COMMENTARY: There’s no proof the cannabis compound CBD cures opioid addiction
Hyperbole can be rampant in health news, particularly with respect to cannabis. One recent headline declared: “CBD is effective in treating heroin addiction.” Another proclaimed: “New study finds CBD could curb heroin addiction.”
These stories were referring to a recent study in the American Journal of Psychiatry that found a short-term course of cannabidiol (CBD) reduced cue-induced cravings and anxiety in drug-abstinent individuals who were recovering from opioid use disorder, specifically heroin addiction.
This study is undoubtedly exciting and a welcome contribution to the scientific literature demonstrating the potentially helpful role of cannabinoids in the treatment of opioid use disorder.
That said, there is a mismatch between these headlines and the accurate interpretation of the findings from the study. And this mismatch is not trivial.
Medicinal uses of cannabidiol
CBD is one of many phytocannabinoid compounds found in the plant cannabis sativa. It is quickly gaining traction as a legitimate medicine in the medical community. For example, it has been associated with benefits in treating some neurological disorders and has recently been FDA-approved for the treatment of seizures in people with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy.
Further, unlike its sister cannabinoid, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD is largely non-intoxicating and therefore is thought to be non-addictive. It also appears to be relatively safe to use. It’s no wonder CBD has garnered so much excitement and positive attention.
Cannabidiol (CBD), a compound derived from hemp and marijuana that doesn’t cause a high, is now added to an array of products, from drinks to skin creams. (Jennifer Lett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, File)
That said, scientific enterprise is a slow-moving and cautiously critical machine, and we still have much to learn about the medicinal uses of CBD. In fact, there remains a substantial gap between the hype surrounding CBD and the actual evidence guiding its medicinal use.
Participants already abstinent
In the study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the researchers recruited 42 people recovering from opioid use disorder (specifically heroin) and randomly allocated them to either a treatment group (to receive 400 or 800 milligrams of CBD once a day) or a control group (to receive a placebo once a day).
An important aspect of the study is that participants were already abstinent, not actively using heroin, and not experiencing heroin withdrawal. In other words, the participants were in recovery and CBD was not used to treat their withdrawal or maintain tolerance. It was instead used to help treat cravings for heroin and anxiety that were experimentally induced (for example, by showing participants videos and objects related to heroin use) that could lead to relapse.
The researchers concluded:
“CBD’s potential to reduce cue-induced craving and anxiety provides a strong basis for further investigation of this phytocannabinoid as a treatment option for opioid use disorder.”
It is worth reiterating and highlighting that the study compared CBD to a placebo group, and did not compare to other opioid agonist treatments, such as therapy with methadone (Methadose) or buprenorphine (Suboxone).
Additionally, and importantly, the participants were abstinent and not in active withdrawal.
Opioid agonist treatments are particularly helpful for the mitigation of opioid cravings and withdrawal. Another therapeutic effect of opioid agonist treatments is that they help people in recovery maintain some level of tolerance to opioids, which is helpful for preventing overdose in the event of relapse.
One particular opioid agonist medication, buprenorphine, even blocks stronger opioids like heroin from working as effectively. CBD, on the other hand, does not provide these important protective effects.
Further, to suggest that CBD is an effective treatment for opioid use disorder is misleading and harmful, as this misinformation could be used to justify not initiating, or discontinuing, opioid agonist medications.
The findings from the opioid study are certainly important. Investigations into novel therapies that can help people manage cravings to use drugs such as opioids is a major advancement. If future studies can replicate these findings, especially among people who are experiencing difficulties with management of cravings, then this would lend stronger support to the idea that CBD could be used as an adjunctive treatment to opioid agonist therapies among people who are experiencing opioid use disorder.
Crucially, this means that we need many more studies and funded research to fully understand exactly how CBD might play a role in the treatment of opioid use disorder.
Despite what some headlines might have implied, this study does not indicate that CBD should replace first-line, evidence-based opioid agonist therapies such as methadone and buprenorphine.
These conceptual distinctions are not trivial because they may yield devastating consequences. When it comes to articulating the implications of scientific results that involve medical treatments, language matters. And so do headlines.
Tyler Marshall, PhD Student, Graduate Research Assistant, University of Alberta and Jonathan N. Stea, Clinical Psychologist and Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Calgary
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
Understanding the Difference Between CBD and THC
At San Antonio Recovery Center, we treat people who struggle with all types of addictions. Our team can help if you or your loved ones abuse substances such as alcohol, heroin, opioids, or marijuana. When it comes to marijuana, many people are confused about the difference between CBD and THC. As marijuana laws change rapidly and differ from one location to another, it’s important to know what these terms mean.
While marijuana is legal in many parts of the United States and CBD is widely used in supplements, many individuals struggle to use these substances in healthy ways. Reach out to a treatment center today if you are ready to take back control of your life.
What Are CBD and THC?
CBD stands for cannabidiol, and THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol, both of which are substances found in cannabis plants.
CBD is often sold as an oil, is not psychoactive, and has certain medicinal properties. THC, on the other hand, is the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana.
For many, understanding the difference between CBD and THC issue is complicated because the hemp or marijuana plant contains both. People who abuse marijuana are hooked on the psychoactive properties of THC. While many argue that marijuana is not addictive, it can be habit-forming. As cannabidiol is non-psychoactive, it’s not addictive or habit-forming in itself.
However, people may smoke marijuana to get medical benefits from cannabidiol and develop a habit. The safest course for getting the medical benefits of marijuana is to use CBD oil by itself. This is the best way to get the benefits of cannabidiol without any psychoactive effects.
When considering CBD vs THC, you also have to keep up with laws, which change frequently. Marijuana and THC are controlled substances under federal law. Because laws are constantly changing and there are often conflicts between state and local laws, the situation is somewhat confusing.
People who want to take cannabis products for medical reasons should check with state laws and make sure they have a valid prescription.
Is Marijuana Addictive?
The CBD vs THC issue is only one matter important to people dealing with substance abuse or addiction. Weed can be addictive, and if your weed use has affected your ability to complete daily responsibilities, you might benefit from a substance abuse treatment program.
Those in treatment for substance abuse issues should reach out to a treatment center that offers individualized treatment. No two clients are alike, and marijuana addiction treatment programs should treat clients as individuals and considers everyone’s unique needs.
At San Antonio Recovery Center, we’re committed to providing high-quality treatment for weed addiction. Some of the ways that we help our clients overcome addiction include:
- Affordable treatment – We work with many insurance companies and help clients find a way to pay for the treatment they need – Clients dealing with mental health issues in addition to addiction need special consideration – Overcoming addiction is a challenging process, and we address issues such as anxiety and therapy – We recognize that clients need the support of loved ones to get better
Choosing the Right Option for Recovery
Finding the right solution for drug or alcohol rehab is challenging. San Antonio Recovery Center has personalized programs that include both inpatient and outpatient services. We also have aftercare programs to help you avoid relapses. Our programs are grounded in 12-step principles that have proven themselves effective over many decades.
Our Texas addiction rehab programs can help you or a loved one overcome addiction. Contact us, and we’ll get you on the road to recovery. For more information about CBD vs THC, call 866.957.7885, or contact us online.