Marijuana: The Next Diabetes Drug?

Close Up Of Marijuana Leaf
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Toking up may help marijuana users to stay slim and lower their risk of developing diabetes, according to the latest study, which suggests that cannabis compounds may help in controlling blood sugar.

Although marijuana has a well-deserved reputation for increasing appetite via what stoners call “the munchies,” the new research [PDF], which was published in the American Journal of Medicine, is not the first to find that the drug has a two-faced relationship to weight. Three prior studies have shown that marijuana users are less likely to be obese, have a lower risk for diabetes and have lower body mass index (BMI) measurements. And these trends occurred despite the fact that they seemed to take in more calories.

Why? “The most important finding is that current users of marijuana appeared to have better carbohydrate metabolism than non-users,” says Murray Mittleman, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the lead author of the study. “Their fasting insulin levels were lower, and they appeared to be less resistant to the insulin produced by their body to maintain a normal blood sugar level.”

The research included over 4,600 men and women participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2005 and 2010.  Among them, 48% had smoked marijuana at least once in their lives and 12% were current cannabis smokers. The authors controlled for other factors like age, sex, income, alcohol use, cigarette smoking and physical activity that could also affect diabetes risk.

Even after these adjustments, the current marijuana users showed fasting insulin levels that were 16% lower than those of former or never-users, along with a 17% reduction in another measure of insulin resistance as well. Higher levels on both tests are associated with Type II diabetes, which is linked with obesity. Marijuana users also had higher levels of HDL, the so-called “good” cholesterol, which can protect against heart disease. And the regular smokers also boasted smaller waistlines: on average, they were 1.5 inches slimmer than the former users and those who had never smoked cannabis.

Researchers don’t yet know how to explain these correlations — and since the study was not a controlled trial, it’s not clear whether marijuana or some other factor in marijuana users’ lifestyles actually accounted for the beneficial effects. Studies showed, however, that the cannabinoid brain receptors affected by marijuana are deeply involved in appetite and metabolism. But the exact details of how the compound alters the relationship between appetite, caloric intake and insulin response isn’t obvious yet.

One clue, however, may lie in the effects of a diet drug that was developed to have the opposite effect that marijuana has on the brain. That drug, rimonabant, produced significant weight loss and a drop in fasting insulin levels by affecting certain cannabinoid receptors in in the exact opposite way that THC, marijuana’s main psychoactive ingredient, does.  This action is complex:  rimonabant doesn’t simply block the receptor and keep the natural cannabinoids from activating it.  Instead, while the natural cannabinoids elevate the normal level of activity already going on in the system; rimonabant lowers it so the result is precisely the reverse of activating the receptor naturally. However, due to psychiatric side effects like increasing suicide risk, rimonabant was pulled from the European market and never approved in the U.S.

MORE: Reverse Engineering the Marijuana ‘Munchies’: What Causes Binge Eating?

How could both marijuana and a compound that has the the opposite effect of pot act on the same brain receptors and lead to weight loss? Natural marijuana includes many different potentially active compounds, and one of them— rather than THC— could be responsible for this effect.  One potential candidate is a substance called cannabidiol or CBD, which also affects cannabinoid receptors, but in a different way than THC or rimonabant does.

Another possibility involves tolerance: repeated use of a drug can make receptors less sensitive over time. “The most likely explanation is that prolonged cannabis use causes the [receptors] to lose sensitivity and become inactive,” says Daniele Piomelli, a professor of pharmacology at the University of California-Irvine, who was not associated with the new research, “This has been shown to happen in people who smoke marijuana. This weakening of the [these receptors] translates into a lower risk for obesity and diabetes because the inactive receptor would be unable to respond to our own cannabis-like molecules, which we know are important in keeping us chubby.” While marijuana may initially promote appetite and overeating, in the long run it has the opposite effect because it desensitizes cannabinoid receptors and may even protect against obesity.

So don’t skip the gym and break out the bong just yet: there’s still not enough data to tell whether marijuana, like alcohol, could have health benefits in moderation. Mittleman says that the study relied on self-reported use of marijuana, which can be unreliable. However, he points out that since people are more likely to hide drug use than they are to falsely claim it, the findings could even underestimate marijuana’s effects.

MOREMarijuana Slims? Why Pot Smokers Are Less Obese

But whether that’s true, and whether marijuana might be a window into understanding how to best control glucose and insulin to prevent diabetes, isn’t known yet. “It is much too early to say,” says Mittleman, “We need much more research to better understand the biologic responses to marijuana use. We really need more research to allow physicians and patients to make decisions based on solid evidence.” An editorial [PDF] that accompanied the study also urged government action to reduce barriers to such research.

Even with 18 states now approving marijuana for medical uses, the politics of pot will always shadow research efforts to understand how cannabinoids work in the brain—or affect disease. But, as Piomelli says, “The [new] study suggests that smoking marijuana [may] protect people against obesity and diabetes.” And following up on that finding could yield new insights into how to tackle one of our biggest public health issues.

420 DUDE – Let's skin up!

Today is a very special day in the junkie calendar as across the globe the unwashed and unmotivated unite in order to ignite and celebrate 420 – an official holiday dedicated to dope heads.

All around the world, but in particular in the US, groups of pot heads are likely to spark up and toke to commemorate all the good that weed does around the world.

If they can motivate themselves to get out of bed that is.

Stoners all over the world skin up for 420

In past years, large groups of people have gathered together in order to smoke marijuana on 420, especially and surprisingly on college campuses and on Hippy Hill in San Fran.

Students? Hippies? Stoned?

According to Steven Hager of High Times magazine the term 420 was coined by a group of Californian teenagers in the early seventies. The pesky kids met in order to look for a marijuana crop they’d heard rumours of. Repeated excursions to locate the crop led them to meet daily at 4:20 pm.

Scooby Doo? Dooby Doo more like.

Since then, the term grew in popularity and became shortened to 420 – a term short enough that even stoners could remember it, until it became a common term within drug subculture.

‘I believe 420 is a ritualization of cannabis use that holds deep meaning for our subculture. It also points us in a direction for the responsible use of cannabis,’ mumbled Hager, possibly through a toxic fog. Apparently. Maybe.

[adsense]Pro drug campaigners have chosen the day as a time for protestation and to campaign for the decriminalization of the drug. And some people just get together to have a bit of a spliff and talk deep shit/plain rubbish, of no interest to anyone, not also in a stupor, and to repeat themselves because they can’t remember that they’ve already said what they just said – just.

That’s happened to me several times.

As a liberal minded individual, I like to think that we should all have the right to decide whether we want to smoke something that makes us stupid or more stupid or not. There are other, way more pernicious drugs infiltrating our malls and colleges, but the ‘happy and harmless’ drug is not as beneficial as some would have us believe. Many times it really is a catalyst that stimulates us to find the ever elusive and more powerful high, just as beer drinking can lead to marinating ourselves in a bath of hot vodka and doing octopus rolls down Madison Avenue, wearing nothing but sick.

That happened to me but only once.

Bob Marley kicks back and enjoys a spliff after writing a new song. Remember he's famous for music - mainly.

Some states in the US permit the use of marijuana – which has been used as an effective pain killer since agony first gained popularity and Neanderthal man’s digits became adept enough that he could piece rolling papers together and daintily lick the adhesive strip, without eating the entire assembly.

Expect to hear a lot of Bob Marley today and remember to keep a stash of dirty needles as ‘International Smack Day’ (the Martini drug of choice for abusers) is soon to follow.

Please share your thoughts on pot smoking and the rally for legalization by leaving a comment.

Read about some famous pot smokers like Rhys Ifans; Stephen Gately, Natalie Portman, George Michael and Mike Starr.

images: glitterngasoline.blogspot.com; sn3akrfr3akr.blogspot.com; vandalm.com

Natalie Portman reveals she is no stranger to smoking weed

Place Natalie Portman next to the Lindsay Lohans of the world and it’s clear that the Oscar-winning actress has something many of her contemporaries will never be able to associate with her name: a clean-cut image.  And so the mother-to-be’s latest revelations may come as somewhat as a surprise to her adoring fans…

Never one to be seen photographed stumbling drunkenly on the party scene or flashing her panties, Natalie is however not all good girl. The 29 year old, who recently scooped up THE award of the year in the world of acting for her role in the ballet psychothriller Black Swan, has opted for some lighter material and will be hitting the screens soon in two “stoner comedies”.

One can’t help but wonder – does Natalie have any experience with the drug? The answer is a resounding yes.  In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the star revealed how her days as a Harvard student left her no stranger to cannabis, also known as marijuana, and according to the UN, the “most widely used illicit substance in the world”.

“I love stoner comedies. I smoked weed in college, but I haven’t smoked in years,” she said.

“I’m too old. I wish I was that cool, but I’m like an old lady now. I’m in bed by 10 p.m. I can’t do that anymore.”

In the medieval comedy Your Highness, which will be released this month, Natalie plays a mysterious warrior who joins a prince and his party-loving, weed-smoking brother on his mission to rescue his fiancée from an evil sorcerer.

[adsense]In Bed Buds, not only starring but also produced by natalie, she will play a bride-to-be who decides to throw her wedding plans in the air and go on a marijuana-fuelled road trip with her two best friends.

Read here about Natalie’s portrayal of psychosis in Black Swan and her role as a commitment phobic in No Stings Attached.

Images: Wikimedia Commons

Willie Nelson charged with possession of marijuana

Legendary Singer Willie Nelson was yesterday charged with possession of Marijuana after 6 ounces were found on his tour bus.  A Texas border patrol spokesman told the press that during a routine check an officer could smell pot and a search of the bus revealed the sizeable marijuana haul.

Bill Brooks, a border patrol spokesman, said that at about 9am on Friday the bus pulled into the Sierra Blanca checkpoint and an officer smelled pot when a door was opened. A thorough search resulted in officers finding the marijuana.

According to Brooks the Hudspeth County sheriff was called to the scene whereupon Nelson and two others were arrested.

Sheriff Arvin West later told the El Paso Times that Nelson had claimed ownership of all the marijuana.  Nelson was held in custody for a short while but after paying a $2500 bond the singer was released.

Nelson’s spokeswoman Elaine Schock has so far declined to comment on the incident despite several emails from the Associated Press.

Willie Hugh Nelson was born in Abbot, Texas on April 30, 1933, and is one of the country’s most respected artists.  At the grand age of 77 he is still writing and performing live, and his past life has been spent as a writer, musician, poet and political activist. His fame reached monumental proportions during the outlaw country movement of the 1970s, and he is still regarded as iconic in American popular culture.

Willie Nelson continues to tour and he has ranked alongside such prestigious names as Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Dave Matthews. He also continues writing and recording albums at a prolific rate, often experimentally crossing genres which blend his unique style with reggae, blues, jazz, folk, and popular music.

Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

Read about other celebs with drug offences such as Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Rapper TI, Charlie Sheen and Lief Garrett.

Images: 411mania.com, the9513.com

Rhys Ifans joins Spiderman Reboot

Welsh actor Rhys Ifans has accepted the role of an as yet unnamed super villain in the new Spiderman Reboot movie.  The growing cast list also includes Andrew Garfield (Red Riding, Boy A) as Peter Parker / Spidey, and Emma Stone (Superbad, Zombieland) as Gwen Stacey.

The 43 year old born in Haverfordwest, Wales is lauded for his versatility and Sony pictures are hoping his experience will bring some added spice to the series.  Ifans is soon to appear as Xenophilius Lovegood in the final instalment of the Harry Potter series (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows).

Although considered a prestige actor he is also remembered for his time with Welsh band “Super Furry Animals”, an indie flavoured guitar driven pop malady who penned simplistic songs like “Do or die”.

He is also quite outspoken, having recently upset the NSPCC at an anti-slavery benefit where he was chastised for making a paedophile joke and subsequently made a public apology.

He is currently campaigning for the legalisation of marijuana having claimed that “everyone” enjoys smoking drug laced cigarettes from time to time.  During an interview with the London Evening Standard he said, “In the past we have had a little smoke, the odd toke. I didn’t inhale though. Howard [Marks] still has a smoke. Everyone has a little smoke once in a while, you know. It’s one of life’s little pleasures.”

“I agree with Howard on this. You look at any culture and prohibition has invariably been unmitigated failure. It is just idiotic to criminalise any substance, I think. It needs to be controlled, managed.”

“If you legalise something then you use the taxation from the sale of that drug to help people who become addicted to those substances. It is not going to go away. The war on drugs is being lost on a daily basis.”

What are your thoughts about Ifans being cast as a supervillain?  And what of his ideas on cannabis, should it be legalised? Let us know.

See our articles on Superhero Psyche, former Mary Jane Watson actress Kirsten Dunst, Iron Man star Robert Downey Jr. and Dark Knight’s Heath Ledger.

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Kirsten Dunst and her smoking habit

Kirsten Caroline Dunst, an American actress, model, and singer previously strived to make a good impression by not smoking real cigarettes in her movies. Kirsten, who gained widespread recognition playing the role of vampire Claudia in ‘Interview With A Vampire’, believes that smoking in films creates a bad impact on teenagers and children.

The star believed cigarettes to be an addiction and once confessed she was bothered to see her friends smoke. Flixster.com quotes the actress as having said: “Everybody smokes! Models, actresses, everyone! Don’t they realize that it’s gross? I understand it’s an addiction, but it still pains me to see my friends do it.”

Thus, whenever Kirsten has to smoke for a character, she makes sure that they’re fake cigarettes. Smokingsides.com quotes the ‘Bring It On’ star as once having said in an interview: “I always try to make a good impression by not smoking real cigarettes in film-I’ll only use herbal cigarettes. I don’t ever want a young person to see me smoking in a scene and think it’s cool.”

But Kirsten, who has achieved international fame for the portrayal of Mary Jane Watson in the ‘Spiderman’ trilogy, has been often criticized for the smoking habit she developed in “real life” in recent years.

“I tried smoking once. Hated it. I don’t want to infect myself with cancer,” she told Night & Day Magazine in 2001. Now, nine years later, and apparently none-the-wiser, it is clear Kirsten smokes.

Click here to see the star with a cigarette.

In 2007, Kirsten made an announcement: she likes smoking marijuana and thinks “the world would be a better place” if everyone did it. Starpulse.com quoted the then-24 year old star as saying: “I drink moderately, I’ve tried drugs. I do like weed. I have a different outlook on marijuana than America does. My best friend Sasha’s dad was Carl Sagan, the astronomer. He was the biggest pot smoker in the world and he was a genius.

“I’ve never been a major smoker, but I think America’s view on weed is ridiculous. I mean – are you kidding me? If everyone smoked weed, the world would be a better place.”

Image: prphotos.com

Brad Pitt quits smoking for his kids

Brad readily admitted that not only did he smoke, but he also enjoyed it, and succumbed to his pleasure quite often. It is not only cigarettes we are talking about here; the ‘Fight Club’ star used to regularly enjoy smoking marijuana. However it was his new parental responsibilities that lead him to make the change. “I’m a dad now. You want to be alert and my eyes used to glaze over when I did that,” Stop Smoking quotes him as saying recently. While he was taking the drug, he felt that it turned him into a “nut” due to his intensive habit.

“I quit smoking. That [the kids] was the only thing that got me to quit. That was it. Done.”

However, the ‘Inglorious Basterds’ star was something of an idler before and used to smoke too much.

He admits that his own mortality frightens him: “I am scared of the idea of death,” he said and he acknowledges that becoming a father inspired him to give up his deadly 20-year-long habit. He has thanked his children, namely Maddox, 7, Pax, 5, Zahara, 4, Shiloh, 3, and twins Knox and Vivienne, 1, for helping him achieve his long overdue resolution to stop smoking.

By quitting smoking Brad has undeniably set a very good example to youngsters and his fans.

Today, the 46-year-old enjoys the life of a father to six, lover to Angelina Jolie, and one of the sexiest men in the world, albeit in a healthy manner.

Other celebrities who have quit smoking include Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Aniston, Gisele Bundchen and Ewan McGregor.

We also recommend you read our article on the damage smoking can cause to your body.

Image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Brad_Pitt_palm_film_festival.jpg;
Author: Maggie (maggiejumps)

Michael Phelps says he has ’learnt’ from his marijuana mistake

Michael Phelps is the golden boy of American sports. Having been marginalised at school by his peers and teachers, the once shy ADHD sufferer found refuge in the pool, The Times wrote. 14 Olympic gold medals later, including a record-breaking 8 during the Games in Beijing in 2008, Phelps became a worldwide sensation. But this newfound fame brought with it an increased interest from the media.

In February, British tabloid News of the World, published a front-page story with a picture showing the then 23-year-old inhaling from a bong, a device used to smoke marijuana. The incident, which Phelps would later go on to describe as “regretabble“ and a demonstration of “bad judgment“, cost him a major sponsorship deal with Kellogg. Susanne Norwitz, spokeswoman for the food company, announced that “Michael’s most recent behavior is not consistent with the image of Kellogg”, and that the swimmer would thus not be seeing his contract renewed, The New York Times reported.

Furthermore, USA Swimming publicly reprimanded Phelps by cutting off his monthly stipend and banning him from competing for the next three months.

The News of the World story acquired the photo through a source present at a party in South Carolina University, attended by the Olympic champion in November last year. The insider told the paper: “He was out of control from the moment he got there … If he continues to party like that I’d be amazed if he ever won any more medals again.“

Michael_Phelps_Ryan_Lochte_Laszlo_Cseh_medals_2008_Olympics

Michael Phelps (centre) with Ryan Lochte and Laszlo Cseh at the 2008 Olympics

Michael Phelps, who reportedly knocked back beers and spirit shots at the student party, is said to have no hesitated when he was offered the bong. A source told the news provider: “You could tell Michael had smoked before. He grabbed the bong and a lighter and knew exactly what to do … He looked just as natural with a bong in his hands as he does swimming in the pool.“

Undoubtedly, the event was a blow to the athlete’s reputation. However, today, his mind is back on swimming and his eyes firmly set on the London 2012 Olympics, according to The Times. In an exclusive interview, Phelps revealed that he has taken away some important lessons:

“Sport has become more and more public and I think that once you have got to a certain level you have to accept that the press is going to be interested in your private life. Of course, that means you have to be more careful about the people around you and who you are going to trust. But it also means that you have to learn from your mistakes. I hope I have done that.“

Other former marijuana smokers include actress Drew Barrymore, singer Stephen Gately and music legend Melissa Etheridge, who admitted to using the drug for medicinal purposes during her breast cancer battle.

Image: © BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons

Bob Marley: Could he have prevented his cancer death?

Reggae legend Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley died from cancer on May 11th 1981 aged 36. The illness stemmed from a toe injury acquired by the former Wailers singer during a football game in May 1977. Marley refused to have his toe amputated, due to his Rastafari belief that the body must remain “whole”, even after doctors found a form of malignant melanoma – a less common and very serious type of skin cancer – in his wound in July of that year. Despite his distrust of medical doctors, he let an orthopaedic surgeon perform a skin graft on his toe. However, the cancer continued to grow and eventually spread to his lungs, liver, stomach and brain. Marley collapsed while jogging in New York’s Central Park after playing two shows as part of his autumn 1980 Uprising Tour. The tour was cancelled, but Marley played one last concert at the Stanley Theatre in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on September 23rd 1980. The famous live version of his “Redemption Song” was recorded at this concert.

Bob MarleyTowards the end of his life, Marley sought the help of German physician Josef Issels, who offered an alternative treatment of cancer. “The Issels Treatment” is based on holistic principles and involves eliminating certain substances from the diet, having specialised vaccines and  vitamin supplements, and chelation and enzymatic therapies. The method is unapproved in the UK and deemed ineffective by the American Cancer Society. Marley died shortly afterwards, during a stop-over in a Miami hospital, whilst on his way back to Jamaica from Germany. It is said to be the brain tumour that eventually killed him, though it may also have been the lung or stomach cancer. The star refused to write a will, because he believed that doing so would go against the Rastafari belief that life is “everlasting”. Ferocious legal battles between Marley’s children ensued as a result of this.

To this day, Bob Marley remains the most widely known and reverred performer of reggae music in the world. The singer-songwriter is also hailed for helping the spread of Jamaican music and the Rastafari Movement, of which he remained a committed follower till his death. In 1994 Marley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in 2001 he was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Other celebrities who died of cancer include Ingrid BergmanFarrah FawcettPatrick Swayze and George Harrison