Tom Freeman

Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath

Changes in cannabis products and the rising demand for treatment of cannabis use disorders

The cannabis plant produces at least 144 naturally occurring compounds known as ‘cannabinoids’. These act on the endogenous cannabinoid system and some of them (e.g. delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol; THC and cannabidiol; CBD) are showing considerable promise in modern medicine. However, repeated and frequent use of cannabis can result in adverse consequences of addiction and mental health disorders.

Cannabis use disorders are now one of the most common drug use disorders worldwide, affecting an estimated 22 million people. This number may increase further as more permissive cannabis policies emerge in the United States, Canada and elsewhere. The increasing demand for treatment of cannabis use disorders creates problems for service providers, and raise questions about the possible role of changing cannabis products on cannabis harms.

There is some evidence for the effectiveness of psychosocial treatments, but no pharmacological treatments are available. In this talk I will present new data showing trends in concentrations of THC and CBD in cannabis products in international cannabis markets, and their associations with health outcomes. I will then present data on psychological treatments for cannabis use disorders. Finally I will present new data testing whether CBD may be an effective method for harm reduction and a possible treatment for cannabis use disorders.

About Tom Freeman

Tom Freeman is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath. After completing his BSc Psychology at UCL, Tom joined the UCL Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit to investigate which factors predict vulnerability or resilience to the harmful effects of cannabis.

During his PhD he investigated the neurocognitive mechanisms underpinning substance use and its comorbidity with psychotic disorders. A key finding emerging from Tom’s work is that a non-intoxicating component of the cannabis plant, cannabidiol (CBD), may offset some of the harmful effects of cannabis use on brain and behaviour. Building on these findings in his postdoctoral training, he led a randomised clinical trial investigating CBD as a treatment for problematic cannabis use.

He then moved to the National Addiction Centre at King’s College London on a Senior Academic Fellowship. As part of this work, he conducted a series of studies investigating changes in cannabis products in international drug markets and their associations with health outcomes.

Tom is a fellow of the Society for the Study of Addiction and a member of council for the British Association for Psychopharmacology. He has won awards for his contribution to the fields of Psychopharmacology, Addiction, and for public communication of science. He has strong links with collaborators at King’s College London, UCL, the University of Exeter, the Trimbos Institute (Netherlands) and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (Portugal).