Does CBD Really Help With Opioid Addiction

Does CBD Really Help With Opioid Addiction? CBD for opioid addiction is a hot topic these days among researchers. The cannabis compound known as simple CBD may be the answer when it comes to reducing the cravings faced by people addicted to opiates such as heroin, a recent study reports.

cbd for heroin addiction
CBD for heroin addiction.

The study, published May 21, 2019 in the American Journal of Psychiatry, involved forty-two heroin users who were all attempting to stop using the drug. 

The test subjects went to a lab where they were shown “triggers” or”cues” that are intended to produce a craving for the drug. In this study, videos of addicts actually using heroin, and pictures of syringes and other drug paraphernalia were used to bring on intense cravings. In a less controlled setting than the laboratory, images such as these might cause an instant relapse for those attempting to abstain from the powerful drug. But before the subjects entered the room where the videos and images were being shown, they were given either a dose of CBD or a placebo.

CBD for Heroin Addiction

Does CBD Really Help With Opioid Addiction? Those subjects who received the CBD dose actually reported less intense cravings for the drug when they were exposed to triggers. They also reported having less anxiety,  compared to the subjects who had only received the placebo. Further to this, the positive effects of the CBD dose seemed to last for close to a week afterwards, claimed many who had taken the actual CBD and not the placebo.

Even with this kind of positive results, the testing is still not complete by a long shot. Researchers would have to test whether the CBD still works outside the security of the test laboratory. Future studies will need to be done to provide the answers for this. 

What these studies do, however, is suggest that CBD may be a suitable treatment for those plagued by heroin and opioid addiction. 

inforpraphic on CBD for opiod addiction
Infographic on CBD for opioid addiction

Does CBD Really Help With Heroin Addiction?

“CBD holds significant promise for treating individuals with heroin use disorder,” claims study lead author Yasmin Hurd, director of the Addiction Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

Cannabidiol is getting plenty of attention over the past while for its therapeutic values. CBD does not produce any “high” as compared to THC, the other well-known compound found in recreational cannabis.

Yet the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) has only recently approved CBD that is set in a prescription drug form and is used to treat children with epilepsy. 

The Director went on to say that anyone who treat themselves with CBD for opioid addiction is taking a risk and it is not advised at the current time. In fact, it may even be harmful as many of the non-prescription CBD products available are not regulated. 

For more information on the Endocannabinoid System read What is the Endocannabinoid System.

“A lot of the CBD products that are available to consumers currently have less than accurate information on them” Hurd told Live Science. “Some may even contain toxins and things of that nature.

The research was financed by GW Pharmaceuticals who are the manufacturers of the drug approved by the FDA for children with epilepsy.

There is an urgent need for treatments

At the present time, most of the drug treatments available act on the bodies own opioid receptors, which means they also come with the risk of further addiction.

These treatments are understanding only regulated by the government, leaving a huge need to find and develop new and better treatments for opioid withdrawal, that does not act upon the opioid receptors.

The scientists had previously examined CBD in animals, finding that the CBD reduced heroin-seeking behavior when responding to triggers. They also did studies on humans to make sure that CBD would be safe when taken with opioids.

CBD is being tested for treatment of opioid addiction

And recently, the researchers performed the same CBD test again with the same 42 subjects. Each one was randomly chosen to receive either 400mg of CBD or 800 mg of CBD or a placebo. The test was double-blind means that neither the scientists or the patients knew what they were receiving. The subjects received the drug Epidiolex which is the only FDA approved CBD drug available.

After the subjects had taken their CBD or their placebo they were exposed to heroin triggers. After that, they watched a neutral video.

The result again was that subjects that had taken the CBD had significantly reduced cravings for heroin than those who only received the placebo.

As expected, participants reported higher cravings after viewing the heroin-related cues compared with the neutral videos. But if participants received CBD before their session, their cravings were significantly reduced compared with those who received a placebo.

They also noted reductions in anxiety levels and in the heart rates of the subjects. They also found that cortisol levels were greatly reduced. Cortisol is referred to as the stress hormone.

These effects remained with the subject for up to a week and at the end, there were no traces of the CBD left in the subjects’ bodies.

cbd for opioid addiction
CBD for opioid addiction

Further Research is Needed

Does CBD Really Help With Opioid Addiction? The Director of Addiction Services at Northwell Health’s Staten Island University Hospital thinks so when he stated that the work was “a step in a very encouraging direction,” and then applauded the researcher’s efforts to scientifically evaluate the effects of CBD.

The Director also noted that the tests were relatively small and needed to be increased to a larger amount of subjects to get a better understanding of the effects of CBD on opioids users. 

He also noted that the tests were only conducted in the laboratory and not out in the real world where results might be different. In fact in a take-home questionnaire the results showed that CBD had little effect on the subjects cravings.

“That raises some concerns as to what the actual real-world application of CBD could be” for these patients, the Director has stated publicly. “Studies also need to evaluate the long-term effects of CBD for these patients, beyond one week”, he said in a recent statement to the press.

Future research should determine if CBD can be used as a supplement to existing  therapies for opioid addiction and whether it will enhance the effects of the treatments. 

Currently, the researchers are performing tests to see if CBD can aid in the success of current meds like methadone and buprenorphine.

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