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Marijuana Abuse Responds to Psychotherapy, Overall Is Hard to Treat

Marijuana dependence and abuse can be moderately improved by various psychotherapy treatments — but reduced use rather than abstinence may be the best clinicians// can hope for at this time, a new review finds.

One-on-one cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is most effective, but other counseling approaches also help users to cut down or improve social problems associated with their marijuana use.

Dr. Marc Auriacombe of the Addiction Research Group at the Université Victor Segalen in Bordeaux, France, and colleagues analyzed results from studies of 1,267 people who received no or delayed intervention, motivational enhancement therapy (MET), family therapy, CBT or combinations of these for marijuana abuse or dependence.

The researchers measured outcomes such as abstinence from marijuana (cannabis) use, improvements in family and social problems, other drug abuse and continuing treatment to assess the various approaches.

“The six studies included in this review show that cannabis dependence is not easily treated by psychotherapies in outpatient settings,” the authors write. “Cognitive-behavioral therapy both in individual or group sessions and motivational enhancement in individual sessions has been demonstrated to be effective to reduce cannabis use.”

The review appears in the current issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.

Because the researchers compared studies with varied interventions and timelines, they didn’t perform a meta-analysis that measured the overall results, and so did not provide overall comparisons across studies. But they found improvements in different measures of patients who received some type of psychotherapeutic interv
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