Cannabis withdrawal trial

Researchers from the University of Sydney are looking for participants in a trial program to evaluate the safety and efficacy of lithium in the management of cannabis withdrawal.

Behaviour interventions have been shown to assist in managing problematic cannabis use, withdrawal symptoms such as sleep difficulties, increased anger and aggression, irritability, nervousness and anxiety may be a barrier to achieving and maintaining abstinence.

Trial coordinator Dr Jennifer Johnston said there are currently no evidence-based pharmacotherapies (the treatment of a disease through the use of drugs) for the management of cannabis withdrawal.

“The availability of a safe and effective medication would be valuable both in supporting the attainment of abstinence and as a means of attracting cannabis users into treatment,” she said.

Lithium is a mood-stabilising medication commonly used for the management of bipolar affective disorder. The findings of a recent human trial by the current investigators provided preliminary evidence of the potential use of lithium in the management of cannabis withdrawal.

In what is thought to be a world first study, they are now seeking a further 30-40 participants to do a “double-blind, randomised, placebo controlled trial”. Participants must be over 18 years of age and will be screened by medical officers. They will be admitted to the inpatient detoxification unit at Riverlands Drug and Alcohol Centre in Lismore for seven days and administered lithium (500mg b.d.) or placebo. Participants will be monitored daily for self-reported cannabis withdrawal symptoms and lithium adverse effects and toxicity, with follow-up interviews conducted 14- 30- and 90- days post discharge. Blood, urine and saliva samples will be taken throughout the course of the trial to monitor lithium, oxytocin and THC levels.

If you are interested in finding out more about the trial, please contact Dr Jennifer Johnston on 1800 757 110 or email

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