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Efforts underway to develop drugs for cannabis use disorder

Marijuana Legalization
Posted at 3:22 PM, Jun 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-22 15:22:09-04

As more states legalize marijuana, there are efforts underway to develop drugs to help with addiction. Currently, there are no FDA-approved drugs to treat what's known as cannabis use disorder.

“You have to just recognize that it's a plant that's complex that has potential therapeutic effects, but it also has abuse liability, so you just try to be reasonable and don't think of it as all one or all the other,” said Margaret Haney, Ph.D., professor of neurobiology at the Columbia University Medical Center.

Studies suggest 30% of people who use marijuana may have some degree of "use disorder." It can include cravings, the drug causing you to neglect other obligations, or causing a disruption in your life.

And quitting can cause withdrawal symptoms.

“I don't think many people think of cannabis use disorder as being real or I don't think a lot of people know that it exists and, you know, I often get pushback with people's thinking, well you know, ‘it's not opioids, it's not alcohol, it's not it's not cocaine,’” said Haney.

Haney’s team has been doing lab work on a drug for cannabis use disorder that a U.K.-based company is working on. That drug is moving forward in clinical trials.

A big study at sites across the U.S. is expected to start next year.

“It’s a medication that decreases the rewarding effects of cannabis without producing a lot of other side effects. So, in theory, somebody who's trying to quit could be taking this medication, and even when they relapse and use cannabis, they're not going to get the same effects that they did, so it might help them if they're really trying to cut down or quit,” said Haney.

She says they aren't concerned about the abuse of that drug.

There are nearly two dozen other studies for cannabis use disorder currently listed as active on clinicaltrials.gov.

Haney hopes in the future that drugs could be used in combination with the behavioral treatments that are currently used to treat the disorder. She thinks a drug would boost the odds that behavioral treatments would work.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a helpline available 24/7 if you're looking for a place to get treatment. That number is 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

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