Intentional cannabis use may help reduce addiction to crack cocaine, suggests study
A recent study by a team of Canadian researchers has investigated the possibility of using cannabis as a treatment option for individuals with crack cocaine use disorder. Findings of the study, which appeared in the journal Addictive Behaviors in April 2017, suggest that phases of intentional cannabis use can help in reducing the regularity of crack consumption in people with crack cocaine use disorder.
The researchers sourced data from three prospective cohort studies, involving 122 participants over a three-year period, between 2012 and 2015, which examined the intentional use of cannabis to regulate crack consumption. Adjusted analyses were subsequently used to compare the frequency of crack use during three time periods – before, during and after intentional phases of using cannabis. It was found that:
- There was a significant reduction in the rate of crack usage in the period after the intentional use of cannabis, when compared with earlier periods.
- There was no significant difference in the rate of crack usage during the period when cannabis was intentionally used.
- Compared to earlier periods, the rate of cannabis use was higher in the period after intentional use of cannabis. However, the frequency of cannabis use was lower afterwards than the period of intentional cannabis use.
No FDA-approved medicine to treat crack addiction
Crack cocaine, or simply crack, is cocaine in crystallized form. Addiction to crack develops rapidly, sometimes taking hold after just one use, and its use results in a sudden high. As per the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), the lifetime prevalence of crack cocaine use disorder among Americans aged 12 years or older was 3.4 percent, whereas the past year and past month prevalence was 0.3 percent and 0.1 percent, respectively. In 2013, nearly six percent of all admittances to drug abuse treatment programs were on account of cocaine. Majority of such cases, accounting for 68 percent of all principal cocaine admittances in 2013, were of individuals who smoked crack.
So far, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any medication that can be used to treat crack cocaine disorders, although researchers are investigating various options, including those which use neurobiological methods. The study is the most recent one to suggest that cannabis can be used to reduce cravings of crack cocaine. A small, older study in Brazil found that the therapeutic use of cannabis helped 68 percent crack abusers reduce their craving symptoms and end their dependence on crack entirely.
Past researches provide evidence that cannabinoids, the primary chemical compounds found in cannabis, are capable of restraining the cravings for cocaine through their interplay with CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system (ECS). In this study, test mice that had been deliberately made to develop cocaine addiction were administered a synthetic cannabinoid, which was a close proxy of the active chemicals found in cannabis. It was found that the mice showed a lower urge to use cocaine. The researchers came to the conclusion that the synthetic cannabinoid activated the CB2 receptors of the mice, which resulted in reduced cravings for cocaine.
More research needed to establish cannabis as potential treatment option
The researchers summarized their observations by stating that an association has been shown between phases of intentional cannabis use self-reported by participants and subsequent phases where the usage of crack cocaine was lower. At a global level, substantially adverse health effects and death rates can be attributed to crack cocaine use disorders. In addition, there is no effective medicinal treatment option available as yet. Accordingly, the researchers support the need for stringent trials and research on cannabinoids to establish their efficacy as a potential treatment for addiction to crack cocaine.
Addiction to drugs can be treated with timely intervention and professional help. If you or someone you know is battling addiction to substances, contact the Drug Addiction Helpline to get help for drug addiction. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-403-5607 or chat online with our experts for more details on the best inpatient drug abuse treatment centers or outpatient drug abuse treatment centers in your area.