New Experimental Drug for Marijuana Addiction?

Jeremy Bouvet
New Experimental Drug for Marijuana Addiction?

Let’s get one thing straight: if you had told me a few years ago that there would be a pill to help with marijuana addiction, I'd have raised an eyebrow and likely chuckled. Well, get ready for this — there's a new experimental pill out there claiming to do just that. It's making waves in the scientific community, but with its results, we have to ask: what's the deal?

Let's dive in, shall we?

The recent buzz is about AEF-0117, a drug that allegedly reduces the “good effects” of cannabis by up to 38%. Okay, pause. Reducing the good effects? This is kinda like producing non-alcoholic beer, isn't it? Except with a non-alcoholic beer, the consumer is exposed to precisely 0% of the “good effects”... To top it off, this drug was part of a study involving just 29 adult participants. I mean, that's hardly a crowd, and we’re basing the drug's potential effectiveness on them?

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While Meg Haney, the lead author of the study from Columbia University, calls the medication's findings “very encouraging”, you'll forgive us if we remain a little skeptical.

Yes, marijuana usage and addiction are important topics, especially with cannabis use disorder affecting an estimated 14 million Americans in 2021. The condition, for those who might be unfamiliar, is characterized by an inability to stop using marijuana, even if it disrupts daily life. But is a pill that diminishes the pleasurable effects of marijuana the right approach?

Moreover, while the participants in the study felt less of a "good effect" after taking AEF-0117, only the higher dose had a significant impact on reducing the actual amount of cannabis consumed. So if we’re interpreting this correctly, the pill makes users feel less high, but it doesn’t necessarily prevent them from smoking more. A bit counterintuitive, some might say.

The drug was developed by French biotech firm Aelis Farma. It’s uniquely designed to target the brain and block the euphoric effects of cannabis without causing adverse side effects. Dr. Scott Hadland, an addiction specialist, brings up an interesting point. This drug would be most beneficial for those actually motivated to quit. Simply put, if you don't want to stop smoking weed, a pill that makes it less enjoyable probably won't help much.

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Another nugget to consider is from David Kroll, a toxicologist who wasn't even involved in the study. He pointed out that the cannabis used in the trial contained only 7% THC. To put that into context, that’s significantly less potent than what’s widely available today, especially in jurisdictions where cannabis is legal. So we’re talking about a drug that's been tested on marijuana that's essentially the "lite beer" version of what’s out there.

In the end, what we have is an experimental pill, tested on a small group, with results that could be aptly summarized as: "It might help, but only if you really, really want it to.” Larger trials are underway, and we'll be keenly watching. But, at least for the time being,  colour us skeptical.

Cannabis use disorder, as well as general substance abuse are serious problems that impact the lives of millions. We take the issue very seriously. While it's certainly commendable to see a pharmaceutical company attempting to alleviate addiction, we’re not sold on the underlying assumption that stifling the effects of cannabis, that the consumer still inevitably smokes, is the most effective approach for individuals trying to reduce their consumption.

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