Herbal Cannabis Assists Patients in Treatment for Opioid Dependence, Study Confirms

According to a new study published in Drug & Alcohol Dependence, cannabis helped subjects manage withdrawal symptoms while undergoing treatment for opioid dependence—and made them more likely to complete outpatient treatment.

Studies have suggested that cannabinoids are involved in the maintenance of opioid dependence, so researchers at Columbia University tested the effects of dronabinol, an oral THC medication, on subjects undergoing detoxification from opioid dependence.

Subjects were given dronabinol or a placebo during the 8-week trial of detoxification and outpatient treatment. Researchers found that dronabinol lessened subjects’ withdrawal symptoms during the period of detoxification—but it made no difference to those receiving naltrexone during outpatient treatment.

However, the study produced another interesting finding. Patients who smoked marijuana flower during the trial, even intermittently, were more likely to complete outpatient treatment than those who didn’t. “Participants who smoked marijuana had less difficulty with sleep and anxiety and were more likely to remain in treatment … regardless of whether they were taking dronabinol or placebo,” say the study’s authors.

This finding reflects previous clinical data that the use of cannabis helps patients manage pain while weaning from opiates.

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