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Cannabis-Related Disorders Medication

  • Author: Lawrence Genen, MD, MBA; Chief Editor: David Bienenfeld, MD  more...
Updated: Jun 23, 2014

Medication Summary

Short-term, low-dose benzodiazepines for treatment of significant anxiety associated with acute intoxication has been used. Clinicians are advised to use caution when administering benzodiazepines for the treatment of cannabis-induced anxiety, as the anxiety will invariable resolve with no medication over a short period. Drug therapies that diminish cravings for marijuana or intoxicating effects from marijuana use are currently not available.



Class Summary

These agents depress all levels of CNS, which, in turn, reduces anxiety symptoms.

Lorazepam (Ativan)


Lorazepam is used for acute marijuana-associated panic or anxiety symptoms. Monitor vital signs carefully after administration. Watch for respiratory depression, ataxia, and somnolence/excess sedation. Amnesia may follow administration. Effects usually last 5-8 hours. Lorazepam is a sedative hypnotic with a short onset of effects and relatively long half-life. Increasing the action of GABA, which is a major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, may depress all levels of the CNS, including limbic and reticular formation. When the patient must be sedated for more than 24 hours, this medication is excellent.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Lawrence Genen, MD, MBA Board Certified Psychiatrist; Diplomate, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology; Founder, The Genen Group - A Multi-Specialty Psychiatry and Psychotherapy Practice

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


William F Haning, III, MD, FASAM, DFAPA Professor of Psychiatry, Director of Graduate Affairs, Office of the Dean, Program Director, Addiction Psychiatry/Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, University of Hawaii, John A Burns School of Medicine; Principal Investigator and Co-Director, Pacific Addiction Research Center

William F Haning, III, MD, FASAM, DFAPA is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry, American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Society of Addiction Medicine, Association of Military Surgeons of the US, Hawaii Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

John Franzen, MD Resident Physician, Department of Psychiatry, University of Nebraska-Creighton University

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Chief Editor

David Bienenfeld, MD Professor, Departments of Psychiatry and Geriatric Medicine, Wright State University, Boonshoft School of Medicine

David Bienenfeld, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, Association for Academic Psychiatry

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Barry I Liskow, MD Professor of Psychiatry, Vice Chairman, Psychiatry Department, Director, Psychiatric Outpatient Clinic, The University of Kansas Medical Center

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


The authors and editors of Medscape Reference gratefully acknowledge the contributions of previous authors Robert C Daly, MB, ChB, MPH, BCh; Can M Savasman, MD; Caroline Fisher, MD, PhD; and Lina Cassandra Vawter, MD to the development and writing of this article.

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Cannabis sativa.
The major psychoactive component of marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
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