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Can Naltrexone Help With Marijuana Use Disorder?

Apr 05, 2023

In this week's article I'll be talking about naltrexone's effect on cannabis or marijuana.

Many people have been asking: 

  • Will naltrexone work in the same way it does for alcohol for marijuana use disorder?
  • Will naltrexone impact my marijuana use?
  • Are there risks of using marijuana while on naltrexone? I am going to share my personal experience with this.

I'm going to dive into some of the research that's been done here.

Will naltrexone work in the same way it does for alcohol, for marijuana use disorder?

In short the answer is yes – one study showed that targeted naltrexone can decrease an individual's use of marijuana in a similar way it does alcohol. Here's some of the discoveries made in this study:

  • Naltrexone significantly decreased self-administration of active cannabis relative to placebo. Participants in the placebo group had 7.6 times the odds of self-administering active cannabis compared with the naltrexone group
  • Study participants also reported significantly lower ratings of ‘Good Effect' [from marijuana] compared with the placebo group
    • However, naltrexone did not significantly affect other subjective-effects ratings such as cannabis craving or ‘High' 
  • Overall, ongoing use of naltrexone before consuming cannabis can reduce an individual's consumption because naltrexone reduces the direct reinforcing and positive subjective effects of cannabis

A couple of things I found interesting about this study:

  1. Regarding timing of naltrexone, they had participants take naltrexone 45 minutes before consuming marijuana. I wonder if it could be even more effective if they had them wait a little longer after taking naltrexone to consume 🤔 (ie, truly a TSM approach) 
  2. The study also showed that if an individual was not personally motivated to reduce their cannabis consumption – they would increase their usage outside of the laboratory environment (the same is definitely true with alcohol and TSM!)

"...participants who were explicitly not interested in reducing their cannabis use, may have smoked more cannabis in their natural environment to overcome naltrexone's effects."

Will naltrexone impact my marijuana use?

If naltrexone is taken in a targeted dose before consuming cannabis, it is likely have a similar effect as it does with alcohol.

The study showed that taking naltrexone would reduce the amount of self-administration of cannabis – so you'll likely want to consume less if naltrexone is taken, and you may notice the "good effects" are not as prominent.

The study concluded that, 

"As with alcohol, naltrexone may reduce ongoing heavy cannabis use, relapse severity, or the likelihood that patients would return to pretreatment levels of heavy cannabis use in the event of a lapse."

Are there risks of using marijuana while on naltrexone? Here's my personal experience.

While there are no known risks to consuming marijuana while also using naltrexone, please talk to your doctor about any potential risks for you. Everyone is different!

I do want to share what I learned from my personal experience using marijuana and naltrexone. 👇

I was consuming marijuana throughout my 10 year drinking period (however, I quit completely several years ago – more on that below). 

While I usually didn't consume marijuana daily, when I would consume it, often it would be with alcohol since I was a daily drinker.

When I was on TSM and getting more alcohol-free days, sometimes I would consume marijuana instead as a way to relax in the evening or help me fall asleep.

What I noticed this did for me over time is that I started to "substitute" alcohol for marijuana, and the "RISK" for me was that my brain was getting flooded with the pleasure from marijuana right after naltrexone had left my system. ⚠️

  • Naltrexone was blocking the reward from alcohol when I drank...and also from marijuana if I consumed it while I was having an extinction session (which I wasn't totally aware of at the time).
  • But then on alcohol-free days when naltrexone was out of my system, I would often consume marijuana.
  • I think this quickly taught my brain to become habituated to the pleasure/reward from marijuana.
    • I was also seeking many other rewards and pleasures in life sans alcohol – and truly enjoying them – but I would often turn to marijuana as well. It was an "option" on my menu that quickly became my favorite alcohol was.

For a several month period on TSM and even once I stopped drinking, I noticed my marijuana intake go up. It started to become a daily thing where it wasn't before....and I didn't like it.

My ONLY marijuana extinction session

Before I understood that naltrexone could work for marijuana, I did try to have an extinction session one time with naltrexone and marijuana....mostly just as an experiment on myself.

I do recall two things happening that evening: 1️⃣ I consumed far less marijuana. I only took a couple of puffs off of a vape pen – and when I would usually go back for more about an hour later, I didn't really want to, so I didn't. 2️⃣ The "high" effects weren't as good. They definitely felt blunted and less euphoric or exciting. Not bad, just not great.

Shortly after that experience, I consumed way too much of a very strong cannabis oil one day (without naltrexone) that made me feel extremely paranoid and anxious. Cannabis had never really made me feel that way before, and it sort of scared me. 

I ended up quitting cannabis cold turkey after that (I think this was 2019?). I did consume it a few times after that, but just didn't enjoy it as much anymore so haven't really been interested in it since.

Perhaps the very negative experience I had with the cannabis oil was enough for me to not desire it anymore? 🤷‍♀️

So if I were to ever caution anyone with using marijuana with naltrexone – I would just say be careful about "replacing" alcohol with marijuana – especially on your naltrexone-free days. 

While I don't know it for certain, I do wonder if consuming cannabis on my alcohol-free days when naltrexone was just recently washed out of my system – caused me to develop a marijuana use disorder that was worse than anything I had before.

Thankfully, it was short lived and after a horrible experience with the cannabis oil, I gave it up. But I know that's not always the case and marijuana use disorder can become a real issue...but thankfully research has shown that naltrexone can work in a similar way with marijuana as it does alcohol.

I hope you found this helpful!



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