Study shows exercise can curb marijuana use and cravings

Mar 04, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Vanderbilt researchers are studying heavy users of marijuana to help understand what exercise does for the brain, contributing to a field of research that uses exercise as a modality for prevention and treatment.

Participants saw a significant decrease in their cravings and daily use after just a few sessions of running on the treadmill, according to a Vanderbilt study published today in the journal . It is the first study to demonstrate that exercise can reduce cannabis use in persons who don't want to stop.

Twelve study participants — eight female and four male — were selected because they met the criteria for being 'cannabis-dependent' and did not want treatment to help them stop smoking pot.

During the study their craving for and use of cannabis was cut by more than 50 percent after exercising on a treadmill for 10 30-minute sessions over a two-week period.

“This is 10 sessions but it actually went down after the first five. The maximum reduction was already there within the first week,” said co-author Peter Martin, M.D., director of the Vanderbilt Addiction Center.

“There is no way currently to treat cannabis dependence with medication, so this is big considering the magnitude of the cannabis problem in the U.S. And this is the first time it has ever been demonstrated that exercise can reduce cannabis use in people who don't want to stop.”

Cannabis abuse or dependence and complications have increased in all age groups in the past decade in the United States.

In 2009, approximately 16.7 million Americans age 12 or older reported cannabis use in the previous month and 6.1 million used the drug on 20 or more days per month, the authors wrote.

Treatment admissions for cannabis dependence have risen from 7 percent of total addiction treatment admissions in 1998 to 16 percent by 2009.

Co-author Mac Buchowski, Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt Energy Balance Laboratory, said the importance of this study and future studies will only continue to grow with the new knowledge of the role of physical activity in health and disease.

“It opens up exercise as a modality in prevention and treatment of, at least, marijuana abuse. And it becomes a huge issue with medical now available in some states,” he said. “What looks like an innocent, recreational habit could become a disease that has to be treated.”

Martin sees the study results as the beginning of an important area of research to better understand mechanisms of exercise in addiction.

“It shows that exercise can really change the way the brain works and the way the brain responds to the world around us,” he said. “And this is vital to health and has implications for all of medicine.”

Study participants, who reported they smoke on average 5.9 joints per day, came to Vanderbilt five times a week for two weeks to run on the treadmill. Buchowski and his co-workers measured the amount of exercise needed for each individual to achieve 60-70 percent of maximum heart rate, creating a personalized exercise treadmill program for each participant.

Participants were shown pictures of a cannabis-use related stimuli before and after each exercise session and then asked to rank their according to the cannabis craving scale. They also documented cannabis use, which reduced to an average of 2.8 joints per day during the exercise portion of the study.

Martin said it is important to repeat the findings in a much larger study, in a randomized and controlled manner. The study results also should prompt further research into understanding what does for the brain, he added.

“Mental and physical health in general could be improved. Unfortunately, young people who smoke cannabis often develop panic attacks, and may develop to psychosis or mood disorders,” Martin said.

“Back in the 1960s and 70s people used to say that cannabis is not particularly unhealthy. Well, there have been data coming out over the last five years that have demonstrated pretty conclusively that smoking may be a predisposing factor for developing psychosis.”

Explore further: Brazil to study legalization of medical marijuana

Provided by Vanderbilt Medical Center

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User comments : 7

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JRDarby
4 / 5 (2) Mar 04, 2011
What looks like an innocent, recreational habit could become a disease that has to be treated.

Hahaha. True perhaps, but the agenda behind and phrasing of the statement are just absurd.

"Well, there have been data coming out over the last five years that have demonstrated pretty conclusively that cannabis smoking may be a predisposing factor for developing psychosis."

... "conclusively... may be..." ...

Seriously? Wow.

The results of the study are interesting though. I wonder how much they cut back simply because it's hard to breathe, especially as much as you need when exercising that vigorously, when you're smoking that much.
Bob_B
1 / 5 (1) Mar 05, 2011
I agree. In general Physorg articles mostly say: "may", "could", "might someday", and so on.

I keep looking for the articles that say: "is now", "available", "are being [used, done, built, .
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (1) Mar 05, 2011
Pot proponents say marijuana is not addicting so they can quit anytime they want.
Toby_Saunders
not rated yet Mar 05, 2011
This site seems to have an unfairly warped view against cannabis. 'Cravings'? 'Disease'? Cannabis is amazingly healthy & good for many things; if coffee & tea were illegal, presumably we would have similarly misleading studies 'coffee linked to psychosis'... 'tea dependent drug users are able to quite their disease after exercise'. Actually caffeine is directly-addictive, unlike cannabis which only has the potential to be behaviorally addictive, but they're both soft drugs with similar potential to be misused. I was going to start coming to this site more often, but with so many stories about the bogus 'psychosis link' and so few about the many benefits of cannabis, I see where the (un)ethical line has been drawn, so I won't.
TommyJ
1 / 5 (1) Mar 06, 2011
Check out the for great low-impact exercise routines!

selftrainermat dot com
gmurphy
not rated yet Mar 07, 2011
Meh, in my experience, marijuana use has been known to curb exercise, not the other way round.
JodranQ
not rated yet Mar 12, 2011
I only created an account on this site to discuss CANNABIS on this page I will then not be commenting due to the lack of science on this site. Marijuana is the name that the Mexicans gave it. We have since been using it to degrade the plant itself. A few things should be pointed out. Cannabis isn't dangerous. SMOKING PLANT MATTER IS. Over the last two decades cannabis use has greatly increased, and somehow, not surprisingly, psychosis rates have decreased. How is this explained? It's explained by the massive use of "may" and "possible" and other indefinable weasel words that send the turnip farming masses back to their caves, for fear that it's possible that the cannabis monster may increase the chances of psychosis in individuals WHO WOULD HAVE DEVELOPED IT ANYWAY! I hate ignorance so much; sorry. Peace and best wishes.

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