Marijuana Use Disorder

This information is useful for children and adults
marijuana use disorder
Why Yale Medicine?
  • Yale Medicine psychiatrists treat patients for all addictions, including cannabis use disorder.
  • Yale doctors conduct studies to measure the effects of combining psychotherapies to treat cannabis dependence.
  • Ongoing clinical trials provide patients with an opportunity to try treatments before they are available to the public.

Marijuana is gaining popularity in the United States as individual states have moved to make the drug legal. According to a health poll by Gallup, about 13 percent of U.S. adults use cannabis products. The plant has historically been consumed recreationally for its mind-altering effects, which can include enhanced senses and changes in mood. In some states, doctors can prescribe marijuana for medicinal uses such as reducing muscle spasms, pain, nausea and vomiting.

But cannabis may have harmful long- and short-term effects, such as paranoia and memory loss, and it can be addictive and disrupt a user’s life and relationships.

Synthetic cannabinoids, compounds manufactured to replicate individual chemicals found in cannabis, are much more potent than cannabis and therefore could be more dangerous. Doctors at Yale Medicine treat patients for cannabis use disorder and are conducting leading research to advance pharmacological and behavioral therapies to treat it and to better understand the effects of cannabis on the brain.

Cannabis is a plant that contains compounds called cannabinoids. 

Some cannabinoids are psychoactive, meaning they act on the brain to modify mood or consciousness. Cannabis is usually smoked or vaporized and inhaled. It can also be consumed via tea, baked goods, candies, or other edible means.

Like the naturally occurring cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant, there are a number of synthetic cannabinoids -- chemical compounds synthesized in a laboratory. Two synthetic cannabinoids are approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat nausea and vomiting induced by chemotherapy: Marinol (dronabinol) and Cesamet (nabilone), both available in capsule form. Other synthetic cannabinoids that are not legal have gained popularity in recent years. Those synthetics are often sprayed on dried plant materials for smoking and sold under the names “Spice” and “K2.” The synthetic cannabinoids generally have much stronger effects than cannabis.

Clinical Trials

New treatments for many conditions are tested in clinical trials, which ultimately bring lifesaving new drugs and devices to the patients who need them most. By participating in a clinical trial, you may get access to the most advanced treatments for your condition, and help determine their benefits for future patients.