2013 brought great strides in cannabis science and drug policy, and more optimistic research continues to roll in. Old myths have been busted, new potentials realized, and known benefits are confirmed again and again. We can only eagerly imagine what 2014 has in store: here’s to another year of research, discovery, and progress in medical cannabis!

1. Psychosis

A Harvard study debunking the popular prohibition myth of cannabis-induced schizophrenia rekindled some debate around the subject of psychosis. Another recent study takes this controversy one step further, claiming that one compound found in cannabis — cannabidiol — actually combats psychosis. The discoveries in this study may contribute to developments in treating Parkinson’s, ketamine-induced psychosis, and (wait for it) schizophrenia.

2. Erectile Dysfunction

Watch out, Viagra: it looks like cannabis might help in the bedroom in more ways than we know. Erectile dysfunction is commonly caused by weakened blood flow and tissue damage, but in a recent study of mice, these damages improved with activation of certain cannabinoid receptors. Previous studies found that other cannabinoid receptors in the brain interfere with sexual functioning when activated, but these newest findings suggest that cannabis could provide long-term prevention of erectile dysfunction when properly targeted.

3. Epilepsy

It’s hard to forget the story of Charlotte Figi, a five-year-old whose Dravet syndrome was successfully treated with a CBD-rich cannabis extract. More parents are following in the Figi footsteps, and a recent survey published in Epilepsy & Behavior found that 15 out of 18 epileptic children treated with CBD (cannabidiol) had significantly reduced seizures and virtually no side effects. The leader of this study, Catherine Jacobson, PhD, is now conducting clinical trials on a CBD extract, Epidiolex, which has been approved by the FDA for experimental use.

4. Cardiac Arrest

You know the winds of change are blowing when researchers come out saying cannabis compounds literally save lives. In a new study published in Critical Care Medicine, rats undergoing cardiac arrest showed improved survival time with IV-administered cannabinoids. Individuals may be resuscitated from cardiac arrest by lowering the body’s temperature, and in this study, the cannabinoid WIN55-212 was able to reduce blood temperatures from 37°C to 33°C in four hours.

Fun fact: All of the images in this Medical Minute are Edvard Munch paintings. Header: “The Sun”; Erectile Dysfunction: “Separation”; Psychosis: “The Scream”; Epilepsy: “Four Girls at Asgardstrand”; Cardiac Arrest: “Death Struggle”


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