Weed May Aid In Withdrawal From Painkiller Addiction

By Paul Gaita 12/10/15

Researchers found that withdrawal treatment with dronabinol had a considerable effect.

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A new study suggests that using cannabis helps reduce the effects of withdrawal from prescription painkillers.

Researchers from the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons conducted a double-blind study in which participants, all of whom reported a dependency on opiods, were given either dronabinol—a medication in the cannabinoid family used to treat nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy—or a placebo while also undergoing inpatient or outpatient detoxification and treatment with naltrexone, a medication use to block the effects of opioid drugs. Test subjects then received either the dronabinol or the placebo for five more weeks before researchers assessed their recovery.

As the researchers noted in their findings, which were published in the September 2015 edition of the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, the subjects who received dronabinol experienced less severe withdrawal symptoms than those who were given the placebo. Additionally, 32% of patients who smoked marijuana regularly during the outpatient phase, in addition to receiving either the medication or the placebo, experienced lower incidents of insomnia and anxiety, and were more likely to complete the entire eight-week trial.

The study authors noted that while the dronabinol impacted the withdrawal symptoms, it had no effect on how the patient reacted to the naltrexone treatment. The use of cannabinoids, including medical variants, would appear to be a supplement to the treatment rather than a means unto itself.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.