Cannabinoids for the treatment of cannabis use disorder: New avenues for reaching and helping youth?

Kristine Rømer Thomsen, Birgitte Thylstrup, Emily A. Kenyon, Rachel Lees, Lone Baandrup, Sarah W. Feldstein Ewing, Tom P. Freeman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Citations (SciVal)


Cannabis use peaks during adolescence and emerging adulthood, and cannabis use disorder (CUD) is associated with a wide range of adverse outcomes. This is particularly pertinent in youth, because the developing brain may be more vulnerable to adverse effects of frequent cannabis use. Combining evidence-based psychosocial interventions with safe and effective pharmacotherapy is a potential avenue to improve youth outcomes, but we lack approved CUD pharmacotherapies. Here, we review new potential avenues for helping youth with CUD, with a particular focus on cannabinoid-based treatments. Evidence from placebo-controlled RCTs suggests synthetic delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) decreases withdrawal symptoms, but not cannabis use, in adults with daily cannabis use/CUD, while findings regarding formulations containing THC combined with cannabidiol (CBD) are mixed. Preliminary evidence from two placebo-controlled RCTs in adults with CUD suggests that both Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase inhibitors and CBD can reduce cannabis use. However, larger trials are needed to strengthen the evidence. Findings from adults point to cannabinoid-based treatments as a potential strategy that should be examined in youth with CUD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-180
Number of pages12
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Early online date22 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Sarah W. Feldstein Ewing received funding from National Institutes of Health (NIH) / National Institutes of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) K24AA026876-01 (USA) . The remaining authors received no financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors


  • Cannabidiol
  • Cannabinoids
  • Cannabis
  • Cannabis use disorder
  • FAAH inhibitors
  • Pharmacotherapy
  • Treatment
  • Youth
  • Δ-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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