CBD may help those struggling with opioid addiction, according to a new study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry.
“The intense craving is what drives the drug use,” Yasmin Hurd, the lead researcher on the study and director of the Addiction Institute of Mount Sinai said according to CNN. “If we can have the medications that can dampen that [craving], that can greatly reduce the chance of relapse and overdose risk.”
Study participants addicted to heroin were administered doses of CBD to analyze whether the cannabinoid has any potential to combat opioid addiction. Overall, cravings for heroin were reduced as were anxiety levels in participants.
CBD’s use in fighting opioid addiction could address a key problem in the fight against the opioid epidemic. Methadone and buprenorphine, known for reducing urges to use opioids, are not widely available. In 2016, a surgeon general’s report on addiction stated only one in five people in need of the treatment were able to receive care. Methadone and buprenorphine are still classified as opioids and their prescriptions are highly regulated. CBD, on the other hand, is emerging on store shelves and online marketplaces across the country.
The study split participants into three groups, those receiving 800mg of CBD, those who received 400 mg of CBD, and a control group receiving only placebo. Over the course of two weeks, participants were exposed to imagery depicting landscapes as well as heroin paraphernalia such as syringes. Participants were asked to rate their levels of opioid cravings and anxiety.
The two groups receiving CBD experienced a significant drop in cravings over the control group. The level of CBD administered did not show a significant impact as both groups receiving CBD yielded similar results. Researchers also found lower heart rates and levels of cortisol, a hormone commonly linked to stress.
The source of the CBD used for the study was Epidiolex, the first cannabis-based drug to be approved by the FDA.
“This is an extremely significant paper. We need to utilize every possible treatment in helping people with chronic pain to find other ways to manage their symptoms and in people with opiate addiction to find relief,” said Dr. Julie Holland, a psychiatrist in New York and former assistant professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine. Holland was not involved in the study.
“CBD not only manages the anxiety and cue/craving cycle, it also diminishes the original pain and inflammation that leads to opiate use in the first place,” Holland added.
Hurd plans to study CBD more and to hopefully answer some outstanding questions on the cannabinoid’s potential for opioid treatment. Overall, Hurd is confident CBD has the ability to help patients in need.