All posts tagged: Science

In Seattle US old-timers rediscover the high life on cannabis tours

Retirement home residents take a trip to a producer

Forget bingo, tea dances and seaside trips. Residents from a chain of Seattle retirement homes are going on Pot for Beginners tours to learn about and buy cannabis in the city, where its now legal.

Connie Schick said her son roared with laughter when he heard she was joining a field trip to a cannabis-growing operation, an extraction plant and shop. The 79-year-old, who smoked the odd joint in the 70s, wanted to know how legalisation has changed the way the drug is used and produced.

Schick was one of eight women, from their late 60s to mid-80s, who descended from a minibus emblazoned with the name of their assisted living centre, El Dorado West, outside Vela cannabis store last Tuesday.

You can only play so many games of bingo, said Schick. My son thought it was hilarious that I was coming here, but Im open-minded and want to stay informed. Cannabis has come so far from the days when you smoked a sly joint and got into trouble if they found out. We used to call it hemp then and didnt know its strength. It just used to make me sleepy, so I didnt see the point.

Schick, who uses a wheelchair after suffering a stroke, is interested in the therapeutic effects of cannabis. Its so different now. There are so many ways you can take it, and all these different types to help with aches and pains.

They used to say it was a gateway drug to other things, like cocaine Lots of peoples views are changing.

Certainly, the number of people aged 65 or older taking cannabis in the US is growing. The proportion of this age group who reported cannabis use in the past year rose more than tenfold from 0.2% to 2.1% between 2002 and 2014, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. A Gallup poll last year showed that 3% of those over 65 smoke cannabis.

Much of this is attributed to the ageing of the baby-boomer generation, who dabbled with the drug when they were young and are returning to it for medical or recreational use as it becomes legal and more normalised. Cannabis is now legal for medical use in 29 states and for medical and recreational use in eight (since 2012 in Seattle and the rest of Washington state).

Most of the women on the tour were more interested in the medical use, although Denise Roux, 67, said: I would like to buy it to get high too but Im a cheap high, it doesnt take much.

A seminar over sandwiches was held for thegroup as they sat in front of the large windows of the cultivation room, where they could see scores of plants growing under intense lighting.

They were told about the different strains: uplifting sativa plants and more sedating indicas. They learned about tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which gives a high, and cannabidiol (CBD) which does not, making CBD-rich cannabis appealing for medical use. A scientist in a lab coat who worked in the processing facility spoke about terpenes fragrant oils secreted by glands in the flower that give strains their different smells and flavours. Vials were sniffed and various ways to take cannabis were also covered, including smoking, vaporising and eating it.

Roux, a retired administrative assistant, said: Im a big Google girl, but I wanted to talk to people who know about it so I can understand it all better. I have an autoimmune disease, which stops my appetite, and Im interested in marijuana from that standpoint. She added she had used cannabis recreationally in the 80s and had returned to it to help with her illness. I use a vape. It makes me sleepy and its a pain control, and it gives me an appetite.

After the briefing, it was time for shopping. The store looked like an upmarket jewellers, with muted lighting and art on the walls, except the glass cabinets in the store were stocked with pre-rolled joints, edibles including chocolates and sweets, vape pens and bags of different strains of cannabis rather than diamond rings and necklaces.

Darlene Johnson, 85, a former nurse, perused their contents. On the advice of a bearded bud tender, she bought a deep tissue and joint gel and a tincture to put in drinks, which she hopes will help with her severe neck pain. I wanted a non-psychoactive option, she said. I dont want to get high. I used to work in the emergency room and saw people come in sick from taking too many drugs, though not usually marijuana.

Her friend, Nancy Mitchell, 80, has never tried cannabis. She has MS and had read that cannabis could help with her symptoms. I wanted to know more details, she said. My kids keep telling me, Mom, try it. I dont want to smoke things, but I see there are other ways.

Smoking is not allowed at El Dorado West. Village Concepts, which runs the chain, has a no-smoking policy and it is illegal to consume cannabis in public in the state.

The chains director of corporate development, Tracy Willis, said: There was one man who was smoking it on his patio and he refused to stop, so he had to leave. If youre using an edible, we dont have any issue with it, thats your own business. We treat it as a recreational thing.

The tours began in response to questions from residents.They wanted to know where it was sold, how much money was made from it, where it was grown, said Willis. Weve had a good reaction [to the tours] from nine out of 10 relatives, but some are horrified. One angry daughter said we were encouraging marijuana use. Her mother told her to butt out.

Participants
Participants on the tour learned about different ways to use cannabis. Photograph: Jason Redmond/Reuters

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jul/01/seattle-retirement-home-cannabis-tours

Marissa SafontIn Seattle US old-timers rediscover the high life on cannabis tours
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Study finds mushrooms are the safest recreational drug

People taking mushrooms in 2016 needed medical treatment less than for MDMA, LSD and cocaine, while one of the riskiest drugs was synthetic cannabis

Mushrooms are the safest of all the drugs people take recreationally, according to this years Global Drug Survey.

Of the more than 12,000 people who reported taking psilocybin hallucinogenic mushrooms in 2016, just 0.2% of them said they needed emergency medical treatment a rate at least five times lower than that for MDMA, LSD and cocaine.

Magic mushrooms are one of the safest drugs in the world, said Adam Winstock, a consultant addiction psychiatrist and founder of the Global Drug Survey, pointing out that the bigger risk was people picking and eating the wrong mushrooms.

Death from toxicity is almost unheard of with poisoning with more dangerous fungi being a much greater risk in terms of serious harms.

Global Drug Survey 2017, with almost 120,000 participants in 50 countries, is the worlds biggest annual drug survey, with questions that cover the types of substances people take, patterns of use and whether they experienced any negative effects.

Overall, 28,000 people said they had taken magic mushrooms at some point in their lives, with 81.7% seeking a moderate psychedelic experience and the enhancement of environment and social interactions.

The
The Global Drug Survey 2017 reveals the percentage of people who reported taking certain drugs in the last 12 months who also sought emergency medical treatment. Photograph: Global Drug Survey 2017

Magic mushrooms arent completely harmless, notes Winstock. Combined use with alcohol and use within risky or unfamiliar settings increase the risks of harm most commonly accidental injury, panic and short lived confusion, disorientation and fears of losing ones mind.

In some cases people can experience panic attacks and flashbacks, he added, so his advice for people thinking about taking them is to plan your trip carefully with trusted company in a safe place and always know what mushrooms you are using.

Even bad trips can have positive outcomes, according to a separate piece of research carried out by Roland Griffiths and Robert Jesse at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

In their 2016 paper they surveyed almost 2,000 individuals about their single most psychologically difficult or challenging experience with magic mushrooms. Of that group, 2.7% received medical help and 7.6% sought treatment for enduring psychological symptoms. Nevertheless 84% of those surveyed said they benefitted from the experience.

In a way, its not really so surprising, said Griffiths in a Q&A about the paper. When we look back on challenging life events we wouldnt choose, like a bout with a major disease, a harrowing experience while rock-climbing, or a painful divorce, sometimes we feel later that the difficult experience made us notably stronger or wiser. We might even come to value what happened.

Outside of recreational use, magic mushrooms have been shown in clinical trials to treat severe depression and anxiety.

Of the almost 10,000 LSD consumers who took part in GDS 2017, around 1% of them 95 individuals reported seeking emergency medical treatment, five times more than those who took magic mushrooms.

LSD is such a potent drug, said Winstock. Its so difficult to dose accurately when tabs you buy vary so widely. Its easy to take too much and have an experience beyond the one you were expecting.

He added that drug manufacturers are starting to incorporate novel super potent psychedelics such as NBOMe into tabs, which adds to the risk. He suggests making efforts to get a reliable, trustworthy supply and always take a tiny dose to start, waiting a few hours before taking more.

One of the riskiest drugs, according to the survey, was synthetic cannabis. Over one in 30 of users in the sample sought emergency medical treatment the highest of any drug studied except crystal methamphetamine. That rises to one in 10 among people who use the drug at least 50 times per year. These figures echo the data from the previous years report.

Synthetic cannabis, sold as spice and black mamba, is an umbrella term for hundreds of chemical compounds that mimic the effects of THC, the active ingredient of cannabis, in the brain. These synthetic forms are often extremely potent, cheap and odourless, which has led to them flooding the market in the US and Europe. Theyve been particularly popular in prisons in the UK, where theyve had a devastating impact and have been linked to deaths, serious illness and episodes of self-harm among inmates.

Brad Burge from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (Maps) urged caution on relying on peoples self reports for data as people often take multiple drugs at the same time, so you cant be sure which one is causing the problem.

He also highlighted that seeking emergency medical treatment means different things for different drugs. With a drug such as heroin, a trip to the emergency room is a life-or-death situation requiring resuscitation and medication. With LSD or mushrooms, there is no toxicity and the effects wear after a few hours.

There is no known lethal dose for LSD or pure psilocybin, he said.

Both Winstock and Burge said that the findings indicate a need for drug policy reform, with a focus on shifting psychedelics off the schedule one list of the most dangerous controlled substances.

Drug laws need to balance the positives and problems they can create in society and well crafted laws should nudge people to find the right balance for themselves, said Winstock.

People dont tend to abuse psychedelics, they dont get dependent, they dont rot every organ from head to toe, and many would cite their impact upon their life as profound and positive. But you need to know how to use them.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/may/23/study-hallucinogenic-mushrooms-safest-recreational-drug-lsd

Marissa SafontStudy finds mushrooms are the safest recreational drug
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