1. Medical marijuana can limit pain meds

    This one's bound to make some pretty big waves: Yet another new study backs marijuana for medicinal purposes in a big way.

    This time, researchers have found that pot can not only help beat pain -- as people who already take it for that purpose, legally and illegally, have been saying all along -- but it may even help steer patients away from dangerous and addictive painkillers.

    And that includes the meds responsible for some of society's biggest drug problems: opioid painkillers.

    Twenty-one chronic pain patients who were already taking either long-acting morphine or long-acting oxycodone were given marijuana vaporizers to use for five days -- in a hospital, where they could be carefully monitored in case any complications arose.

    Researchers were especially worried that the pot might boost levels of opioids in the blood to dangerous levels. In reality, it led to no changes at all -- while delivering 33 percent more pain relief to the morphine patients and 20 percent more pain relief to the oxycodone patients.

    The patients didn't experience any major side effects, beyond feeling "high" after getting their marijuana dose.

    No one in the study actually took fewer meds -- but since the patients were already growing more resistant to their opioid painkillers and got extra relief from marijuana, the indication is that eventually they could cut back on the meds if they were allowed to stick with the pot.

    Of course, the study does have its problems: It didn't have a placebo, for one. And it was small -- but size is almost always a problem when it comes to studies on medical marijuana.

    Researchers simply can't get the funding they need for bigger studies since marijuana isn't exactly popular with the folks who control the purse strings.

    But the studies we do have are pretty clear: Medical marijuana comes with some very real benefits... and minimal risk.

    Despite what you've heard, it's not even addictive in most cases. Sure, people can overdo it -- but that's a risk we already take each day with every drug already on the market (especially opioid painkillers).

    This isn't a popular opinion, but it's a scientific one -- not to mention a humane one: For some conditions, especially chronic pain, marijuana is safe and effective -- and that means it should also be legal.

  2. Risky business: Sleepless kids are bad news

    Kids who miss out on sleep aren't just groggy in school -- they're also far more likely to do all the things that give parents nightmares.

    From fistfights to fighting off depression, smoking pot to sucking back sugary drinks, researchers say kids who don't get the time they need in bed are busy doing other things… and clearly not the things you want your kids doing.

    Using data from the 2007 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the researchers found that 69 percent of 12,100 kids between 12 and 18 years old got less than eight hours of sleep a night.

    And these children -- the vast majority of kids, obviously -- were more likely to engage in some of the worst-of-the-worst activities: sex, booze, smoking, marijuana, and fistfights.

    It didn't stop there, either. These kids were also more likely to battle mood problems, including sadness and depression, and even entertain serious thoughts of suicide.

    Next to all that, the rest of the "risky" behaviors seem downright tame: The researchers say sleepless kids are more likely to drink a sugary soda each day, get less physical activity, and spend too much time on the computer.

    Maybe it's just that kids who stay up later stay out later -- and are more likely to be in situations where they'd engage in risky activities. Or maybe it's just the fact that, at 69 percent, sleepless kids make up such a huge percentage that they're more likely to do just about anything.

    Whatever the reason, as long as you keep control over what goes on in your home, make sure to set some rules about bedtime -- because even if your children aren't out boozing, smoking pot, and having sex, a lack of sleep could have an impact on everything from their waistlines to their schoolwork.

    Remember, a kid may hate the rules of the house -- but those same rules will help set either a long lifetime of good habits… or a shorter span of bad ones.

  3. Feds light controversy over medical marijuana

    The U.S. Department of Justice has finally responded to a 2002 petition to reclassify marijuana as a medical treatment.

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