Spray to help alleviate marijuana withdrawal.abc.net.au.January 9, 2012. EMILY BOURKE: Smokers have nicotine replacement options to deal with withdrawal symptoms while they're trying to kick the habit.For those dependent on marijuana, there's no equivalent.But a team from the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre at the University of New South Wales will trial a spray to help with easing marijuana withdrawal symptoms. The centre's director Professor Jan Copeland is speaking here with AM's Timothy McDonald.
JAN COPELAND: There is about 200,000 Australians who use cannabis daily, about 1 per cent of the population who currently meet criteria for cannabis dependence.
TIMOTHY MCDONALD: So how will this drug help people who are going through withdrawal symptoms from marijuana dependence?
JAN COPELAND: Well, this is rather like the nicotine replacement therapy for cannabis smokers. It is a really exciting new development in the management of cannabis withdrawal and it is a pharmaceutical extract of botanical cannabis so it is a natural whole plant organically growth product and it is used as a mouth spray.
So this removes all the smoking related problems association with cannabis and it also has an optimal balance of the two main components of cannabis because of course there is about 500 chemicals and 80 of those are different kinds of cannabinoids.
So has a low dose THC because we don't want people to get stoned, we just want to help them settle down with their levels of cannabis use and also relatively high doses of CBD which is the good cannabis which reduces anxiety and has anti-psychotic effects.
So in that way we can fully activate the body's cannabis receptors and smooth down the peaks of withdrawal to allow people to then engage in the available medical and psychological care.
TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Just in terms of people who actually try to stop smoking cannabis, are the withdrawal systems something that often stop them from doing so?
JAN COPELAND: Yes, in fact it is one of the main reasons that people have problems stopping. It is like tobacco withdrawal but different and of course we all know people that say it is easy to give up tobacco, I've done it a thousand times. It is a similar kind of situation here.
It is not a life threatening withdrawal such as alcohol but some people have extreme problems with their sleep, they have problems with feeling really irritable and in fact outbursts of anger. Their appetites are disturbed and things like that and it really is enough over a few days to you know, drive them back to using again.
Helping people manage withdrawal is really going to set them on the pathway to long-term abstinence.
EMILY BOURKE: Jan Copeland from the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre.