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Medical Marijuana and Tobacco Dependence

What Is Tobacco Dependence?

While it sounds counterintuitive, medical marijuana can treat tobacco dependence in some cigarette addicts. Both are inhaled substances, though medical marijuana can be ingested by other means. However, they contain different active substances. Medical marijuana contains THC and/or other cannabinoids. Tobacco typically contains nicotine, which is highly addictive. Medical marijuana is shown to be mildly addictive though it is not inextricably linked to heart disease and lung cancer like tobacco.

Tobacco dependence is behavioral. The addiction to nicotine in the tobacco is physical. This hits users with a double dose of addiction. They become addicted to the act of smoking and they become physically addicted to the nicotine. 

Attempts to stop smoking often cause agitation, headaches, coughing, sore throat, sleeping problems, increased appetite and compelling urges to smoke. It is said that quitting is different for every smoker. Some can give it up without any aids. Others need counseling and/or medication to kick the habit. Several of these medications have severe side effects. A recent stop smoking aid known as Chantix was increasing suicidal thoughts and behaviors in users. Fatal or potentially fatal side effects are not an issue with medical marijuana.

Medical Marijuana and Tobacco Dependence

Medical Marijuana, Tobacco Dependence and Research 

There is insufficient research in the area of medical marijuana and tobacco dependence. In fact, there is very little research in the area of medical marijuana and addiction to anything. Nonetheless, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that individuals with tobacco dependence are successfully treating their condition with medical marijuana. Doctors are prescribing medical marijuana for this condition in areas where medical marijuana is legal for addiction treatment. While clinical and pre-clinical trials treatment of dependence with medical marijuana is in its infancy, there is enough to suggest that more research needs to be conducted. The number of people who have attempted to quit using traditional methods and have failed along with the health problems associated with smoking shows that new treatments are needed. Therefore, further research is not only indicated by the results of current research, it is also worthwhile to search for new treatments for tobacco dependence as the current treatments do not help enough sufferers. 

Medical Marijuana and Addiction Research 

Both subjective experience and observation show that tobacco dependence is similar in severity to that of highly addictive substances like heroin and cocaine. It turns out that medical marijuana can treat even these notoriously addictive substances. Zheng-Xiong Xi of the National Institute on Drug Abuse headed up a study using a synthetic cannabidiol known as JWH133 on cocaine-addicted mice. The mice were given access to intravenous cocaine. When they were given JWH133, they used the cocaine 50 to 60 percent less than they had before being given medical marijuana. 

Observations also showed that the animals did not appear to get high off the drug or experience negative side effects. For tobacco dependency, this could be a boon. Individuals with tobacco dependency often smoke cigarettes throughout the day. Psychoactive marijuana is not typically a viable option for the average smoker because they often do not want to be "stoned" all day. Treatments that decrease addiction without impairing cognitive function are preferable to many. 

Addiction research shows that habits can be just as much as a draw to a substance as addiction. Cigarette smokers appear to be the most vulnerable as they often smoke in certain place, at certain times and on a daily basis. Common places and times that trigger cravings are cars, after meals, upon waking and when bored. Medical marijuana may help overcome the habit aspect of the addiction by providing an alternative for the hand to mouth action of smoking cigarettes. It can also replace the feel of smoking that smokers often enjoy. 

As research progresses, scientists can discover precisely which active components in medical marijuana are useful for treatment of tobacco dependence. This will give patients more options that suit their needs, such as discreet ingestion methods or non-psychoactive treatment. Current patients receiving medical marijuana treatment for tobacco dependence should talk to their doctors about their options and their individual needs. No addiction treatment can work if it is inconvenient for the patient. That is especially so for tobacco dependence because it does not carry the stigma of other addictive substances. Avoiding treatment will never result in jail time.

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