Reduction in Cannabis Use Over Time Improves Functional Outcomes

People often use cannabis for its calming effects and as a sleep aid. However, chronic use and development of cannabis use disorder (CUD) may result in the opposite psychoactive effects. Abstinence is often the target of treatment initiatives, but little is known about how reduction in cannabis use may effect certain symptoms. This secondary analysis of a 12-week, multi-site trial of a medication for CUD examined the longitudinal association between reductions in cannabis use and anxiety, depression, sleep quality, and quality of life. The sample consisted of 302 individuals (152 reduced cannabis use, 150 increased use).

  • The 2 groups did not differ in age, gender, educational achievement, or employment, but differed significantly regarding race/ethnicity with more black (36% versus 19%) and fewer “other” (4% versus 11%) participants in the reduction group compared with the increase group. Frequency of cannabis, alcohol, and tobacco use at baseline did not differ between the groups.
  • Controlling for demographics, treatment condition, and time-varying tobacco and alcohol use, the authors found an association between reduction in cannabis use and improvement in anxiety, depression, and sleep quality, but not in quality of life.

Comments: Although the study period was only 12 weeks and changes in cannabis use were based on self-report, this study suggests that reductions in use over time may result in symptom control. More studies should test the effects of clinically applicable outcomes such as reduction in substance use rather than abstinence.

Jeanette M. Tetrault, MD

Reference: Hser YI, Mooney LJ, Huang D, et al. Reductions in cannabis use are associated with improvements in anxiety, depression, and sleep quality, but not quality of life. J Subst Abuse Treat. 2017;81:53–58.

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