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CTN Briefs/Addiction Science Made Easy: Impact of Vigorous, High-Dose Exercise on Cannabis Use Among Stimulant Users

Meg Brunner, MLISWalking
CTN Dissemination Library


Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, with use estimates significantly higher than for other substances. The 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (SAMHSA) estimated that 22 million people in the U.S. were current cannabis users and 4.2 million (20%) met criteria for cannabis use disorder. Further, cannabis is often reported to be simultaneously used with other substances, including stimulants like cocaine, methamphetamine, and amphetamines.


Despite its common use and increasing prevalence of abuse and dependence, however, there are limited approved medical treatments to reduce cannabis use. Exercise has been documented to have the potential to assist with tobacco smoking cessation – would it also help with cannabis use?


This study aimed to examine the effects of vigorous intensity, high dose exercise (DEI) on cannabis use among stimulant users using data from CTN-0037, Stimulant Reduction Intervention using Dosed Exercise (STRIDE).


Adults (N=302) enrolled in the STRIDE clinical trial were randomized to either DEI or a health education intervention (HEI) control group. Interventions included supervised sessions 3 times a week during the Acute phase (12 weeks) and once a week during the Follow-up phase (6 months). Cannabis use was compared between the groups during the Acute and Follow-up phases.


Approximately 43% of the sample reported cannabis use at baseline. During the Acute phase of the study, the difference in cannabis use between the DEI and HEI groups was not significant. However, during the 6 month Follow-up phase, days of cannabis use were significantly lower among those in the DEI group (1.2 days) compared to the HEI group (2.15 days).


Conclusions: Though there were no short-term differences in cannabis use between the two groups, those who adhered to the exercise intervention used less cannabis during the Follow-up phase. The 6-month length of the follow-up phase gave participants time to get into a routine, which may have strengthened the likelihood of sustained behavior change. Additionally, it’s possible that the overall improvement in physical and mental health that generally results from engaging in physical activity may have also led to a reduction in cannabis use.


Further study on the long-term impact of exercise as a treatment to reduce cannabis use should be considered.


Citation: Vidot DC, et al. Acute and Long-Term Cannabis Use Among Stimulant Users: Results from CTN-0037 STimulant Reduction Intervention using Dosed Exercise (STRIDE) Randomized Control Trial. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 2019 (in press).


Find it in the CTN Dissemination Library!