How CBD helps stop drug cravings
August 20, 2019
There's been quite a bit of talk in media recently about CBD being able to stop the opioid crisis and Heroin addiction. While there's merit to these claims made in research, it's important to know the ‘how and why’ to this all and gain a better perspective of how CBD is utilized in drug dependence. Whether it's a pharmaceutical addiction or an illicit street substance, one thing is for sure - Cannabinoid Medicine plays a vital role in addiction/dependence recovery. What many don't consider with addiction are its side orders of pain, depression, and anxiety. Add to that the urge to end those feelings and we come to the recent research in regards to how Cannabidiol stops the cravings. This doesn't mean that CBD, itself, will replace these drugs; instead it means it will assist an individual in ceasing the use of them - and keeping the monkey off their backs. One of the biggest factors in the sudden increase in both pharmaceutical and illicit drug overdose deaths has been relapse. When a person stops the use of a very strong substance and has a period of time without any of it in their system - tolerance is dropped. This means that someone that's used to taking a certain amount of a substance in the past often goes back to that 'dose' or 'hit' of the substance at the same level they were using when they quit. After all, they've found a comfort zone. When that happens the likelihood of an overdose death is substantially greater - and the possibility of a serious issue relating to too high of a dose becomes more of a probability.
In a May 2019 American Journal of Psychiatry study entitled, “Cannabidiol for the Reduction of Cue-Induced Craving and Anxiety in Drug-Abstinent Individuals With Heroin Use Disorder: A Double-Blind Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial”, researchers conducted tests of CBD effects on context and stress-induced drug seeking “longitudinally” to permit evaluation across repeated relapse challenges. They went on to state that, in their summary, the results of these trials proved the potential of CBD for relapse prevention along two dimensions: its beneficial reactions during the vulnerable states of withdrawal and cessation of drugs that cause dependence as well as long lasting effects. As well, the researchers delved deeply into the ability to squelch anxiety with CBD, which in turn caused far less drug seeking or urges to use again. The trial included 42 participants who had been diagnosed with Heroin abuse/use and all were in some form of recovery. The individuals were given specific cues that were created to cause a trigger - a scientifically created craving for their drug of choice. These cues included actual videos of people shooting up heroin, taking pills, and more. Even with all of this presented to these clinical trial subjects, CBD proceeded to reduce their cravings - and in a big way. Before the participants were subject to these films and more, they were given a dose of CBD. But some were given a fake dose (placebo) which gave the researchers a huge edge on finding out who was having true effects from the actual cannabinoid. This groundbreaking research is of utmost importance because it was a double-blind study on human participants.
The ability to conduct such a study has been harshly hindered by prohibition. Gaining this type of intricate knowledge from an actual hands-on patients trial gives us much more to validate the therapeutic ability of cannabidiol than many other forms of research. Many are aware that a chronic pain patient likely won't be able to turn in their Oxycontin for CBD alone. But what we do know now is that once a patient does quit an addictive substance, CBD will do much more than stop inflammation that was causing pain that could have prevented the use in the first place. Keeping in mind that many addictions have just as much to do with emotional pain as they do physical; quickly we can tie together how a cannabinoid that tackles emotional pain will not only reduce the physical element but also can help stop a consumer from going too far down the rabbit hole of pharmaceutical pain medications - or any medication that causes dependence. And, for those addicted to Heroin and so much more…we find that the CBD compound carries much more of a deterrent to relapse than anything else studied in the cannabinoid family. Many are aware that THC provides the maximum level of pain relief to many and is also a crucial element to cannabinoid replacement therapy. But what we don't know yet is whether or not the absence of THC after it being used to treat a dependence (and the type of pain involved that caused it) will create an urge to go back to the previous drug of choice. One thing we do know is that CBD has been proven not only by theory, but by actual double-blind placebo clinical trials to reduce those cravings. As a former pharmaceutical opioid addict that wanted to get away from what my doctors prescribed over 2 decades (and what I knew I was addicted to), employing a multitude of cannabinoids to replace the opioids was necessary. But quickly using my own research done on myself and other compassion patients that were exiting opioids, Benzodiazepines, street drugs, and alcohol – we all found great benefits from CBD. When looking back over the past year of this type of continual study it's obvious that those that went the THC-only route, and were heavily addicted, were also the individuals that I no longer see as they've returned to their old habits. Many will wonder how much CBD to use and that's always going to be determined not by a dosage indication on a bottle - but by the patient’s own comfort level. Regardless of the dosage matrixes we see online or the continual advice given on social media - there are no set doses to take that apply to all patients.
Although the recent focus has been on these emerging clinical trials, there's more science behind this. Research done by the Department of Neuroscience, The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla California (published in March 2018) entitled, "Unique treatment potential of cannabidiol for the prevention of relapse to drug use: preclinical proof of principle", was the foundation for the clinical trials done. They stated the reasoning behind the clinical trials to come were due to the fact that substance use disorders are chronically relapsing conditions and relapse risk persists for multiple reasons including craving induced by drug contexts, susceptibility to stress, elevated anxiety, and impaired impulse control. When we examine CBD and its abilities in extensive prior and current research, all of the areas of concern for relapse have been addressed. In this study the CBD was administered in transdermal patches (to rats) to enhance translational relevance regarding future therapeutic applications. The clinical potential of CBD when administered orally is constrained to some extent by low (~6%) bio availability according to these researchers. What's very interesting about this 2018 research study was the conclusion that CBD reverses impulsive behavior in rats with an alcohol dependence history.
Without a doubt, our global society has found an escape from the fast-paced world we live in. There's so much stress in our everyday lives and the ability to become dependent on drugs that alter our consciousness is very easy. From pain management doctors to our own primary care doctors, we often are given pharmaceuticals that can do more damage than good when it comes to treating pain - and anxiety/depression especially. Often this is where an addiction starts. Statistics show that, by far, our overdose and addiction epidemic is not related to the IV drug user like once thought. 10 times the amount of people will overdose and perish from pharmaceuticals than will to an illicit street drug. Double that figure will have an overdose on a prescribed medication. There are many ways to escape our reality in a positive manner - but until the populous figures that one out - we'll have to continue to educate on cannabinoid medicine. CBD on its own, in my firm opinion (as both patient and researcher), will not 'replace' opioids and strong pain medications easily. But what it will do is give patients an option from the beginning before an addiction sets in, as well as allow many a way to fight off the urges to use drugs of dependence after they've quit. Let's face the facts, some people will continue to need strong pharmaceutical pain medications due to laws, access, and the biggest reason - personal choice. When it comes to CBD helping to reduce cravings for drugs it's very important to consider how it will also help people who are knee deep in an addiction to anything that causes dependence - including alcohol. One area that's being delved into deeply at the Research Center is how CBD causes some drugs to metabolize faster than they normally would, allowing intoxicating drugs or alcohol to leave the system much faster than they normally would. When it comes to drug addiction, the use of CBD has many more abilities than to stave off the cravings.
Mike Robinson: Founder, Global Cannabinoid Research Center