CBD - A Quick Fix For Opioid Addiction?
Everyone is talking about CBD (cannabidiol) these days and how it can cure everything from mood swings to even cancer. Still, there is no empirical evidence to back up most of these claims. A previous study on animals has suggested that CBD oil might just be beneficial for certain health conditions like arthritis, inflammation, anxiety and pains.
However, there has been no scientific proof that CBD could be beneficial to humans, at least not until recently when it’s proven to be able to help with seizures associated with epilepsy. Nevertheless, a new study has suggested that CBD is able to suppress cravings in people with opioid dependence. This study is one of its kind to provide evidence that CBD is actually beneficial to humans outside epilepsy treatment. Therefore, researchers can be confident in saying that CBD may be a good alternative in the fight against opioid addiction.
According to scientists who study drugs and addiction, although this is a very exciting study, it’s pertinent to note that it was a very narrowed study using specific, standardized amount of CBD. Thus, does not guarantee that buying a bottle of over-the-counter CBD product is going to help with urges associated with drug usage or any other medical conditions for that matter.
Addiction is a Disease of the Brain
It’s a paramount to look closely at exactly how addiction changes normal human behavior, so as to understand why CBD could be useful in the treatment of opioid addicts. According to the American Psychiatric Association, addiction is “a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequence.” The reason addiction is classified as a disease is because it usurps and changes the way the human brain processes information.
To be specific, there are certain areas of our brain that’s responsible for controlling the perception of our daily and pleasurable activities. Now, these areas of the brain are susceptible to the influence caused by addictive drugs. As a result of this, the addicted individual sees the world in context to their own of drug choice. This makes the brain learn to associate drug ‘appurtenance’ in the context of taking a drug. These signs therefore become inherent reminders, which reinforces the use of the drug.
This addiction process is not only related to opioids as it applies to any known drug of abuse such as alcohol, cocaine, nicotine and methamphetamines.
Many people think of addiction in terms of the pursuance of the ‘highness’ associated with the use of a particular drug. Still, most substance abusers continue to use or fallback when trying to quit. This difficulty is not uncommon as it’s due to negative withdrawal effects that comes with drug abuse.
During an animal study with CBD, there was a noticeable decrease in the drug-seeking behavior of rats when they were taken off heroin and given CBD, which is a heroin-associated cue.
The symptoms that come with drug withdrawal varies and can range from mild to severe, depending on the particular drug. When it comes to opioid withdrawal, the symptoms include, but not limited to anxiety, vomiting, rapid heartbeat, nausea, abdominal cramps and diarrhea.
Any individual going through opioid withdrawal and experiencing severe conditions of any of the mentioned symptoms, especially anxiety, is likely to take opioids to alleviate them. This kind of behavior can be repetitive, making the person a dependent.
A dependent is someone that can’t function properly without the use of the said drug. Depression and anxiety come to mind when it comes to opioid dependence.
This is when dependent individuals refer to the use of the drug as a ‘necessary evil’ and not a conscious choice – they can’t do without them. There have been medication-assisted treatments using drugs like buprenorphine or methadone for individuals with opioid addiction. This medication treatment specifically reduces the chances of the individual relapsing and overdosing due to dependence and withdrawal symptoms.
CBD and Epidolex
Like stated above, CBD has been previously tested and found to be effective in treatment of seizures associated with epilepsy. Epidolex is a pharmaceutical grade of CBD approved by the FDA for this specific treatment.
This is why CBD is only approved as prescription in form of Epidolex drug. Reason being that up till this moment, CBD has proven to be effective and quite safe in the treatment intractable pediatric epilepsy.
Still, that cannot be said for opioid addiction as CBD binds to different receptors than those that led to the drug addiction.
A Closer Look at Opioid Addiction
One reason why addiction is very hard to let go is because of the cyclic nature of its symptoms. Opioids tends to produce euphoria and pleasure, which activates the brain’s reward pathways. When an individual continues use, the sensitivity to the drug reduces, making the person require more of the drugs in order to achieve same effect.
It eventually gets to a point when the cessation of the drug give rise to symptoms of withdrawal or inauspicious effects like anxiety and pain. Opioid addiction is marked by high relapse rates as they induce intense withdrawal symptoms.
Although cannabis has long been linked to its predominant psychoactive component, THC, the second most copious molecule, CBD is drawing enormous attention as a compound with strong clinical potential. It’s been known for its therapeutic benefits in the treatment of epilepsy seizures, but currently demonstrating its ability in treating addiction. Learn more about CBD oil benefits in our tutorial.
Even though, a lot of people think of opioid addiction as only taking place at the level of brain receptors. Nevertheless, many neurological systems are involved, and CBD interacts with all of them. CBD can interact directly or indirectly with any of these systems.
People tend to create powerful associations from both good and bad experiences. E.g., a PTSD patient might be triggered by a sound or a smell, which reminds them of a painful memory. Likewise, an environment might trigger the urge to drink in an alcoholic.
These kinds of triggers, also referred to as “cue-induced cravings” are what causes relapse most of the time.
Researchers have discovered that CBD can help block out these ‘triggers’ through its interaction with the serotonin system. Serotonin is mostly known as a neurotransmitter associated with moods, but it also has a role to play when it comes to addiction. Preclinical studies reveal that CBD can help reduce withdrawal symptoms, drug seeking behavior as well as limit cravings.
CBD for Opioid Addiction?
In a scientific research conducted in 2009, where rats were exposed to heroin and later CBD, the drug seeking behavior of the rats were not decreased by the intake of CBD. However, when the rats were taken off heroin and given only CBD, there was a significant decrease in the drug-seeking behavior of the rats.
Previous study of CBD in humans revealed that when CBD is co-administered with fentanyl, it’s safe and quite tolerable in individuals with non-opioid dependent behaviors. A clinical trial conducted in 2015 on opioid-dependent individuals found that a dose of CBD pales in comparison with normal medication as it helps decrease cue-induced cravings of opioids as well as feelings of anxiety. According to this study, “Epidiolex can reduce cue-induced craving in individuals that had been former heroin users.”
This is only one of several studies, but needs further empirical research for utmost verification. However, it appears that CBD or Epidolex may be a ‘life saver’ in the fight against opioid addiction.
What to Consider
CBD buzz is all over the place and you may be tempted to rush to the nearest over-the-counter CBD shop to purchase some to treat a certain medical condition, but there are things you need to consider first.
Know that the only FDA approved CBD for any medical condition is Epidolex – for pediatric seizures. There are various consumer reports showing that the actual amount of CBD in the over-the-counter products is lesser than what the product label describes. Besides, some of these products contain a significant amount of THC that’s likely to show up on drug tests.
Even though Edpidolex was found to be safe in double blind studies, know that its interaction with other medication can increase or diminish the effects of those medications, especially medications for migraines and bipolar disorders. This could lead to CBD oil side effects of other medications or to more problems controlling a health condition that were once well-managed. So, it’s important you talk to your doctor prior to taking any CBD product.
Regardless of all the increasing evidence in support of the use of CBD in treatment of opioid addiction, there is no doubt that we still need more dependable clinical data if we want to start using CBD for opioid on a nationwide level.
Even taking into consideration that more research needs to be conducted, there is somewhat ‘enough’ evidence in academic researches that indicate that the answer we seek is already staring us in the face. Is CBD for opioid addiction actually a safe bet? Is it the all-natural solution to addiction doctors have been searching around for many years? This remains to be seen, though it certainly looks that way.
Opioid addiction is one tough nut to crack and everyone is excited about the use of CBD in addiction cases, but be careful. Like cautioned above, if you’re planning on using CBD products in treatment of any medical condition, it’s paramount to be careful when choosing your options – The only FDA approved medical condition for CBD use is intractable epilepsy. What this means is that, if you’re planning on using CBD for any addiction treatment whatsoever, you should do under your own discretion and risk. Better still, talk to your physician.