaping use. In 2018 the numbers increased to 2.6 percent, 7 percent, and 7.5 percent respectively.x

• The MTF notes that “the doubling from 5.2% in 2017 to 10.9% in 2018 of 30-day prevalence of vaping marijuana among college students is among the largest one-year proportion increases for any substance” in 40 years.xi

• In Arizona, a survey of 50,000 10th and 12th graders found that one quarter (25%) of teens were using has used highly potent marijuana concentrates at least once.

PDF version of this article:


DFL joins current Con Court Dagga battle amid FDA cracking down on Cancer curing claims

Media Release Embargo: Immediate release Enquiries: Doctors For Life Int. Telephone: 032 481 5550 Date: 07 November 2017 On Tuesday the 7th of November 2017 Doctors For Life International (DFL) as Amicus Curiae (Friend of The Court) and the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development (together with other South African Government Departments), will argue to the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg that the Western Cape’s High Court’s judgement earlier this year legalising the use and cultivation of dagga (marijuana) in the privacy of one’s home, was the result of numerous errors. DFL will emphasise the harms and implications that legalising dagga use will have, even if it is used in a private home. The submissions will also concern the rights and protection (the best interests) of the child. The respondents include Mr Gareth Prince whom DFL assisted the state in opposing in his 2002 bid to legalise dagga in South Africa, arguing then that it was his religious right to smoke dagga. The Constitutional Court judgement in that case was in favour of the position that the state has a legitimate interest in prohibiting dagga. Mr Prince is joined by various other parties who also seek to convince the 11 judges that a whole host of their human rights are being infringed by the prohibition of dagga. Even though the High Court did not find so, one of the parties, Mr Acton, who started the political dagga party, will still try to argue that dagga is even medically beneficial. “Medical marijuana” has been touted as one of the main reasons for the legalisation of marijuana around the globe by the pro cannabis lobbying groups, using it as the thin edge of the wedge to get it legalised for recreational purposes. Yet these assertions are so very often motivated by financial gain and not by reliable science. CNN released an article on the 2nd of November 2017 highlighting the fact that the American Food and Drug Administration ( FDA) is currently cracking down on companies that are making unsubstantiated claims that pot products made from marijuana can cure cancer. The agency responsible for policing the American food and drug market issued warning letters to four companies that are “illegally selling products online that claim to prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure cancer without evidence to support these outcomes.” It said in a statement, “The illegally sold products allegedly contain cannabidiol (CBD), a component of the marijuana plant that is not FDA approved in any drug product for any indication.” Federally marijuana is still illegal in the USA even though public voting processes have seen cannabis being decriminalised and even legalised in some individual states. Sadly South Africans are already being targeted by numerous unscrupulous and nefarious companies selling all sorts of cannabis oil concoctions while claiming they have medical benefits. These dodgy dagga products are sold with zero indication of the actual composition and quantity of the active ingredients. DFL’s medical members have had to deal with case upon case of elderly patients who have wasted thousands of rand’s on dagga oils and numerous other dagga products without experiencing any improvement or relief. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in the statement, “We don’t let companies’ market products that deliberately prey on sick people with baseless claims that their substance can shrink or cure cancer and we’re not going to look the other way on enforcing these principles when it comes to marijuana-containing products.” The FDA said the 25-plus products that are part of this crackdown include oil drops, capsules, syrups, teas, topical lotions and creams. “Patients should always consult a health care professional about proper prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.” Although claims vary from product to product, the FDA says fraudulent cancer products “often use a particular vocabulary.” The agency identified these phrases as the most common red flags:

  • Treats all forms of cancer
  • Miraculously kills cancer cells and tumours
  • Shrinks malignant tumours
  • Selectively kills cancer cells
  • More effective than chemotherapy
  • Attacks cancer cells, leaving healthy cells intact
  • Cures cancer
“The overarching point is that these products are untested, and some of the ingredients may present direct risk to the consumer’s health or interact with any medications they might be taking,” Jason Humbert, a regulatory operations officer in the F.D.A.’s Office of Regulatory Affairs said. He told CNN “They’re not a substitute for appropriate treatment, and using these products can not only endanger consumers’ health but waste their money and waste their time, as well.” DFL would like to caution the South African public against these and other false claims as well. Eleven judges will now decide upon the very fate our youth and the future of dagga in this country. Judgement is only expected to be handed down between 6 to12 months from now. The court case is expected to last for one or two days while listening to the submissions by the respondents, interveners, the state and DFL. Doctors for Life International represent 1500 medical doctors and specialists, three-quarters of whom practice in South Africa. Since 1991 DFL has been actively promoting sound science in the medical profession and health care that is safe and efficient for all South Africans. For more information visit:]]>