Cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive ingredient in hemp and marijuana, could treat opioid addiction a groundbreaking study says. The study, a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial assessed the acute (1-24 hours), short-term (3 consecutive days), and extended (7 days after the last of the three consecutive daily administrations) effects of CBD administration. Given to patients with heroin addiction, CBD reduced their cravings for the illicit drug as well as their levels of anxiety.
Why do people use opioids?
Opioids are a subset of drugs that are generally used and prescribed for pain management. You’ve probably heard of Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, and Fentanyl referenced as the most common and legal opioids. Heroin, a processed morphine, is illegal but it too is an opioid. The prescribed reason for opioids is almost always to help with pain management, frequently attempting to dull intense pain. Opiods are extremely effective at their job. This, unfortunately, is also one of their drawbacks.
The downside to opioids is they are highly addictive. They boost dopamine in our bodies which gives people a natural high.
The Dangerous Carousel
Individuals frequently get trapped in trying to capture the high that dopamine provides throughout the day. Our bodies, meanwhile, are building up a tolerance to the drugs. Thus, individuals have to increase their usage and their dosage amount to get the same effect. This dangerous cycle of constantly needing more to reach the same “high” is what often leads to opiod overdose.
In addition to the threat of addiction, our bodies can become dependent on opioids. Our body naturally produces opioids when we hurt ourselves to help deal with the pain. However, if one gets hooked on pain killers the body stops making the opioids and relies on the legal or illegal drugs to provide the dopamine release. If an individual tries to quit ‘cold turkey’ the body will go through withdraw.
Results of the Study
The study confirmed patients administered CBD vs. those administered with a placebo had significantly reduced cravings and anxiety when presented with triggers. There were three groups in the study:
- Those administered 800MG of CBD
- Those administered 400MG of CBD
- Those administered a placebo
“Over a two week period of time and over the course of several sessions, the participants were shown images or videos of nature scenes as well as images of drug use and heroin-related paraphernalia, like syringes and packets of powder that resembled heroin. They were then asked to rate their craving for heroin and their levels of anxiety.”Nadia Kounag, CNN
A week after the last administration of CBD, those who had been given CBD had a two- to three-fold reduction in cravings relative to to the placebo group. The difference in the groups administered 400MG and 800MG was insignificant. The study also found that heart rate and cortisol for those administered CBD had significantly lower levels than those taking the placebos.
It is important to note this study was only administered to 42 individuals. While not a statistically significant sample size, most medical studies of this breadth and undertaking are unable to reach statistically significant sample sizes. We, and the researchers who were published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, believe this study only furthers what many have known; CBD can be an effective treatment to manage pain, addiction and anxiety.
So Why is this a Big Deal?
Instead of writing more about why CBD being confirmed as a suitable treatment for opioid use disorder is such a a big deal, we think this graph helps to illustrate the point:
Opioid related deaths are being described as many as an epidemic at this point. People need to be educated that CBD is a suitable alternative, both to treat opioid addiction and to be prescribed even prior to an opioid prescription. We are big proponents of fixing problems upstream instead of downstream. If CBD can be used to manage pain more naturally and effectively before opioids are even introduced, then there will be no need to use CBD to treat the effects of opioid addiction!
The results of this study are incredibly exciting. Due to hemp’s comical and incorrect classification for the past several decades, there hasn’t been funding or interest in studies involving CBD and other phytocannabinoids. Now that CBD is legal at the Federal level we should expect more studies like this in the near and medium-term. There are millions of individuals using CBD on a regular basis now. This is one of the rare cases where science will have to catch up with the consumer. Any suitable alternatives to help with the opioid epidemic in our country should be considered and promoted heavily. We want to make sure CBD is being fully studied to treat not only the effects of opioid addiction and use but also pain management in the first place.