This just in from researchers in France: they have developed a drug to help patients deal with Cannabis Use Disorders. If they’re right, it’s a real breakthrough. We can hope.

No brand name — AEF0117 is all we have. The results, though early, are indeed impressive.

Based on Phase 2 trials of AEF0117 reported in Nature Medicine:

  • The drug appeared to weaken the effects of cannabis, while simultaneously decreasing the user’s desire for more, yet
  • it produced no withdrawal symptoms of its own when stopped.

Again, it’s early days in research terms. More study is needed. Still, those are two pretty good indicators of eventual success.

Cannabis is more important now than in the past, because the rate of CUD among cannabis users continues to climb. For the longest time, we could count on 8-9% of users going on to develop a cannabis use disorder. That’s no longer the case.

In recent years, it’s more like 15%. Not something we want to see, because cannabis use is so widespread — an estimated 55 million users in America alone. That suggests that cannabis disorders could quickly become the most prevalent substance use problem in most treatment programs.

By the way, current estimate of today’s US population with CUD: 14.2 million persons. And growing, of course.

About this new medication: The hormone pregnenolone was observed to create the desired effects, but wasn’t stable or well-absorbed enough to be practical for clinical use. So researchers developed a synthetic substitute that met the necessary criteria.

That was AEF0117.

More research will no doubt follow. As one scientist put it, we’ve all seen examples of how quickly the promise of a new medication can be sacrificed on the altar of evidence. If the data doesn’t confirm its effectiveness, or if troubling side effects emerge…it’s back to the drawing board.

Anyway, next up is another trial, this time in the USA. Stay tuned.