Olivia Newton-John promoting medical marijuana to raise money for her cancer center

Grammy award-winning singer Olivia Newton-John has turned to medicinal marijuana in her battle against breast cancer. She has recently begun promoting medical marijuana in an effort to raise money for her wellness and research center. “I will do what I can to encourage it. It’s an important part of treatment, and it should be available,” she said in a recent a statement.

Now 68 years old, Newton-John has been a champion of numerous cancer causes since she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992. At that time, she had a partial mastectomy and underwent chemotherapy, driving her cancer into remission. However, in May this year, Newton-John postponed her tour when her cancer returned, metastasizing to her lower back.

Olivia Newton-John (her actual birth name) was born in Cambridge, England, and became an Australian national after moving to Australia with her family when she was 5 years old. She claims that she uses medical cannabis along with other remedies in her current home state of California, where cannabis is legal. Australia legalized medical cannabis in February of 2016.

She launched the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre in Melbourne, Australia in 2012. Subsequently, she chose her treatment therapies after consulting with physicians, natural therapists and the medical team at the center.

Medicinal cannabis users claim the plant alleviates the pain and discomfort of chemotherapy. And many studies have shown that compounds in cannabis actually cause cancer cell death in vitro. For example, a recent study concluded that CBD could actually destroy leukemia cells.

Newton-John’s daughter, Chloe Lattanzi, runs a cannabis farm in Oregon.

Does cannabis use change the way people walk?

Also out of Australia, a team of scientists has reported evidence that cannabis use alters the way people walk. Their findings were published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

The study, “History of cannabis use is associated with altered gait“, was also co-authored by Gabrielle Todd, Robert A. Wilcox, Adam P. Vogel, Jason M. White, and Dominic Thewlis.

“Cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug, with 35% of Australians aged 14 years and over reporting use on at least one occasion,” said Verity Pearson-Dennett of the University of South Australia, the study’s corresponding author.

“Most of the research on illicit drug use focuses on long-term changes in cognition and psychological well-being,” he explained. “Illicit drugs exert their effects by changing the levels of neurotransmitters in the ‘pleasure centers’ of the brain, but these neurotransmitters are also very important in movement.”

“It is, therefore, possible that these drugs may impact the way we move. It is important to fully understand the long-term effects of cannabis use, particularly given the move to decriminalize use in many countries and the growing tolerance to use of cannabis.”

A couple limitations of the study are its small sample size and the small amount of cannabis consumed. The study compared the gait of 22 subjects who had used cannabis at least 22 times to that of non-drug using Australians. According to the report, subjects who had used cannabis moved their knees faster when swinging their leg forward to walk, but tended to move their shoulders less. The researchers found no difference in walking speed or balance.

“The main take away message is that use of cannabis can result in subtle changes in the way that you move,” Pearson-Dennett told PsyPost. “The changes in walking were small enough that a neurologist specializing in movement disorders was not able to detect changes in all of the cannabis users. However, many of the participants in the cannabis group were moderate-to-light cannabis users, therefore heavier cannabis users may have greater impairments.

“This was a small pilot study, therefore, a number of questions need to be addressed,” Pearson-Dennett explained. “For example, does a greater amount of cannabis use mean a greater level of impairment? Does the strain or THC/CBD content of the cannabis used change the level of impairment observed? In addition, the physiological mechanisms that underpin changes in movement are not well understood.”

Read the full report here.

Cannabidiol may impact antiepileptic drug levels in refractory epilepsy

A new study claims that the addition of popular non-psychoactive cannabinoid CBD to a treatment regimen for refractory epilepsy is associated with significant changes in the blood levels of several antiepileptic drugs (AEDs), abnormalities in liver function tests, and sedation.

In the current study, Tyler E. Gaston, MD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Epilepsy Center, and colleagues, sought to identify interactions between CBD and commonly used epilepsy drugs. Data were obtained from a University of Alabama at Birmingham CBD study which sought to investigate the addition of CBD to treatment regimens in treatment-resistant epilepsy. Participants in the study included individuals with epilepsy that was resistant to 4 or more AEDs at adequate and stable doses for 1 month prior.

The study participants included 42 children and 39 adults. Overall, increasing doses of CBD were tied to decreased blood levels of some epilepsy drugs. In adult participants, increasing doses of CBD were tied to increased serum levels of eslicarbazepine (P =.04) and zonisamide (P =.02). CBD did not seem to have an impact on serum levels of valproate, levetiracetam, phenobarbital, clonazepam, phenytoin, carbamazepine, lamotrigine, oxcarbazepine, ethosuximide, vigabatrin, ezogabine, pregabalin, perampanel, and lacosamide.

“Because CBD continues to be studied as a potential anticonvulsant, clinicians and researchers alike should be aware of significant changes in serum levels of clobazam/desmethylclobazam, eslicarbazepine, rufinamide, topiramate, and zonisamide,” the investigators wrote.

Read more at NeurologyAdvisor.com.