Testing Cannabis Edibles for Potency


Last month we wrote about what is known as “marijuana tourism,” the act of traveling to states where recreational marijuana use is legal. With four states allowing adult cannabis use, there are a number of options for people who want to experience the end of marijuana prohibition first hand. A number of marijuana tourists are not regular users, and may or may not have ever used extremely potent strains of marijuana or edibles that can be purchased at pot shops. In the state of Colorado, researchers found that emergency rooms have seen a surge of visits by out-of-staters experiencing marijuana-related medical problems. Many of the incidents involved marijuana edibles which, it turns out, can be difficult to gauge with regard to the dosage of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) present in such products.

There is a growing concern about inconsistent and inaccurate dosage information listed on the labels of marijuana edibles, which can mislead potential users. In response, scientists have developed a new method for measuring the level of marijuana compounds present in edibles, Science Daily reports. The scientists exhibited their work this week at the 251st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

“Producers of cannabis edibles complain that if they send off their product to three different labs for analysis, they get three different results,” says Melissa Wilcox, who is at Grace Discovery Sciences. “The point of our work is to create a solid method that will accurately and reliably measure the cannabis content in these products.”

Jahan Marcu, Ph.D., from Americans for Safe Access and vice-chair of the newly formed ACS Cannabis Subdivision, points out that inconsistent and inaccurate labeling is important because eating cannabis is different than smoking, according to the article. Cannabis edibles are metabolized differently than when marijuana is inhaled, which can produce a stronger high that comes on slowly and has a longer lasting effect.

“It’s a lot easier for an individual to control their dose when smoking,” Wilcox says. “The effects of edibles can take a while to happen. You eat them, and then wait to see how you feel in an hour or two. If you ingested too much, you could be in for an unexpectedly bad experience.”

The current method employed for analyzing the potency of edibles involves using a high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), the article reports. Marcu notes that HPLCs were not designed to have food injected into them, the sugars, fats and starches hinder the machines ability to produce accurate results. In order to combat the problem, the researchers developed a technique that separates the cannabinoids from the rest of the food. They then inject a liquid containing only the marijuana compounds into the HPLC.

People traveling to take part in the marijuana experience should be fully aware of the risks present with cannabis use. While the drug is legal for both medical and recreational use in a number of states, it does not mean that the drug cannot have adverse effects on people and it can also be habit forming. If you believe that cannabis use is negatively affecting your life, please contact Harmony Foundation.

Marijuana Tourists’ Emergency Room Visits


When it comes to which mind altering substances carry the greatest health risk it is probably fair to say that most Americans would agree that marijuana is at the bottom of the list – as is evident by the continued lightening of restrictions when it comes to the use of cannabis. In the last 20 years, since California became the first state to legalize the use of medical marijuana, more and more states have hopped on the “green train,” medical marijuana is now legal in 24 states and Washington D.C. Four of those states and Washington, D.C. have also legalized adult recreational use, with more states expected to follow suit this November.

The State of Colorado is one of the four states that have legalized adult cannabis use, and in 2014 sale began throughout the state. Legalization, like one might expect, has brought about a surge in marijuana tourism, that is people who would like to walk into a store and buy marijuana, just like one would by a six-pack of beer. The novel experience is a not without risk, a new report has shown a spike in emergency room visits involving out-of-state visitors experiencing marijuana-related medical problems, HealthDay reports. Between 2013 and 2014, the number of marijuana tourists visiting the University of Colorado Hospital emergency room doubled, according to a research letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“People in Colorado are becoming more experienced with use of these products,” said study co-author Dr. Andrew Monte, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora. “Sometimes visitors to the state, it’s more difficult to get the educational information in their hands. They may be less experienced with the particular products in the state. They haven’t been exposed to the deluge of public health messaging.”

While marijuana may be perceived as being a benign substance, a number of marijuana products contain extremely high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the main psychoactive ingredient that produces the high marijuana users experience. Monte points out that the majority of ER visits are the result of marijuana affecting pre-existing medical conditions, according to the article. Cannabis edibles are also responsible for a large number of emergency room visits, which if too much is consumed can cause severe vomiting.

It is important to keep in mind that on top of physical health risks, marijuana can become habit forming and potentially lead to addiction. If marijuana is negatively impacting your life, please contact Harmony Foundation for assistance.

High-Potency Marijuana Damages Nerve Fibers

People use marijuana more than any other illicit drug, yet the plant has been severely understudied. In recent years the use of marijuana has fallen into a veritable grey area, with states legalizing the drug for both medical and recreational use, despite marijuana being illegal on the federal level. Greater acceptance of marijuana use has led to a surge in research on the drug, regarding both the dangers of use and the plant’s medicinal properties. There is little question about marijuana being more benign than let’s say methamphetamine; however, there are still many scientists who are unsure regarding the long term effects of use.

Many marijuana users, including teenagers, believe that marijuana is harmless; they often say that ‘no one has ever died from marijuana use!’ While that may be true, whenever someone uses a mind altering substance there is an effect on the brain – which may be more serious than you’d might think. What’s more, marijuana has become available in highly potent forms, containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels upwards of 20 percent; THC is the principal psychoactive constituent found in the plant.

In fact, new research suggests that high-potency marijuana may damage nerve fibers in the brain, which connect the organ’s two hemispheres, HealthDay reports. The study was conducted by researchers at King’s College London.

The research team analyzed MRI scans from 99 people, some of which had been previously diagnosed with psychosis, according to article. The researchers found that frequent use of high-potency marijuana was associated with damage to the corpus callosum, the largest white matter structure in the brain. The corpus callosum is notably rich in cannabinoid receptors. The stronger the marijuana, the greater the damage.

“We found that frequent use of high-potency cannabis significantly affects the structure of white matter fibers in the brain, whether you have psychosis or not,” said senior researcher Dr. Paola Dazzan, of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London.

The findings were published in Psychological Medicine.

While marijuana is legal to use recreationally in four states, including Colorado, it is important that the public be made aware of the risks of use. Like alcohol, just because it’s legal does not mean it is safe. Teenagers are especially susceptible to adverse effects because their brains are still developing. Marijuana can also lead to dependency, which can require outside help. If you or a loved one is addicted to marijuana, please contact Harmony Foundation for assistance, we have been able to help tens of thousands of people learn how to live life free from addiction.

Using E-Cigarettes to Vaporize Marijuana


Over the last year there has been a lot of discussion about e-cigarettes. Researchers have been working to determine if the devices are safer than traditional cigarettes and/or if they are effective smoking cessation devices. While some research indicates that e-cigarettes are safer than regular cigarettes, a panel of experts from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has concluded there isn’t enough evidence to determine if e-cigarettes are safe or effective for smoking cessation.

There are other concerns about e-cigarettes, the devices can be used to vaporize drugs as well. Both recreational marijuana and medical marijuana programs has resulted in a wider variety of marijuana byproducts being available. THC concentrates in the form of oils and waxes are sold at dispensaries and can be be vaporized easily using e-cigarettes.

New research indicates that 1 in 5 high school students report having used using e-cigarettes to vaporize marijuana products, Medical News Today reports. Researchers from Yale University in New Haven, CT surveyed 3,847 students from five high schools in Connecticut.

“This is a relatively novel way of using marijuana, and kids are using it at a fairly high rate,” said Meghan E. Morean, lead author and assistant professor of psychology at Oberlin College.

The study found that 29.2% reported using cannabis and 18.8% reported having used both e-cigarettes and cannabis at some point in their lives, according to the article. The students who had used e-cigarettes to vaporize cannabis included:

  • Around 18% of lifetime e-cigarette users.
  • 18.4% of lifetime cannabis users.
  • 26.5% of e-cigarette and cannabis dual users.

“These findings raise concerns about the lack of e-cigarette regulations and the potential use of e-cigarettes for purposes other than vaping nicotine,” conclude the researchers.

The findings were published in Pediatrics.

If you are or a loved one is abusing marijuana, please contact Harmony Foundation to begin the journey of recovery. Harmony is a state-of-the-art, affordable, residential addiction treatment program located in the Rocky Mountains.

Addiction and recovery news provided by Harmony Foundation.

Synthetic Drug Use On The Rise


Lawmakers are being hit from every direction when it comes to substance abuse: the opioid epidemic, relaxed attitudes on marijuana, and synthetic drug use. As the nation moves closer to an election year, many are wondering how these issues are going to be handled – especially when it comes to opioids and synthetic drugs. In recent months, a number of plans and measures have been announced to address prescription opioids and heroin; however, there has been significantly less talk about synthetic drug use.

While synthetic drug use is a new problem, relatively speaking, tackling use of these insidious drugs is of the utmost importance. New research suggests that synthetic drug use is on the rise among certain demographics, News-Medical reports. Researchers from New York University Langone Medical Center analyzed self-reported use of 57 different new drugs. The findings come from data in the National Survey of Drug Use and Health which indicated that synthetic drug use increased from 2009 to 2013 among teenagers and young adults ages 12 to 34.

Synthetic drug use was most common among:

  • Males
  • Whites
  • City Dwellers
  • People with Lower Incomes

“This is the first study reporting on use of a variety of new drugs in a nationally representative U.S. sample,” lead researcher Joseph J. Palamar, PhD, MPH, said in a news release. “However, we’re pretty confident that use of new drugs was severely underreported, as the research subjects were not asked about most of these drugs specifically.”

Palamar adds the older research indicates that synthetic marijuana and bath salt use is being used at higher rates, according to the article. Future surveys need to ask about synthetic drug use.

“Hundreds of new psychoactive drugs have come out in recent years and some of them can be very dangerous,” he said. “We need health surveys to ask about use of new drugs, in addition to traditional drugs such as marijuana and cocaine, in order to quickly pick up on potential drug epidemics.”

The findings are published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.


If you are or a loved one is abusing synthetic drugs, please contact Harmony Foundation to begin the journey of recovery. Harmony is a state-of-the-art, affordable, residential addiction treatment program located in the Rocky Mountains.

Addiction and recovery news provided by Harmony Foundation.

College Students Report Using Marijuana Regularly

college marijuana use

The rate of every day or near every day use of marijuana among college students is at its highest since the 1980s. New research has shown that 6 percent of college students report using marijuana regularly, Reuters reports. The rise is most likely linked to relaxed marijuana policies across the country, leading to the perception that the drug is harmless. So what do we know about college marijuana use?

“It’s clear that for the past seven or eight years there has been an increase in marijuana use among the nation’s college students,” study author Lloyd Johnston said in a news release. “And this largely parallels an increase we have been seeing among high school seniors.”

The findings come from the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future (MTF) study, a long-term epidemiological study that deals with American adolescents and adults’ trends regarding both legal and illegal drug use. In 1980, the rate of regular marijuana use among college students was 7.2 percent, according to the article. The rate of use dropped to 3.5 percent in 2007, and has now climbed up to 6 percent.

High school seniors who use pot regularly will most likely continue using after they leave for college. Teenagers’ perceptions about the dangers of marijuana use are relaxing. In 2006, the MTF found that 55 percent of high school graduates, ages 19-22 thought regular marijuana use was dangerous. The researchers found a significant drop in perceived risk last year, when only 35 percent believed marijuana use to be dangerous, the article reports.

It is likely that cannabis use trends will continue to move in the same direction with reductions in perceived danger and increased daily college marijuana use. States that have legalized the drug for recreational use are likely to see even higher rates of use than states where use is strictly prohibited. There are currently four states that have legalized recreational use, with more expected to follow next year.

It is important to remember that while marijuana may be more benign than other illicit drugs this does not mean it is safe. There is considerable research indicating that marijuana can be detrimental to teenage brains and the drug is habit forming.

If you are or a loved one is struggling with marijuana addiction, please contact Harmony Foundation to begin the journey of recovery. Harmony is a state-of-the-art, affordable, residential addiction treatment program located in the Rocky Mountains.

Addiction and recovery news provided by Harmony Foundation.

Does Marijuana Lead to Harder Drugs?

Marijuana has long been referred to as a ‘gateway drug,’ a moniker which has been thrown around in defense of continued cannabis prohibition. While it may be true that people who engage in the illicit use of other drugs used marijuana first, there is very little evidence to support the idea that the use of marijuana leads to harder drugs. New research suggests that the varying reasons people have for using marijuana has bearing on who is at risk of using other illicit drugs, ScienceDaily reports.

Analyzing data from the Monitoring The Future (MTF) Survey, researchers at New York University’s Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR) sought to determine how reasons for illicit marijuana use relates to the use of other drugs individually. The NYU researchers drew their findings from data collected on high school seniors.

“Aside from marijuana, a wide range of illicit drugs are prevalent, each having different use patterns, and different effects and dangers associated with use,” said Joseph J. Palamar, PhD, MPH, a CDUHR affiliated researcher and an assistant professor of Population Health at NYU Langone Medical Center (NYULMC). “Our research helped to identify subtypes of illicit marijuana users who use other drugs, as this may be able to inform prevention efforts.”

The research focused on self-reported use of eight other illicit drugs, including:

  • Heroin
  • Cocaine (powder)
  • Crack
  • Amphetamine/Stimulants (nonmedical)
  • Tranquilizers/Benzodiazepines (nonmedical)
  • Opioids (nonmedical)
  • LSD
  • Other Psychedelics

The study, “Reasons for Recent Marijuana Use in Relation to Use of Other Illicit Drugs among High School Seniors in the United States,” showed that people who used marijuana because they were bored had an increased risk for reporting the use of powder cocaine or hallucinogens other than LSD, according to the article. The researchers found that 11% of the sample reported using marijuana to amplify other drugs. Those who used marijuana infrequently were found to be generally not a risk for using other illicit drugs.

“Interestingly, we found that using marijuana ‘to experiment’ decreased risk of reporting use of each of the eight drugs examined before adjusting for other variables,” said Palamar. “The marijuana users in this sample who used to experiment were consistently at low risk for use of nonmedical use of prescription narcotics.”

Palamar adds: “It seems that only a subset of illicit marijuana users is at risk for use of other illicit drugs,” notes Palamar. “Most teens who use marijuana don’t progress to use of other drugs and we believe this is evidenced in part by the fact that nearly two-thirds of these marijuana-using teens did not report use of any of the other illicit drugs we examined.”

The findings were published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse. __________________________________________________

If you are battling with a substance use disorder, please contact Harmony Foundation. We can help you build the foundation for recovery.

Addiction and recovery news provided by Harmony Foundation.

A Review of Medical Marijuana Research

The need for a better understanding of marijuana’s medicinal properties is great, considering that more states are expected to adopt medical marijuana programs in the coming years. There are currently 23 states and the District of Columbia which have active medical marijuana programs. Such programs have brought on an increase in research involving the controversial drug. While each state is different regarding the acceptable health conditions for which marijuana can be recommended, new research suggests that cannabis works for treating some conditions better than others, Reuters reports.

A new review of previously conducted research, which included 80 randomized trials involving nearly 6,500 people, indicated moderate support for using cannabis to treat certain ailments, including chronic pain, muscle spasms and involuntary movements. However, the review did not show much support for using cannabis to treat:

  • Chemotherapy Induced Nausea and Vomiting
  • Sleep Disorders
  • HIV-Related Weight Loss
  • Tourette Syndrome

“As systematic reviewers, we have provided a summary of the available evidence which doctors can now use to make decisions regarding whether to prescribe cannabinoids for their patients,” said Penny Whiting of University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust in the UK.

Whiting points out that when considering the benefits of using marijuana to treat medical conditions, one must also consider the potential side effects which often accompany the drug, according to the article. Side effects which include:

  • Euphoria
  • Dry Mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Sleepiness

“Individuals considering cannabinoids as a possible treatment for their symptoms should discuss the potential benefits and harms with their doctor,” said Whiting.

The research was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

It is important to keep in mind that marijuana is a mind altering substance which carries with it the potential for addiction. If you find yourself struggling with cannabis, please do not hesitate to reach out for help.

Addiction and recovery news provided by Harmony Foundation

Mixing Alcohol and Marijuana Increases THC Levels

The legalization of recreational marijuana use in a number of states, including Colorado, has created a need for more research on the drug. Up until recently, there had been little research conducted on the effects of marijuana use, let alone on the effects of mixing alcohol and marijuana together – the two mind altering substances that are used together the most frequently.

New research suggests that when a person mixes alcohol and pot they show an increased amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their blood, TIME reports. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana that is responsible for the euphoria that users experience.

The new study involved 19 people who drank alcohol or a placebo in low doses 10 minutes before they used marijuana in either a low or high dose. The researchers found that when a person drank alcohol, their blood concentration of THC was much higher, compared to when marijuana was smoked on its own, according to the article.

Previous research has shown that when alcohol and marijuana are mixed together, users are far more likely to get into a car accident. Teenagers who mixed the two substances were about 50 to 90 percent more likely to admit to unsafe driving, and they had higher rates of traffic tickets/warnings and car accidents. The new research may explain why that tends to be the case.

Mixing alcohol and marijuana is quite common among teenagers and young adults. In most cases, people are unaware that combining any two mind altering substances increases both intoxication and the risk of injury. While alcohol, and now marijuana in some states, are legal – it does not mean that they are always safe; both can lead to addiction.

The new research was published in Clinical Chemistry.

If you are a young adult struggling with alcohol and marijuana use, we encourage you to take a look at our Young Adult Recovery Track. Our program focuses on the specific needs of young people looking to find a new way of life through recovery.

Addiction and recovery news provided by Harmony Foundation.

Still no Field Sobriety Test for Marijuana

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How do police identify a stoned driver?

The standard field sobriety test involves having a driver walk heel to toe, turn on one foot and walk back heel to toe and stand on one leg for 30 seconds. This is said to catch almost 90% of drunk drivers – but does it do the same for stoned drivers?

According to an article published in the New York Times it does not. In fact, only 30% of stoned drivers with THC in their systems fail these motor skills and the rates are even lower for veteran stoners who are used to being high.

Crafting a standard field sobriety test that works for marijuana is becoming increasingly important as states legalize its recreational and medical use. Still little is known about how dangerous it is to drive under the influence of THC compared to alcohol or even how to test for marijuana impairment.

Marilyn Huestis with the National Institute on Drug Abuse said, “Our goal is to put out the science and have it used for evidence-based drug policy…but I think it’s a mishmash.” Trying to add strict guidelines for driving under the influence of marijuana to already the blurred lines between federal and state laws on marijuana use is bound to be challenging.

Nevertheless something needs to be done as access to and use of marijuana continues to rise in states like Colorado. Glenn Davis, highway safety manager at the Department of Transportation in Colorado explained, “We’ve done phone surveys, and we’re hearing that a lot of people think D.U.I. laws don’t apply to marijuana. And there’s always somebody who says, ‘I drive better while high.’ ”

In our Colorado addiction treatment center, doing things better while high is a common belief among addicts and part of the denial component of active addiction. By convincing themselves that they clean, drive, socialize or perform better professionally or academically while high allows addicts to continue justifying their addiction. Over time they realize they actually do everything better while sober – as evidence suggests with driving. A widely accepted estimate based on several research reports have determined that any measurable amount of TCH in a driver gives them a twofold risk of an accident.

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