A cannabis-based mouth spray, prescribed to multiple sclerosis sufferers, could be used to help people quit marijuana, say researchers.
There are no products aimed at easing people off cannabis, the only option being rehabilitation where a cocktail of prescribed drugs is used to counteract withdrawal symptoms.
But researchers at the University of NSW hope a drug, Sativex, which is a mouth spray and contains two of the main cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant; tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), may help addicts quit.
It was the combination of both that gave Sativex potential, said Jan Copeland, who is leading the world-first study through the university''s National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre.
"The smoked cannabis available on the market has had almost all the CBD taken out of it, which is almost considered the 'good' cannabinoid, while THC is associated with getting stoned," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Professor Copeland as saying.
"The good thing about Sativex, it returns CBD to the compound, and in treating symptoms of withdrawal it can dampen down the effects of THC on the patients' receptor systems without them getting stoned," Copeland explained.
The mouth spray, which the university has been authorised to use, would be given in low doses in a monitored environment every six hours, she said.
Disrupted sleep, difficulty functioning and anger were common withdrawal symptoms and the main cause of relapse, Professor Copeland said.