CBD as a Treatment for Craving and Relapse in Drug Users: What You Should Know

CBD as a Treatment for Craving and Relapse in Drug Users

Opioid abuse is a mounting global problem. Recent preclinical research has demonstrated interactions between the endogenous opioid and cannabinoid systems, suggesting that cannabinoids may be used to treat drug addiction and dependence. 

CBD, the non-psychoactive chemical in cannabis, could help treat heroin addiction, a new study finds. 

People with heroin use disorder who tool medical-grade cannabidiol, commonly referred to as CBD, had lower heroin cravings and anxiety for up to a week after their last CBD administration. A team of researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York announced that results of a small study found an unexpected and promising, new use of Cannabidiol: a reduction of anxiety and cue-induced cravings in patients with a history of heroin abuse, suggesting a potential role for it in treating heroin addiction. 

What is CBD, and what does it do?

You’re probably already familiar with THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, another compound found in the cannabis plant and its psychoactive component. Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive. That means you won’t get stoned by consuming it. It’s also different from medical marijuana, which has been shown to diminish pain.

CBD is everywhere lately- in our coffee, skin care products, and even pet treats. But is it really all it’s hyped up to be? 

Cannabis advocates say that Cannabidiol, or CBD, which comes from marijuana and hemp, can help with pain relief and anxiety, recently with drug addiction, and provides several other benefits. And while many specialists agree that CBD has potential, there are still a lot of unknowns. 

What is known? In addition to treating anxiety, research has shown CBD may help treat epilepsy or patients who are addicted to opiates. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, Cannabidiol may even help treat acne.  

CBD can be administered orally or applied topically, depending on the product. You’re literally spoilt for choice when it comes to CBD administration, from soft gels and gummies that supposedly ease anxiety to calming bath soaks, oils, and creams – and even beer. Most CBD products claim to reduce anxiety and pain. But whether or not these products actually contain the amount of Cannabidiol they advertise is up for debate since the Food and Drug Administration does not approve them.  

CBD for cravings and anxiety in heroin users, according to research

Recently, Cannabidiol has received a lot of attention due to its potential to treat substance abuse. Considering the behavioral and neuropharmacological effects of CBD and its effect on neurocircuitry addiction, the implications of CBD for the development of new drug abuse treatments have fascinated the research community investigating therapeutic solutions for substance addiction and relapse.  

According to research conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Organic CBD Nugs tended to reduce physiological measures of stress reactivity; such ah increased cortisol levels and heart rate, which are triggered by drug cues. 

The massive use and wide availability of heroin and prescription opioid drugs in the U.S during the past decade have led to an unprecedented epidemic involving more than 300,000 deaths. Despite this mounting toll, limited non-opioid medications such as buprenorphine and methadone have been developed to work on the same opioid receptors as heroin and other strong opioid agonists. The thing is, these medications carry a stigma as their own addiction risk is stalled in tight governmental regulation and therefore are abused by the millions of people battling an opioid disorder. This only highlights an urgent need to develop new therapeutic strategies that do not target opioid receptors.  

To address this need, researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have initiated a study to assess the potential of non-intoxicating CBD on anxiety and craving in heroin-addicted patients.  

The specific effect of Cannabidiol on cue-induced anxiety and substance craving is particularly important in the development of addiction treatments as environmental cues are one of the strongest triggers for continued drug use and relapse. 

Previous research conducted by Dr. Yasmin Hurd and her lab team at Mount Sinai in animals with a history of heroin self-administration showed that Cannabidiol reduced the animals’ propensity to use heroin in response to a drug-associated cue. To learn whether preclinical studies could be applied to humans, Dr. Hud and her team conducted a series of clinical studies that confirmed Cannabidiol was safe and tolerable in humans. 

For the main study, she used a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled design to explore the severe (one, two hours, and 24 hours), short-term (three consecutive days), and extended (seven days after the last of three successive daily administrations) effect of CBD use in drug cue-induced anxiety and craving in drug-abstinent patients with heroin use disorder. 

The study randomly assigned 42 drug-abstinent women and men who received either 400mg or 800 mg of an oral CBD or a matching placebo. They were then exposed to neutral and drug-related cues such as three minutes video depicting intranasal or intravenous drug use and exposure to heroin-related tools like rubber ties, syringes, and more. 

After taking measures of anxiety, opioid craving, and vital signs, the stud team concluded that CBD or Cannabidiol considerably reduced both the anxiety and craving induced by opioids compared with neutral cues in the severe term. Besides reduced drug-craving, the team also found significant effects on cognition, and there were no serious adverse events. 

The recent discovery adds to be an increasingly popular belief in the scientific community that CBD may have extensive medicinal value in the fields of addiction medicine, pain management, and neurology. Dr. Hurd’s team is presently preparing to conduct longer, larger trials as well as human imaging studies to see if Cannabidiol use can reduce the rate of long relapse term.