Study: Adjunctive Cannabis Use Improves Treatment Retention In Opioid-Dependent Subjects

MISSOURI: The intermittent use of cannabis can play a positive role in opioid-dependent subjects undergoing treatment, according to a review published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.

Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis assessed data evaluating the relationship between the use of cannabis and opioids.

They reported, “Adjunct cannabis use alongside current treatment strategies could help to improve the number of individuals engaging in OUD (opioid use disorder) treatment, as well as increase treatment retention rates.”

Specifically, authors acknowledged that the use of CBD is associated with reduced opioids cravings and relapse, and that cannabis acts synergistically with opioids to provide analgesic benefit at sub-therapeutic doses. Authors also suggested that “cannabis may be an efficacious tool” in the treatment of symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal.

They concluded: “The opioid overdose epidemic is arguably the worst public health crisis in U.S. history. … A continental crisis of this magnitude warrants the immediate implementation of novel strategies that prevent opioid misuse, overdose, and death. Growing pre-clinical and clinical evidence appears to support the use of cannabis for these purposes. The evidence summarized in this article demonstrates the potential cannabis has to ease opioid withdrawal symptoms, reduce opioid consumption, ameliorate opioid cravings, prevent opioid relapse, improve OUD treatment retention, and reduce overdose deaths.”

Separate clinical data published online last week in the journal Addiction reported that daily cannabis users undergoing therapy for opioid dependence are far more likely to complete their treatment regimen than are non-users


For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, “Emerging evidence for cannabis’ role in opioid use disorder,” appears in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. NORML’s fact-sheet, “Relationship between marijuana and opioids,” is online.

Study: Marijuana Decriminalization Leads To Decreased Arrests, No Increase In Youth Use

MISSOURI: State laws reducing minor marijuana possession offenses from criminal to civil violations (aka decriminalization) are associated with dramatic reductions in drug-related arrests, and are not linked to any uptick in youth cannabis use, according to data published by researchers affiliated with Washington University and the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Investigators examined the impact of cannabis decriminalization on arrests and youth cannabis use in five states that passed decriminalization measures between the years 2008 and 2014: Massachusetts (decriminalized in 2008), Connecticut (2011), Rhode Island (2013), Vermont (2013), and Maryland (2014). Data on cannabis use were obtained from state Youth Risk Behavior Surveys; arrest data were obtained from federal crime statistics.

Authors reported: “Decriminalization of cannabis in five states between the years 2009 and 2014 was associated with large and immediate decreases in drug-related arrests for both youth and adults. … The sharp drop in arrest rates suggests that implementation of these policies likely changed police behavior as intended.”

They further reported: “Decriminalization was not associated with increased cannabis use either in aggregate or in any of the five states analyzed separately, nor did we see any delayed effects in a lag analysis, which allowed for the possibility of a two-year (one period) delay in policy impact. In fact, the lag analysis suggested a potential protective effect of decriminalization.” In two of the five states assessed, Rhode Island and Vermont, researchers determined that the prevalence of youth cannabis use declined following the enactment of decriminalization.

Investigators concluded: “[I]mplementation of cannabis decriminalization likely leads to a large decrease in the number of arrests among youth (as well as adults) and we see no evidence of increases in youth cannabis use. On the contrary, cannabis use rates declined after decriminalization. … These findings are consistent with the interpretation that decriminalization policies likely succeed with respect to their intended effects and that their short-term unintended consequences are minimal.”

Thirteen states currently impose either partial or full decriminalization. Nine additional states and Washington, DC have subsequently amended their decriminalization laws in a manner that fully legalizes the use of marijuana by adults.


For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.orgFull text of the study, “Cannabis decriminalization: A study of recent policy change in five states,” is available online. Additional fact-sheets regarding the societal effects of decriminalization policies are available from NORML online.