As marijuana continues to gain public acceptance, more scientists are looking for ways to treat cannabis addiction.
Just this week, the prestigious journal Nature Medicine published an article on current developments in this field.
According to the report, “experts continue to worry that the amount of research going into effective drug treatments for marijuana addiction is not keeping pace with the size of the addiction problem.”
On the other hand, scientists don’t appear to be slacking. In fact, research is now being conducted around the world in an effort to find a treatment for this apparently alarmingillness.
Dronabinol, also known as Marinol, is a synthetic version of THC, the chemical responsible for marijuana’s high.
Like marijuana, Marinol can help reduce nausea in patients undergoing chemotherapy and weight loss in HIV/AIDS. But scientists believe it may help marijuana users quit their habit as well.
In a recent study, Marinol proved to be more effective than placebo at reducing symptoms of cannabis withdrawal. The drug is currently being investigated in combination with lofexidine, an opiate substitute similar to methadone, in Phase 2 clinical trials.
Last month, a group of French scientists found that a naturally occurring hormone called pregnenolone may act to reduce the high from marijuana. The study, published in Science, showed that large doses of THC lead to a dramatic spike in pregnenolone levels in rats’ brains.
Since pregnenolone appears to be the body’s natural way of preventing users from getting too intoxicated, the scientists hope that extra doses of the hormone can deter marijuana addicts from seeking the drug.
Scientists in Brazil recently had success using a non-psychoactive compound found in marijuana, cannabidiol (CBD), to treat symptoms of cannabis withdrawal in a 19-year-old woman.
José Crippa, the lead researcher, remarked to Nature Medicine: “It’s funny that one compound in the plant can help to recover from addiction to another.”
Now, Crippa is working with researchers in California to conduct a larger study on cannabidiol as a treatment for marijuana addiction.
Researchers in Australia are studying a pharmaceutical cannabis extract called Sativex as a treatment for cannabis withdrawal.
In a recent study, the team found Sativex effective at reducing symptoms in the short-term, but its long-term effect proved no better than placebo.
Nevertheless, the team, led by Dr. David Allsop of the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre, plans to conduct another study using Sativex, in hopes of achieving a better outcome.
5. Rimonabant (failed)
Originally sold as a weight loss pill in 56 different countries, rimonabant was an early candidate for treating marijuana addiction. The drug works by blocking the pathways that cannabis acts on, and was indeed helpful for reducing appetite and weight.
Unfortunately, the drug was later found to cause severe depression and suicidal thoughts, and was quickly withdrawn from the market.
The problem: blocking the pathways of marijuana also blocks the action of naturally occurring chemicals in the brain.
These chemicals, known as cannabinoids, help regulate positive mood, which also explains why marijuana causes euphoria and why rimonabant causes depression.