According to a revised report by NIH, every day, more than 130 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids. The addiction to these opioids including pain relievers, heroin and synthetic opioids has become a serious national crisis affecting public health.
Ways to treat such an opioid crisis are being searched all over the world. And we have a good news here. A new study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry states that CBD the non-psychoactive cannabinoid present in the cannabis plant could be used to fight heroin addiction. This study specifically focused on the effectiveness of CBD in curbing anxiety and craving among heroin users.
The lead researcher on the study, Yasmin Hurd said,” “The intense craving is what drives the drug use. If we can have the medications that can dampen that [craving], that can greatly reduce the chance of relapse and overdose risk.”
The research included 42 drug abstinent men and women who had heroin use disorder for an average of 13 years. Half of the group who had recently stopped using heroin received 400mg or 800mg of CBD once a day and the other half received a placebo. The team used Epidiolex which was the first FDA approved CBD based medicine).
For the next two weeks, participants were shown neutral and drug-related cues during the course of three sessions and then asked to rank their cravings and anxiety.
Those who were given CBD saw their cravings drop two to three times more than the ones who were given placebo. The participants also reported reduced anxiety when looking at the pictures of people using drugs.
Researchers also found that those who were given CBD showed lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Furthermore, CBD continued to reduce the cravings and anxiety of the patients for the next seven days.
Earlier studies have also been performed on animal models regarding the impact of CBD on heroin use but this time Hurd was eager to expand her research involving humans and found positive insights.
“Cravings and anxiety are very subjective effects. One of the things people can do is trick themselves. That’s why we measured their physiological responses. These drug cues increase heroin users’ heart rates and the levels of cortisol so we know it’s not subjective because with the CBD their heart rates and levels of cortisol decreased — that’s really important,” Hurd told NBC News.
After the passing of 2018 Farm Bill, the CBD business has seen huge growth due to the legalization of hemp in the bill. Moreover, there have been various studies which show the benefits of CBD in treating issues like epilepsy, chronic pain, PTSD, anxiety and more.
The researchers used Epidiolex in their study. Epidiolex is the first FDA-approved cannabis-based medicines.
The major reason behind using this medication was due to the known exact concentration and other ingredients in the drug.
Very few side effects such as mild diarrhea, headache and tiredness were reported by the participants.
This study is just an initial start. According to Hurd, the next step is to do a longer-term study, following subjects for up to six months.
Hurd also mentioned the need of a lot of questions to be answered in the next study including the best dose, how many times it needs to be given and the way CBD affects the brain to reduce these cravings.
Overall this new human study could mark another significant discovery and a new addition to the list of CBD benefits.
Hurd also spoke of the benefits of CBD. She said, “It’s not addictive. No one is diverting it. It doesn’t get you high, but it can reduce craving and anxiety… [T]his can really help save lives.”