Research News Roundup: October 21, 2021

    Association of Marijuana Legalization with Marijuana Use among US High School Students, 1993-2019

    Journal: JAMA Netw Open, 2021, doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.24638

    Authors: D. Mark Anderson, Daniel I. Rees, Joseph J. Sabia & Samuel Safford


    Thirty-six states have legalized medical marijuana and 18 states have passed recreational marijuana laws (RMLs). Organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics are concerned that legalization will encourage youth marijuana use. Marijuana use during adolescence may adversely affect areas of the prefrontal cortex, which control important cognitive processes. Using data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) for the period 1993-2017, Anderson et al found that RML adoption was associated with an 8% decrease in the odds of marijuana use among high school students. These authors, however, had prelegalization and postlegalization data from only 7 states and pre– and post–recreational sales data from only 3 states, calling into question the generalizability of their results. Using data from the YRBS for the period 1993-2019, this study provides updated estimates of the association between legalization and adolescent marijuana use. During this extended period, pre- and post-RML data from the YRBS are available from 10 states; 7 states contributed more than one wave of post-RML data, and these same 7 states contributed data to the YRBS before and after the first dispensary sales began. Consistent with estimates from prior studies, there was little evidence that RMLs or MMLs encourage youth marijuana use. Contrary to results of the study by Anderson et al the overall association between RML adoption and marijuana use among adolescents was statistically indistinguishable from zero.

    To read the full text of the article, please visit the publisher’s website.

    Antidepressant and Anxiolytic Effects of Medicinal Cannabis Use in an Observational Trial

    Journal: Front. Psychiatry, 2021, doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.729800

    Authors: Erin L. Martin, Justin C. Strickland, Nicolas J. Schlienz, Joel Munson, Heather Jackson, Marcel O. Bonn-Miller & Ryan Vandrey


    Background: Anxiety and depressive disorders are highly prevalent. Patients are increasingly using medicinal cannabis products to treat these disorders, but little is known about the effects of medicinal cannabis use on symptoms of anxiety and depression. The aim of the present observational study was to assess general health in medicinal cannabis users and non-using controls with anxiety and/or depression.

    Methods: Participants (368 Cannabis Users; 170 Controls) completed an online survey assessing anxiety and depressive symptoms, cannabis product use, sleep, quality of life, and comorbid chronic pain. Participants that completed this baseline survey were then invited to complete additional follow-up surveys at 3-month intervals. Baseline differences between Cannabis Users and Controls were assessed using independent-samples t-tests and generalized linear mixed effects models were used to assess the impact of initiating cannabis product use, sustained use, or discontinuation of use on anxiety and depressive symptoms at follow-up.

    Results: Medicinal cannabis use was associated with lower self-reported depression, but not anxiety, at baseline. Medicinal cannabis users also reported superior sleep, quality of life, and less pain on average. Initiation of medicinal cannabis during the follow-up period was associated with significantly decreased anxiety and depressive symptoms, an effect that was not observed in Controls that never initiated cannabis use.

    Conclusions: Medicinal cannabis use may reduce anxiety and depressive symptoms in clinically anxious and depressed populations. Future placebo-controlled studies are necessary to replicate these findings and to determine the route of administration, dose, and product formulation characteristics to optimize clinical outcomes.

    To read the full text of the article, please visit the publisher’s website.

    Estimated Prevalence of Smoking and Smoking-attributable Mortality Associated with Graphic Health Warnings on Cigarette Packages in the US from 2022 to 2100

    Journal: JAMA Health Forum, 2021, doi:10.1001/jamahealthforum.2021.2852

    Authors: Jamie Tam, Jihyoun Jeon, James F. Thrasher, David Hammond, Theodore R. Holford, David T. Levy & Rafael Meza


    Importance: Starting in 2022, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plans to require all cigarette packages in the US to display graphic health warnings depicting health harms associated with smoking. The FDA originally planned to implement such warnings in 2012, but tobacco industry litigation delayed the effort.

    Objective: To assess the estimated population health outcomes associated with a policy requiring graphic health warnings on cigarette packages in the US and with a 10-year delay in implementation.

    Design, Setting, and Participants: This decision analytical model used simulation modeling of smoking prevalence and smoking-attributable mortality in the US from 2012 to 2100, using the Cancer Intervention and Surveillance Modeling Network smoking population model. The study was conducted from October 2020 to July 2021.

    Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary outcomes were annual adult smoking prevalence, smoking-attributable deaths averted, and life-years gained vs the baseline scenario. A baseline scenario assuming no graphic health warnings was compared with expected outcomes of implementing graphic health warnings in 2022 vs 2012. Policy effects were considered under varying assumptions of the association of the policy with smoking initiation and cessation, ranging from most conservative to most optimistic. A maximum smoking reduction scenario in which all smoking would stop by the end of 2022 was evaluated.

    Results: In the baseline scenario, an estimated 13.2 million smoking-attributable deaths would have occurred from 2012 to 2100. Under a maximum smoking-reduction scenario, 5.5 million of these deaths would be averted. Implementation of graphic health warnings from 2022 to 2100 would be associated with 539 000 (range, 275 000-794 000) smoking-attributable deaths averted and 7.9 million (range, 4.0-11.6 million) life-years gained, representing less than 10% of the 5.5 million estimated smoking-attributable deaths averted and 81.8 million life-years gained in the maximum smoking-reduction scenario. Implementation from 2012 to 2100 would be associated with 33.2% (range, 32.9%-33.5%) more deaths averted (718 000; range, 365 000 to 1.1 million) and 42.7% (range, 42.3%-43.1%) more life-years gained (11.2 million; range, 5.7-16.6 million) compared with implementation in 2022.

    Conclusions and Relevance: This decision analytical model estimated that FDA cigarette graphic health warnings, if implemented in 2022, would be associated with public health benefits. The model also estimated that more smoking-attributable deaths would have been averted if the policy had been implemented in 2012. Industry litigation and delays to implementing tobacco regulations may have been harmful for public health.

    To read the full text of the article, please visit the publisher’s website.

    Alcohol and Cannabis Use and the Developing Brain

    Journal: Alcohol Research: Current Reviews (ARCR), 2021, doi: 10.35946/arcr.v41.1.1

    Abstract: Briana Lees, Jennifer Debenham & Lindsay M. Squeglia


    Purpose: Alcohol and cannabis are the most commonly used substances during adolescence and are typically initiated during this sensitive neurodevelopmental period. The aim of this review is to provide a comprehensive overview of the most recent literature focused on understanding how these substances affect the developing brain.

    Search Methods: Articles included in this review were identified by entering 30 search terms focused on substance use, adolescence, and neurodevelopment into MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO, ProQuest Central, and Web of Science. Studies were eligible for inclusion if they longitudinally examined the effect of adolescent alcohol and/or cannabis use on structural or functional outcomes in 50 or more participants.

    Search Results:
    More than 700 articles were captured by the search, and 43 longitudinal studies met inclusion criteria, including 18 studies focused on alcohol use, 13 on cannabis use, and 12 on alcohol and cannabis co-use.

    Discussion and Conclusions: Existing studies suggest heavy alcohol and cannabis use during adolescence are related to small to moderate disruptions in brain structure and function, as well as neurocognitive impairment. The effects of alcohol use include widespread decreases in gray matter volume and cortical thickness across time; slowed white matter growth and poorer integrity; disrupted network efficiency; and poorer impulse and attentional control, learning, memory, visuospatial processing, and psychomotor speed. The severity of some effects is dependent on dose. Heavy to very heavy cannabis use is associated with decreased subcortical volume and increased frontoparietal cortical thickness, disrupted functional development, and decreased executive functioning and IQ compared to non-using controls. Overall, co-use findings suggest more pronounced effects related to alcohol use than to cannabis use. Several limitations exist in the literature. Sample sizes are relatively small and demographically homogenous, with significant heterogeneity in substance use patterns and methodologies across studies. More research is needed to clarify how substance dosing and interactions between substances, as well as sociodemographic and environmental factors, affect outcomes. Larger longitudinal studies, already underway, will help clarify the relationship between brain development and substance use.

    To read the full text of the article, please visit the publisher’s website.

    Increased Risk for COVID-19 Breakthrough Infection in Fully Vaccinated Patients with Substance Use Disorders in the United States between December 2020 and August 2021

    Journal: World Psychiatry, 2021, doi: 10.1002/wps.20921

    Author: Lindsey Wang, Quan Qiu Wang, Pamela B. Davis, Nora D. Volkow & Rong Xu


    Individuals with substance use disorders (SUDs) are at increased risk for COVID-19 infection and for adverse outcomes of the infection. Though vaccines are highly effective against COVID-19, their effectiveness in individuals with SUDs might be curtailed by compromised immune status and a greater likelihood of exposures, added to the waning vaccine immunity and the new SARS-CoV-2 variants. In a population-based cohort study, we assessed the risk, time trends, outcomes and disparities of COVID-19 breakthrough infection in fully vaccinated SUD patients starting 14 days after completion of vaccination. The study included 579,372 individuals (30,183 with a diagnosis of SUD and 549,189 without such a diagnosis) who were fully vaccinated between December 2020 and August 2021, and had not contracted COVID-19 infection prior to vaccination. We used the TriNetX Analytics network platform to access de-identified electronic health records from 63 health care organizations in the US. Among SUD patients, the risk for breakthrough infection ranged from 6.8% for tobacco use disorder to 7.8% for cannabis use disorder, all significantly higher than the 3.6% in non-SUD population (p<0.001). Breakthrough infection risk remained significantly higher after controlling for demographics (age, gender, ethnicity) and vaccine types for all SUD subtypes, except for tobacco use disorder, and was highest for cocaine and cannabis use disorders (hazard ratio, HR=2.06, 95% CI: 1.30-3.25 for cocaine; HR=1.92, 95% CI: 1.39-2.66 for cannabis). When we matched SUD and non-SUD individuals for lifetime comorbidities and adverse socioeconomic determinants of health, the risk for breakthrough infection no longer differed between these populations, except for patients with cannabis use disorder, who remained at increased risk (HR=1.55, 95% CI: 1.22-1.99). The risk for breakthrough infection was higher in SUD patients who received the Pfizer than the Moderna vaccine (HR=1.49, 95% CI: 1.31-1.69). In the vaccinated SUD population, the risk for hospitalization was 22.5% for the breakthrough cohort and 1.6% for the non-breakthrough cohort (risk ratio, RR=14.4, 95% CI: 10.19-20.42), while the risk for death was 1.7% and 0.5% respectively (RR=3.5, 95% CI: 1.74-7.05). No significant age, gender and ethnic disparities for breakthrough infection were observed in vaccinated SUD patients. These data suggest that fully vaccinated SUD individuals are at higher risk for breakthrough COVID-19 infection, and this is largely due to their higher prevalence of comorbidities and adverse socioeconomic determinants of health compared with non-SUD individuals. The high frequency of comorbidities in SUD patients is also likely to contribute to their high rates of hospitalization and death following breakthrough infection.

    To read the full text of the article, please visit the publisher’s website.


    October 2021