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Drugs to Treat Weed Addiction

Smoking a joint in Denver

Smoking a joint in Denver

Hello, it’s Tiffany in New York. I cover things sometimes considered vice-related — cannabis, alcohol, tobacco and psychedelics. Once underground drugs are now often pitched — and seriously studied — as solutions to one of the biggest public health problems: addiction. But some of those drugs might lead to addiction, too. More on that in a second...

As the fallout of the pandemic becomes clear, a rise in drug addiction is emerging as one of the more vexing consequences. Overdose deaths in the US hit an all-time high in 2021, and substance abuse is hampering the labor market's recovery, accounting for as much as a quarter of the recent decline in people in their prime joining the workforce.

The biggest concern is opiates. But there’s growing focus on the downsides of cannabis, which for some became an easy mental escape during Covid lockdowns. Weed is sometimes pitched as a safer, less addictive option for pain relief, and a more “natural” alternative to pharmaceuticals for depression and anxiety. But it’s not without problems of its own. Of pot legalization’s mixed bag of effects, many of the most troubling stem from daily use, which can sometimes veer into addiction.

Most people don't think of marijuana as addictive, but some studies have suggested it can give rise to dependence, formally known as cannabis use disorder. Research into the prevalence of CUD offers varying statistics on just how commonly it occurs, but most suggests it’s a minority of weed users.  One 2019 survey by the US National Surveys on Drug Use and Health found that among adult cannabis users CUD was around 9%.