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Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2014 Jan;40(1):16-22. doi: 10.3109/00952990.2013.819362.

Treatment of cannabis dependence using escitalopram in combination with cognitive-behavior therapy: a double-blind placebo-controlled study.

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  • 1Psychiatric Department and.



Cannabis is the most frequently used illegal substance in the United States and Europe. There is a dramatic increase in the demand for treatment for cannabis dependence. Cannabis users frequently have co-morbid mood symptoms, especially depression and anxiety, and regular cannabis users may self-medicate for such symptoms.


We report a double-blind, placebo-controlled treatment study, for the prevention of cannabis use in cannabis-dependent individuals.


Regular cannabis-dependent users (n = 52) were treated for 9 weeks with weekly cognitive-behavior and motivation-enhancement therapy sessions together with escitalopram 10 mg/day. Urine samples were collected to monitor delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) during treatment and questionnaires were administered to assess anxiety and depression.


We observed a high rate of dropout (50%) during the 9-week treatment program. Fifty-two patients were included in the intention-to-treat analysis. Of these, ten (19%) remained abstinent after 9 weeks of treatment as indicated by negative urine samples for THC. Escitalopram provided no advantage over placebo in either abstinence rates from cannabis or anxiety and depression scores during the withdrawal and abstinent periods.


Escitalopram treatment does not provide an additional benefit either for achieving abstinence, or for the treatment of the cannabis withdrawal syndrome. Due to limitations of our study, namely, a high dropout rate and effects of low abstinence rates on measures of anxiety, depression and withdrawal, it is premature to conclude that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are not effective for treatment of the cannabis withdrawal syndrome.

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