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Cannabis-Derived CBD May Help Treat Heroin Addiction: Study

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Cannabis compound CBD could have a big role in the country's opioid crisis. New research showed evidence of CBD's positive effects on the cravings of heroin users.   ( Pixabay )

Experts reveal that cannabidiol or CBD could play an important role in treating heroin addiction with its ability to curb opioid-related cravings and anxiety.

CBD, the non-psychoactive compound of the cannabis plant, is well-documented to relieve a variety of ailments and it is showing promise in helping break drug addiction as well.

The cannabis compound is the focus of a new study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in which researchers assessed the potential of cannabinoid in reducing the craving and anxiety of individuals with a heroin addiction.

"The specific effects of CBD on cue-induced drug craving and anxiety are particularly important in the development of addiction therapeutics because environmental cues are one of the strongest triggers for relapse and continued drug use," explained study author Yasmin Hurd, Ph.D. of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

The Study

In previous research by Hurd and her colleagues, they found that CBD reduced heroin use in animals with a history of heroin self-administration as a response to a drug-associated cue. In this new study, the team sought to determine whether it worked on humans as well.

Clinical trials included 42 drug-abstinent individuals with heroin use disorder, where half of them received CBD as a treatment and the other half received a placebo. Then, participants were exposed to neutral and drug-related cues over three sessions: immediately after CBD or placebo administration, 24 hours afterward, and seven days after the final administration of the three-day treatment.

Findings showed that the CBD significantly reduced the drug cravings of the participants compared to the placebo. The participants who were given CBD also displayed less anxiety when exposed to the drug-related cues, which included heroin paraphernalia and videos of drug use. CBD is also found to reduce heart rate and salivary cortisol levels, which typically rise upon exposure to drug-related images or videos.

Additionally, the CBD effects on cravings and anxiety are found to last a week after the final administration, showing promise the compound's impact is long-lasting.

The Opioid Epidemic

CDC said that 130 individuals die every day in the United States due to opioid overdose. Over the last 20 years, the rate has been steadily rising with the number of opioid overdose deaths in 2017 about six times higher than in 1999.

Finding therapy options that do not work on the same opioid receptors as heroin is crucial in curbing the crisis spreading in the country.

"A successful non-opioid medication would add significantly to the existing addiction medication toolbox to help reduce the growing death toll, enormous health care costs, and treatment limitations imposed by stringent government regulations amid this persistent opioid epidemic," Hurd concluded.

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