To help smokers quit there are nicotine patches and heroin users have methadone. However till date cannabis users have little choice except stop abruptly to quit. Cannabis withdrawal symptoms include severe insomnia, pot cravings and mood swings. “Although these are not life-threatening, they are significant enough to cause marked distress and lead people to go back to using the drug,” said lead researcher Jan Copeland.
Now researchers at the University of NSW hope a cannabis-based mouth spray, prescribed to multiple sclerosis sufferers and not available in Australia, could be used to help people quit marijuana. The drug, Sativex, which is a mouth spray, contains two of the main cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant; tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
It was the combination of both that gave Sativex potential, said Jan Copeland, who is leading the world-first study through the university's National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre. “The smoked cannabis available on the market has had almost all the CBD taken out of it, which is almost considered the 'good' cannabinoid, while THC is associated with getting stoned,” Professor Copeland said. “The good thing about Sativex, it returns CBD to the compound, and in treating symptoms of withdrawal it can dampen down the effects of THC on the patients' receptor systems without them getting stoned.”
The mouth spray, which the university has been authorized to use, would be given in low doses in a monitored environment every six hours, she added. Disrupted sleep, difficulty functioning and anger were common withdrawal symptoms and the main cause of relapse, Professor Copeland said.