Thursday, April 26, 2018

UC San Diego Receives $4.7M Gift for Medical Cannabis Research




Funding will support first of its kind, multi-disciplinary research
 on autism spectrum disorders at the
 Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research
 at UC San Diego School of Medicine

Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that affects an estimated 1 in 68 children in the United States, yet treatment options are limited. Could cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis, hold clues for developing effective therapies? Thanks to a major gift from the Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation, researchers at the University of California San Diego will embark on a multidisciplinary study to investigate the potential of cannabidiol as a treatment for severe autism. The award was given in partnership with and based on recommendations the Noorda Foundation received from the Wholistic Research and Education Foundation.  
The $4.7 million gift to the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) at UC San Diego School of Medicine is the largest private gift to date for medicinal cannabis research in the United States. The funding will support translational research to investigate whether medicinal cannabinoid therapies can alleviate symptoms in children with severe autism—and if so, how.   The groundbreaking study spans clinical, basic science, advanced mathematics and genetic techniques across the same cohort of patients, offering a comprehensive and systematic exploration of CBD efficacy on autism.
“UC San Diego is pleased to partner with the Noorda and Wholistic foundations to advance understanding of when and how medicinal cannabis works, and to use this information to transform the lives of the many people for whom medicinal cannabis may make a meaningful difference in their quality of life,” said David A. Brenner, MD, vice chancellor of UC San Diego Health Sciences. “We believe that by working together using evidence-based data, we can make the greatest impact on the field, our community and policy decision-makers.”
While the causes of autism are still not fully understood, a number of abnormalities have been identified in the brains of individuals with autism, including lower levels of available serotonin, a brain chemical associated with mood regulation; an imbalance between excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters; and irregular organization of brain networks.  Cannabidiol or CBD has a number of effects on the central nervous system which may be relevant to autism, including correcting imbalances in certain neurotransmitters, enhancing activity of endocannabinoids (neurotransmitters that modulate mood, memory and a variety of cognitive processes), modifying neural network signaling and protecting against neuroinflammation.
“The more severe manifestations of autism are difficult to treat, causing parents to look for non-traditional remedies,” said Igor Grant, MD, professor of psychiatry and CMCR director. “There are unconfirmed reports that cannabidiol could be helpful, but there are no careful studies to document either its benefits or its safety. This gift will enable our researchers to develop and implement a translational program of research that pairs a clinical trial with detailed neurobehavioral observation, as well as basic science studies to determine if cannabidiol holds therapeutic promise, and if so, via what mechanisms.”
The clinical study will be led by Doris Trauner, MD, a professor in the departments of Pediatrics and Neurosciences at the UC San Diego School of Medicine. Basic and translational research will be headed by Gabriel A. Silva, PhD, professor of bioengineering in the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering and professor of neurosciences, and Alysson Muotri, PhD, professor in the UC San Diego School of Medicine departments of Pediatrics and Cellular and Molecular Medicine.
“Given numerous anecdotal reports from parents suggesting CBD may be improving their child’s functioning, we are thrilled to partner with UC San Diego to understand under what circumstances CBD may be effective for autism, and why it seems to help certain individuals and not others”, said Pelin Thorogood, president and co-founder of Wholistic Research and Education Foundation.   “This is especially exciting since the multi-disciplinary approach employed by UC San Diego, combining clinical, basic and translational data across the same group of children, has the best chance of helping us understand the role of the endocannabinoid system in the treatment of autism.”
The CMCR at UC San Diego has been at the forefront of science and policy related to medicinal cannabis for nearly two decades. The center was established in 2000 after passage of California Senate Bill 847, which called for a program to oversee objective, high-quality medical research to advance understanding of the therapeutic value of marijuana. Its first studies looked at the potential benefits of cannabis for easing certain types of chronic pain, as well as severe muscle spasticity. Ongoing studies continue examining cannabinoids in pain management, as well as their effects on bipolar disorder and driving performance.
The gift from the Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation contributes to the Campaign for UC San Diego, a comprehensive $2 billion fundraising effort to transform the student experience, the campus and, ultimately, the way humanity approaches problems and develops solutions. Learn more at campaign.ucsd.edu.
About The Campaign for UC San Diego
At the University of California San Diego, challenging convention is our most cherished tradition. As one of the top 15 research universities in the world, UC San Diego is blazing a path to a better future. The Campaign for UC San Diego is a $2 billion comprehensive fundraising effort to transform the student experience, our campus, and ultimately the world. With philanthropic partnership, we will continue the nontradition as we impact lives here and across the globe. #GiveUCSD. #ContinueTheNonTradition. Learn more at campaign.ucsd.edu.
About Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation
The Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation (RTNF) is a philanthropic foundation based in Lindon, Utah. Began by its founders, Ray and Tye Noorda, over ten years ago, the RTNF board now continues to honor their legacy by making grants to impactful charitable organizations aligned with its mission to help all people enjoy equal opportunities to achieve health, purpose, and happiness. RTNF's main focus areas include providing opportunity to disenfranchised individuals, relieving suffering, and climate change mitigation, justice, and adaptation, with a special emphasis on systems change and evidence-based work. Learn more at RTNF.org
About Wholistic Research and Education Foundation
Wholistic Research and Education Foundation is a California-based nonprofit dedicated to exploring the health benefits of CBD-rich therapeutics through funding clinical and scientific research as well as increasing safe and legal access to those in need via advocacy and education.  With an emphasis on multi-disciplinary approach, the Wholistic Medical Advisory Committee includes some of the most distinguished MDs, scientists and policy experts in the country.  Learn more at Wholistic.org

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Post Concussion Syndrome, Traumatic Brain Injury and Medical Cannabis



Currently, there is no effective drug for the treatment of traumatic brain injury and concussions. In the U.S., there are nearly 52,000 deaths and roughly 80,000 cases of severe disability related to traumatic brain injury every year. There are more than 5.3 million people in the U.S. living with disabilities related to traumatic brain injury — numbers far greater than those for multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.

What is the most common sport causing head injury?
Football accounted for 47,000 of those head injuries, and baseball played a role in 38,394. Cycling was also the leading cause of sports-related head injuries in children under 14, causing 40,272 injuries, roughly double the number related to football (21,878).

At the November 2017 medical cannabis Advisory Board Hearing, Doctors recommended to add Post-Concussion Syndrome & TBI into the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program with 5-0 Vote. The final decision rest with Secretary Lynn Gallagher at the Department of Health and is expected at the next hearing on May 11th 2018. View the Petition Here: http://lecuanmmcpmcabpetitions.blogspot.com/2017/09/petition-post-concussion-syndrome.html



Overview of Post-Concussion Syndrome and TBI
Post-concussion syndrome (PCS) is a variety of symptoms, including headaches and dizziness, that continue for weeks and sometimes months following a concussion. A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury that typically occurs after a direct blow to the head. Not all concussions lead to post-concussion syndrome, which doesn’t seem to be correlated to the severity of the initial blow. What causes post-concussion symptoms to develop following certain concussions is yet to be identified. According to Mayo Clinic, some experts believe the symptoms come from structural damage to the brain or the disruption of neurotransmitter systems. Others believe that psychological factors may contribute. In addition to headaches and dizziness, post-concussion syndrome commonly causes fatigue, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, loss of concentration and memory, and noise and light sensitivity. Typically, symptoms associated with PCS develop within the first seven to 10 days after a concussion and eventually alleviate within a three-month period. In some cases, however, the symptoms can persist for a year or longer. Treatment for post-concussion syndrome depends on individual symptoms. Headaches are commonly treated with medications. Time, however, is often the best therapy for treating memory and thinking problems.

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a disruption of the normal function of the brain caused by a bump or blow to the head. A mild brain injury, or concussion, can cause temporary brain cell dysfunction, while a more serious injury can cause the brain tissue to bruise, tear or bleed and result in long-term complications or death.

In a TBI, the blow to the head causes damage to the brain cells. The damage can be isolated to the point of impact or can be more widespread if the impact causes the brain to moves back and forth within the skull. In addition, bleeding in the brain, or swelling, can cause greater damage to brain cells.

According to Mayo Clinic, additional complications can arise from TBI’s, including altered consciousness (coma, vegetative state, locked-in syndrome, brain death, etc…), seizures, fluid buildup, blood vessel damage, nerve damage, and intellectual, communication, sensory and behavioral problems.

The physical and psychological symptoms of a TBI can vary significantly and can arise immediately after the traumatic blow or even weeks later. Physical symptoms include a loss of consciousness or being dazed, headache, nausea or vomiting, fatigue, sleeping difficulties, sleeping more than usual and dizziness. It’s not uncommon for sensory problems, like blurred vision or ear ringing to occur. Also, memory and concentration problems, mood changes and a feeling of depression are cognitive symptoms of a TBI.

For mild brain injuries, rest and over-the-counter pain relievers for headaches are often adequate for recovery. More severe brain injuries require emergency care procedures to ensure oxygen, blood levels and blood pressure remain at adequate levels. Medications may be used to help limit secondary damage caused by fluid buildup. In some cases, surgery is required to repair skull fractures or to relief pressure by draining fluid.



Findings: Effects 
of Medical Cannabis on Post-Concussion Syndrome and TBI 
Preclinical findings have shown that cannabis offers therapeutic benefits following brain injuries. Studies have shown that the cannabinoids found in cannabis, most specifically cannabidiol (CBD), activate the body’s cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), though evidence also suggests that the neuroprotective effects from CBD come from the cannabinoid’s activation of the 5-hydroxytriptamine1A (5-HT1A) receptor (Mishima, et al., 2005). When these receptors are activated, they provide protection against neural damage following acute and chronic brain damage (Lopez-Rodriguez, et al., 2013). For example, in one study, the administration of cannabinoids following a traumatic brain injury decreased brain swelling and inflammation and was shown to improve recovery (Shohami, et al., 2011). Another showed that CBD alone provided neuroprotection and limited brain cell death in newborn mice following a hypoxic-ischemic event (Castillo, et al., 2010). Others have showed that cannabinoids, through the activation of the endocannabinoid system, prevent glutamate excitotoxicity, intracellular calcium accumulation, activation of cell death pathways, microglia activation, neurovascular reactivity and circulating leukocytes following a brain injury. Researchers concluded that modulating the endocannabinoid system is an effective way to provide neuroprotection and prevent and reduce brain injury (Fernandez-Lopez, Lizasoain, Moro & Orgado, 2013). Addition research has shown that cannabis’ cannabinoids provide brain and neuroprotection caused by disorders. One found that CBD reduces the oxidative stress and Alzheimer’s hallmark protein (β-amyloid), thus limiting nerve damage caused by the disorder and improving cell viability (Harvey, et al., 2012). An animal study showed that CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) treatments were effective at delaying and limiting neural damage caused by Huntington’s disease (Sagredo, et al., 2011). Another found that CBD, in addition to providing neuroprotective effects and reducing long-term brain injury, also helped restore neurobehavioral function following a hypoxia-ischemia event (Pazos, et al., 2012). Studies have also shown that cannabis can help post-concussion syndrome patients manage the symptoms associated with the disorder. CBD can lower stress, help combat depression, improve sleep and reduce pain (Abush & Akirav, 2013) (Campos, et al., 2012) (Chagas, et al., 2013) (Russo, Guy & Robson, 2007) (Baron, 2015).

Following the blow that leads to TBI’s, the body releases harmful mediators that lead to excitotoxicity, oxidative stress and inflammation and causes secondary, delayed neuronal death (Biegon, 2004). Cannabis, however, has been shown to offer protection to the neural system, thus reducing the amount of brain damage (Mechoulam, Spatz & Shohami, 2002) (Mechoulam & Shohami, 2007) (Mechoulam, Panikashvili & Shohami, 2002) (Biegon, 2004).

It’s cannabis’ two major cannabinoids, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) that are responsible for these beneficial effects following TBI’s. Cannabinoids have been shown to act on the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system, which in turn prevents the release of proinflammatory cytokines that are released after brain drama and cause damage (Panikashvili, et al., 2006). Activating of the CB1 and CB2 receptors also has been shown to stimulate the release of minocycline, which reduces brain swelling and neurological impairment, and diffuses further injuries to the brain’s axons (Lopez-Rodriguez, et al., 2015) (Biegon, 2004).

In one study, cannabinoid administered to mice with brain injuries caused a significant reduction of brain swelling, as well as better clinical recovery, reduced infarct volume, and reduced brain cell death compared to the control group (Panikashvili, et al., 2001). In another, CBD was found to reduce acute and apoptotic brain damage (Castillo, et al., 2010). Piglets with brain injuries given CBD experienced less excitotoxicity, oxidative stress and inflammation (Pazos, et al., 2013). Mice that had suffered an impact brain injury showed marked recovery in object recognition and in performing a specific task after CB1 receptors were activated (Arain, Khan, Craig & Nakanishi, 2015). Cannabinoids have even shown to be effective at offering neuroprotection in newborn babies that have experienced a brain injury (Fernandez-Lopez, Lizasoain, Moro & Martinez-Orgado, 2013).

One study found that patients that had detectable levels of THC in their bodies were less likely to die as a result of a traumatic brain injury than those who didn’t (Nguyen, et al., 2014). Just recently, researchers from the University of Arizona found that trauma patients who tested positive for cannabis upon hospital admission were less likely to die during hospitalization (Singer, et al., 2017).


States that have Approved Medical Cannabis for Post-Concussion Syndrome
 And TBI
 
Currently, the state of Illinois has approved medical cannabis for the treatment of post-concussion syndrome. Currently, Illinois, New Hampshire, Washington have approved medical cannabis specifically for the treatment of traumatic brain injuries.



Recent Studies on Medical Cannabis' Effect on Post-Concussion Syndrome And Traumatic Brain Injury



Beneficial Cannabinoids and Terpenes Useful for Treating Post Concussion Syndrome And TBI

The cannabis plant offers a plethora of therapeutic benefits and contains cannabinoids and terpenoid compounds that are useful for managing symptoms with Post Concussion Syndrome And TBI. Although much of the scientific research surrounding cannabis has been focused on both Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) for their ability to be potent Analgesics and Anti-Nausea (Anti-Emetic) medicines, the following list denotes which cannabinoids and terpenoids also work synergistically with each other for possible therapeutic benefit:


References
Understanding medical cannabis.Elemental Wellness Center, 2014 Jul.


New Mexico’s medical cannabis history started in 1978. After public hearings the legislature enacted H.B. 329, the nation’s first law recognizing the medical value of cannabis...the first law.


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Dr. Sanjay Gupta WEED 4: Pot Vs Pills



A CNN SPECIAL REPORT: Dr. Sanjay Gupta WEED 4: Pot Vs Pills
Politicians promise to lead the country out of the worst drug crisis in its history, but opioid abuse continues to kill Americans in record numbers. Are our leaders ignoring a lifesaving solution? Over 115 Americans die every day from opioid overdoses, more than those killed in car accidents, from breast cancer or even guns. Nearly 2.5 million Americans struggle with opioid addiction, and though controversial, some people believe a potentially lifesaving solution may lie in medical marijuana. In the fourth installment of his groundbreaking series, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes an in-depth look at marijuana’s potential as both an alternative to opioids in treating pain and in ending opioid addiction. WEED 4: POT VERSUS PILLS will air on CNN, Sunday, April 29th at 8pm ET.


In the special, Gupta meets pioneers in the field of pain management as well as addiction research who believe that marijuana is the next best hope for treating both. He also speaks with those who have struggled with addiction including an exclusive interview with NFL running back Mike James. In 2013 James suffered a devastating leg injury during a Monday night football game. He was given opioids after surgery to treat his pain, and months later he found himself addicted. Scared and worried, his wife suggested he try marijuana, a drug that is banned by the NFL and could cost any player their careers. Today, James is making history as the first player to file for a therapeutic use exemption for cannabis with the NFL.

Many states have begun to take steps toward cannabis as a possible alternative in stopping the opioid crisis that has crippled their areas. Gupta visits Maine where lawmakers and residents are committed to cannabis as a way to get people off opioids. He speaks with a woman who is opening a rehab center where she will use cannabis to wean patients off of opioids. He also talks with several state legislators who are working to change the laws and allow those addicted to have access to medical marijuana.

As the state of Maine looks to cannabis as a possible solution, many lawmakers, as well as Attorney General Jeff Sessions, continue to fight changing the scheduling of marijuana, which would allow for further access and research. Gupta delves into the history of how marijuana became a Schedule I drug, considered equal to heroin, LSD and ecstasy, while cocaine, methamphetamines, and many opioids including OxyContin, fentanyl, Dilaudid and Vicodin are Schedule II drugs. He talks to several advocates and critics about research behind their positions.

“Weed”, which grabbed global headlines, along with his editorial ‘Why I changed my mind on weed’. Previously Dr. Gupta had been opposed to medical cannabis, suggesting that it had no value. He apologized for not having researched the topic better, explaining that his year of work on the documentary had opened his eyes after traveling around the world to interview growers, patients and experts.

Since Weed, which focused on the potential of CBD to treat seizures in children with rare forms of epilepsy, debuted in August 2013, CNN and Gupta have released two additional episodes, neither of which attracted quite the same attention. ‘Weed 2: Cannabis Madness’, which debuted in March 2014, looked at the politics involved U.S. federal laws. ‘Weed 3: The Marijuana Revolution’, which debuted on April 19, 2015, included conversations with President Obama, Dr. Sue Sisley and Rick Doblin and explored the stories of patients with conditions like PTSD and chronic pain.

After a three-year hiatus, Gupta returns with ‘Weed 4: Pot vs. Pills’, which will debut on Sunday April 29th. The trailer for 'Weed 4: Pot vs. Pills' can be viewed here. 


WEED 4: POT VS PILLS will stream live for subscribers on Sunday April 29th via CNNgo (at CNN.com/go and via CNNgo apps for Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, Samsung Smart TV and Android TV) and on the CNN mobile apps for iOS and Android. The documentary will also be available the day after the broadcast premiere on demand via cable/satellite systems, CNNgo platforms and CNN mobile apps. Weed 1-3 is now also available for subscribers via CNNgo (at CNN.com/go and via CNNgo apps for Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, Samsung Smart TV and Android TV) and on the CNN mobile apps for iOS and Android.

Full CNN Documentary 'Weed' Parts 1-3 (2013-2015)

CNN's award-winning chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a chief neurosurgeon, puts medical marijuana under the microscope. All three (3) of CNN's current "Weed" documentaries compiled into one video. 

Gupta to Jeff Sessions: Medical Cannabis Could Save Many Addicted To Opioids


(CNN)- "Dear Honorable Jeff Sessions,
I feel obligated to share the results of my five-year-long investigation into the medical benefits of the cannabis plant. Before I started this worldwide, in-depth investigation, I was not particularly impressed by the results of medical marijuana research, but a few years later, as I started to dedicate time with patients and scientists in various countries, I came to a different conclusion.

Not only can cannabis work for a variety of conditions such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and pain, sometimes, it is the only thing that works. I changed my mind, and I am certain you can, as well. It is time for safe and regulated medical marijuana to be made available nationally. I realize this is an unconventional way to reach you, but your office declined numerous requests for an interview, and as a journalist, a doctor and a citizen, I felt it imperative to make sure you had access to our findings.

Mr. Sessions, there is an added urgency, as we are in the middle of a deadly opioid epidemic that has been described as the worst self-inflicted epidemic in the history of our country.
The drug overdose scourge claimed about 68,000 US lives in 2017, just over 45,000 of them from opioids alone. Every day, 115 Americans die from opioid overdoses. It has fueled a decline in an entire country's life expectancy and will be remembered as a sad and tragic chapter in our collective history.

These are desperate times, and while some may consider making medical marijuana widely available to be a desperate measure, the evidence has become increasingly clear of the important role cannabis can have.

We have seen real-world clues of medical marijuana's benefits. Researchers from the Rand Corp., supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, conducted "the most detailed examination of medical marijuana and opioid deaths to date" and found something few initially expected. The analysis showed an approximately 20% decline in opioid overdose deaths between 1999 and 2010 in states with legalized medical marijuana and functioning dispensaries.

It's not the first time this association between medical marijuana and opioid overdose has been found. Though it is too early to draw a cause-effect relationship, these data suggest that medicinal marijuana could save up to 10,000 lives every year.

At the November 2017 medical cannabis Advisory Board Hearing, Doctors recommended to add Substance Abuse Disorders into the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program with 5-0 Vote. The final decision rest with Secretary Lynn Gallagher at the Department of Health and is expected at the next hearing on May 11th 2018. View the Petition Here

The science of weed
Cannabis and its compounds show potential to save lives in three important ways.

Cannabis can help treat pain, reducing the initial need for opioids. Cannabis is also effective at easing opioid withdrawal symptoms, much like it does for cancer patients, ill from chemotherapy side effects. Finally, and perhaps most important, the compounds found in cannabis can heal the diseased addict's brain, helping them break the cycle of addiction.

Mr. Sessions, there is no other known substance that can accomplish all this. If we had to start from scratch and design a medicine to help lead us out of the opioid epidemic, it would likely look very much like cannabis.

A better, and safer, way to treat pain
The consensus is clear: Cannabis can effectively treat pain. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine arrived at this conclusion last year after what it described as the "most comprehensive studies of recent research" on the health effects of cannabis.

Furthermore, opioids target the breathing centers in the brain, putting their users at real risk of dying from overdose. In stark contrast, with cannabis, there is virtually no risk of overdose or sudden death. Even more remarkable, cannabis treats pain in a way opioids cannot. Though both drugs target receptors that interfere with pain signals to the brain, cannabis does something more: It targets another receptor that decreases inflammation -- and does it fast.

I have seen this firsthand. All over the country, I have met patients who have weaned themselves off opioids using cannabis. Ten years ago, attorney Marc Schechter developed a sudden painful condition known as transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord. After visiting doctors in several states, he was prescribed opioids and, according to our calculations, consumed approximately 40,000 pills over the next decade. Despite that, his pain scores remained an eight out of 10. He also suffered significant side effects from the pain medication, including nausea, lethargy and depression.

Desperate and out of options, Schechter saw Dr. Mark Wallace, head of University of California, San Diego Health's Center for Pain Medicine, where he was recommended cannabis. Minutes after he took it for the first time, Schechter's pain was reduced to a score of two out of 10, with hardly any side effects. One dose of cannabis had provided relief that 40,000 pills over 10 years could not.

Using marijuana to get off opioids
For Schechter, as with so many others, the seemingly insurmountable barrier to ending his opioid use was the terrible withdrawal symptoms he suffered each time he tried. When a patient stops opioids, their pain is often magnified, accompanied by rapid heart rate, persistent nausea and vomiting, excessive sweating, anorexia and terrible anxiety.

Here again, cannabis is proven to offer relief. As many know, there is longstanding evidence that cannabis helps chemotherapy-induced symptoms in cancer patients, and those symptoms are very similar to opioid withdrawal. In fact, for some patients, cannabis is the only agent that subdues nausea while increasing appetite.



Why we can't 'just say no' to opioids
Finally, when someone is addicted to opioids, they are often described as having a brain disease. Yasmin Hurd, director of the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai in New York City, showed me what this looks like in autopsy specimens of those who had overdosed on opioids. Within the prefrontal cortex of the brain, she found damage to the glutamatergic system, which makes it difficult for neural signals to be transmitted. This is an area of the brain responsible for judgment, decision-making, learning and memory.

Hurd told me that when an individual's brain is "fundamentally changed" and diseased in this manner, they lose the ability to regulate opioid consumption, unable to quit despite their best efforts -- unable to "just say no."

It is no surprise, then, that abstinence-only programs have pitiful results when it comes to opioid addiction. Even the current gold standard of medication-assisted treatment, which is far more effective, still relies on less-addictive opioids such as methadone and buprenorphine. That continued opioid use, Hurd worries, can cause ongoing disruption to the glutamatergic system, never allowing the brain to fully heal. It may help explain the tragic tales of those who succeed in stopping opioids for a short time, only to relapse again and again.

This is precisely why Hurd started to look to other substances to help and settled on nonpsychoactive cannabidiol or CBD, one of the primary components in cannabis. Hurd and her team discovered that CBD actually helped "restructure and normalize" the brain at the "cellular level, at the molecular level." It was CBD that healed the glutamatergic system and improved the workings of the brain's frontal lobes.

This new science sheds lights on stories like the one I heard from Doug Campbell of Yarmouth, Maine. He told me he had been in and out of drug rehab 32 times over 25 years, with no success. But soon after starting cannabis, he no longer has "craving, desire and has not thought about (opioids) at all, period."

For the past 40 years, we have been told that cannabis turns the brain into a fried egg, and now there is scientific evidence that it can do just the opposite, as it did for Campbell. It can heal the brain when nothing else does.

I know it sounds too good to be true. I initially thought so, as well. Make no mistake, though: Marc Schechter and Doug Campbell are emblematic of thousands of patients who have successfully traded their pills for a plant.

These patients often live in the shadows, afraid to come forward to share their stories. They fear stigma. They fear prosecution. They fear that someone will take away what they believe is a lifesaving medication.

Where do we go from here?
Mr. Sessions, Dr. Mark Wallace has invited you to spend a day seeing these patients in his San Diego clinic and witness their outcomes for yourself. Dr. Dustin Sulak could do the same for you in Portland, Maine, as could Dr. Sue Sisley in Phoenix. Staci Gruber in Boston could show you the brain scans of those who tried cannabis for the first time and were then able to quit opioids. Dr. Julie Holland in New York City could walk you through the latest research. All over the country, you will find the scientists who write the books and papers, advance the science and grow our collective knowledge. These are the women and men to whom you should listen. They are the ones, free of rhetoric and conjecture, full of facts and truth, who are our best chance at halting the deadly opioid epidemic.

Making medicinal marijuana available should come with certain obligations and mandates, just as with any other medicine. It should be regulated to ensure its safety, free of contamination and consistent in dosing. It should be kept out of the hands of children, pregnant women and those who are at risk for worse side effects. Any responsible person wants to make sure this is a medicine that helps people, not harms.

Recently, your fellow conservative John Boehner changed his mind after being "unalterably opposed" to marijuana in the past. If you do the same, Mr. Attorney General, thousands of lives could be improved and saved. There is no time to lose."

By Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent | Tue April 24, 2018


Watch Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta's CNN Special Report
 "Weed 4: Pot vs. Pills" on Sunday, April 29, at 8 p.m. ET.