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News (Media Awareness Project) - Australia: Cannabis Mouth Spray May Help Addicts Quit
Title:Australia: Cannabis Mouth Spray May Help Addicts Quit
Published On:2012-01-09
Source:Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
Fetched On:2012-01-10 06:00:32

SMOKERS have nicotine patches and heroin users have methadone but
cannabis users have little choice except to go "cold turkey" if they
want to kick their habit.

However, researchers at the University of NSW hope a cannabis-based
mouth spray, prescribed to multiple sclerosis sufferers and not
available in Australia, could be used to help people quit marijuana.

There are no products aimed at easing people off cannabis, the only
option being rehabilitation where a cocktail of prescribed drugs is
used to counteract withdrawal symptoms.

But a drug, Sativex, which is a mouth spray, contains two of the main
cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant; tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
and cannabidiol (CBD).

It was the combination of both that gave Sativex potential, said Jan
Copeland, who is leading the world-first study through the
university's National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre.

"The smoked cannabis available on the market has had almost all the
CBD taken out of it, which is almost considered the 'good'
cannabinoid, while THC is associated with getting stoned," Professor
Copeland said.

"The good thing about Sativex, it returns CBD to the compound, and in
treating symptoms of withdrawal it can dampen down the effects of THC
on the patients' receptor systems without them getting stoned."

The mouth spray, which the university has been authorised to use,
would be given in low doses in a monitored environment every six
hours, she said.

Disrupted sleep, difficulty functioning and anger were common
withdrawal symptoms and the main cause of relapse, Professor Copeland

A former cannabis smoker, Teresa Ursich, said she wished a drug such
as Sativex had been available when she was trying to quit. She has
written a book about her experience, But It's Only Pot, and has been
drug free for seven years. A user for 14 years, she tried going "cold
turkey" several times before she went into rehab.

"In rehab they give you all these drugs. The major drug they give to
you is Valium, and they give you other drugs for the cramps and
codeine for the pain. I'm lucky I didn't get addicted to Valium."

There was a perception that cannabis was a "soft" drug, she said, and
easier to stop using. "But the pain is not just mental," the
42-year-old said.

"You feel agitated and so sick; you get to a point where you would rob
your own grandmother to get some."

Professor Copeland said cannabis was more addictive than alcohol. "It
has a particularly high dependence profile for those who start before
the age of 16, who are twice as likely to develop a dependency," she
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