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Trial to help users turn over a new leaf

Help at hand: Trial participants must be committed to quitting and be prepared to attend clinic visits and take medication as directed. HUNTER researchers are looking for 140 cannabis-dependent users who use the drug four or more times a week to participate in a world-first treatment trial.

The trial will investigate the use of nabiximols for the management of cannabis dependence.

“The trial will examine the efficacy, safety and cost-effectiveness of the medication for treating cannabis dependent patients in the community,” Hunter New England Health Drug and Alcohol Service Area Director and senior staff specialist Adrian Dunlop said.

“We currently provide psychosocial treatments for cannabis dependence through specialist cannabis clinics, however, many patients relapse within the first six months of finishing treatment.” The trial is presently taking place at four clinical sites in NSW, including the Newcastle Drug and Alcohol Service based at the Newcastle Community Health Centre. Professor Dunlop said more effective approaches were needed for tens of thousands of Australians seeking help each year for cannabis-related problems. The trial will involve the use of an oral spray called Sativex or a placebo medication to assess the efficacy for treating cannabis-dependent patients who have not previously responded to conventional treatment. “We are also keen to examine the effects of combining counselling with the Sativex medication as this approach often proves to be more effective than either approach alone with treatments for other addictions,” Professor Dunlop said. Researchers aim to recruit 140 cannabis-dependent users aged between 18 to 65 who use cannabis on average four or more days a week. Trial participants must be committed to quiting, have tried to quit but have been unsuccessful and are prepared to attend clinic visits weekly for 13 weeks and take medication as directed. To find out more, or to join the confidential trial, the Drug and Alcohol Research Unit can be contacted on 0408 161 016. The National Health and Medical Research Council funded study is being carried out in collaboration with a range of other universities and health districts. Newcastle’s Calvary Mater Hospital is also involved in a world-first clinical trial into the effects of medicinal cannabis on the appetites of cancer patients. Participants in that trial have advanced cancer and have lost their appetite. The initial stage of the trial aims to help researchers understand the logistics of using vapourised cannabis. "It will help us to work out how to use it, how often it should be used, and what dose should be used," Professor Richard Chye said.

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