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Cannabis Use May Predict Opioid Use in Women Undergoing Addictions Treatment, Study Says

A new study suggests that the use of cannabis may impact treatment in women undergoing methadone treatment therapy.

Researchers from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton have found that women in methadone treatment who use cannabis are 82% more likely to continue using opioids. This means that women who use cannabis are at high risk of failing methadone treatment.

"About 60% of men and 44% of women who are undergoing methadone treatment therapy also use cannabis," says the study's senior author, Zena Samaan, MBChB, DMMD, MSc, MRCPsych, PhD, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at McMaster University and a clinician and researcher at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton. "Tailoring treatment to the patient's sex can help us to assess the patient's risk better and deliver more accurate personalized treatment."

These findings could influence the way in which women diagnosed with opioid use disorder are treated.

"As cannabis use seems to be a predictor for continuing opioid use despite treatment with methadone, clinicians should screen for cannabis and use these screening results to better plan treatment and resource allocation," Samaan says.

The research team recruited 777 participants from 16 Canadian Addiction Treatment Centre sites across Ontario.

The latest Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey taken in 2013 found that 2% of Canadians reportedly abused opioids. The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse reports that opioid-related deaths increased by more than 240% from 1990–2010.

The study was published online in Biology of Sex Differences and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Chanchlani Research Centre, and the Peter Boris Centre for Addictions Research.

Source: McMaster University