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Effective Treatment for Marijuana Cessation

MUSC First to Report Effective Treatment for Marijuana Cessation

In 2012, a research team from MUSC’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences completed the first study showing significant effects of a medication treatment for marijuana cessation in adolescent patients. An over-the-counter antioxidant supplement, used to complement psychosocial behavioral therapy, has been FDA-approved for other conditions for over 40 years.

Other treatments have been shown to reduce the amount of marijuana an adolescent uses, but none until this study have been shown to promote abstinence or cessation. According to Kevin M. Gray, M.D., lead author on the study, “Reduction of use represents progress, but the ultimate goal is cessation.”

In the landmark MUSC study (Am J Psychiatry 2012 Aug 1;169[8]:805-12), 116 participants aged15to21completedadouble-blind, randomized, and placebo-controlled clinical trial. During biweekly intervention visits, participants underwent contingency management behavioral therapy and received either a placebo or a supplement called N-acetylcysteine (NAC). At study’s end, participants receiving NAC were twice as likely to have negative urinalysis results.

Evidence suggests that chronic self-administration of drugs alters the neurochemical glutamate in parts of the brain. Work at MUSC by Peter Kalivas, PhD, Research Chair of Neurosciences, and colleagues revealed that administration of NAC activates a cysteine-glutamate exchanger, normalizing glutamate levels and reducing drug seeking.

“This trial is an exceptional example of the kind of translational research conducted at MUSC in which innovative findings from a basic science laboratory are rapidly translated into a research study conducted in humans,” said Kathleen Brady M.D., PhD, Associate Provost for Clinical and Translational Science and Distinguished University Professor at MUSC and one of the authors on the study. (Abridged from an article in MUSC’s Catalyst)