CBD to end the opioid epidemic?

A new medical study has identified Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, to help treat drug and opioid addiction. The new study reports that heroin addicts have specifically seen a reduction in cravings for this dangerous drug and a decrease in high levels of anxiety.

Neuroscientist and Director of the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai, Dr. Yasmin Hurd states that users/addicts could possibly have a higher success rate in getting clean and healthy with medication that could help reduce the cravings for heroin and other opioids. With Dr. Hurd’s research, patients could possibly reduce their chances of relapse or overdose with CBD.

Buprenorphine and methadone are some of the only medications in the market that can help reduce opioid and/or drug cravings, although they are not widely prescribed to patients. Unfortunately, the National Institute of Drug Abuse estimates that only one-third of heroin and opioid users are given these medications to help their addiction, which could only be administered at pricy treatment centers and facilities. Although Buprenorphine and methadone have reduced the risks for addiction-related mortality by 59% per year, these drugs could still lead to dependence.

Facing substance abuse in America

It states in 2016’s Facing Addiction in America: A Surgeon’s General Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health that only 1 out of 5 patients who are dependent on drugs/opioids are getting the treatment they need to overcome their addiction. The report estimates that almost 22.5 million people have used or obtained an illegal drug in 2015. The addiction report also states that over 20 million people have opioid or drug use disorders in the country alone, citing that 12.5 million Americans have reported misusing prescription pills. The addiction study also states that 78 people die every day from the misuse of opioids and drugs, quadrupling the statistics of drug-related deaths since 1999.

Dr. Vivek H Murthy, the Vice Admiral of the U.S. Public Health Service and Surgeon General has commented that health officials know there isn’t one single solution to help cure substance abuse. Dr. Murthy believes more policies and programs need to be created to help patients get better access to treatment, although unfortunately, the stigma attached to addiction has made funding opportunities to create affordable treatment programs challenging.

Since the early 2000s, it is estimated that over 400,000 individuals have died due to opioid/drug related use, a statistic that is slightly less than the number of people who died in World War II. Dr. Yasmin Hurd stresses the need for the health industry to develop different medications for addiction, looking into natural remedies to help find an alternative treatment option. In Dr. Hurd’s article in the American Journal of Psychiatry, she and her colleagues tested the benefits of CBD on 42 individuals who have a history of heroin use or addiction.

Cannabidiol as treatment potential

Dr. Heard’s 42 volunteers have used heroin for an average of 13 years or more, coming from different social and economic backgrounds. Most of the volunteers have gone less than a month without using and have had to abstain from heroin or opioid use since the duration of the CBD trials. The volunteers were divided into three groups: one group was given around 800 milligrams of CBD, the second group 400 milligrams of CBD, and the third group a placebo.

For the duration of two weeks, volunteers were shown images and videos of nature scenes and images of drug use and/or heroin-related instruments like a syringe or a packet of powder. During each of these sessions, patients were asked to rate their cravings for heroin and their levels of anxiety. A week before their last CBD treatment, the volunteers that were each administered CBD saw a two-to-three reduction in their cravings compared to the group that received a placebo. Volunteers’ blood work also showed a strong reduction in cortisol, a hormone that increases stress and anxiety.

The research team used the first cannabis-based medication Epidiolex as their source of CBD. Due to a plethora of new CBD products on the market, it is always important to double check the testing and lab results on every individual product, since some unregulated products can contain traces of lead and pesticides. Health officials and doctors are becoming more aware of the benefits of CBD due to significant research into Epidiolex and other CBD products since cannabis products are proven to be non addictive. The next step in Dr. Hurd’s research is long-term CBD trials for patients to report their results within six months or longer of their progress in staying clean. With more CBD research in the medical field, hopefully, patients suffering from addiction or opioid dependence can find a more dependable treatment for addiction.