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Cannabis May Help Wean People Off Crack, Study Finds

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Newshawk: Herb Couch
Pubdate: Tue, 16 May 2017
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 The Globe and Mail Company
Contact: letters@globeandmail.com
Website: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/168
Author: Mike Hager
Page: S2
Cited: BC Centre on Substance Use: http://www.bccsu.ca/


Cannabis has been identified as a potential substitute for users of
legal or illicit opioids, but a new Vancouver-based study shows the
drug may also help reduce people's cravings for another highly
addictive substance: crack cocaine.

Scientists at the BC Centre on Substance Use tracked 122 people who
consumed crack in and around Vancouver's Downtown Eastside over a
three-year period and found they reported using that drug less
frequently when they opted to also consume cannabis.

"We're not saying that these results mean everyone will be able to
smoke a joint and forget the fact that they are dependent on crack,"
said M.J. Milloy, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at the centre
and senior author of the study. "What our findings do suggest is that
cannabinoids might play a role in reducing the harms of crack use for
some people.

"That's the next test: to what extent and for who?"

These results, published in the latest issue of the international
peer-reviewed journal Addictive Behaviors, echo a smaller study of 25
crack users in Brazil that found just more than two-thirds of them
were able to stop consuming that drug while using cannabis.

A recent global estimate pegs the number of people addicted to cocaine
at about seven million, Dr. Milloy said, with many of them
marginalized people smoking crack in cities across the Americas.

Brazil is struggling to cope with an epidemic that has made it the
largest consumer of crack cocaine in the world. But the drug is also
widely used by Canadians, Dr. Milloy said.

"Crack has not gone away and we have described in previous research
how people using crack in a frequent high-intensity manner suffer from
not only dependence, but other risks, in particular, HIV and hep C
acquisition," Dr. Milloy said.

Addiction experts in Vancouver can offer those consuming heroin
effective - and legal - substitutes such as suboxone and methadone,
but there are no pharmaceutical therapies for people addicted to crack
cocaine, Dr. Milloy said.

Cannabis was deemed less dangerous than tobacco in a 2010 study that
ranked 20 legal and illegal drugs based on the dependence, social and
physical harms they caused. The report, published in the British
medical journal The Lancet, said both were considered far less
dangerous to users and the general public than heroin, cocaine and

As Ottawa gets set to legalize cannabis as early as next summer,
addictions and public health experts such as Dr. Milloy have urged the
federal government to consider the dangers - and potential benefits -
that Canada's example of ending prohibition can offer the world.

One potential public-health benefit is more people may substitute
cannabis for alcohol or opioids.

A recent study from the University of British Columbia and funded by
licensed cannabis grower Tilray found more than half of the 271
medical-marijuana patients interviewed said they use cannabis to help
them get off heavier prescription drugs, with the largest percentage
saying pot acts as a substitute painkiller for opioids.

That research added to a small body of science that suggests patients
are effectively using marijuana to replace opioids, a class of legal
and illicit painkillers that has led to a crisis that last year killed
hundreds of Canadians.

Last year, The Globe and Mail found fewer Canadian veterans have
sought prescription opioids and tranquillizers in recent years, while
at the same time, prescriptions for medical marijuana have

It is not clear whether the two are related, but the trend echoes what
researchers have found in U.S. states with medical-marijuana laws,
where significant declines in opioid overdoses suggest that people may
be substituting these oft-abused medicines with cannabis.

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