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Uruguay says legal marijuana to be good and cheap

By Malena Castaldi      MONTEVIDEO     Wed May 7, 2014

(Reuters) – Uruguayans will be allowed to buy enough marijuana to roll about 20 joints a week at a price well below the black market rate, the government said on Tuesday as it detailed a new law legalizing the cannabis trade.

Congress in December approved a law allowing the cultivation and sale of marijuana, making Uruguay the first country to do so, with the aim of wresting the business from criminals.

Leftist President Jose Mujica signed a decree outlining the fine print of the new policy on Tuesday. It says Uruguayans will be able to buy up to 10 grams of marijuana a week at between $0.85 and $1 dollar a gram, a low price designed to compete with black market cannabis that mostly comes from Paraguay.

Activists who have backed the measure said legalized marijuana would be high-grade and affordable.

“You can’t compare a flower that is quality-controlled by the Public Health Ministry … with Paraguayan (stuff) which is absolutely harmful because it has external substances,” said Bruno Calleros of the Cannabis Liberation Movement.

He said legal marijuana would cost roughly 20 percent of the current market price for similar high-quality marijuana.

Each Uruguayan will also be allowed to grow up to six marijuana plants or the equivalent of 480 grams (about 17 ounces) for personal use and form smoking clubs of 15 to 45 members that can grow up to 99 plants per year.


A sleepy agricultural country of 3.3 million people, Uruguay has come under the spotlight for the marijuana law championed by Mujica, a 78-year-old former Marxist guerrilla whose modest lifestyle and philosophical musings have made him a leftist darling abroad.

Uruguay has gone further than countries that have decriminalized possession or, like the Netherlands, tolerate the sale of marijuana in “coffee shops”. The U.S. states of Washington and Colorado have legalized the sale of cannabis under license, but federal laws still prohibit it.

Uruguay’s experiment is being keenly watched by Latin American peers at a time when the U.S.-led war on drugs faces mounting criticism. Success in Uruguay could fuel momentum for legalization elsewhere.

While relatively prosperous Uruguay has low crime rates, a third of prisoners are behind bars on drug charges.

Advocates of legalization argue that criminalization fuels violence and corruption in developing countries where the drugs are produced or transported. But critics warn that Uruguay’s law could pave the way for harder drugs and lure addicts to Montevideo.

In a bid to avoid becoming a drug hot spot, Uruguay will only allow marijuana to be available to Uruguayan residents who are registered in a confidential database. Still, Mujica has said the country could backpedal if the law fails to work out as planned.

“We’re looking to hurt drug trafficking by snatching part of its market,” Mujica said on Friday, stressing that the law does not seek to foment drug use. “No addiction is good … The only one I recommend to young people is love.”

Marijuana legalization underlines a profound shift in social policies in Uruguay, which was ruled by a military dictatorship from 1973 to 1985. It has since become one of Latin America’s most liberal countries and has also legalized gay marriage and abortion.

(Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Kieran Murray, Tom Brown and Ken Wills)


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Seniors Can Often Simplify Medication Routines

By Allison Bond

Inez Willis, a senior citizen, cooks on her stovetop at her independent living apartment in Silver Spring, Maryland April 11, 2012.

(Reuters Health) – Miscommunication between healthcare providers and patient concerns over drug interactions lead to many seniors having an unnecessarily complicated medication regimen, a new study finds.

With a very complicated routine, “it’s easier to forget medications,” said the lead author, Dr. Lee Lindquist, a geriatrician at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

“If you consolidate the regimen, you can know that you’re done at the end of the day,” Lindquist told Reuters Health. For example, if a patient is prescribed three medicines that are each supposed to be taken twice per day, it’s likely they can be taken together each time.

For the study, published in the journal Patient Education and Counseling, nurses visited the homes of 200 patients over the age of 70.

All the participants had been discharged from the hospital one month prior and they averaged nearly 80 years old.

The nurses asked participants how and when they took their medications in a given day. Then a pharmacist and a doctor looked at each patient’s medication list to see the lowest number of times per day the participant could take his or her medications.

Next, they compared this number to the actual number of times per day that each patient had said they took their medicines.


Lindquist and her team found that 85 of the participants – just over 42 percent – were following a medicine regimen that could be simplified. Of these, 53 participants, or more than one quarter, could cut the number of times they took their medicines by once per day; and 32 participants, or 16 percent, could reduce that number by at least two times each day.

The team also identified the most common reasons for an overly complicated medication routine. One was patients’ concerns about interactions between food and medicines, and between different medicines. Another was misunderstanding medication instructions given to the participants by healthcare providers like pharmacists or physicians.

Patients should check with their doctor before changing the way they take their medicines, but the results of the study show the importance of a discussion between patients and providers about the logistics of taking necessary medicines, Lindquist said.

“That dialogue has to start; patients need to ask their pharmacist or physician whether they can cut down medications or consolidate them,” she said. The big questions patients should ask their doctors, she added, is “can I make it easier on me?”

One way that people taking many medications can work with a doctor on the simplest regimen is to walk through how they take medicines each day.

Dr. Serena Chao, a geriatrician at Boston Medical Center who was not involved in the study, said patients should bring all medicines to each appointment, and arrive “prepared to talk about what time they take their medications.”

“Go through all of the details, and then with the doctor, figure out whether the routine can be consolidated,” Chao told Reuters Health. Because after all, keeping track of lots of medicines can be difficult – but the goal is to minimize the inconvenience they pose to living everyday life.

“Your medications should not dictate your life. They should be working for you, not the other way around,” said Lindquist.

SOURCE: bit.ly/R5c6rd Patient Education and Counseling, online April 4, 2014        www.reuters.com



Psychedelic Mushrooms Could Cure Anxiety for Cancer Patients

A New York University study is using psilocybin to help patients overcome the fear of death.

April 24, 2014 

When O.M. was 21 he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was a pre-med student at the time. His first reaction was denial, followed by an overwhelming and lasting anxiety, as described in an April 22 Atlantic article by Roc Morin. Even after six rounds of chemotherapy helped O.M. kick the cancer, he was plagued with a devastating fear that the disease might return. He checked his lymph nodes so often to see if they’d grown that he developed callouses on his neck.

He experienced this debilitating end-of-life anxiety from the moment he was diagnosed until the day he ingested psilocybin, extracted from hallucinogenic mushrooms while laying on a psychiatrist’s couch during a New York University study. O.M. is one of 35 study participants, all of whom suffered from severe anxiety due to cancer.

The double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study, which is still ongoing, looks at the potentials for psilocybin to treat anxiety and other psychological distress stemming from  advanced cancer. The second half of the study will look at the effect of psilocybin on “pain perception, depression, existential/psychospiritual distress, attitudes toward disease progression, quality of life, and spiritual/mystical states of consciousness.”

O.M. told the Atlantic that when he ate the mushrooms, it was “like a switch went on.”

“I went from being anxious to analyzing my anxiety from the outside,” he said. “I realized that nothing was actually happening to me objectively. It was real because I let it become real. And, right when I had that thought, I saw a cloud of black smoke come out of my body and float away.”

Gabrielle Agin-Liebes, the research manager for the NYU study, told the Atlantic that O.M. had one of the highest possible anxiety ratings possible prior to the study. The day following his treatment, O.M. scored a zero. He had absolutely no anxiety, and stayed that way for seven months following the treatment.

Photo Credit: Yegor Larin / Shutterstock.com

As Morin’s Atlantic article notes, psilocybin was used for medicinal purposes for centuries by indigenous peoples before Western Christian globalization stomped out its mainstream usage. In the wake of WWII, hallucinogens-as-medicine made a comeback among psychiatrists. When psychoactive substances gained recreational popularity as street drugs, the Nixon administration waged its war on drugs, passing the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Psilocybin was given restrictive Schedule I classification along with LSD, cannabis and other psychoactive substances. Nixon’s war on drugs still rages on today, filling prisons with nonviolent drug offenders and targeting minority populations.

1970s-era policies have also suppressed most research of psychedelics for decades, but thanks to the efforts of determined scientists and research groups like the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), government-approved human studies of controlled psychedelic substances are breaking ground again. While the federal government still deems them dangerous and void of medical purpose, research continues to reveal a promising medical potential of most psychoactive Schedule I substances to treat issues ranging from pain and anxiety to addiction and cancer.

A recent FDA-approved study looked at LSD in the treatment of end-of-life anxiety. It was the first controlled study of LSD in humans in 40 years, and the results were overwhelmingly positive, with every patient reporting reduced anxiety and no negative side effects.

The NYU psilocybin study is not the first of its kind. Charles Grob conducted a study with similar outcome measures at Harbor-UCLA. However, the NYU study uses higher doses of psilocybin and examines 32 subjects instead of the 12 Grob examined. The results of the current psilocybin study are still being examined, but principal investigator Stephen Ross told the Atlantic that, “the vast majority of their patients have exhibited an immediate and sustained reduction in anxiety. Consistent with similar studies involving psilocybin, approximately three-fourths of the participants rate their experience with the drug as being one of the top five most significant events of their lives.”

O.M. was among the overwhelming success cases.

“At the hospital they gave me Xanax for anxiety,” he told the Atlantic. “Xanax doesn’t get rid of your anxiety. Xanax tells you not to feel it for a while until it stops working and you take the next pill. The beauty of psilocybin is: it’s not medication. You’re not taking it and it solves your problem. You take it and you solve your problem yourself.”