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cannabinoid treatment

Marijuana use disorders appear to be very similar to other substance use disorders, although the long-term clinical outcomes may be less severe. On average, adults seeking treatment for marijuana use disorders have used marijuana nearly every day for more than 10 years and have attempted to quit more than six times. 111 People with marijuana use disorders, especially adolescents, often also suffer from other psychiatric disorders (comorbidity). 112 They may also use or be addicted to other substances, such as cocaine or alcohol. Available studies indicate that effectively treating the mental health disorder with standard treatments involving medications and behavioral therapies may help reduce marijuana use, particularly among those involved with heavy use and those with more chronic mental disorders. The following behavioral treatments have shown promise:

Currently, the FDA has not approved any medications for the treatment of marijuana use disorder, but research is active in this area. Because sleep problems feature prominently in marijuana withdrawal, some studies are examining the effectiveness of medications that aid in sleep. Medications that have shown promise in early studies or small clinical trials include the sleep aid zolpidem (Ambien ® ), an anti-anxiety/anti-stress medication called buspirone (BuSpar ® ), and an anti-epileptic drug called gabapentin (Horizant ® , Neurontin ® ) that may improve sleep and, possibly, executive function. Other agents being studied include the nutritional supplement N-acetylcysteine and chemicals called FAAH inhibitors, which may reduce withdrawal by inhibiting the breakdown of the body’s own cannabinoids. Future directions include the study of substances called allosteric modulators that interact with cannabinoid receptors to inhibit THC’s rewarding effects.

Medical marijuana is legal in 33 states and the District of Columbia:

Marcel Bonn-Miller, PhD, adjunct assistant professor, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

While every state has laws dictating the use of medical marijuana, more than two thirds of U.S. states and the District of Columbia have actually legalized it for medical treatments and more are considering bills to do the same. Yet while many people are using marijuana, the FDA has only approved it for treatment of two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

What are the side effects of medical marijuana?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says marijuana can be addictive and is considered a “gateway drug” to using other drugs. “The higher the level of THC and the more often you use, the more likely you are to become dependent,” Bonn-Miller says. “You have difficulty stopping if you need to stop. You have cravings during periods when you’re not using. And you need more and more of it to have the same effect.” Learn more about the long-term effects of marijuana use.

The agency did, however, agree to support additional research on marijuana and make the process easier for researchers. “Research is critically needed, because we have to be able to advise patients and doctors on the safe and effective use of cannabis,” Bonn-Miller says.

Drug Enforcement Administration: “Drug Schedules.”

National Conference of State Legislatures: “State Medical Marijuana Laws.”