It’s hard not to notice that cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound derived from hemp, has been garnering a lot of attention lately. CBD and other cannabinoid compounds have been the subject of studies on a wide variety of indications including epilepsy, addiction and pain; and have been touted for anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties, among others.
A recent study published by the American Journal of Psychiatry suggests that CBD may help reduce drug cue-induced cravings and anxiety in patients with heroin use disorder who are drug-abstinent. The study, led by Dr. Yasmin L. Hurd, Director of the Addiction Institute of Mount Sinai, looked at 42 adults who had a recent history of heroin use disorder and were not using medication assisted treatments like methadone or buprenorphine.
Half of the participants received CBD once a day, while the other half received a placebo. During the study, participants were also exposed to neutral and drug-related images and videos. They were then asked to rate their craving and anxiety levels.
The researchers found that cravings were significantly reduced in those who received CBD. Those participants also reported feeling less anxious when looking at images or videos of people using drugs and drug paraphernalia. In addition, the patients who were administered CBD had lower heart rates and salivary cortisol levels. The researchers found that reduced cravings and anxiety levels lasted for seven days after CBD was administered for just the first 3-day term.
These results could be promising in helping to solve the opioid crisis. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 130 people die in the United States every day after overdosing on opioids. Approximately 25 percent of patients who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them, and roughly 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin. In addition to the toll the opioid crisis takes on patients and family members, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates an economic burden of $78.5 billion per year in the United States, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.
National Institutes of Health is looking for ways to help the opioid crisis by discovering new and better ways to prevent opioid misuse, treat opioid use disorders, and manage pain. If CBD’s effect of reducing cravings and anxiety can help lower the number of relapses that would seem like a step in the right direction.
Results from the study are also good news for companies like Vivera Pharmaceuticals Inc., a pharmaceutical company focused on non-addictive pain management. Vivera recognizes CBD’s potential to reduce the symptoms associated with opioid use disorder and recovery and plans to conduct various research studies using CBD to measure the effect on the symptoms and behaviors associated with addiction and opiate cessation and deterrence.
“Detox drugs like methadone and buprenorphine can be incredibly helpful, but they can also be incredibly difficult for patients to transition off of, which can endanger the chances of long-term recovery,” said Dr. Stephen J. McColgan, Vivera’s Chief Medical Officer. “CBD is a preferable alternative because it is non-addictive and seemingly gentler on patients during a difficult time.”
As Vivera Pharmaceuticals plans to start its research, the initial data is promising for studies using CBD for addiction recovery and its common symptoms including anxiety, impulse control and depression. Vivera was not involved in the study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry mentioned above.
While there is still a lot to discover through further research and evidence to prove the health claims made in association with CBD, some signs are pointing to CBD as a non-addictive option for managing epilepsy, anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain and addiction.
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