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A pill for people who can’t stop using cannabis is in the works

Nov 9, 2022 | Media Partners, The GrowthOp

This post is presented by our media partner The Growth Op
View the original article here.

‘People who overuse marijuana may have access to a pill that can help them kick their habit’

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U.S. researchers are investigating a new drug that researchers hope will treat cannabis use disorder (CUD) and help affected individuals stub out their dependence on weed.

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At least, that’s the hope of Aelis Farma and Segal Trials. The former is the maker of AEF0117-202 and the latter is the privately held network of clinical research sites in South Florida that is conducting a Phase 2B study on the new drug.

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News-Medical.net defines Phase 2 clinical trials as evaluating the effectiveness and safety of a new drug or drug combination for a particular indication.

  1. Researchers looked at human observational studies on health conditions and compared the effects of using cannabis products with high and low levels of THC. /

    High-strength cannabis more associated with addiction than low-potency weed: Study

  2. Study authors note that cannabis use is increasing among women during and after their pregnancies. / PHOTO BY GLOBALMOMENTS /ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES PLUS

    Chronic cannabis use by mothers heightens risk of their young adult offspring using marijuana and tobacco: study

  3. People with chronic health conditions such as asthma, obesity or sickle cell disease, those who smoke tobacco and individuals over the age of 65 are known to be at an increased risk of a poor outcome. /

    Researchers explore if Cannabis Use Disorder may increase risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms

According to High Times the review seeks to determine “the efficacy of a drug that reacts to the same receptors as THC.” Participants receive three doses in capsule form — 1.0, 0.3 and 0.1 milligrams — or a placebo.

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Subjects are between the ages of 18 and 65, have moderate to severe CUD, smoke or vape consistently as their primary form of cannabis use and have no clinically significant abnormal findings in their medical histories.

Frequent, heavy use of cannabis can lead to dependency and addiction

The Canadian government reports “continued, frequent and heavy cannabis use can cause physical dependency and addiction.” Pointing out “some people are also more prone to becoming addicted than others,” it notes “it’s estimated that one in three who use cannabis will develop a problem with their use” and that “if a person smokes cannabis daily, the risk of addiction is 25 to 50 per cent.”

With regards to CUD, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that signs of the disorder include using more cannabis than intended, trying but failing to quit, craving cannabis, needing more weed to get the same high, giving up important activities with friends and family in favour of using marijuana and using bud in high-risk situations, such as driving a vehicle.

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Segal Trials calls AEF0117-202 the first clinical candidate in a new pharmacological class of drugs for people who use cannabis at least five days weekly. The plan is to provide one group of study participants with the orally administered drug while a second receives a placebo. The Segal team will carry out the trial at its Center for Psychedelic and Cannabis Research.

This past spring, Frances Levin, principal investigator of the study and a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, noted that “disorders linked to excessive cannabis use are a growing health and societal problem in Western countries. In the United States alone almost 50 million people used cannabis in 2020, of whom 14.2 million have been diagnosed with CUD.”

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No pharmacological treatments for CUD currently exist, company claims

“No approved pharmacological treatments exist for people suffering from cannabis use disorder, so this randomized, double-blind, parallel group trial has the potential to pave the way toward a major advancement in the world of substance abuse treatment,” notes the most recent company statement.

“For the first time, people who overuse marijuana may have access to a pill that can help them kick their habit,” claims Segal Trials, whose Phase 1 to 4 trials focus on psychiatry, neurology, addiction, insomnia, infectious diseases, vaccine development and women’s health.

“People who begin using cannabis before the age of 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop cannabis use disorder than adults,” the statement notes.

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Reported U.S. cannabis use climbing

In the U.S., Gallup recently reported about 13 per cent of those polled reported smoking marijuana, just slightly more than the percentage that did so from 2016 to 2021, but almost double the seven per cent in 2013.

The Canadian Cannabis Survey for 2021 found 25 per cent of respondents reported using weed within the past 12 months, down from 27 per cent.

Dr. Rishi Kakar, chief scientific officer and medical director at Segal Trials, suggests the new drug could provide those who want to quit cannabis with a tool to do so. “Chronic marijuana use can drastically impact individuals’ social and professional lives in many ways, from poor work or school performance to mood disorders,” Dr. Kakar contends.

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The Canadian government fact sheet echoes those thoughts. Noting it is “often difficult to compare risks and harms between substances,” the information adds that “based on what is currently known, the risk of cannabis addiction is lower than the risk of addiction to alcohol, tobacco or opioids.”

Still, Dr. Kakar notes that the increased potency of cannabis products over the last two decades may be contributing to the rise of weed-related adverse effects.

A study published in 2018 in Missouri Medicine found that THC content in bud in Colorado dispensaries before the 1990s was less than two per cent. During the 1990s, that rose to four per cent and “between 1995 and 2015, there has been a 212 per cent increase in THC content in the marijuana flower,” authors wrote.

“In 2017, the most popular strains found in dispensaries in Colorado had a range of THC content from 17 to 28 per cent,” the study added.

Jointly recently reported Godfather OG, at 34 per cent THC, was the highest THC strain in the U.S.

We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with feedback and story tips at thegrowthop@postmedia.com

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