Experimental Pill Shows Promise in Treating Marijuana Addiction

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A groundbreaking study conducted by researchers at Columbia University has revealed promising results for an experimental pill, AEF-0117, in the treatment of cannabis use disorder. The trial, published in the prestigious journal Nature Medicine and reported by NBC, marks an important step in addressing the growing need for effective medications to combat marijuana addiction, as marijuana use in the United States reaches record highs among young adults. 

A cannabis use disorder is defined as an inability to stop smoking marijuana despite the disastrous impact it has on one’s life. The CDC predicts that up to 30% of frequent marijuana users may be affected by this disorder, emphasizing the importance of developing an effective therapy. There are currently no FDA-approved medications to treat cannabis use disorder. 

AEF-0117, an investigational medicine created by the French biotech business Aelis Farma, demonstrates a novel method of action by focusing on the brain. AEF-0117 operates on the CB1 receptor in the brain (the same receptor responsible for cannabis’ euphoric effects) to lessen drug cravings in a targeted manner. With this tailored approach, the intoxicating effects of cannabis can be reduced without evoking the unpleasant side effects that are occasionally linked with it. 

Meg Haney, the study’s principal author and the head of Columbia University’s cannabis research lab, oversaw the trial of 29 adult male and female patients with cannabis use disorder. Each day, participants consumed around 3 grams of marijuana. The experiment was carried out to establish a standard dose for use in subsequent investigations. 

Participants in the phase 2a randomized controlled trial were drawn at random from both groups. One group was given a low dose of AEF-0117 (0.06 mg), whereas the other was given a high dose (1 mg). For five days, the medicine or placebo was administered at 9 a.m. everyday, and smoking was resumed 3.5 hours later. 

Participants were asked questions on the drug’s effectiveness at various stages throughout the trial, such as “I feel high” or “I feel a good effect.” The subjective “good effects” of cannabis were reduced by 19% at the lower dose of AEF-0117, but 38% at the higher level. Furthermore, only the greater dose significantly reduced the patients’ subsequent cannabis usage. 

According to Meg Haney, the experiment’s first findings are “very encouraging.” She stated that AEF-0117 is one of the few drugs particularly designed to lessen the effects of cannabis, therefore it may be good for persons wanting to quit smoking marijuana. According to Haney, more study is needed to establish the benefits and investigate any potential downsides. 

Following favorable results from phase 2a, researchers were allowed to proceed to step 2b. A phase 2b research is now enrolling around 300 people from across the United States. This broader trial has the potential to give more insight on the efficacy and safety of AEF-0117. The findings of phase 2b trials might be made public in early 2019. 

Many doctors are optimistic about AEF-0117, but they also recognize that patients’ motivation is critical to the treatment’s success. Dr. Scott Hadland, an addiction expert at Boston’s Mass General Hospital for Children, highlights the importance of a patient’s desire in order to effectively refrain from cannabis use. 

The study’s findings shed light on a substantial public health danger raised by the legalization of recreational marijuana use. Experts such as Meg Haney have noted a lack of open communication regarding the hazards of cannabis usage. Although many people consume marijuana without incident, cannabis use disorder is a concern for some. A reduction in academic achievement, a shift in social circles, and withdrawal from formerly loved activities such as sports and clubs are all warning indicators. 



There is hope for people suffering from cannabis use disorder, according to the findings of the AEF-0117 research at Columbia University. The unique method of action of the experimental tablet has shown promise in reducing the perceived good effects of cannabis and avoiding addiction. More study is needed to confirm these findings and learn more about the drug’s long-term efficacy and potential negative effects. 


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