JUN 08, 2023 4:00 PM PDT

Drug to Combat Cannabis Use Disorder Progresses Through Clinical Trials

Cannabis use disorder, also known as CUD, is described as the addiction to cannabis, with approximately 14 million cannabis users in the United States afflicted with CUD. At the time of this writing, 38 states, three United States territories, and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis to be used for medicinal and/or recreational purposes. Given the growing amount of cannabis legalization taking place in the United States, these CUD numbers will undoubtedly continue to rise. However, there are currently no FDA-approved drug treatments on the market to combat CUD or other forms of cannabis addiction.

But a recent study published in Nature Medicine hopes to change that, as a team of researchers have found a candidate drug, dubbed AEF0117, developed to combat the effects of CUD has been successful in a Phase 2a clinical trial. The study was a collaboration between the Columbia University Irving Medical Center and the French biopharmaceutical company, Aelis Farma, and holds the potential to help cannabis users afflicted by CUD control their urges to use cannabis.

“We have tested over a dozen potential treatment medications in our Cannabis Research Laboratory, and this is the first to decrease both the positive mood effects of cannabis and the decision to use cannabis by daily smokers,” said Dr. Margaret (Meg) Haney, who is a professor of neurobiology in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia, and lead author of the study. “Patients seek treatment when they have difficulty controlling their cannabis use despite the problems it is causing at work or in their personal lives. Our findings suggest AEF0117 has great potential for treating problematic cannabis use.”

For the study, the researchers had 29 participants consume two randomized doses of AEF0117 and a placebo each over a 5-day period with the primary goal of monitoring cannabis-related positive mood effects. In the end, the participants self-reported their experiences, and the researchers found a 38 percent reduction in positive mood effects while also demonstrating decreased cannabis use, as well.

Next steps in this research will be a Phase 2b study that will involve 330 participants over a two-year period at multiple examination sites and multiple dose levels of AEF0117.

What new discoveries will researchers make about how AEF0117 impacts CUD in the coming years? Only time will tell, and this is why we science!

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services, Nature Medicine, Aelis Farma, EurekAlert!

As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of “Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey”.
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