Zach Walsh

Marijuana shows benefit as an ‘exit drug’ for people with more harmful addictions

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A review of the evidence suggests cannabis may also help with symptoms of depression, PTSD, and social anxiety, but not bipolar disorder or psychosis.

Marijuana is regularly referred to as a ‘gateway’ drug, but a new review of available evidence suggests it may also have a role as an ‘exit drug’ for people who are addicted to more harmful substances.

“Research suggests that people may be using cannabis as an exit drug to reduce the use of substances that are potentially more harmful, such as opioid pain medication,” says the study’s lead investigator Zach Walsh, an associate professor of psychology at University of British Columbia, Canada.

The review also found some evidence that cannabis may help with symptoms of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and social anxiety. However, cannabis use may not be recommended for conditions such as bipolar disorder and psychosis.

“In reviewing the limited evidence on medical cannabis, it appears that patients and others who have advocated for cannabis as a tool for harm reduction and mental health have some valid points,” says Walsh.

According to the latest figures from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, one in four Europeans will use cannabis in their lifetime. France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, Czech Republic, Estonia and Finland had the highest prevalence of use in young adults in 2015.