Global first: Easing cannabis withdrawal

January 16, 2014 by Amanda Mcdonald, University of New South Wales
Global first: Easing cannabis withdrawal

(Medical Xpress)—A world-first study led by the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre (NCPIC) at UNSW has revealed a breakthrough for dependent cannabis users, employing a cannabis-based medication, Sativex (nabiximols), that has been shown to provide significant relief from withdrawal symptoms.

"One in ten people who try cannabis go on to become dependent. As cannabis use increases around the world and more people seek treatment to help them quit, it is surprising there is no approved medication to alleviate symptoms of withdrawal. The success of this study offers considerable hope for those struggling to get through a cannabis withdrawal and remain abstinent into the future," said Professor Jan Copeland, Director of NCPIC and Chief Investigator of the study.

"One of the greatest barriers to quitting cannabis is withdrawal and while symptoms aren't life-threatening, they are of a severity level that causes marked distress. For many people, symptoms including irritability, depression, cannabis cravings and sleep problems, can overcome their strong desire to quit and they find themselves using again."

The study was conducted at inpatient services of South Eastern Sydney and Hunter New England Local Health Districts.

Associate Professor Nicolas Lintzeris, Director of Drug and Alcohol Services at South Eastern Sydney Local Health District and a trial investigator said: "The study found patients treated with Sativex stayed in treatment longer, and experienced a shorter and milder withdrawal than patients receiving placebo."

Administered as an oral spray, Sativex is only licensed in Australia for the treatment of spasticity and pain in Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients when other medications have failed. The spray contains the cannabis extracts, cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the substance primarily responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis.

The lead author of the paper and study investigator Dr David Allsop noted, "While most people who use cannabis do not become dependent, those who use regularly or for an extended period run that risk. Sativex is not licensed or available for treating cannabis users at this time. Our hope is that this study will lead to further research, and possibly approval of the drug for use as a treatment for people experiencing problematic use."

The full findings of this study have been published in international psychiatry journal, JAMA Psychiatry.

Explore further: First cannabis-derived drug authorised for France

More information: Allsop DJ, Copeland J, Lintzeris N, et al. "Nabiximols as an Agonist Replacement Therapy During Cannabis Withdrawal: A Randomized Clinical Trial." JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;():. DOI: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.3947.

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The Shootist
3.8 / 5 (4) Jan 16, 2014
"One in ten people who try cannabis go on to become dependent.

Strange how the original multi-year study by MIT, of the Jamacian Rastafarians, found no evidence of cannabis dependance by those who use in a day what most Westerners use in a week or two..
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 16, 2014
I have never used cannabis, however I know someone who did and he is very open about discussing it. Yes he did become addicted to cannabis, and yes it led to hard drugs. His advice to people he talks to, stay away from cannabis.
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 16, 2014
I don't believe anyone who says they have been addicted to cannabis. I simply do not think is it possible. Some people just have addictive personalities and that has been proven.

It's the type of person that experiments with drugs that determines whether or not they will be satisfied with cannabis or move on. I think that if natural unprocessed drugs are decriminalized the percentage that would move on to synthetic/designer drugs would plumet astronomically. That is where the real danger lies.

Just think if you could get high with out breaking the law. That would be a social taboo you wouldn't be crossing or getting comfortable with crossing. The Human Experiment "life" includes inebriation. It's nothing new.

And I would think a "freethinking" person could be open to such things.
1 / 5 (1) Jan 16, 2014
jimjim. I have never nor will I ever take drugs, so I have to rely on other peoples experiences. He said pot is different than alcohol. He said you can have a drink or two of alcohol and just feel relaxed, yet when you smoke weed you get high. If you have taken pot, do you get high (basically drunk) whenever you take pot?
5 / 5 (1) Jan 16, 2014
so they ease THC withdrawal by administering....THC.

wow what a breakthrough, they must be really proud of that discovery.
5 / 5 (1) Jan 16, 2014
I would suggest that research has declared cannabis to be non physically addictive, however, certain individuals do have addictive personalities and as such, like anything from sugar to alcohol, cannabis produces a feeling that could be addictive.

"One in ten people who try cannabis go on to become dependent."

I imagine that statistic would be based around sample group, if you interview 10 people in a drug rehab clinic than yeah, 1 of them might say cannabis is addictive, however I would suggest that vast body of users are doing so quitely, in their homes without ever having to answer said survey.

Additionally, when both culture, history, science and nature are revealed, it becomes obvious to those that the legality of cannabis is more politically motivated than medically, it is simply the tool they use to disavow themselves of responsibility for status of legality.
Fabio P_
2 / 5 (1) Jan 17, 2014
Why is it when anyone suggests cannabis may have addictive properties, all the recreational users rise up and get defensive of their favourite plant? Of course, some people are more likely to display addictive behaviour than others, but 1) blaming it all on that is just like the old adage that "guns don't kill people. People kill people." and 2) no, not all substances are equally likely to trigger an addiction in predisposed individuals. We know for a fact certain substances are more likely to do the trick. Cannabis is more addictive than LSD, for example.The sooner recreational users accept this fact, the better.
5 / 5 (1) Jan 17, 2014
Sorry, but this seems a bit obvious to me. Sativex IS cannabis - actually cannabis oil - albeit one that contains a specific 50-50 blend of THC and CBD, but it is whole cannabis. Therefore if someone is having trouble quitting cannabis, giving them some cannabis is bound to ease the symptoms of withdrawl.

The use of the word "dependent" is also somewhat misleading as it seems to be used as an interchangable term with "addiction", which it is not. Whilst it is true that about 1 in 10 do form a level of psychological dependency with cannabis this does not imply 1 in 10 are addicted in the classical sense of physical addiction. They do not need cannabis in order to function normally in the way of heroin addicts for example. A dependency rate of 1 in 10 is actually very low.

The NICPIC is the "National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre", an organsation with a clear anti cannabis agenda, it is perhaps no surprise that it promotes the concept that cannabis is seriously addictive.
bad science
not rated yet Jan 17, 2014
More embarrassingly bad science.

Tune in next week for another "world first" when we treat coffee withdrawal with coffee extract.
The Shootist
not rated yet Jan 18, 2014
"habit forming" /= addictive, IMHO.

Chocolate is habit forming but I'm not going to knock of the First Savings and Loan to buy a Snickers bar.

@bad science, I was going to suggest that if someone is jittery because he hasn't had his daily cannabis fix, have a cupajoe, its good for what ails you.
not rated yet Jan 19, 2014
so they ease THC withdrawal by administering....THC.

wow what a breakthrough, they must be really proud of that discovery.

I imagine they'll soon broaden their claims, perhaps open a treatment facility where they've discovered that the difficulties of heroin withdrawal can be treated by administering heroin. They can treat any withdrawal, really.
The Shootist
not rated yet Jan 19, 2014
so they ease THC withdrawal by administering....THC.

wow what a breakthrough, they must be really proud of that discovery.

I imagine they'll soon broaden their claims, perhaps open a treatment facility where they've discovered that the difficulties of heroin withdrawal can be treated by administering heroin. They can treat any withdrawal, really.

Freud discovered you could treat opium addiction by administering cocaine. What fun that must of been.

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