Cannabis use disorders (abuse or dependence) are present in 4% of adolescents and 6% of young adults. There really aren’t any medication options for the treatment of marijuana dependence. Now, this has changed.
A cheap, safe, and easy antioxidant medication, Acetyl cysteine (NAC,) has been shown to be effective for the treatment of cannabis dependence. Previous studies have suggested using NAC as a potential treatment for addictive disorders, including cannabis dependence. The science behind this is the neurotransmitter glutamate which has emerged as a potential target in the treatment of addictions. NAC works by reversing drug-induced down regulation of the glutamate exchanger which reduces compulsive drug seeking behavior.
Adolescents aged 15 to 21 with marijuana dependence took eight weeks of NAC capsules 1200 mg or placebo twice daily. Patients receiving NAC had more than twice the odds of having negative urine drugs test results during treatment. Forty-one percent of urine tests in the NAC group were negative compared to 27 percent in the placebo group. Importantly, NAC was well tolerated with minimal side effects.
As always, further trials are needed to confirm this promising finding. Because NAC is so well tolerated it’s a nice option for dependence on marijuana when psychosocial intervention alone hasn’t been enough.
- Dr. O
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