Houdini Lab

Initiative for Cannabis Research at UCLA

The UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative was one of the first projects in the world to specifically focus the investigation of cannabis, and it is now being directed by Dr. Jeff Chen. Dr. Chen is a graduate of UCLA and holds a specialized dual degree in Medicine and Business Administration (MD/MBA). Dr. Chen and his team have been working hard over the past few years to speed up cannabis research. Their top priority is to understand the long-suspected but overlooked therapeutic potential of the herb, along with any potential health risks which might be associated with using the various cannabinoids found in cannabis. In spite of this, because this is an interdisciplinary study, the researchers will also be assessing the overall influence that cannabis usage has on society in an effort to aid in the formation of judgments on public policy and public health.



Utilizing Both Science and Technology Together

This week, during a phone discussion with CannabisTech, Dr. Chen shared his excitement about the potential that have become available as a result of recent changes in the legalization of cannabis paired with modern technology. Dr. Chen made the following statement: “Thanks to testing, regulation, and labeling, we will soon know exactly what people are utilizing for the very first time in the history of California.” Researchers are now in a better position to comprehend dosing as well as the effects that are linked with it as a result of legalization and regulations pertaining to dosing and packaging. In the past, it was difficult to grasp cannabinoid profiles and dosages.


In addition to this, Dr. Chen reminds us that each patient is carrying a miniature supercomputer in the palm of their hand because of the growth of smart devices that are currently in the hands of more than 200 million individuals. It’s possible that this quickly expanding technology holds the key to successfully gathering and evaluating valid, reliable crowd-sourced data from cannabis patients.


These hand-held data gathering technologies may assist researchers gain objective information by utilizing biometric and sensor data such as the accelerometer, in contrast to the subjective nature of self-reporting symptoms, which can occur rather frequently. Dr. Chen provided an example by saying, “Imagine you have a patient who has Parkinson’s disease.” “Using a smart device to track the tremors, the patient then consumes a cannabis edible, and the smartphone can track the duration and severity of the tremor, as well as show the onset, duration, and results of the edible,” “The smartphone can track the duration and severity of the tremor, as well as show the onset, duration, and results of the edible,” “



Taking Action Against the Opioid Crisis

Although Dr. Chen maintains a positive outlook on the potential benefits of cannabis for patients suffering from chronic pain, he emphasizes that “the opioid crisis is an extremely complicated problem that stems from a number of variables including socioeconomic and cultural concerns.” Dr. Chen believes there is certainly potential for cannabis to reduce the use of opiates, and he bases this belief on recent studies that show a decline in the number of prescription opiates filled in states where cannabis is legal. Cannabinoid therapy is one method that can be used to reduce the amount of opioids that patients with chronic pain take.


According to Dr. Chen, “the ease of acquiring cannabis is related with a more significant drop in opioid use.” “In fact,” he continued, “the more liberal the laws are on cannabis, we see a more dramatic effect in reducing the number of prescriptions.”


Understanding the True Threats, as Well

Even though there has never been a case of cannabis overdose resulting in death, it is important to remember that any chemical that is ingested into the human body carries with it the potential for adverse effects. Even common over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol and ibuprofen can have potentially harmful side effects if they are taken in excessive amounts or for an extended period of time. During an interview with Tedx, Dr. Chen mentioned that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the cause of approximately 10,000 fatalities annually. Therefore, regardless of how safe we believe a drug to be, we must constantly take into account the potential risks that are associated with it.



When asked about his views on the potentially negative consequences of cannabis, Dr. Chen provides a succinct summary of the primary concerns, which are as follows:


Development of the Adolescent Brain Regular use of cannabis during adolescence is associated with an increased risk of a variety of problems associated with adolescent development, including a lower IQ.

Concerns Regarding Mental Health Researchers have discovered that excessive cannabis usage in early adulthood raises the risk of acquiring schizophrenia later in life in individuals who come from families with a history of the mental illness. Dr. Chen also highlighted that certain patients who self-report using cannabis have been connected with a greater prevalence of depression and anxiety.

Cannabis usage during pregnancy: research suggests that mothers who use cannabis during pregnancy have babies who are born with a lower birth weight.

Driving under the influence of cannabis increases the risk of getting into an accident by twofold, despite the fact that it is not quite as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol.

Abuse and Dependence Despite the fact that it is significantly less addictive than alcohol, opiates, and cigarettes, cannabis still has an addiction rate of 9 percent, which is something that both the patient and the physician need to be aware of.



Obtaining the Necessary Funds

The UCLA Cannabis Research Institute is now working to launch the world’s first clinical studies to explore the effects of cannabis on opiate patients. These trials will be the first of their kind. Dr. Chen’s team is currently working on acquiring financing and grants, and they are excited to get started on the project. In addition, there are plans for a new funding campaign that the department is working on, and it is anticipated that it will be launched before the end of the year. It is anticipated that this will be one of the most successful crowd-sourcing projects ever undertaken to assist in funding much-required cannabis research. The comment was made by Dr. Chen.


If the government is unwilling to give the required financing for the research, then it is up to the people of the country to pool their resources and support it. We just need to come to an agreement that the research is necessary; we don’t even have to be on the same page about whether or not we should all be using it.