B.C. Researchers Find That Cannabis Could Help Reduce Crack Cocaine Use

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B.C. researchers find that cannabis could help reduce crack cocaine use Research presented by BC Centre on Substance Use scientists at Harm Reduction International Conference in Montreal offers possible treatment for harmful crack cocaine use

Using cannabis might be an effective strategy for people seeking to control their use of crack cocaine, according to new research from scientists at the BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU).

Scientists examined the crack use histories of 122 people who use drugs in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and Downtown South neighbourhoods and observed reductions in the frequency of crack use following periods in which they reported using cannabis to control their crack use. The research was presented today at the 2017 Harm Reduction International (HRI) Conference in Montreal.

“Crack cocaine, whether it’s injected or inhaled, is associated with an array of negative health consequences, including cuts and burns from unsafe pipes and the transmission of infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C,” said Dr. Eugenia Socias, a physician and postdoctoral fellow at BCCSU and first author of the study who presented the research at the HRI Conference. “We found that intentional cannabis use preceded declines in crack use among crack cocaine users who pursued self-medication with cannabis.”

According to recent estimates, there are between 14 and 21 million current users of cocaine worldwide, of whom approximately seven million have a cocaine use disorder. A substantial proportion of cocaine use is thought to occur in the form of crack cocaine, particularly among marginalized populations in urban settings in North and South America. Risks associated with crack cocaine include accidental overdose and transmission of infectious diseases, such as hepatitis and HIV. There exist no effective pharmaceutical therapies for crack cocaine use.

The BCCSU’s research is the largest longitudinal study to demonstrate the potential role of cannabis use as a reduction or substitution strategy for crack cocaine use. The findings are in line with smaller case and qualitative studies in Jamaica and Brazil. For instance, a study conducted in Brazil—which has struggled with a crack cocaine epidemic and is the largest consumer of crack cocaine in the world—followed 25 treatment-seeking individuals with crack use disorders who reported using cannabis to reduce cocaine related craving symptoms. Over a nine-month follow-up period, the majority (68%) stopped using crack.

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