Smoking too much cannabis and it’s beginning to affect your life in negative ways? Pretty soon a drug in capsule form could be the answer, if pharmaceutical drug developers get their way.

South Florida-based clinical research network Segal Trials announced it will conduct a Phase 2B study to investigate a new drug, AEF0117-202, created by Aelis Farma to treat cannabis use disorder (CUD), according to an October 5 press release. It is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, 4-arm, parallel-group, prospective, multicenter study, determining the efficacy of a drug that reacts to the same receptors as THC.

Under a new pharmacological class of drugs, called sCB1-SSi, AEF0117-202 is the first clinical candidate for the treatment of CUD, which is often defined as the inability to stop using cannabis—even if it’s causing health and social problems.

How much is too much pot? For this study, the criteria to meet CUD is defined as people who consume cannabis at least five times per week or more. To determine if the pill works, the orally administered drug will be given to a group of study participants, and a second group will receive a placebo. Then researchers will begin their work to determine the efficacy of the drug.

Three doses—1.0, 0.3, and 0.1 mg—and a placebo were given to study participants in capsules. “AEF0117 acts in the same parts of the brain as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the active ingredient of marijuana, and may temporarily alter some of cannabis’s effects,” researchers wrote in the summary. They explained their reasoning in the press release:

“Chronic marijuana use can drastically impact individuals’ social and professional lives in many ways, from poor work or school performance to mood disorders,” said Rishi Kakar, MD, chief scientific officer and medical director at Segal Trials. “This Phase 2B study gets us closer to the prospect of effectively treating people who want to end their reliance on cannabis but don’t have the tools to quit.”

“Addiction” can mean many different things, ranging from severe physical withdrawal symptoms from drugs like opiates or alcohol, or unhealthy psychological patterns. This study’s summary describes cannabis withdrawal symptoms as including irritability, mood and sleep difficulties, decreased appetite, cravings, restlessness, and occasionally physical discomfort.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one study estimated that approximately 3 in 10 people who consume cannabis have CUD. Another study estimated that people who use cannabis have about a 10% likelihood of becoming addicted.

Researchers Blame Potency for Rise in CUD

The rise in dabbing, and better and more powerful concentrates has been pinpointed as the culprit in the rise in cases of cannabis use disorder.

“The potency of cannabis products has increased significantly over the past twenty years,” which may have contributed to the rise of cannabis-related adverse effects,” said Dr. Kakar. “With no approved drugs available to treat chronic cannabis use, Aelis Farma’s drug has the potential to make a significant, positive impact for millions of marijuana users seeking to end their dependence on cannabis.”

The Segal team will conduct the trial at its Center for Psychedelic and Cannabis Research, which was specifically built using pharmaceutical and regulatory feedback to create a structured inpatient environment that ensures both patient safety and patient comfort. 

Interestingly, the team has also worked with psychedelics. Segal Trials also recently announced it was the first in the United States to conduct a large, randomized clinical trial to investigate MM-120 (LSD D-tartrate) to treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

Segal has already succeeded in developing 54 FDA-approved medications and devices. The company says that its trials focus on psychiatry, neurology, addiction, insomnia, infectious diseases, vaccine development, and women’s health.

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