May 23, 2019

Addiction Labs of America, the laboratory division of  American Addiction Centers, is in the early stages of developing a pharmacogenetics test for cannabis and other cannabis products, such as cannabidiol (CBD). It’s estimated a quarter of U.S. adults are taking some form of CBD, and a new study in the American Journal of Psychiatry is now touting its potential benefits for opioid use disorder.

“It’s critical that we know how different people, based on their genetic makeup, process or metabolize cannabis or CBD, and that’s information pharmacogenetic testing could tell us,” said Dr. Mark Calarco, Addiction Labs of America CEO. “Right now, it’s a guessing game of trial and error. While there are many people who benefit both medicinally and recreationally from cannabis products, we also know there is a subset of the population who can become addicted to cannabis and experience psychiatric symptoms, such as paranoia and schizophrenia-like behavior.”

To learn how pharmacogenetic testing is conducted at Addiction Labs, watch AAC’s YouTube video on the process.

Addiction Labs specializes in pharmacogenetics and already offers testing on more than 150 prescribed medications, mostly in the mental health arena. This information helps doctors prescribe personalized medicine for those with substance use disorder and co-occurring mental health conditions, ultimately improving patient outcomes. The cannabis testing would be the first time the lab has investigated the pharmacogenetics of a formerly illicit drug.

“Even with prescribed medications, we’ve found that 20% of the patients we test, based on their genetic report, need to either have their dosage adjusted or be on a different drug altogether,” said Joe Olechowski, Addiction Labs’ supervisor of genetics research and development. “That’s why this type of testing is so important. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to drugs, and in many states cannabis is already on the medication list for some people. We should know how people are reacting to it before we start prescribing it.”

As the cannabis market and products like CBD continue to grow in popularity, Dr. Calarco also cautions that it’s unlikely CBD will be the panacea for opioid use disorder that many are hoping.

“Based on my years of experience with cannabis products, I don’t believe CBD alone will be effective or potent enough to help the majority of people with opioid use disorder. It will help some, but we need more research to see the true impact. We are excited to be on the forefront of this new trend in medicine.”