Australian researchers have found that medical cannabis can help people who are addicted to weed.
The first-of-its-kind study suggests that people who are addicted to recreational marijuana can use an oral medical cannabis spray to help break their addiction. This medical cannabis works the same way as nicotine replacement therapy for those who want to quit smoking tobacco or cigarettes.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, cannabis is the most widely used prohibited drug in the country and addiction to it is very common.
In a recent clinical trial, researchers at the New South Wales Health and Sydney University used a sublingual spray laced with THC and CBD on regular pot smokers over the course of 12 weeks. There were 128 smokers who participated in the trial, all of whom had smoked at least 2-3 grams every day and had expressed interest in stopping the habit, mostly because of health and social problems resulting from their habit.
The researchers concluded that the smokers who used this spray smoked 18.6 days less than those who took placebo medication.
This cannabis-based medication is more commonly known as nabiximols. And various teams of scientists in Australia and Canada have been conducting a series of experiments to see the effects of nabiximols on cannabis dependency.
Specifically, nabiximols is a cannabis extract formulated with CBD and the psychoactive THC in equal parts. Nabiximols is sprayed under the tongue and it is sold under the brand name Sativex to treat symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Sativex is not yet approved in the United States.
A paper on this study was published in Jama Internal Medicine.
Nicholas Lintzeris, Ph.D., lead author of the study and an addiction medicine specialist at the University of Sydney School of Medicine, said that, ultimately, they would like to see cannabinoid-based medicines used as a routine part of treatment for cannabis dependence, supported by psychosocial approaches and counseling.
If licensed, nabiximols won’t be used as treatment for casual marijuana smokers who want to smoke a little less. It is for people whose relationship with weed qualifies to be called “marijuana use disorder.”
According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, marijuana use disorder is the feeling of dependency on weed, in which a person feels withdrawal symptoms when they are not using the drug. These withdrawal symptoms include irritability, restlessness, cravings, decreased appetite, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, and different forms of physical discomfort. These symptoms peak within the first week of quitting weed and can last up to two weeks.
The NIH further explains that marijuana dependence takes place when the brain adapts to large quantities of the drug by lessening its production of and its sensitivity to its own endocannabinoid neurotransmitters. When a person cannot stop using the drug even if it already interferes with many aspects of their life, marijuana use disorder has become an addiction.