Medical cannabis could stem cannabis dependency

An Australian study found evidence medicinal cannabis could reduce the rate of relapse for people who abuse cannabis.

The study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, outlined how cannabinoid agonist medication, which targets receptors in the brain, could reduce relapse rates.

Lead author Conjoint Professor Nick Lintzeris, of the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Medicine and Health, said: “We’ve never had the evidence before that medication can be effective in treating cannabis dependency – this is the first big study to show this is a safe and effective approach.

“The principles are very similar to nicotine replacement; you are providing patients with a medicine which is safer than the drug they’re already using, and linking this with medical and counselling support to help people address their illicit cannabis use.”

The cannabis concentrate used in the trial comprises equal proportions of CBD and THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis) and is sprayed under the tongue.

Participants treated with its used significantly less illicit cannabis than patients randomly allocated to placebo medication.

In Australia, 10.4% of adults reported using cannabis in the past 12 months, of whom approximately 10% describe dependent patterns of use.

Cannabis dependence is associated with a range of cognitive, psychiatric, and physical health problems and accounts for the second largest number of drug treatment episodes in Australia, the study states.

Co-author of the paper Professor Iain McGregor, the academic director of the University’s Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics in the Brain and Mind Centre, said: “Worldwide we are seeing medicinal cannabis patients transition away from the traditional smoked route of cannabis administration.

“This new study… complements this trend by showing that an oral spray can be an effective substitute for smoked cannabis in heavy recreational users seeking treatment for their cannabis use.”

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