The United States is in the midst of an opiate epidemic. Since 2000, nearly 400,000 Americans have died of opioid-related causes. Treating opioid addiction is hard, and this class of drugs is known to have intense cravings and severe withdrawal symptoms.
Currently, there are a few medications available for treating opiate addiction. The main two are Suboxone and methadone. Both act in a similar way to curb drug cravings. However, these medications aren’t widely used. Just one-third of US patients with opioid decency in private treatment centered receive medication. And only 1 in 5 people in treatment for opioid use receive any sort of therapy.
Since the epidemic took over a few years ago, doctors have been searching for a better drug to treat opioid addiction. Suboxone and methadone are still opioids, meaning there are restrictions on who can prescribe the medications, how many can be prescribed, and where these medications can be taken. Typically patients have to routinely go to clinics or treatment facilities to receive medication.
A new study shows a promising new medication though – CBD. Cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD, is the non-psychoactive ingredient in hemp and marijuana. A recent study found that when heroin addicts were given CBD their cravings for the illicit drug was reduced.
The study looked at 42 adult Americans who had a recent history of heroin use and were not using methadone or buprenorphine (Suboxone). These patients were recruited from social service groups, halfway houses, and treatment centers. The participants had been using heroin for an overage of 13 years, and most hadn’t gone more than a month without using.
The study required them to abstain from heroin for the entire trial period. Participants were divided into three groups, one group was given 800 milligrams of CBD, another 400 milligrams of CBD, and the third group was given a placebo. All groups were dosed once daily for three consecutive days, followed by observation for the next two weeks.
Over the two weeks, participants were shown images or videos of nature scenes as well as images of drug use and paraphernalia. They were then asked to rate their cravings for heroin and anxiety levels. After just one week after administering the last CBD dose, those that had received CBD reported a two-to-three-fold reduction in cravings compared to those who received a placebo. CBD participants also had a lower heart rate and cortisol (the “stress hormone”).
There were very few reported side effects. Mainly mild diarrhea, headaches, and tiredness. This study highlighted how a medicinal CBD drug could be used to help curb opioid drug cravings. This is a positive step, but due to CBD and marijuana still being federally illegal could have some hurdles. Still, this is a positive first step. CBD isn’t addictive, it doesn’t get patients high, and it can reduce cravings and anxiety.