Researchers: Pill Could Help Cure Marijuana Addiction

There are drugs to treat all kinds of addictions such as alcohol and gambling, and now a pill is being tested to help people quit smoking marijuana.

Researchers in San Diego said they believe the drug could ease withdrawal symptoms from marijuana.

There are many Americans who smoke marijuana, a shredded mixture of green-brown flowers, stems and leaves of the hemp plant.

"It is the most widely used illegal substance in our country,” said one expert.

The main active chemical in marijuana, THC, stimulates some receptors in the brain, giving users a high.

Many people don't know that it's also addictive.

"It's more of psychological addiction; the more you enjoy the effects so you want more of them," one expert said.

Addiction expert Dr. Barbara Mason of Scripps Research Institute said, "People have become dependent on cannabis."

She added, "One reason we don't hear about it because there are no treatments specifically for cannabis independence.”

Studies have shown long-term cannabis use is not only linked to the same respiratory problems as tobacco smoking, but it could also change how your brain works.

"It affects the ability to learn new information as well as make decisions and control impulses," said Mason.

Many college students who use marijuana regularly found that smoking pot and learning just don’t mix.

"It does affect how you perceive things and if you remember things clearly," said one college student.

Another student added, "It can really affect their ability to learn in school and college and make good choices for themselves."

Now, some blue pills might be able to help people who are hooked on pot.

Gabapentin is an anti-seizure drug that researchers believe could relieve symptoms following cannabis withdrawal.

"It quiets that hyperactivity in the brain," said Mason.

During a 13-week study, participants took gabapentin three times a day. Researchers said the drug might ease sleep problems and improve mood during withdrawal.

“They won't have the discomfort and the distraction and the inability of these withdrawal symptoms," said Mason.

The medication might be just what some people need to finally be cannabis-free.

Gabapentin might also be a possible treatment to prevent relapse following withdrawal.

The Scripps Research Institute is the only center in the country testing the drug and is looking for more people interested in curbing a marijuana addiction.

To enroll in the study, call 858-784-7867 or visit PearsonCenter.org to learn more about the study.

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