Marijuana Use Disorders:
Dependence and Treatment Research

A Congressional Briefing Sponsored by The Friends OF NIDA
In conjunction with The Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

On March 8, the Friends of NIDA coalition presented a briefing, "Marijuana Use Disorders: Dependence and Treatment Research." Coordinated by the American Psychological Association's Science Government Relations Office, the briefing's sponsors included 25 scientific and professional associations as well as the Congressional Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus. Speakers were Nora Volkow, Director of NIDA, and Alan Budney, professor at the Center for Addiction Research at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Among those in attendance at the briefing were staff members from 17 congressional offices.

According to NIDA, 4.3 million Americans were dependent on or abused marijuana in 2009. Behavioral interventions for marijuana use and dependence have shown similar efficacy as treatments used for other drugs of abuse. Recent discoveries about the cannabinoid system also offer promise for the development of treatment medications, which could block effects of marijuana, treat withdrawal symptoms, and decrease the likelihood of further use.

NIDA Director Volkow presented critical research findings including likelihood of developing addiction to marijuana, brain differences in adolescents with heavy marijuana use, brain abnormalities associated with long-term marijuana use, and addiction withdrawal symptoms. Dr. Volkow also presented statistics on marijuana in the U.S. Briefing attendees learned about prevalence of use, changes in attitudes toward marijuana, emergency department visits involving marijuana, and the greater than threefold increase in potency of marijuana in the last two decades.

Dr. Budney presented findings from his and other scientists' NIDA funded research, on behavioral treatments for marijuana dependence and emerging neuroscience-based approaches. Study topics included motivational incentives, adolescent impulsivity, genotypic interactions, and the co-occurrence of dependence on marijuana and tobacco. Dr. Budney emphasized the need for further research to gain a better understanding of marijuana dependence and to develop new treatment approaches targeted to specific subpopulations.

This briefing was the fifteenth in a series of Capitol Hill briefings sponsored by the Friends of NIDA since 2005 to educate Congress about the value of addiction research.

Dr. Volkow's presentation [PDF]

Dr. Budney's presentation [PDF]

Pictures from the briefing:

Nora D. Volkow

Nora D. Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Alan J. Budney

Alan J. Budney, Professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences' Center for Addiction Services.