The news on drugs


I’m not entirely sure what to make of these. First, FOX News (?!) reports:

Certain marijuana components may suppress the tumors of highly invasive cancers, a new study finds.

In laboratory tests, cannabinoids, the active components in marijuana, were found to slow the spread of lung and cervical cancer tumors, according to researchers Robert Ramer and Burkhard Hinz of the University of Rostock in Germany.

Proponents of medical marijuana believe that cannabinoids reduce the side effects of cancer treatment, such as pain, weight loss and vomiting.

The study, published in the Jan. 2 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, finds that the compounds may also have an anticancer effect; however, more research is needed to determine whether the laboratory results will hold true in humans, the authors wrote.

If, like me, you shook your head while reading that and thought, “FOX is having one over on me”, you can try getting it from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Robert Ramer and Burkhard Hinz write:

Increased expression of TIMP-1 mediates an anti-invasive effect of cannabinoids. Cannabinoids may therefore offer a therapeutic option in the treatment of highly invasive cancers.

In other strange drug-related news … are you ready for this? DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has apparently invented something we never could have imagined: a drug that you snort in order to feel more awake.

Right. Alexis Madrigal brings us this news for Wired:

A nasal spray containing a naturally occurring brain hormone called orexin A reversed the effects of sleep deprivation in monkeys, allowing them to perform like well-rested monkeys on cognitive tests. The discovery’s first application will probably be in treatment of the severe sleep disorder narcolepsy.

The treatment is “a totally new route for increasing arousal, and the new study shows it to be relatively benign,” said Jerome Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA and a co-author of the paper. “It reduces sleepiness without causing edginess.”

Orexin A is a promising candidate to become a “sleep replacement” drug. For decades, stimulants have been used to combat sleepiness, but they can be addictive and often have side effects, including raising blood pressure or causing mood swings. The military, for example, administers amphetamines to pilots flying long distances, and has funded research into new drugs like the stimulant modafinil (.pdf) and orexin A in an effort to help troops stay awake with the fewest side effects.

The monkeys were deprived of sleep for 30 to 36 hours and then given either orexin A or a saline placebo before taking standard cognitive tests. The monkeys given orexin A in a nasal spray scored about the same as alert monkeys, while the saline-control group was severely impaired.

Perhaps it is a side note, but Madrigal’s article brings up one other point, and since this entry led off with a bit about marijuana, it only seems fair to mention that, while pot smokers have for years noted that other drugs are legal, including nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine, including the latter on the list often brought scoffing responses. However, as the article notes:

…. [UCLA psychiatry professor Jerome] Siegel said that Americans already recognize that sleepiness is a problem and have long treated it with a variety of stimulants.

We have to realize that we are already living in a society where we are already self-medicating with caffeine,” he said.

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