Researchers in Maryland and Beijing have learned that a component marijuana helps mitigate cocaine addiction in mice, leading some to hope that marijuana may one day become the next big anti-addiction therapy.
The discovery was announced in the July 2011 edition of Nature Neuroscience.
The study found that cannabidiol, an active component of marijuana that does not produce an inebriating effect, effectively turns down a receptor in the brain that is stimulated by cocaine.
Scientists used a synthetic version of cannabidiol, called JWH-133, to see how mice given regular doses of cocaine would respond. They found that mice given JWH-133 dramatically reduced their cocaine intake by up to 60 percent.
Their success in reducing cocaine consumption in mice may lead to new drug replacement therapies for cocaine and crack addiction, helping addicts detox and overcome withdrawal symptoms much like methadone therapy sometimes prescribed to heroin addicts.
As a recreational drug, marijuana produces less dependence and withdrawal effects than even caffeine. Cocaine is much more intoxicating and produces a strong reinforcing effect that makes a user more likely to use the drug again.
JWH-133 is closely related to JWH-018, which has been the subject of recent controversy for its appearance in “Spice” and other herbal smoking blends purported to produce marijuana-like highs. While JWH-133 does not produce such effects, JWH-018 and other similar test chemicals do, leading the Drug Enforcement Administration to place a series of them on their list of controlled substances.
The International Narcotics Control Board, an independent agency set up by the United Nations, said recently that banning JWH-018 was a positive step in drug control efforts, but urged industrialized nations to go further and also adopt blanket bans on new substances to prevent the rise of new designer drugs — a policy recommendation that, if adopted, would also apply to JWH-133.