The federal government plans to award $1.5 million in grants during the 2019 fiscal year to researchers who study how components of marijuana other than THC affect pain.
In a notice about the funding opportunity published on Thursday, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) said that it was seeking applications from researchers to conduct studies on “minor cannabinoids and terpenes.” The aim of the grants will be to learn how these components work—separately and when combined—as potential pain-relieving agents.
The research is especially important given the widespread use of addictive opioid-based painkillers for pain management, NCCIH said. While THC has known analgesic properties, very little is known about the hundreds of other constituents in cannabis, which could represent viable alternatives to popular painkillers.
“Early clinical data suggest that cannabis may enhance the potency of opioids in relieving pain; and the synergy from using these products together may result in more effective pain relief with lower doses of opioids,” the agency wrote. “Yet, it is unclear which components of cannabis may have these properties. In particular, few studies have examined whether and which cannabinoids and/or terpenes interact with the opioid pain pathways.”
NCCIH, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, said that of particular interest are studies looking at cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN), cannabichromene (CBC), nyrcene, β-caryophyllene, Limonene, α-terpineol, linalool, α-phellandrene, α-pinene, β-pinene, γ-terpinene and α-humulene.
“A growing body of literature suggests that the cannabis plant may have analgesic properties; however, research into cannabis’s potential analgesic properties has been slow,” the funding opportunity says. “One key mechanism to investigate is whether potential analgesic properties of cannabis can be separated from its psychoactive properties. To address this question, more research is needed into the basic biological activity of the plant’s diverse phytochemicals, specifically minor cannabinoids and terpenes.”
NCCIH listed 11 areas of interest for prospective applicants:
* To investigate the potential analgesic properties and adverse effects of minor cannabinoids, alone or in combination with each other or terpenes;
* To investigate the mechanisms by which minor cannabinoids and terpenes may affect pain pathways, including ascending and/or descending neural pathways, cellular and molecular signaling pathways, neuroimmune interactions, or other innovative regulatory pathways related to pain;
* To explore the impact of sex, age and ethnicity on potential analgesic properties of minor cannabinoids and terpenes;
* To explore analgesic potential of minor cannabinoids and terpenes for different pain types (e.g., acute pain, chronic pain, inflammatory pain, neuropathic pain);
* To investigate the pharmacology (pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic profiles) of minor cannabinoids and terpenes;
* To explore binding affinities of minor cannabinoids and terpenes to cannabinoid and opioid and other pain-related receptors;
* To investigate the impact of dose and/or route of administration on potential analgesic effects of minor cannabinoids and terpenes;
* To characterize if/how specific terpenes may influence potential analgesic properties of cannabinoids;
* To explore potential opioid sparing effects of minor cannabinoids and terpenes;
* To explore the interaction between the microbiome and minor cannabinoids or terpenes;
* To improve methods to quantify systemic levels of minor cannabinoids and terpenes
Applicants are encouraged to submit letters of intent about their research proposals 30 days before the March 15 application deadline. The $1.5 million will be distributed among four grant recipients.
The agency first announced its intent to launch the funding opportunity in November.
“The mechanisms and processes underlying potential contribution of minor cannabinoids and terpenes to pain relief and functional restoration in patients with different pain conditions may be very broad,” NCCIH said. “This initiative encourages interdisciplinary collaborations by experts from multiple fields—pharmacologists, chemists, physicists, physiologists, neuroscientists, psychologists, endocrinologists, immunologists, geneticists, behavioral scientists, clinicians, and others in relevant fields of inquiry.”
The research opportunity is one of several marijuana-related projects the federal government has recently promoted. For example, NCCIH has four other grants available to researchers to study “natural products” such as cannabis, the National Institute on Drug Abuse is calling for bulk marijuana cultivators to supply research-grade cannabis and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has asked the public to send them information about marijuana and Alzheimer’s disease.
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.
Dogs Treated With Cannabis Oil Experience Less Frequent Seizures, Study Finds
Dogs with epilepsy experience considerably fewer seizures when treated with CBD oil, a new study published in the journal Pet Behaviour Science found.
The small study—which followed three dogs receiving hemp-derived CBD treatment over the course of two months, indicates that dogs respond to the cannabis compound in a way that’s similar to humans.
The dogs ranged in age and breed. One was a three-year-old Labrador Retriever that suffered seizures spaced out one month apart on average, another was an 11-year-old Papillon that experienced seizures every two to three months and the last was a 10-year-old Chihuahua that has infrequent seizures about twice a year.
For the experiment, each dog was treated with CBD twice a day on an empty stomach. The findings are based on reports from the owners, two out of three of whom said the treatment improved their dog’s condition. The Papillon’s owner said the dog’s condition was unchanged.
“The owner [of the Labrador Retriever] reported that the dog slept longer and barked less in the daytime, even when other dogs were excited, during the first two weeks than in the preceding weeks,” the study authors wrote. “Overall, the owner felt that the dog showed improvement.”
“The owner [of the Chihuahua] felt that seizure-like behavior during the attacks had decreased slightly with treatment,” they wrote. “The owner also reported that the dog showed less aggression toward familiar people, such as the owner’s children.”
While the sample size of the study is particularly small, making it difficult to draw broad conclusions, the researchers said “seizure frequency improved considerably and owners reported a positive impression” of the CBD treatment.
It’s not clear if the same biochemical mechanisms that make CBD an effective treatment for epilepsy in humans produced the effects in the dogs. It’s possible that, because seizures can be triggered by anxiety, the same “anxiolytic effect may attenuate the symptoms of epilepsy in dogs as well as humans.”
“Further research is needed for better understanding the neurobiological mechanisms of CBD treatment,” the researchers wrote.
Last year, a separate study determined that CBD can alleviate the symptoms of osteoarthritis in dogs.
Photo courtesy of Pexels.
Study Finds Marijuana Motivates People To Exercise, Smashing Lazy Stoner Stereotype
Most people who use marijuana report that consuming before or after exercising improves the experience and aids in recovery, according to a new study. And those who do use cannabis to elevate their workout tend to get a healthier amount of exercise.
Researchers at the University of Colorado surveyed more than 600 marijuana consumers in states where it is legal to assess how people use cannabis in relation to exercise. Their results, published this month in the journal Frontiers in Public Health, poke yet another hole in the lazy, couch-locked stoner stereotype.
Almost 500 participants said they endorse using marijuana one hour before, or up to four hours after, exercising. And based on data from the questionnaire, those who did use cannabis in that timeframe worked out longer than consumers who didn’t pair the activities. Specifically, those who engaged in co-use worked out an average of 43 minutes longer for aerobic exercise and 30 minutes longer for anaerobic exercise.
What’s behind the trend?
There are a few known barriers to exercise that researchers have identified: a lack of motivation, difficult recovery after working out and low enjoyment of the activity. Cannabis seems to help lift those barriers for some individuals.
Seventy percent of respondents said they agree or strongly agree that “cannabis increases enjoyment of exercise,” 78 percent said that marijuana “enhances recovery from exercise” and just over 50 percent said that it “increases motivation.”
“To our knowledge, this is the first study to survey attitudes and behavior regarding the use of cannabis before and after exercise, and to examine differences between cannabis users who engage in co-use, compared to those who do not,” the study authors wrote. “Given both the spreading legalization of cannabis and the low rates of physical activity in the US, it behooves public health officials to understand the potential effects—both beneficial and harmful—of cannabis use on exercise behaviors.”
While it might seem counterintuitive given how cannabis consumers have typically been portrayed in media, there’s a growing body of research showing that many marijuana enthusiasts engage in active lifestyles and that cannabis is associated with positive health outcomes. For example, another recent study found that people who use marijuana are less likely to be obese compared to non-users.
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.
Another Federal Agency Wants You To Stop Calling About A Marijuana-Related Job
Six days after posting a notice that calls for a contractor to prepare and distribute research drug products like marijuana cigarettes, a federal agency posted an update, emphasizing that private citizens are not being encouraged to apply for a casual joint-rolling job.
Why? Well, it might have something to do with various viral articles reporting on the opening—and readers who then volunteer for the role.
On Monday, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) added an unambiguous message at the top of the notice: “THE FOLLOWING IS A PRE-SOLICITATION NOTICE and is NOT ADVERTISEMENT FOR EMPLOYMENT.”
The situation seems similar to another recent example that prompted the Houston division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to ask private citizens to stop calling about a contractor opening to incinerate thousands of pounds of cannabis per hour.
The division wrote last month that “misleading articles” about the position “resulted in an influx of calls from citizens.”
Several recent misleading articles alleging #DEAHouston is looking for Houstonians to burn Marijuana have resulted in an influx of calls from citizens. This solicitation was targeted for a large scale licensed vendor, not private citizens. https://t.co/GSygqBBWKB
— DEAHouston (@DEAHOUSTONDiv) March 29, 2019
“This solicitation was targeted for a large scale licensed vendor, not private citizens,” they wrote.
But according to NIDA, their problem isn’t quite as severe. In an email to Marijuana Moment, a representative of the agency said it has “only received a few public inquiries.” The spokesperson did not respond to a follow up question about the reasoning behind the update.
For serious candidates, the position isn’t as simple as rolling a massive amount of joints. The contractor must have “the capability to analyze and characterize various drugs of abuse including cannabinoids and other research chemicals” and also “acquire, develop, and produce marijuana and nicotine research cigarettes of varying strengths and specifications.”
Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.