A new clinical trial has found evidence that medical cannabis may have the potential to help treat dependancy on cannabis while minimising the rate of relapse.

In the first study of its kind, researchers at the University of Sydney treated 128 ‘cannabis addicted’ participants with Nabiximols (Sativex) to “examine the safety and efficacy of [Sativex] in the treatment of patients with cannabis dependence.”

Researchers recruited “cannabis addicted” participants who were unresponsive to prior addiction treatments, had no other substance use disorder and suffered no severe medical or psychiatric conditions.

The participants received an an average dose of 18 sprays of Sativex per day over 12 weeks. Each 0.1ml spray contained equal levels THC and CBD (2.5mg CBD and 2.7mg THC).

A control group was provided with a placebo to provide a comparison.

According to the results, those provided with Sativex were significantly less likely to continue illegal cannabis use compared to those provided with the placebo.

Researchers noted a 50% reduction in un-prescribed cannabis use by 54.1% of the Sativex group, compared with 28.9% of the placebo group.

However, only about half of participants in both groups completed the study, and only a few patients were able to entirely abstain from illicit cannabis use.

Participants were also provided cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and other therapeutic support alongside the medications.

Researchers reported a suppression of withdrawal and cravings, along with physical and psychological well-being improvements.

The study’s lead author, Nick Lintzeris, was optimistically cautious about the trial’s results:

“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.

“Our study is an important step in addressing the lack of effective treatments. Currently, four in five patients relapse to regular use within six months of medical or psychological interventions.”

“The main reason we recommend caution at this stage is the need for further studies to replicate our findings, before we can be as confident as we are for the effectiveness of nicotine, methadone, or buprenorphine treatments are for those populations.

“The main reason we recommend caution at this stage is the need for further studies to replicate our findings, before we can be as confident as we are for the effectiveness of nicotine, methadone, or buprenorphine treatments are for those populations.”

References and further Reading

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2737918?resultClick=1