Development and testing of a therapy for cannabis use disorders

Funding: Federal Ministry for Education and Research (project no. 01EB0440)

Contributors: PD Dr. Eva Hoch (head of project), Dr. Jana Henker, Dr. Heike Rohrbacher, Dr. René Noack, Dipl.-Psych. Anja Pixa, Dipl.-Stat. Dr. Michael Höfler, Prof. Dr. Gerhard Bühringer, Prof. Dr. Hans-Ulrich Wittchen
Duration: 2004 – 2007


During the last 20 years, the number of treatments due to primary cannabis problems in German settings for addicts has increased ten-fold. For these clients, established therapy programmes with proven evidence of efficacy, tailored for the specific needs and problems of adolescents and adults with cannabis use disorders, were lacking.


Within the scope of the randomised-controlled intervention study CANDIS, a cannabis withdrawal programme was developed and tested on n=122 probands at the Institute for Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, Technical University Dresden (2004 – 2007).

The brief therapy (10 sessions) is based on the modules of motivation enhancement, cognitive-behavioural therapy and problem-solving training. Besides a fully standardised therapy condition (ST, n=51) a targeted standardised therapy (TST, n=39) was developed and adapted to the specific problem profile of the individual patient (motivation, psychosocial problems and comorbidity). The effectiveness of both therapy conditions was compared with a waiting control group (WKG: 8 weeks; n=32). Stability of treatment was assessed catamnestically three and six months after treatment conclusion.


Participants of the CANDIS Study were mainly of mail gender (79%), approx. 24 years old and came from all population strata. Besides cannabis dependence (89%), additional mental disorders were present such as: affective disorders (37%), anxiety disorders (43%), alcohol abuse/dependence (39%), abuse/dependence of other illegal drugs (39%).

80% of all therapy participants (n=90) gained well from the treatment (50% abstinent, 30% significantly reduced consumption). Retain quote was around 86%. Additionally, significant improvements were assessed concerning frequency of use during the last 7 days, severity of dependence, days of sick leave and psychopathology. Treatment effects remained stable in the catamneses three and six months after therapy conclusion.


The results of the evaluation study suggest that cannabis disorders can be treated effectively with the CANDIS behaviour-therapeutic brief therapy.


  • Hoch, E. (2017). Behandlung cannabisbezogener Störungen. Habilitationsschrift. Hohe Medizinischen Fakultät Mannheim der Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg.
  • Hoch E, Noack R, Henker J, Pixa A, Höfler M, Behrendt S, Bühringer G, Wittchen HU. Efficacy of a targeted cognitive-behavioral treatment program for cannabis use disorders (CANDIS). Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2012 Apr;22(4):267-80. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2011.07.014. Epub 2011 Aug 24.
  • Hoch, E. & Rohrbacher, H. (2017). CANDIS: Modular Treatment for Cannabis Use Disorders. Handbook of Cannabis and Related Pathologies. Elsevier.
  • Hoch, E., Zimmermann, P., Henker, J., Rohrbacher, H., Noack, R., Bühringer, G., Wittchen, H.-U. (2017). CANDIS Curriculum. A Marijuana Treatment Program for Youth and Adults .Hazelden: Betty Ford Foundation.