Pharmaceuticals for Cannabis Addiction?

By Adrian Devitt-Lee On May 28, 2019
Assorted pharmaceutical medicine pills, tablets and capsules and bottle on blue background.

Many drugs have been proposed as treatment for cannabis addiction, from pure THC or CBD-rich cannabis, to Ambien. These studies often employ participants who are not trying to quit, and overlook the harms associated with the replacement medication. (Replacing one joint a day by a 240 mg THC capsule was considered a success in one study.) A new paper by researchers at Harvard and Yale sought to assess the potential of a pharmaceutical used in Alzheimer’s treatment, galantamine. They hoped that galantamine would reduce cognitive impairment, which is sometimes seen in heavy cannabis users, though these participants smoked an average of 2 joints a day. (Cognitive effects, when they occurs, are not permanent. They appears to fade after 2-4 weeks of quitting cannabis.) And, indeed, the abstract makes it seem as if this goal was achieved: they conclude by highlighting the “feasibility of the administration of galantamine for individuals with [cannabis use disorder],” and recommending that future studies investigate the potential of galantamine to improve cognitive deficits associated with [cannabis use disorder]. But their results did not find any beneficial effect of galantamine. Although this is reported elsewhere in the paper, it is a startling and deceptive omission from the conclusion. The lack of any discernible benefit should be clearly and obviously reported, since this was the primary question of the study, even if the authors had hoped for a different result.

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Adrian Devitt-Lee, Project CBD's chief science writer, is employed as a research chemist by the University College of London.