Pharmacotherapy for Cannabis Dependence

How Close Are We?


Cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug in the world. Treatment admissions for cannabis use disorders have risen considerably in recent years, and the identification of medications that can be used to improve treatment outcomes among this population is a priority for researchers and clinicians. To date, several medications have been investigated for indications of clinically desirable effects among cannabis users (e.g. reduced withdrawal, attenuation of subjective or reinforcing effects, reduced relapse). Medications studied have included those: (i) known to be effective in the treatment of other drug use disorders; (ii) known to alleviate symptoms of cannabis withdrawal (e.g. dysphoric mood, irritability); or (iii) that directly affect endogenous cannabinoid receptor function. Results from controlled laboratory studies and small open-label clinical studies indicate that buspirone, dronabinol, fluoxetine, lithium and lofexidine may have therapeutic benefit for those seeking treatment for cannabis-related problems. However, controlled clinical trials have not been conducted and are needed to both confirm the potential clinical efficacy of these medications and to validate the laboratory models being used to study candidate medications. Although the recent increase in research towards the development of pharmacotherapy for cannabis use disorders has yielded promising leads, well controlled clinical trials are needed to support broad clinical use of these medications to treat cannabis use disorders.

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We thank the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (Dr Vandrey: DA12471 and DA025794; Dr Haney: DA09236 and DA19239) for its support. Dr Vandrey also thanks the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences for support. The authors have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this review.

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Vandrey, R., Haney, M. Pharmacotherapy for Cannabis Dependence. CNS Drugs 23, 543–553 (2009).

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  • Naltrexone
  • Atomoxetine
  • Buspirone
  • Rimonabant
  • Nefazodone