UW News

March 11, 2010

Trying to kick the marijuana habit? UW study wants you

Kicking the marijuana habit is a killer, just like quitting cigarettes.

That’s why researchers at the UW’s Innovative Programs Research Group are looking for 70 marijuana-dependent adults in the Puget Sound area to participate in a clinical research trial that will test state-of-the-art treatment approaches for people want to stop using marijuana.

To be eligible for the study, volunteers must be at least 18 years old, want help in stopping marijuana use and be willing to travel to the University District for counseling. All services are free and confidential.

“When people smoke marijuana they don’t intend to become dependent on it, but marijuana becomes pervasive over time,” said Cynthia Shaw, project director of the Marijuana Counseling Project. “People work hard in treatment programs, and many stop or reduce their marijuana use while in treatment but lose ground quickly once they leave treatment.”

Research has shown that about 9 percent of Americans who have ever used marijuana are dependent on it. Nearly 3.6 million Americans use marijuana on a daily or near-daily basis and between one-third and one-half of those are dependent.

The project will test two nine-session counseling proven treatments, both a blend of motivational enhancement therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. All participants will be offered additional counseling sessions as needed, and half will be randomly assigned to receive post-counseling “checkups.” Participants will receive $50 for each post-counseling interview and a $50 incentive if they complete both.

Shaw said people smoke marijuana for a variety of reasons. Those who become heavy user may experience withdrawal symptoms such as frightening dreams, sleeplessness, agitation and irritability when they stop.

People who are interested in participating in the study or have questions about it should contact Shaw at 206-616-3235 or mcpsvcs@uw.edu. Potential volunteers should call between of 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.

Principal investigators are of the project Denise Walker, co-director of the UW School of Social Work’s Innovative Programs Research Group and a research assistant professor; and Robert S. Stephens, Virginia Polytechnic and State University psychology professor. The research is being funded by the National Institute on Drug Addiction through the American Recovery and Reinvestiment Act.