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Randomised controlled trial (RCT) of daily aerobic exercise for inpatient cannabis withdrawal: A study protocol


Allsop, DJ and Rooney, K and Arnold, JC and Bhardwaj, AK and Bruno, R and Bartlett, DJ and Montebello, M and Arkell, T and Richards, E and Gugusheff, J and Rooke, S and Kerley, W and Murnion, B and Haber, P and McGregor, IS and Lintzeris, N, Randomised controlled trial (RCT) of daily aerobic exercise for inpatient cannabis withdrawal: A study protocol, Mental Health and Physical Activity, 13 pp. 57-67. ISSN 1755-2966 (2017) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2017 Elsevier Ltd.

DOI: doi:10.1016/j.mhpa.2017.06.002


Background and aims: Cannabis withdrawal is thought to be a major contributor to relapse to cannabis use and is now included in the DSM-5. Aerobic exercise relieves withdrawal symptoms from tobacco and other drugs, but has yet to be tested in cannabis users.

Methods: A prospective, single blind, parallel-group RCT comparing daily aerobic exercise to a control stretching intervention.

Setting: A seven-day inpatient hospital admission, with follow-up at 28 days’ post-discharge.

Participants: The study population will be 80 cannabis dependent adults seeking assistance with cannabis withdrawal.

Intervention and comparator: Participants in the Intervention group will undergo 35 min of aerobic exercise daily, at 60% of their VO2 Max, on an exercise bicycle. The Control group will participate in a structured non-aerobic daily stretching routine for 35 min daily. Both groups receive treatment as usual in the withdrawal management unit of the hospital.

Measurements: The primary outcome measure is the severity of cannabis withdrawal symptoms assessed daily using the Cannabis Withdrawal Scale and the Marijuana Cravings Questionnaire – pre and post exercise, across the week. Mechanisms by which exercise may affect cannabis withdrawal will be assessed by analysis of endogenous cannabinoids, and plasma and urine cannabinoid levels.

Discussion: This is the first RCT of aerobic exercise for cannabis dependence that has a valid control group to aid in interpretation of findings. Should the intervention prove effective, it would give empirical support to an inexpensive and accessible treatment approach for drug withdrawal management.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:cannabis, exercise, THC, cannabis, withdrawal, marijuana, V02 max
Research Division:Psychology
Research Group:Biological psychology
Research Field:Behavioural neuroscience
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Public health (excl. specific population health)
Objective Field:Public health (excl. specific population health) not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Bruno, R (Associate Professor Raimondo Bruno)
ID Code:126141
Year Published:2017
Web of Science® Times Cited:4
Deposited By:Psychology
Deposited On:2018-05-24
Last Modified:2019-02-08

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