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Medical Marijuana and Cocaine Dependence

What Is Cocaine Dependence?

Cocaine dependence is physical and mental addiction to the drug cocaine. Cocaine is a stimulant or "upper," giving the user more energy. That may sound like a benefit but the drug is actually quite dangerous. There are three ways to ingest cocaine -- smoking, snorting and injection. All three of these methods produce health risks of their own individually. However, the drug has serious side effects that are universal to all three methods of ingestion. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, these dangers include permanent alterations of certain brain functions, psychological changes, headaches, nausea, loss of appetite, heart attack, stroke and death.   Cocaine causes a person to feel increased pleasure, energy and alertness. These effects alone can cause a person to become dependent. They take the drug, enjoy the effect and continue using it. As the addiction takes root, the body's tolerance to the drug increases causing a need for increased doses of cocaine. However, this mental addiction to the high cocaine creates is not the only element of cocaine dependence. There is also a physical side to cocaine addiction that makes it painful to cease taking the drug once addiction has taken hold. Cocaine withdrawal can cause anxiety, paranoia, fatigue and depression. It does not cause physical dependence symptoms such as seizures, vomiting and nausea as with alcohol and heroin. Nonetheless, overcoming cocaine dependence takes perseverance, medical help and mental help.  While the use of recreational marijuana for cocaine dependence is not supported by significant research, there is evidence that synthetic medical marijuana can help alleviate cocaine addiction and possibly eliminate it. Cannabidiol is present in marijuana along with THC. It is responsible for a number of the positive effects medical marijuana has on a number of conditions, addiction being one of them.

Medical Marijuana and Cocaine Dependence

Cocaine Dependence and Synthetic Cannabidiol 

Researchers at the National Institute of Drug Abuse did a study to see if JWH133 -- a synthetic cannabidiol -- would decrease cocaine dependence in mice. Cocaine addicted mice were given the drug and the researchers saw the animals' use of cocaine drop by half. In some cases, it dropped as much as 60 percent. This was in animals that had the drug readily available. In humans, there is hope that the drug would work even better with therapy and limited access to the drug. The drug works by activating CB2 receptors, the same receptors that are affected by marijuana use.

Medical Marijuana and Cocaine Dependency Research

Researchers also found that mice did not display behavior researchers associate with the mice being "high" or with the mice being negatively affected by JWH133. These attributes would make it a viable option in humans. The last thing doctors want to do when treating cocaine dependence is just give patients another way to get high. Furthermore, they do not want to give addicted patients drugs with negative side effects. This simply leads to patients avoiding taking their anti-addiction medication.

The effects of JWH133 are expected to work with all forms of cocaine, as they are just different ways of self-administering essentially the same drug. In other words, crack cocaine users, "free-basers," those who snort and those who "shoot up" cocaine may be able to find relief from their dangerous addiction with this drug. Even cutting use in half is a huge step to kicking the habit. 

Apart from self-medication that has been occurring outside of the medical science fields, this is the closest researchers have come to creating medical marijuana that is shown to help with cocaine dependence. However, many cocaine-addicted individuals may already know that there is something in marijuana that helps them reduce their cocaine intake. According to Time Magazine, Ric Curtis of John Jay College has conducted research that shows an interesting trend in marijuana and cocaine use. Surveys investigating drug use prevalence showed that cocaine use decreased in the 1990s while marijuana use increased. It is possible that users were experiencing the effects of cannabidiol and reacting accordingly. Whether they are simply trading one addiction for a cheaper one has yet to be seen. More research is required but the treatment is promising.

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