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Psychotherapeutic interventions for cannabis abuse and/or dependence in outpatient settings

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Date Commenced:
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Project Members: 
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Postdoctoral Research Fellow
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Honorary Professor
Ph 02 9385 0231
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Ms Lucy Albertella
Research Assistant
Project Main Description: 

Cannabis use disorder is the most common illegal substance use disorder in the general population and demand for assistance from health services is increasing internationally. Despite that, only a minority of those with the disorder will seek professional assistance. Treatment studies have been published, however; there is a need for a systematic review of cannabis-specific treatments for adults. Dennis and colleagues (2006) provided such a review with the Cochrane Collaboration, however, this review is now somewhat outdated.

Project Collaborators: External: 

Dr Pamela Sabioni
Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto

Associate Professor Linda Gowing
Discipline of Pharmacology Medical School NG13, University of Adelaide

Professor Bernard Le Foll
Psychiatry and Institute of Medical Sciences; University of Toronto


This study addresses this gap in research by updating the review of cannabis treatments: “Psychotherapeutic interventions for cannabis abuse and/or dependence in outpatient settings”.

Design and Method: 

A systematic review of articles on treatment for cannabis use disorder published up to June 2015 was conducted. We included 23 randomised controlled trials involving 4028 participants.


The most consistent evidence supports an intensive treatment based on the combination of cognitive behavioural therapy and motivational enhancement therapy. Notably, the vast majority of included trials reported a statistically significant reduction in frequency of cannabis use and number of dependence symptoms, however; other measures of problems related to cannabis use did not consistently improve. Unfortunately as the included studies were heterogenous on many aspects, important questions regarding the most effective duration, intensity and type of intervention were not resolved.


The manuscript has been published by the Cochrane Collaboration and is available at http://www.cochrane.org/CD005336/ADDICTN_psychosocial-interventions-cannabis-use-disorder


Gaining an understanding of best practice in the treatment of cannabis use disorder and an evidence base on predictors of successful and unsuccessful outcomes to inform future treatment efforts. 

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