Clinical Research on Cannabis

Cannabis use disorder (CUD) is a major public health problem in the US and around the world. While psychotherapeutic approaches have been extensively studied to treat CUD, and various approaches have shown to have clinical utility, many patients have difficulty achieving significant reductions in their use or abstinence. There are no efficacious pharmacotherapies for CUD. The development of safe and effective pharmacotherapy for CUD is an important unmet public health need and a major goal of the Division on Substance Use Disorders. Clinical research on cannabis is conducted at the Substance Treatment and Research Service (STARS) in the Division on Substance Use Disorders. The STARS research team has an impressive history of conducting a series of pioneering CUD pharmacotherapy clinical trials, and is continuing to advance the field by testing agents with a wide range of pharmacologic actions.

Faculty conducting clinical cannabis research:

Laboratory Research on Cannabis

We have developed a laboratory model to test the effects of potential treatments (pharmacotherapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation) for CUD, measuring the interaction between these interventions and cannabis on: mood, sleep, food intake, physiological effects and cannabis self-administration. Additional studies address how acute stress may escalate cannabis self-administration, potentially increasing the risk of developing CUD, and how cannabis affects the risks of other abused drugs, like cocaine, in polysubstance users. Therapeutic Cannabinoids: We conduct placebo-controlled studies of the potential therapeutic effects of cannabis and its constituents, as well as FDA-approved oral cannabinoids, for a range of clinical outcomes, e.g., pain, nausea, appetite, PTSD, and assess whether there are sex differences in these outcomes. Brain Imaging: We use functional MRI to investigate how the brain processes decisions about drugs (cannabis) compare to how it processes decisions about non-drug rewards (food). Synthetic Cannabinoids: We study the risks associated with the use of synthetic cannabinoids sold as ‘Spice‘ or ‘K2’, translating preclinical laboratory animal models to the human laboratory.

Faculty conducting laboratory cannabis research: