CBD May Help Control Heroin Withdrawals, Study Suggests

According to a new study, cannabidiol (CBD) may reduce cravings and anxiety associated with heroin withdrawal symptoms. The study—which could lead to CBD-based addiction drugs in the future—was published May 21 in the American Journal of Psychiatry.  

A team of investigators, led by Yasmin Hurd, Ph.D., observed 42 people with a heroin-use disorder who stopped using the drug at the time of the study. Each participant was given either a 400mg dose of CBD, an 800mg dose of CBD or a placebo. The CBD and placebos were given to the participants at varying intervals so that researchers could evaluate short and long term effects.

Participants in the CBD groups were observed with reduced anxiety and craving when exposed to triggers like drug paraphernalia. They also were observed with reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their saliva and lower heart rates. Each participant was ranked 0-10 with 0 being no craving and 10 being extreme craving. The beneficial effects of CBD lasted a week after the last dose.

“To address the critical need for new treatment options for the millions of people and families who are being devastated by this epidemic, we initiated a study to assess the potential of a nonintoxicating cannabinoid on craving and anxiety in heroin-addicted individuals,” Hurd wrote. “The specific effects of CBD on cue-induced drug craving and anxiety are particularly important in the development of addiction therapeutics because environmental cues are one of the strongest triggers for relapse and continued drug use.”

Although CBD’s properties appear to reduce anxiety when quitting any habit-forming drug, because opioid-related withdrawal symptoms are particularly acute, CBD may be especially important in this respect.

The findings line up with past studies that indicate that cannabis may help curb opioid use disorder. With heroin’s and other opioids’ tendencies to stop breathing, CBD could be a lifesaver for certain people. “[This] particular anxiety leads someone to take a drug that can cause them death, and anything we can do to decrease that means increasing the precious chance of preventing relapse and saving their lives,” Hurd added.

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