Premature claims of a cannabis addiction 'cure'

“Have scientists found a ‘cure’ for marijuana addiction? New treatment blocks the kick that users get from the drug,” reports the Mail Online.

Based on the evidence presented in the study, which involved animals, the answer to the Mail’s question is 'not yet'.

The study found that increasing the levels of a naturally occurring chemical, called KYNA, using a compound called Ro 61-8048 blocked the effects of the active ingredient in cannabis, THC, on the brain’s reward system which produces the pleasurable feelings associated with the drug.

The study involved rats and squirrel monkeys who were given free access to a synthetic form of cannabis. Treatment with Ro 61-8048, led to a drop-off in drug use.

Also animals that had been previously weaned off THC use were less likely to ‘relapse’ if treated with Ro 61-8048.

Side effects of Ro 61-8048, at least in animals, appeared to be minimal.

While these results are promising, further studies are required to ensure that a similar compound is safe and effective in humans.

No. Advocates of cannabis, with some justification, make the case that the drug is safer than alcohol and tobacco, but that doesn’t make it harmless.

Cannabis use has been linked to an increased risk of psychosis and schizophrenia. There is also the physical damage that smoking cannabis, even without mixing it with tobacco, can do to your lungs, increasing the risk of lung cancer.

And of course it is a Class B drug – it’s illegal to have for yourself, give away or sell; any of which could result in a custodial sentence.

Read more about the dangers of cannabis

The study was carried out by researchers from the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the University of Maryland and Harvard Medical School; and the University of Caligari, and Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Italy and INSERM, France.

It was funded by the NIDA, National Institutes of Health and Department of Health and Human Services; by the Italian Ministry of Education, Universities and Research, and the University of Maryland.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Neuroscience.

The research was mostly well-covered in the Mail Online, though its choice of headline was unhelpful and misleading. A study involving monkeys and rats does not, however promising the results, equate to a ‘cure’ in humans.