June was, for many of us, a very active month. Intentionally systemic and institutionalized racism was once again highlighted for the world to see resulting from the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Dion Johnson, Monika Diamond, Riah Milton, Dominique “Rem’Mie” Fells, Elijah McClain, and the infuriatingly ever growing list of Black people killed by police. In case you missed it, SSDP stands in solidarity with the movement for Black lives, and our UK Committee released an additional statement acknowledging the global impact of racism, and those all over the world who are protesting.
In addition to those statements, we have been sharing numerous resources via our Instagram account @SSDPGlobal, many of which are included in the May Report Card, this blog post about protecting yourself while protesting, and our action alert to address the special authorization from the Department of Justice granting the Drug Enforcement Agency broader powers to use their surveillance strategies on protesters.
An independent data monitoring committee working with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) have conducted preliminary analysis on the data collected thus far from their Phase 3 clinical trials of MDMA assisted therapy for the treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). MAPS announced a, “90% or greater probability that the trial will detect statistically significant results when all participants have been treated, and that the trial will not require additional participants beyond the first 100.”
Long-term follow-up results from phase 2 clinical trials MDMA for PTSD were reported by several authors, who concluded that, “PTSD symptoms were reduced 1 to 2 months after MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, and symptom improvement continued at least 12 months post-treatment.”
Authors of a recent meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials of psychedelic-assisted therapy found that, “Overall, analyses support the efficacy of psychedelic-assisted therapy across four mental health conditions – post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety/depression associated with a life-threatening illness, unipolar depression, and social anxiety among autistic adults.”
In a recent study of cannabis use during pregnancy, researchers from UCLA found that, “Rates of marijuana usage in pregnant women who underwent universal drug screening increased after legalization. There were no differences in neonatal outcomes between users and non-users.” This finding is significant as we continue to try and understand the impact of cannabis on fetal development. Although some research has indicated that cannabis use during pregnancy may negatively impact the fetus, these findings add to the research counter to that understanding.
Additionally, in a critical review of research on the impacts of prenatal cannabis exposure, authors challenged the popular opinion that cannabis is toxic to fetuses by leading to long-term cognitive impairments. They concluded that, “The current evidence does not suggest that prenatal cannabis exposure alone is associated with clinically significant cognitive functioning impairments.”
The United Nations Commision on Narcotic Drugs (CND) is preparing a document for consideration in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) upcoming recommendations for cannabis scheduling. Included in the recommendations is an acknowledgment of the medicinal value of cannabis as well as clarifying the relative harms of cannabis.
Researchers in Canada are considering the potential for a particular strain of cannabis to prevent COVID-19. “Similar to other respiratory pathogens, SARS-CoV2 is transmitted through respiratory droplets, with potential for aerosol and contact spread. It uses receptor-mediated entry into the human host via angiotensin-converting enzyme II (ACE2) that is expressed in lung tissue, as well as oral and nasal mucosa, kidney, testes, and the gastrointestinal tract,” reads the study. “Modulation of ACE2 levels in these gateway tissues may prove a plausible strategy for decreasing disease susceptibility.” Authors of another report examined the potential for cannabis in addressing COVID-19 related respiratory distress.
Researchers in Canada set out to find what the most acceptable minimum legal age (MLA) might be for legal cannabis consumption. They noted, “We found different MLAs for different outcomes: 21 for educational attainment, 19 for cigarette smoking and mental health and 18 for general health. Assuming equal weight for these individual outcomes, the ‘overall’ MLA for cannabis use was estimated to be 19 years.”
In a study evaluating the impact of cannabis legalization on adolescents in Uruguay, researchers found that there was, “. . . no evidence of an impact on cannabis use or the perceived risk of use. We find an increase in student perception of cannabis availability (58% observed vs. 51% synthetic control) following legalization.”
Researchers from University of Madison-Wisconsin evaluated the effects of recreational marijuana legalization on college students and concluded that, “The findings suggest that legalization had the greatest effects on current marijuana users, who are surrounded by a climate that is increasingly supportive of its use.”
A federal judge has ruled that Philadelphia’s overdose prevention site should not open while prosecutors appeal it’s legality.
In British Columbia, lawmakers proposed a law that would allow for adolescents to be forced into substance use disorder treatment if they have a serious overdose. Critics duly note that such a law could have dire unintended consequences, such as dissuading youth from asking for help if they have concerns about their own drug use. The mother of a teen who overdosed has expressed that the law is not sufficient, explaining that what is needed is more treatment options to support longer-term recovery, and noting that British Columbia does not have the capacity to address the existing needs.
Despite quarantine and social distancing, several countries have reported that the drug supply remains unchanged or is more dangerous than it was prior to the pandemic. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime noted in a research brief that, “The impact of the measures implemented to address the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have been most homogenous to date at the very end of the drug supply chain, in the destination markets. Many countries across all regions have reported an overall shortage of numerous types of drugs at the retail level, as well as increases in prices, reductions in purity and that drug users have consequently been switching substance (for example, from heroin to synthetic opioids) and/or increasingly accessing drug treatment. Some countries in the Balkans and in the Middle East, where measures are not so strict during the day, have, however, reported less disruption.”
Social isolation has significant implications for mental health, and some experts are noting the particular risk faced by college students. Other experts are concerned that COVID-19-related social isolation may increase the risk of suicide and overdose.
The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is offering a distance learning option of their SafetyFirst drug education curriculum.