Those among us who have successfully given up a habit of substance abuse or are trying to do so know that kicking the habit itself isn’t as hard as dealing with the triggers of cravings and its associated anxiety.
According to recent statistics, the opioid epidemic has claimed over 300,000 lives in the United States alone. It’s quite obvious that a lot of scientific research would be afoot to help people overcome this social evil.
The conventional medical treatment options – methadone and buprenorphine – usually help break opioid craving by targeting the same pathways that opioids use. While they do help in managing the cravings, they do little to protect recovering users from the anxiety caused by environmental triggers. This only leads them back into the trap.
A lot of us have heard of cannabidiol (CBD), a non-intoxicating component of marijuana and hemp (of the Cannabis Sativaspecies), being of significant assistance in breaking the physical intimacy with opioids and alcohol as forms of addiction. There has been quite a bit of research in this area since 2015 [1, 2, 3, 4 & 5].
However, on May 21 this year, a small study , published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, found evidence that CBD can, in fact, reduce “cue-induced cravings and anxiety” in individuals having a history of heroin abuse.
The team of scientists at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York conducted the research under the guidance of neuroscientist Yasmin Hurd, who is the director of the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital.
Hurd and her team of researchers at the Addiction Institute had been at it for quite a few years now [1 & 2], starting with CBD’s effects on animals on heroin. They had found that CBD reduces their tendency to use heroin even when a drug-associated trigger was presented to them. This led them to further study the drug’s effects on humans.
Hurd’s team used the first FDA-approved cannabis-based medication – Epidiolex – as their source of CBD since with this drug, the compound’s exact concentration and other ingredients of the drug are known for certain.
She pointed out that the purpose of this study was to find a medicine for people who are genuinely trying to kick this addiction and not to develop recreational cannabis.
The double-blind, randomized, controlled study looked at 42 participants, of both genders, aged between 21 and 65, who have recently stopped using heroin and are now trying to live a drug-free life.
Half of the group was administered 400 mg or 800 mg CBD once daily, while the rest were given a placebo. All the subjects were then exposed to both neutral and drug-related cues in their environment during the course of three sessions – first being immediately after CBD administration, the second 24 hours after CBD or placebo administration, and the third seven days after the third and final daily CBD or placebo administration.
Other surprising effects that CBD had on these subjects were that CBD reduced their heart rate and salivary cortisol levels, which generally rise when anxiety-provoking images are presented to addicts.
This finding further reinforced Hurd’s hypothesis that CBD can be a promising agent in managing opioid addiction.
Final Thoughts: Can CBD oil be used for Heroin Addiction?
This study goes to prove that cannabidiol is potentially a safe drug to cure addiction once and for all, without fear of relapse or other withdrawal symptoms.
However, this study is for now only that – a study. The US Federal Government’s take on it is yet to be known.
Still, we can expect to see the government taking a more proactive stance in the matter, given the number of people who fall prey to this epidemic each year, and hope to see this new development opening the door for many more studies in this area.
- Cannabidiol as an Intervention for Addictive Behaviors: A Systematic Review of the Evidence; Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment; May 21, 2015; Mélissa Prud’homme, Romulus Cata, and Didier Jutras-Aswad; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4444130/
- Early Phase in the Development of Cannabidiol as a Treatment for Addiction: Opioid Relapse Takes Initial Center Stage; Neurotherapeutics; August 13, 2015; Yasmin L. Hurd, Michelle Yoon, Alex F Manini, Stephanie Hernandez, Ruben Olmedo, Maria Ostman, and Didier Jutras-Aswad; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4604178/
- Unique treatment potential of cannabidiol for the prevention of relapse to drug use: preclinical proof of principle; Neuropsychopharmacology; March 22, 2018; Gustavo Gonzalez-Cuevas, Remi Martin-Fardon, Tony M Kerr, David G Stouffer, Loren H Parsons, Dana C Hammell, Stan L Banks, Audra L Stinchcomb and Friedbert Weiss; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6098033/
- Cannabis and the Opioid Crisis; Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research; April 1, 2018; Daniele Piomelli, Susan Weiss, Graham Boyd, Rosalie Liccardo Pacula, and Ziva Cooper; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5931647/
- Emerging Evidence for Cannabis’ Role in Opioid Use Disorder; Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research; September 1, 2018; Beth Wiese and Adrianne R Wilson-Poe; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6135562/
- Cannabidiol for the Reduction of Cue-Induced Craving and Anxiety in Drug-Abstinent Individuals With Heroin Use Disorder: A Double-Blind Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial; The American Journal of Psychiatry; May 21, 2019; Yasmin L. Hurd , Ph.D., Sharron Spriggs , M.A., Julia Alishayev , R.P.A., Gary Winkel , Ph.D., Kristina Gurgov , R.P.A., Chris Kudrich , D.H.Sc., Anna M. Oprescu , M.P.H., Edwin Salsitz , M.D.; https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.ajp.2019.18101191 /https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/study/NCT01605539