Why Treat Marijuana Withdrawal with Pure THC?

THC Marinol Cannabis Now

As the old advice goes, don’t fight fire with fire. Unless, it seems, you’re the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). In 2005, NIDA recruited 180 men and women to participate in a study to determine whether marijuana withdrawal symptoms like anxiety and insomnia can be combated with a drug called Dronabinol, which is sold as Marinol and is typically used to counter nausea in chemotherapy patients. The catch: Marinol is made of pure THC.

If you’re feeling skeptical, you’re not alone. “What a crock!” exclaimed Dr. Dale Gieringer, the state coordinator of California NORML. “It’s just obvious that if you take… people with the problem of addiction to a particular substance… it does not make sense to give them that substance.”

While the research team did not respond to multiple interview requests, a fellow medical source explained that the goal could have been “to see if Marinol could be used in a fashion similar to how methadone is used to treat heroin addicts.” The data, however, doesn’t offer much support to that argument.

During the study, held at Columbia University, roughly half of the participants were given daily doses of Dronabinol, while the other half were given a placebo. While the process behind the experiment was simple, the results were vague, and often ominous: a third of the participants jumped ship, experiencing worsening diabetes conditions, worsening asthma, a stomach virus and even an altercation with police resulting in hospitalization. Perhaps not surprisingly, the study was terminated prematurely.

Research projects like this one illuminate the persisting disconnect between pharmaceutical interests and cannabis. Even as we march towards the further legalization and legitimization of cannabis, the medical community remains close-minded, dragging its feet in the dirt. Why NIDA thought this was a good use of taxpayer money will likely remain a mystery, but it’s clear that if the medical community wants to study cannabis, they need to approach it open-minded and pragmatically.

h/t The Hash

Max Savage Levenson is an audio producer and writer living in Berkeley, California. His work has appeared on NPR Music, All Songs Considered, the Hash podcast, KQED's The California Report and others. Max also hosts a totally non-recorded live-audience talk show called the Max Savage Show, because he is a narcissist who just wants people to like him.

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