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Drug to Curb Marijuana Use Comes With Serious Side Effects

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Although some people don’t believe that marijuana addiction is real, medical experts will tell you that it most certainly is.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nearly 4.2 million Americans who abused illegal substances also used marijuana in 2013. They also report that nine percent of those who use pot will eventually become addicted to it, including 25 to 50 percent of those who smoke daily.

While there’s currently no FDA-approved medication to treat cannabis abuse, researchers at Brown University have potentially discovered the key to a new drug that could fit the bill. The problem, however, is that the results show a lot more work needs to be done before the drug could potentially reach the hands of those who need most. Why? Well, it turns out there’s a host of pretty concerning side effects that come with taking it.

Introducing Topiramate

Topiramate, which has been previously used with success in treating migraine headaches and certain types of seizures, was shown in a Brown University clinical trial to greatly reduce marijuana use. Those findings were published in the journal Addiction Biology.

Sixty-six people participated in the trial, 40 of whom were given the drug and the remaining 26 receiving a placebo. Researchers found that a combination of topiramate and psychological counseling reduced marijuana abuse and dependence among pot smokers ages 15-24 far more significantly than those who just received counseling.

However, the drug also presented some significant side effects. More than half of those receiving topiramate couldn’t complete the six-week study, compared to six of the 26 receiving the placebo. Fourteen participants taking topiramate said they were forced to drop out due to being unable to handle the drug’s significant side effects, which included:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Coordination and Balance Issues
  • Unusual Sensations
  • Weight Loss

Are There Other Options?

Other medications have also enjoyed success with reducing marijuana dependence in small clinical trials. A March 2013 study from Columbia University used nabilone, a synthetic version of THC, to decrease marijuana withdrawal symptoms such an increased appetite and sleep. And a September 2003 research project, published in the Journal of Substance Abuse, found decreased cravings and relapse rates through a combination of oral THC and lofexidine, a drug used in the U.K. for opiate withdrawal. However, lofexidine is still not approved for use in the U.S.

Non-Medication Alternatives

Until one of these medications or drug combinations is approved by the FDA, those looking to overcome a pot addiction may find success with behavioral-based treatments. These include:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: This therapy teaches users ways to develop coping mechanisms to manage their cravings.
  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy: This therapy helps an addict gather their own internal resources to spark behavioral changes and engagement in their recovery.
  • Contingency Management: This therapy identifies targets behaviors and offers small rewards when they occur.


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