Epilepsy Drug Could Help Pot Smokers Quit
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The anticonvulsant drug gabapentin—used to treat epilepsy and neuropathic pain—may help pot smokers kick the habit. Scientists from The Scripps Research Institute tested 50 cannabis users who were seeking treatment, in a 12-week trial. The study—published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology—showed that those who used gabapentin smoked less pot, and experienced fewer withdrawal symptoms such as sleeplessness, drug cravings, and dysphoria. They also scored higher on tests of attention, impulse-control, and other cognitive skills, when compared to those given a placebo. Addiction research has shown that excessive drug use can weaken impulse control through over-activation of reward-circuitry in the brain; compounded by the stress of withdrawal, this can make it difficult for regular pot smokers to quit. "That weakening of self-control-related circuits makes it even harder for people to resist drug cravings when they're trying to quit, but gabapentin may help restore those circuits, by reducing stress and enabling patients to sleep better, so that they function better while awake," said study author Barbara J. Mason. If confirmed in later trials, gabapentin would be the first drug approved by the FDA for treatment of marijuana dependence. "A lot of other drugs have been tested for their ability to decrease cannabis use and withdrawal, but this is the first to show these key effects in a controlled treatment study," said Mason. "The other nice thing about gabapentin is that it is already widely prescribed, so its safety is less likely to be an issue."