7 Diseases That Can Be Treated with Medical Marijuana

Over the past four decades, treating diseases with medical marijuana has been on the rise. The credibility of cannabis has grown in the medical community as a possible solution to treat chronic conditions and diseases. While marijuana hasn’t demonstrated that it is the ultimate solution or cure to end a disease in general, it can help soothe the effects of chronic diseases, inhibit diseases from developing at a rapid pace and possibly become a replacement for opioids to handle emotional and physical pain.

This is how marijuana positively contributes to the following seven diseases:

1. Depression

A study from the University of Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions tested how marijuana affected chronic stress in rats and used this information to coincide with equivalent human responses. In this experiment, researchers found that when the rats were bound by rodent restraints for long periods of time — a source of chronic stress —  the production of their brain’s endocannabinoids rapidly decreased. In regards to human beings in long-term stressful situations, these receptors influence how well a person can process thoughts, gauge emotions and behave, and they even can impact a person’s cognitive ability to handle pain and anxiety. When there is a lack of endocannabinoid production in the brain, an individual is at risk of developing depression. Marijuana can play a role in restoring cannabinoids such as tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol in the endocannabinoid system, and helping ease the depressing.

2. Anxiety

Like depression, anxiety reduces the endocannabinoid production in the brain and inhibits an individual’s ability to cope with pain and stress. However, the use of marijuana to treat anxiety can go either way: It can either deplete anxiety or increase it. While marijuana is meant to bring a person into a tranquil state, some individuals possess a brain chemistry that simply does not react well with the plant’s chemicals. In other cases, marijuana has been able to prevent unwanted anxiety attacks, stimulate a calmer “fight-or-flight response” to stress and all-together provide the user with a “high” that releases any tension in the body.

3. Epilepsy

Given that epilepsy is a cause of seizures (also known as “electrical storms”), medical scientists have created a specific CBD formula that is proven safe for individuals to use because it possessed little to no effect on the sensitive psychoactivity of epilepsy patients. Some of the first tests with marijuana, such as a 2015 test at the NYU Langone Medical Center, actually demonstrated that it had the ability to suppress seizures. Because of this, researchers and developers have been able to manipulate marijuana compounds to tailor to an individual’s epileptic condition, keeping in mind that this disease affects multiple people differently.

4. Alzheimer’s

Marijuana diminishes the intensity of hallucinations, improves poor sleeping habits and stops aggressive outbursts suffered by individuals with Alzheimer’s. The main source of Alzheimer’s is its rapid production of beta-amyloid proteins, which cause plaques to develop in the brain and dangerously reduce the necessary peptides in amino acids that enable one to properly function. Most importantly, marijuana can slow this build-up of proteins to prevent existing Alzheimer’s from deteriorating an individual’s brain.

5. HIV/AIDS

 The HIV virus weakens the immune system, but marijuana softens the impact of disorienting and uncomfortable symptoms of a weak immune system, such as nausea, muscle and joint pain, loss of appetite, severe headaches and fevers. Furthermore, in this particular study from Spain in 2008, marijuana was proven to prevent chemical reactions in the body that create HIV compounds.

6. Cancer

While marijuana does not fundamentally cure cancer or diminish its symptoms, it is able to reduce the discomfort in certain treatments that many cancer patients undergo. Cancer patients who use medical marijuana endure a lessened amount of inevitable nausea and vomiting caused by their chemotherapy treatments. Furthermore, cannabinoids improve appetite and can ease the neuropathic pain that is a result of severe nerve damage caused by chemotherapy.

7. Drug Addiction

Though it seems counter-intuitive, recovering addicts can use medical marijuana to reverse the effects of opioid addiction, decrease unwanted drug cravings and even diminish the emotional and physical symptoms of addiction. This is due to the chemical compounds of cannabidiol, which binds to brain receptors that induce a safer “high” and counteract impairments and mental damage caused by long-term drug abuse. Lastly, marijuana can even replace addictive painkillers since it targets the same nerve receptors as opioids without putting the user at risk for chronic addiction.

TELL US, what diseases do you treat with cannabis?

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Michael Pollan & The Landscape of the Mind

Michael Pollan is best known for his groundbreaking, best-selling books on food — which collectively have helped spark a revolution in the way we think about what we eat and where it comes from — but he also has a longstanding interest in cannabis. As far back as 1995, he traveled to the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam for a New York Times Magazine cover story on the growers and breeders behind the world’s highest-potency strains, a group of illicit horticulturalists he called “the best gardeners of my generation.”

“I had come to Amsterdam to meet some of these gardeners and learn how, in little more than a decade, marijuana growing in America had evolved from a hobby of aging hippies into a burgeoning high-tech industry,” he wrote. “Fewer than 20 years ago, virtually all the marijuana consumed in America was imported. ‘Home grown’ was a term of opprobrium — ‘something you only smoked in an emergency,’ as one grower old enough to remember put it. Today… American marijuana cultivation has developed to the point where the potency, quality and consistency of the domestic product are considered as good as, if not better than, any in the world.”

At the time, such high praise from one of the world’s leading journalists was virtually unheard of in the world of cannabis. In the article, Pollan even admitted to making his own furtive attempt to grow cannabis back in the 1980s, which he dubbed “a fiasco.” Later, he included cannabis as one of four species profiled in “The Botany of Desire,” his best-selling book that took a “plant’s eye view of the world.”

And now Pollan has gone a significant step further into the study of psychoactivity with his latest book, “How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us about Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.” Pollan defines psychedelics as substances that not only affect the mind (like cannabis), but are fully “mind manifesting,” noting the term itself was coined in 1956 by Humphry Osmond “to describe drugs like LSD and psilocybin that produce radical changes in consciousness.”

At a stop on his national tour to promote the book, he sat down for an interview that touched on everything from DMT extracted from toads and the brain’s “default mode network,” to the benefits of dissolving your ego and Pollan’s personal experiences taking various psychedelics with a series of underground guides.

Cannabis Now: You write about the ineffable nature of psychedelics, meaning the experience of taking them is difficult or impossible to describe in words. Given that challenge, I love your description of tripping as being like “shaking the snow globe” of the mind. But what does that mean exactly?

Michael Pollan: The snow globe metaphor comes from Robin Carhart-Harris, one of the leading neuroscientists studying psychedelics today, and the researcher who’s probably done the most analytical work to try to understand how psychedelics affect us and why they might be therapeutic. He’s even been using MRIs and other brain imaging tools to see what happens neurologically during a psychedelic trip. Just imagine being injected with psilocybin [the active compound in “magic” mushrooms] or LSD and then sliding into an MRI. That sounds like a recipe for disaster, so these are volunteers to whom we should all be grateful.

Anyway, what the researchers discovered really surprised them. Turns out one particular brain network called the default mode network was downregulated (i.e. suppressed) during the psychedelic experience.

What does that system do? And why might disrupting it prove beneficial?

The default mode network is a network of brain structures that are tightly linked, so they communicate a lot with each other. And what they do is connect structures in the cortex — the most evolutionarily recent part of the brain, where executive function takes place — to much older and deeper structures involved in memory and emotion. So this is a very important transit hub.

The brain has a hierarchical structure, and the default mode network kind of rides over the whole thing. It’s involved with self-reflection and self-criticism. It’s where our minds go to wander when we’re not doing something. It’s where we get our ability to think about the future or the past. And finally, it’s involved in what’s called “the autobiographical self” — a function of the brain that integrates all of your experiences into the story of your life and keeps that story going. Because without that story, you don’t really exist as an independent self.

Michael Pollan Illustration Cannabis Now

Illustration Ryan Garcia for Cannabis Now

If the ego had an address, it would be the default mode network. So how interesting that when psychedelics temporarily put that network offline, people report “melting away” with no sense of self.

Now, why dissolving one’s ego might be helpful — that’s a whole other discussion. For starters, it’s possible that having a hyperactive default mode network could be responsible for various kinds of mental illness, especially those that involve obsessive rumination and getting stuck on really destructive stories about yourself. For instance: “I can’t get through the next hour without a cigarette.” Or: “I’m unworthy of love.”

That kind of rigidity of thinking is characteristic of anxiety, depression and addiction, which happen to be the three indications which, so far, psychedelics have proven the most valuable in treating.

What about the risks?

Psychedelics are not addictive or drugs of abuse. If you give rats a lever that dispenses cocaine, they’ll press it until they die, but give them the same lever with LSD and they’ll pull it once and never again. So the risks are largely psychological — and there are people who have psychotic episodes triggered by psychedelics, especially people at risk for schizophrenia.

Before moving forward with my own psychedelic experiences, I actually went to my cardiologist and told him what I was planning, and the only psychedelic he warned me off of was MDMA (ecstasy). He basically greenlighted the others, so off I went, on a series of really interesting journeys, all but one of which were guided by trained underground therapists.

Ideally, I would have participated in one of the fully legal clinical trials currently underway, but I didn’t qualify for any of them and perhaps they didn’t want a journalist hanging around anyway. So I took psilocybin from psychedelic mushrooms, LSD, 5-MeO-DMT from dried toad venom and ayahuasca. They were all very interesting experiences that taught me important things about myself and allowed for a certain stock-taking of life that I found invaluable.

Why do you think the authorities have been, at least until relatively recently, so hostile to psychedelics and the psychedelic mind state?

When psychedelics arrived in the United States, largely in the 1950s and ’60s, they arrived naked. Which is to say that these incredible molecules showed up, with very powerful properties, and unlike many other cultures which had long traditions of ceremonial and shamanistic use, we didn’t know how to use them. In those other cultures the psychedelic experience was regulated, guided and to some extent controlled by elders with decades of experience, but that’s not what happened here.

And so, while a lot of people had very positive experiences simply taking psychedelics at a concert or during a walk in the woods, some got into trouble. The experience of feeling your ego dissolve can be ecstatic but it can also be terrifying. And if there’s no one there to help you with that, you can get into a very dark place and have a panic reaction.

So that partly explains how the authorities reacted. But another big part of this is that psychedelics became a sacrament for the counterculture. Which was a very positive thing for the counterculture, but not for members of the establishment who were trying to send young men off to Vietnam to fight a war.

Psychedelics therefore became very frightening to the authorities.

Your experiences varied pretty widely, based on the specific psychedelic and set-and-setting. Which did you find most useful?

The most valuable experience was my guided psilocybin trip, where a lot of interesting things happened, but what was perhaps most helpful was having my sense of self dissolve completely. I saw myself blown into the wind like a sheaf of little Post-it notes, and I was fine with it. I had no desire to compile myself back together.

The consciousness that was perceiving this was not my usual consciousness. Aldous Huxley [author of “Brave New World”] would say it was “the mind at large.” And this is what I think has helped terminal cancer patients who’ve been given psychedelics to help deal with end-of-life anxiety. Taping into this kind of universal consciousness that doesn’t have the usual ego defenses attached to it can be incredibly liberating. It also could have been terrifying, but I felt safe and that’s really what’s important about having a guided experience.

You’re going to have to put down all of your mental defenses when taking a high-dose psychedelic trip and if you do that in a situation where don’t feel safe or trust the person that you’re with, it can be terrifying. But I did trust my guide, and so I was able to let go and surrender to the experience.

And the insight I brought away was, “Wow, I’m not identical to my ego.”

Ego is really important. Ego gets the book written, but it also gets in our way, and walls us off from other people and from strong emotions. I think ego consciousness is at the root of tribalism and the environmental crisis, because it separates us from nature. So to find out there’s another ground on which to stand, for me that was a real epiphany. I could have gotten there probably via 20 or 30 years of psychoanalysis, but I got there in an afternoon and that’s the power of psychedelics when used in the right context.

Then, after the experience comes the most important part, which we don’t talk about enough because we tend to focus on the trip itself. But if you’re engaged in therapist-assisted psychedelic therapy, as I was, there’s a formal session where you share your experience with the therapist and attempt to integrate it into the rest of your “normal” life.

When I reported my surprise at finding that I’m not the same as my ego, and how liberating that felt, the therapist said, “Well, that’s really worth the price of admission isn’t it? You’ve had a taste of another way to be and now you can cultivate that feeling and exercise that new muscle.”

TELL US, do you see a medical value in psychedelics?

Originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE

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If cannabis becomes a problem: How to manage withdrawal

Proponents of cannabis generally dismiss the idea that there is a cannabis withdrawal syndrome. One routinely hears statements such as, “I smoked weed every day for 30 years and then just walked away from it without any problems. It’s not addictive.” Some cannabis researchers, on the other hand, describe serious withdrawal symptoms that can include aggression, anger, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, anorexia, depression, restlessness, headaches, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Given this long list of withdrawal symptoms, it’s a wonder that anyone tries to reduce or stop using cannabis. Why is there such a disconnect between researchers’ findings and the lived reality of cannabis users?

New research highlights the problems of withdrawal, but provides an incomplete picture

A recent meta-analysis published in JAMA cites the overall prevalence of cannabis withdrawal syndrome as 47% among “individuals with regular or dependent use of cannabinoids.” The authors of the study raise the alarm that “many professionals and members of the general public may not be aware of cannabis withdrawal, potentially leading to confusion about the benefits of cannabis to treat or self-medicate symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders.” In other words, many patients using medical cannabis to “treat” their symptoms are merely caught up in a cycle of self-treating their cannabis withdrawal. Is it possible that almost half of cannabis consumers are actually experiencing a severe cannabis withdrawal syndrome — to the point that it is successfully masquerading as medicinal use of marijuana — and they don’t know it?

Unfortunately, the study in JAMA doesn’t seem particularly generalizable to actual cannabis users. This study is a meta-analysis — a study which includes many studies that are deemed similar enough to lump together, in order to increase the numerical power of the study and, ideally, the strength of the conclusions. The authors included studies that go all the way back to the mid-1990s — a time when cannabis was illegal in the US, different in potency, and when there was no choice or control over strains or cannabinoid compositions, as there is now. One of the studies in the meta-analysis included “cannabis dependent inpatients” in a German psychiatric hospital in which 118 patients were being detoxified from cannabis. Another was from 1998 and is titled, “Patterns and correlates of cannabis dependence among long-term users in an Australian rural area.” It is not a great leap to surmise that Australians in the countryside smoking whatever marijuana was available to them illegally in 1998, or patients in a psychiatric hospital, might be substantively different from current American cannabis users.

Medical cannabis use is different from recreational use

Moreover, the JAMA study doesn’t distinguish between medical and recreational cannabis, which are actually quite different in their physiological and cognitive effects — as Harvard researcher Dr. Staci Gruber’s work tells us. Medical cannabis patients, under the guidance of a medical cannabis specialist, are buying legal, regulated cannabis from a licensed dispensary; it might be lower in THC (the psychoactive component that gives you the high) and higher in CBD (a nonintoxicating, more medicinal component), and the cannabis they end up using often results in them ingesting a lower dose of THC.

Cannabis withdrawal symptoms are real

 All of this is not to say that there is no such thing as a cannabis withdrawal syndrome. It isn’t life-threatening or medically dangerous, but it certainly does exist. It makes absolute sense that there would be a withdrawal syndrome because, as is the case with many other medicines, if you use cannabis every day, the natural receptors by which cannabis works on the body “down-regulate,” or thin out, in response to chronic external stimulation. When the external chemical is withdrawn after prolonged use, the body is left in the lurch, and forced to rely on natural stores of these chemicals — but it takes time for the natural receptors to grow back to their baseline levels. In the meantime, the brain and the body are hungry for these chemicals, and the result is withdrawal symptoms.

Getting support for withdrawal symptoms

Uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms can prevent people who are dependent or addicted to cannabis from remaining abstinent. The commonly used treatments for cannabis withdrawal are either cognitive behavioral therapy or medication therapy, neither of which has been shown to be particularly effective. Common medications that have been used are dronabinol (which is synthetic THC); nabiximols (which is cannabis in a mucosal spray, so you aren’t actually treating the withdrawal); gabapentin for anxiety (which has a host of side effects); and zolpidem for the sleep disturbance (which also has a list of side effects). Some researchers are looking at CBD, the nonintoxicating component of cannabis, as a treatment for cannabis withdrawal.

Some people get into serious trouble with cannabis, and use it addictively to avoid reality. Others depend on it to an unhealthy degree. Again, the number of people who become addicted or dependent is somewhere between the 0% that cannabis advocates believe and the 100% that cannabis opponents cite. We don’t know the actual number, because the definitions and studies have been plagued with a lack of real-world relevance that many studies about cannabis suffer from, and because the nature of both cannabis use and cannabis itself have been changing rapidly.

How do you know if your cannabis use is a problem?

The standard definition of cannabis use disorder is based on having at least two of 11 criteria, such as: taking more than was intended, spending a lot of time using it, craving it, having problems because of it, using it in high-risk situations, getting into trouble because of it, and having tolerance or withdrawal from discontinuation. As cannabis becomes legalized and more widely accepted, and as we understand that you can be tolerant and have physical or psychological withdrawal from many medicines without necessarily being addicted to them (such as opiates, benzodiazepines, and some antidepressants), I think this definition seems obsolete and overly inclusive. For example, if one substituted “coffee” for “cannabis,” many of the 160 million Americans who guzzle coffee on a daily basis would have “caffeine use disorder,” as evidenced by the heartburn and insomnia that I see every day as a primary care doctor. Many of the patients that psychiatrists label as having cannabis use disorder believe that they are fruitfully using cannabis to treat their medical conditions — without problems — and recoil at being labeled as having a disorder in the first place. This is perhaps a good indication that the definition doesn’t fit the disease.

Perhaps a simpler, more colloquial definition of cannabis addiction would be more helpful in assessing your use of cannabis: persistent use despite negative consequences. If your cannabis use is harming your health, disrupting your relationships, or interfering with your job performance, it is likely time to quit or cut down drastically, and consult your doctor. As part of this process, you may need to get support or treatment if you experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, which may make it significantly harder to stop using.

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Sex Addiction and its treatment with Cannabis

If you read this article and start to feel like you might have an issue, go talk to your doctor. Ask a professional. If you do have a sex addiction, hear about your reality and options from a doctor. Do not diagnose yourself or choose a course of action based on this article. It is […]

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Cannabis and Mental Health: Substance Use Disorder

Substance use disorder (SUD) is a significant global issue. In 2017, 19.7 million Americans ranging from age 12 and up suffered from SUD. Of them, 74% struggled with alcohol use disorder, while 38% of addictions related to illicit drugs. In the same period, one in eight were addicted to both substances. 

SUD affects both your mind and body, impacting daily life until you are unable to perform everyday functions. A person suffering from substance use disorder often cannot control their consumption, leading to ingesting excessive levels. Depending on the substance, such activity can lead to a person overdosing, resulting in thousands of deaths each year. 

Since 2000, the U.S. has seen its overdose death rates increase to alarming numbers. Prescription opioid addiction caused just over 17,000 deaths in 2017. Heroin deaths exceeded 15,000 during the same period. Cocaine killed nearly 14,000, while antidepressants resulted in the loss of roughly 5,200 lives. 

A person can become addicted to a variety of substances, including hard drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. One’s environment and genetics can lead to the development of SUD. Risk factors include a family’s history of addiction or a lack of involvement in a person’s life. Peer pressure is a common cause, especially when coupled with starting at an early age. 

In other cases, the person with substance use disorder is introduced to drugs through medical treatment. Often, this form of addiction begins when a person is prescribed opioid medication after an injury or surgery. Once the prescription ends, their addiction lives on and manifests over time. In turn, numerous lives have succumbed to SUD just for seeking treatment to common pains. 

Mental health disorders can also affect the likelihood of an addiction developing. Those with ADHD, depression, and PTSD may face a higher risk as substances are often used by patients to cope with painful thoughts and feelings. There exists a high comorbidity, or the presence of two diseases in a patient, between substance use disorder and other mental illnesses. That said, one cannot be considered the cause for the other. At this point, it is still uncertain to what degree of influence each has on the other’s development. 

A cannabis dependence is a reality for some consumers. Those suffering from cannabis use disorder may experience irritability, sleep issues, and physical discomfort, among minor-to-moderate other effects. 

A 2015 study cited by the National Institute for Drug Abuse found that 30% of cannabis consumers may have some degree of cannabis use disorder (CUD). 

Can You Treat Substance Use Disorder With Cannabis?

While cannabis dependence is a concern for some, the topic of marijuana as a possible aid in treating substance abuse has circulated for years. However, it needs to be made clear that cannabis is not seen as a cure for any form of substance abuse. Instead, some believe that cannabis can serve as a means of harm reduction, or any type of policy, program, or practice aimed at reducing the effects of substance abuse. 

“Here we need to make a clear distinction: harm reduction does not equate with recovery,” stated DeAnna Jordan Crosby, AMFT, LAADC, Psy.D. Student, and clinical director of New Method Wellness in California.

The past decade has begun to answer if cannabis fits as a harm reduction tool. A 2010 exploratory study found that marijuana appeared consistent with other drug treatment forms. Researchers noted its possible efficacy, stating that “[cannabis] may not adversely affect positive treatment outcomes,” while calling for extensive sampling in future research. 

Substituting cannabis for alcohol had been studied in recent years. A 2014 review of literature found that “no clear pattern of outcomes” could be determined. While not writing off the practice, researchers stated, “Most importantly, the recommendation to prescribe alcohol-dependent individuals cannabis to help reduce drinking is premature.”

Analysis conducted in the earlier part of the decade appeared to suggest, in large part, that using cannabis as harm reduction proved uncertain and inconsistent. However, select results in recent years may have provided further insight. 

A 2016 review from the University of British Columbia acknowledged the potential of cannabis in harm reduction. “In reviewing the limited evidence on medical cannabis, it appears that patients and others who have advocated for cannabis as a tool for harm reduction and mental health have some valid points,” wrote associate professor of psychology Zach Walsh.  

Noting the lack of clear guidance for mental health professionals, Walsh suggested that abstinence doesn’t seem feasible in today’s world. “Knowing how to consider cannabis in the treatment equation will become a necessity,” Walsh wrote of future guidance in the field. 

More recently, a 2018 study did not confirm marijuana’s role in aiding those with SUD but did note the compelling nature of its findings and the “relative safety profile” of cannabis in justifying additional research.

Matthew Ratz, M.Ed., CPRS, RPS Matthew Ratz, M.Ed., CPRS, RPS is the executive director of On Our Own, a wellness and recovery center in Maryland. Ratz, who uses medical cannabis to ease his own anxiety and inflammation, is torn on cannabis as a harm reduction tool. 

The Peer Support Specialist said that he supports the multiple routes to recovery approach. “The multiple pathways paradigm states that anything that helps should be used to help. So, if pot can be used safely, great,” Ratz explained. However, he cautioned that people with addictive tendencies must exercise additional caution when around psychoactive substances.  

New Method Wellness’ Crosby, a recovering addict herself, voiced concerns about cross-addiction and how marijuana can exacerbate a person’s condition. “I have personally seen many people come into treatment for a substance use disorder and have the idea that they can compartmentalize the use of cannabis, and very few succeed in doing so for any length of time,” relayed Crosby. 

Crosby believes that abstinence-based recovery programs are the way to go. She thinks that harm reduction does not solve the core problem, calling it “a bandage on a bullet hole.” 

While some promise appears to exist, the evidence is far from conclusive. Each case is different, and no guarantees can be made from anecdotal or lab reports at this time. Those considering cannabis as a method of harm reduction are strongly advised to consult with a medical professional and/or addiction specialist before doing so.

The post Cannabis and Mental Health: Substance Use Disorder appeared first on High Times.

Flashback Friday: Master Addicts

Opium has fueled people’s dreams since the dawn of creation. Some of history’s greatest writers have been partisans of the poppy. Michael Aldrich, drug scholar, explores the laudanum literature in the November, 1982 edition of High Times.


Opium, raw opium—the best painkiller known since the dawn of creation: yet historians, delicately embarrassed, seem reluctant to admit its profound influence on world leaders and events. The history of the human race might be interestingly revised if all the great opium eaters would rise up and dance where they died. Who are these famous monsters, these immortal addict shades?

They pass before us in a dream, revealing all states and conditions of humanity: Marcus Aurelius, Plotinus, Avicenna, Paracelsus, Ronsard, Savonarola. Baber, first Mogul emperor of India, and his heirs, poisoning each other with slow-acting poppy juice in a blood feud for control of the subcontinent.

Cardinal Richelieu appears, dueling through eternity with the Three Musketeers. Robert Clive, first British governor of Bengal. Ben Franklin, who died addicted to opium taken for gout, and thereby lived to set a new form of government in motion. William Wilberforce, who got slavery abolished throughout the British Empire. Friedrich von Schiller, giant of German literature.

A thousand Romantic poets fall out of the sky, clutching their laudanum flasks—Elizabeth Barrett Browning keeping hers discreetly tucked away beneath her crinolines. “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways,” she moans, measuring out her drops.

Among millions of recent addicts, seven of planetary influence pass by in a shower of beetles and stones: Billie Holiday, Edith Piaf, Janis Joplin; in contrast, Hermann Göring, Joseph McCarthy, Howard Hughes; between them stands William S. Burroughs, miraculously alive, gauntly pointing to the future.

It is the Dark Ages of drug addiction, anno Domini 1524. Paracelsus, physician and sorcerer, returns to Switzerland from the Orient. In the pommel of a huge sword given him by the magi of Constantinople, he carries a secret remedy, the “Stone of Immortality.” He never parts with it, not even when he sleeps.

“He had pills he called laudanum which had the form of mouse turds,” a disciple writes, “but he used them only in extreme emergencies. He boasted that with these pills he could wake up the dead, and indeed he proved that patients who seemed to be dead suddenly arose.”

Paracelsus astounds his fellow alchemists, saying, “Don’t make gold, make medicines,” and the science of chemotherapy is born. He discovers that just as vitriol has a spirit that can transform iron into copper, so drugs have arcana or “immaterial talents” (our phrase would be “active principles”) that transform disease into health. Humans are part of a chemical universe: “All a man eats out of the great world becomes a part of him.” With this knowledge he writes the first textbook of medical chemistry in Europe.

Offered a chance to teach at Basel, he blows it by inviting nonstudents—barbers and alchemists—to his classes held off campus. He chucks Avicenna’s famed Canon of Medicine into the fire, urging “experiment and reasoning” instead. Experimentum et ratiocinium: The walls of Scholasticism crumble as he speaks. Learned doctors think him a charlatan; peasants fear his magic.

His apprentice records the Master’s strange drunkenness: “Often he would come home staggering, after midnight, throw himself on his bed in his clothes wearing his sword which he said he’d obtained from a hangman. He had hardly time to fall asleep when he rose, drew his sword like a madman, threw it on the ground or against the wall, so that sometimes I was afraid he would kill me.”

It is not the first or last time an addict will awake to slash at phantoms in the night. Like Avicenna, Paracelsus dies of an overdose. The legend of Dr. Faustus, symbol of our yearning for access to the infinite, grows up in the decades after his death.

About 1670 the English physician Thomas Sydenham perfected a ruby red tincture of opium in alcohol, naming it laudanum (“most highly praised”) in honor of Paracelsus. Henceforth, opium eaters were usually laudanum drinkers. Available without prescription and cheaper than beer, it gradually pervaded all levels of society. Sydenham wrote, “Among the remedies which it has pleased Almighty God to give to man to relieve his sufferings, none is so universal and so efficacious as opium.”

Once a reliable liquid opiate hit the grocery stores, a learning process began which has not yet run its course. Nineteenth-century Romanticism was the perfect cradle for addiction, and vice versa. The poets found it opened up new vistas of consciousness to explore. Many, like Keats and Shelley, took it during illness and wove opium imagery into their finest poems. Others became lifelong addicts, like George Crabbe, who took moderate doses for 42 years without apparent ill effect, though he did have recurrent nightmares of pursuit by nameless phantoms.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, fragile addict genius trapped in a dolphin’s body created the Romantic image of the indolent poet whose masterpieces rose effortlessly in opium dreams. Childhood rheumatic fever brought about a chronic heart disease from which he suffered great pain the rest of his life. He was a miserable, guilt-ridden addict who drank enormous quantities of laudanum—friends saw him drain a pint once in a single gulp—out of strict medical necessity. Pain was endless; euphoria was only occasional.

STC, as he preferred to be called, was quite addicted by the 1790s when he wrote “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and other opium-inspired masterworks. Desperately needing money in 1816, he published three of these visions (“Christabel,” “Kubla Khan” and “The Pains of Sleep”) together as a pamphlet. In a preface he said “Kubla Khan” had come to him as he was nodding out over an old travel book.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree,
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

Moreover he asserted that it appeared fully composed: “All the images rose up before him as things, with a parallel production of the correspondent expressions, without any sensation or consciousness of effort. On awaking he appeared to himself to have a distinct recollection of the whole, and taking his pen, ink, and paper, instantly and eagerly wrote down the lines that are here preserved.”

Scholars have relentlessly disputed this account, some even calling it a fraud. I take STC at his word. He was trying to explain something never explained before: how drug visions actually arise, words and images flashing through consciousness, ready to vanish as quickly as they come. If the author has practiced verse making for years, as STC had, he may be able to get these glimpses down “instantly and eagerly,” the way a Japanese brush painter must capture a whole image in a few strokes before his mind wanders. In so doing, STC gave the world one of the most perfect poems in English, and an unforgettable image of the addict:

And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes in holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

If one theme unites all literary addicts, it is the search for a cure. STC hired thugs to keep him away from the apothecary shop, but that didn’t work—they were too easy to outwit. In despair he committed himself to the household of a sympathetic doctor, James Gillman, with instructions to give him minimal doses of laudanum and no more. (Typically, he came for a week and stayed 18 years.) In this self-imposed prison his genius flowered once more in philosophic reveries. He thus invented the only mode of treatment yet devised that leaves the addict any self-respect: the voluntary private maintenance clinic.

Coleridge was a pioneer in the kingdom of opium; Thomas De Quincey was an adept. He surveyed its uncharted regions, mapped its dimensions and created a whole new genre of literature with the Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, published anonymously in London Magazine in 1821 and in book form a year later. Imagine De Quincey’s loneliness, calling his book “the doctrine of the true church on the subject of opium; of which church I acknowledge myself to be the only member—the alpha and the omega.”

This slim volume is the foundation on which all modern drug literature rests—the first deep probe of drug-altered consciousness. Agatha Christie had it recommended to her as a vocabulary builder. Written hastily (De Quincey needed cash) during a month of high-dose laudanum swigging, it is lively, musical, digressive, impassioned and brilliant—a book of dreams composed in waves and rhythms, slow swells and funny tangents, spontaneous psychoanalysis long before Freud.

De Quincey, a child prodigy, could sight-translate newspapers into Greek at age 15. He ran away from home and starved for months in London, where he met a pitiful child-whore named Ann, who saved his life, vanished and haunted his dreams forever after. Admitted to Oxford, he astonished his tutors with his proficiency in literature, but did not graduate—he took his Greek finals stoned on laudanum and walked out in disgust when told he could answer questions in English rather than Greek.

He first turned on in 1804 as a result of a raging toothache, purchasing laudanum from a chemist who, he said, “has ever since existed in my mind as the beatific vision of an immortal druggist, sent down to earth on a special mission to myself.” For the next eight years he carefully spaced his trips once every three weeks so he wouldn’t get hooked. Stoned on 25 drops of laudanum, the usual medical dose, he would go to the opera or mingle with the Saturday-night-live crowds of the marketplace. These excursions are described in “The Pleasures of Opium” section of the Confessions, which ends with the famous line, “Thou only givest these gifts to man; and thou hast the keys to Paradise, oh, just, subtle, and mighty opium!”

Then everything changed. De Quincey moved to the Lake Country near Coleridge and Wordsworth, a lovely spot but often cold and damp. There, in 1813, stomach convulsions from his runaway days kicked up again, and only extravagant amounts of laudanum could ease the pain. His dosage leaped to 8,000 drops a day—enough to kill an ordinary mortal, particularly one as frail and tiny as De Quincey. He struggled with this vast tolerance the rest of his life, designing a system of dose reduction that got him down to 1,000 drops a day during calm periods, but this escalated instantly in any physical or mental crisis.

De Quincey is often charged with seducing people into drug use with his book, but anyone who makes this claim (Coleridge was among the first) hasn’t really read it. “The Pains of Opium” he describes are terrifying. He is utterly prostrated, unable to concentrate or complete any task; work revolts him; once-lovely reveries become nightmares so frantic that he dares not close his eyes. He needs those blood red drops every hour of every day. The keys of Paradise become the locks of Hell.

Nevertheless, De Quincey managed to produce a shelf full of fascinating books, and lived out his days as the wizened wizard of laudanum. “He was not a reassuring man,” his daughter wrote, “for nervous people to live with, as those nights were exceptions in which he didn’t set something on fire, the commonest incident being for someone to look up from work or book, to say casually, ‘Papa, your hair is on fire,’ of which a calm ‘Is it, my love?’ and a hand rubbing out the blaze, was all the notice taken.”

The Confessions sparked a horde of imitations, mostly execrable, self-pitying, guilt-ridden and forgettable—precisely the opposite of those qualities that make the original great. Alfred de Musset rendered it into slapdash French, but not until Charles Baudelaire did De Quincey find a worthy translator.

Baudelaire adapted the Confessions as the last half of his masterpiece, Artificial Paradises (1860), which is primarily about hashish. Great mystery surrounds this book. Why, after a most intelligent and perceptive essay on hashish, does Baudelaire dismiss the drug with the preposterous assertion that it destroys the will?

The answer is twofold. First, Baudelaire had just been convicted of obscenity for some poems in The Flowers of Evil, he was trying to appease the censors. Second, he was an addict, taking laudanum most of his life for syphilis, and had himself experienced the dreadful loss of willpower so eloquently described by De Quincey. He transferred the addictiveness of opium to hashish, and inveighed against both. Had he not made this crucial blunder, Artificial Paradises would stand as the greatest book about hashish ever written.

At least Baudelaire made one thing clear: Addiction is not voluntary.

The history of mystery is intimately a history of growing consciousness. Having broken through Victorian reserve by publishing the Confessions, De Quincey then set the tone of the modern whodunit with his lighthearted essay on murder as a fine art. Edgar Allan Poe, occasional opium eater, invented the mystery story in which the key element is the detective’s uncanny, almost extrasensory, perception: Poe called it “ratiocination.”

Back across the Atlantic, the laudanum addict Wilkie Collins added a new twist in The Moonstone (1868), which T.S. Eliot called “the first, longest and best of English detective novels.” Here the plot (chasing nameless phantoms in the dark) turns entirely on the detective’s mental condition: for he is also the person charged with the crime (stealing a cursed diamond) and is not aware of the act—he did it in an opium dream. Unraveling and finally recreating opium consciousness establishes his innocence.

Charles Dickens was an addict at the end of his life, taking opium for gout as his friend Collins did. Dickens’s The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870) opens in a seamy dock-side opium den, and again the plot turns on the hero’s mental state, making it the most “psychological” of Dickens’s novels. It is also the first mystery to feature opium smoking. Dickens was unable to complete it before he died; several spiritualists claiming to be in touch with his ghost have tried to finish it. More recently, English novelist Leon Garfield has published an intricate, brilliant and thoroughly Dickensian solution to the hundred-year-old puzzle.

Sherlock Holmes was a sometime morphinist as well as a cocainist. Among more modern drug-related thrillers might be mentioned Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu series, Thomas Burke’s Limehouse Nights, Eric Ambler’s A Coffin for Dimitrios, Agatha Christie’s The Labours of Hercules, and especially Dashiell Hammett’s The Dain Curse (1929), a Chinese box of hard-boiled consciousness in which every time the detective thinks he’s solved the crime, another clue appears to lead him deeper into mystery.

Claude Farrère’s Black Opium (1904) is the first book after De Quincey that I would recommend to anyone interested in opium. Ostensibly a series of unrelated short stories, it is nothing less than psychic autobiography, a long and fateful evanescence of the human soul—from the first pipe of opium ever smoked on earth, to the last musings of stoned consciousness, where the narrator cries, “I am no longer a man, no longer a man at all.” Beyond that lies only nightmare: the disembodied spirit unable to find and return to itself.

Farrère treats the stages of addiction as periods in a mythical history of opium: legends, annals and ecstasies, followed by doubts, phantoms and the nightmare. Here appear some regal ghosts—Emperor Huang Ti, the Comte de Saint-Germain and the famous Dr. Faustus, who beats the Devil by fleeing to the fairy kingdom of opium. These great shades mingle with some splendid low life: a pirate who becomes immortal by drawing blood-opium from the arm of a demon princess; a cowardly chevalier made heroic by nine magic pills; a secret opium priest who carries his stash in his sword and cooks it up at midnight on the altar of a church; a scuzzy Parisian whore suddenly possessed by the medieval spirit of Heloise, Abelard’s doomed nun-lover; an old cemetery guard who can hear his corpses turning under their tombstones as he lights his ancient pipe.

These tales are all the more amazing because Farrère, unique among the masters of addiction literature, was not an addict. He smoked opium in Indochina where he began writing the book, and occasionally after that for inspiration, but never got hooked. His later works are just now being recognized as pioneering examples of science fiction and fantasy—another realm of literature that owes much to drugs.

Picasso to Cocteau: “The smell of opium is the least stupid smell in the world.”

One of Farrère’s stories describes a brilliant artist and bon vivant who turns into a stolid bourgeois dolt when he stops smoking opium. This attitude was shared by a remarkable group of O-heads gathered around the musicologist Louis Laloy in Paris during World War I. Laloy published a classic monograph on the subject, The Book of Smoke (1913), for which Farrère wrote an introduction. In it they defend the honorable rite of opium smoking against not only the French national addiction, wine, but also against morphine or heroin injection.

In 1924 Laloy recommended to young Jean Cocteau that he smoke opium to overcome his suicidal depressions at the death of his friend Raymond Radiguet. Always original, Cocteau became an addict by choice, almost experimentally, and signed into clinics repeatedly to reduce his tolerance. During this time he produced some of his most luminous works: the play Orpheus (whose death-angel Heurtebise appeared to stoned Cocteau one day while riding an elevator to Picasso’s flat), the poems of Opéra and the novel Les Enfants Terribles.

In Opium: Diary of a Cure (1930), written in a clinic at St. Cloud, Cocteau contributes some marvelous aphorisms to the addiction literature:

“Opium, which changes our speeds, procures for us a very clear awareness of worlds which are superimposed on each other, which interpenetrate each other, but do not even suspect each other’s existence.”

“Opium desocializes us and removes us from the community. Further, the community takes its revenge. The persecution of opium addicts is an instinctive defense by society against an antisocial gesture.”

“To moralize to an opium addict is like saying to Tristan: ‘Kill Yseult. You will feel much better afterwards.’”

“It is a pity that instead of perfecting curative techniques, medicine does not try to render opium harmless.”

“Tell this obvious truth to a doctor and he will shrug his shoulders. He talks of literature, Utopia, and the obsessions of the drug addict.”

“Nevertheless, I contend that one day we shall use those soothing substances without danger, that we shall avoid habitmaking, that we shall laugh at the bugaboo of the drug and that opium, once tamed, will assuage the evil of towns where trees die on their feet.”

A century-long learning process: Coleridge felt enthralled by opium and shut himself up in a prison of guilt. De Quincey shrugged off guilt and learned to live with his habit. Baudelaire thought drugs destroy the will and condemned them. Farrère smoked opium judiciously without getting hooked. Cocteau clearly saw the possibility of beneficial opium use if it could be changed chemically.

This was a gradual opening of consciousness from fear to hope, from impossibility to the possibility of intelligent drug use.

By focusing on life-process changes instead of drugs, the wily addicted magician Aleister Crowley made a real breakthrough in The Diary of a Drug Fiend (1922). The novel is modeled after the Divine Comedy, only it starts in Paradise—the cocaine honeymoon of Peter Pendragon and his wife, Lou, who soon descend into the Inferno of heroin addiction. To get them out, a master named King Lamus spirits them off to a secluded abbey and teaches them the meaning of the motto “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” Once they discover their true goals in life, they no longer need heroin.

Crowley’s program, a prototype of the modern therapeutic community concept, consisted of five steps: (1) voluntary isolation to force the addict into self-examination; (2) free availability of drugs, a real-world test to emphasize personal choice; (3) a “Magical Record” system, now common in smoker’s clinics, of listing a reason each time a drug is used—which makes the addict conscious of self-deceptions, excuses and meaningless habit; (4) the revelation that one no longer really wants drugs; and (5) the recovery of one’s “true will” or purpose in life, which enables the individual to start fresh.

Once the craving for drugs is overcome, free choice is restored. The addict can choose to remain addicted, as Crowley did, or can end it by withdrawal—painful, perhaps, but finally with some promise of success. Knowing this, the individual is free to use drugs or not, leaving both fear and fascination behind.

In King Lamus and Pendragon we see the “Master” and the “Slave” within Crowley struggling with the problem of will set up by De Quincey and Baudelaire, and for the first time the Master wins: Crowley has the sense that he can successfully use these drugs without danger—if he so chooses.

James Lee, in Underworld of the East (1935), goes a step beyond Crowley. Lee, a British engineer, regularly injected huge doses of morphine and cocaine, smoked opium and hashish, and experimented with other drugs during 30 years of travel in Asia. Not only did he control his drug use with scientific precision at extraordinary tolerance levels, he was also able to stop using drugs any time he wished “without any trouble or suffering.”

“The life of a drug taker can be a happy one,” he wrote, “or it can be one of suffering and misery: it depends on the user’s knowledge.” Lee learned drug yoga from an Ayurvedic doctor in India who first gave him morphine for malaria. “Morphia should not be used by anyone for longer than a few months,” the Babu said, “because the action of the drug is continually in one direction.”

“He told me that he used many kinds of drugs, each in turn; changing over from one to another, using them sometimes singly, and at other times in combinations, so that no one drug ever got too great a hold on him.” The Babu also taught Lee to sterilize needles, eat well and pay close attention to his bodily health, balancing the effect of one drug with another as necessary.

Thus Lee could let his morphine tolerance climb to 10 grains a day by building up his cocaine tolerance to 80 grains a day, starting with tiny doses to avoid “an undue shock on the heart.” When he wanted to cut down or stop entirely, he’d alternate injections at ever-decreasing doses. The key to his unique reduction technique was that instead of injecting more morphine when he felt the need, he’d reduce the amount of cocaine he took, to create a lower dosage equilibrium.

When an addict withdraws by the usual reduction method, he noted, the craving becomes so intense that few have the willpower to continue. Lee instead countered the effects of morphine with cocaine, thereby readjusting his body to weaker doses of both. The process was completely painless and took about a month.

Then, in Sumatra, Lee made an even more startling discovery—the “perfect antidote” for addiction. The Malays brought him many jungle plants to experiment with. Lee boiled down one of these, which he called “Number 2,” and evaporated the decoction to a powder. A solution of this injected gave him a “feeling of great vitality, the absolute perfection of mental and bodily health.”

When he tried it in conjunction with cocaine, he found that “the drug had entirely nullified the effect of the cocaine.” It did the same with morphine, opium, hashish, liquor and absinthe: “No matter what drug I was using, with the aid of Number 2 I could give it up quite easily.” This took a fortnight.

He started calling it “The Elixir of Life.”

Not a botanist, Lee never identified the plant itself. It was probably Combretum sundaicum, a forest creeper which Chinese opium smokers in Malaya in 1907 discovered would completely remove their craving for drugs. Though tested and found effective by British pharmacologist C.A. McBride, and even marketed briefly in the United States as an addiction cure, it was generally ignored by the medical community. Obviously it should be reinvestigated; for if it is half as effective as Lee says, it may indeed contain a chemical miracle.

It is the Dark Ages of drug addiction, anno Domini 1953. A man can get picked up by police just for talking about dope in the subway. Senator McCarthy glowers from the tube, but in the public’s mind a drug user is a wretched drooling creature out of Nelson’s The Man with the Golden Arm (1949). The only famous dopers are musicians like Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker, though Hollywood insiders know Bela Lugosi is an addict and that the whole vampire “I vont, to sock, yore blod” syndrome is secret junk metaphor.

Into this waiting room of consciousness steps young Allen Ginsberg, carrying a stick of dynamite—a manuscript called Junkie by an unknown “William Lee.” Ginsberg talks Ace Books into printing it back to back with a narc novel. Junkie is subtitled Confessions of an Unredeemed Drug Addict, and the operative word is “unredeemed.” The editors stick in parenthetical disclaimers.

“An addict never stops growing. Most users periodically kick the habit, which involves shrinking of the organism and replacement of the junk-dependent cells. (Ed. note: the foregoing is not the view of recognized medical authority.)…”

Of course not—doctors abandoned the scientific study of drug use long ago. “Why do you need narcotics, Mr. Lee?” stupid psychiatrists ask. “I need junk to get out of bed in the morning, to shave and eat breakfast. I need it to stay alive,” he replies.

He lays out the junk equation with clinical precision. “Junk is not, like alcohol or weed, a means to increased enjoyment of life. Junk is not a kick. It is a way of life.”

In 1956 the author signs his real name, William Burroughs, to a “Letter from Master Addict” in the British Journal of Addiction. It is the only intelligent document about drugs published in decades. “Non habit forming morphine appears to be a latter day Philosopher’s Stone,” he writes, remembering Cocteau. “On the other hand variations of apomorphine may prove extremely effective in controlling the withdrawal syndrome.”

Unheard of!

“The ill effects of marijuana have been grossly exaggerated in the U.S.”

Heresy!

Yage.. .is a hallucinating narcotic that produces a profound derangement of the senses… perhaps even more spectacular results could be obtained with synthetic variations. Certainly the matter warrants further research.”

Huh?

Most authorities haven’t the faintest glimmer of what he’s talking about. Burroughs is as alone in the 1950s as De Quincey was in the 1820s. As Paracelsus was in the 1520s.

In 1959 he sounds the death knell of romanticism about drugs in the first sentence of Naked Lunch: “I can feel the heat closing in, feel them out there making their moves, setting up their devil doll stool pigeons, crooning over my spoon and dropper…” Reveries of Kubla Khan vanish like phantoms in the night.

Naked Lunch is a blueprint, a How-To book,” he writes. “Black insect lusts open into vast, other planet landscapes… Abstract concepts, bare as algebra, narrow down to a black turd or a pair of aging cojones… How-To extends levels of experience by opening the door at the end of a long hall…”

Over the next 20 years Burroughs cuts this blueprint up into shards of hallucination and reality, mating the hard-boiled detective story with sci-fi to create an epic of addiction. He learns prose control of interpenetrating consciousness, dissecting his many selves as coolly as a vivisectionist. He probes deeper than the intellectual-moral levels of De Quincey or Baudelaire, exposing the viscera, capturing raw nerves in print. Junk-sick becomes metaphor for a dying planet. There’s only one way to go from here.

The past behind us, the present before; and the future points straight up.

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Researchers Study How to Treat Cannabis Addiction With More Cannabis

The solution to cannabis dependency might simply be more cannabis. That’s according to a new study from researchers at University College London, which found that cannabidiol (CBD) can help people reduce their consumption of THC. Presenting the study at this year’s London’s New Scientist Live festival, lead author Val Curran called the findings “really remarkable.” Curran, a professor of psychopharmacology at University College London, and her team were the first to test the idea of using CBD extracts to treat cannabis use disorders. And indeed, the results are very promising: Curran’s study found that CBD extracts cut the amount of cannabis people smoked in half.

CBD Extracts Can Help Reduce Cannabis Dependency

Cannabis “addiction” can be difficult to define. With no strong chemical dependencies, cannabis use disorders aren’t as destructive or difficult to overcome as those involving more addictive substances, such as nicotine and alcohol. Still, rough estimates put about ten percent of cannabis users in the “addiction” camp. For these cannabis consumers, reducing intake or trying to quit can lead to withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, insomnia and agitation. Scientists believe increasingly potent THC products are increasing the number of people becoming addicted to cannabis or struggling with dependency issues.

But Curran thinks her research is pointing to an answer. And the answer, she says, is treating cannabis addiction with more cannabis. But Curran doesn’t mean more flower, edibles, concentrates or other THC-dominant products. Instead, she says therapeutic doses of another cannabis compound, cannabidiol (CBD), can help people quit or reduce cannabis use without withdrawal symptoms.

Curran’s study took 82 people living in the U.K. who were classified as “severely addicted” to cannabis. The participants were divided into three groups, and over the course of a four-week trial, each group was given either a daily 400 mg dose of CBD, 800 mg of CBD, or a placebo. All participants also had access to counselors and other psychological support to help them drop their cannabis habit.

According to the study, the 400 mg CBD group experienced the greatest reduction in cannabis use after six months. Researchers measured cannabis consumption by testing participants’ urine for THC. Not only did the 400 mg CBD group have half as much THC in their urine, they also doubled the days when their urine did not test positive for THC. The 800 mg CBD group saw some improvement, but less than the 400 mg group. The placebo group saw no reduction in cannabis consumption.

Cannabidiol (CBD) and the Fight Against Addiction

Curran’s University College London study resonates with other recent findings about the ability of cannabidiol to both counteract the negative side effects of THC and fight addiction. One recent study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, found that CBD prevents the brain from amplifying stressful stimuli. THC, say researchers, sparks off a chain reaction of nerve signals in the brain that can spiral into stress and anxiety. Cannabidiol counteracts the runaway-train effect, blocking the signaling pathway and preventing the unwanted mental disturbances that potent doses of THC can cause. “CBD gets rid of the toxic effects of THC,” Curran said during her “Cannabis: medicine or madness?” talk at the New Scientist Live festival.

“CBD has a variety of anti-addictive properties,” said University of Sydney professor Iain McGregor. McGregor worked on Curran’s study and is also researching the use of CBD to treat alcohol addiction. Anxiety is a major side effect of detoxifying, and McGregor says CBD is very good at reducing anxiety.

These important studies continue to highlight the wide-ranging therapeutic and health benefits of cannabidiol. But it’s important to keep in mind that most of the commercial CBD products available today, especially outside legal cannabis markets, do not have the potency of the capsules used in Curran’s study. And in most places, CBD products face little if any regulatory scrutiny.

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