Cannabidiol, or CBD, the non-psychoactive chemical compound found in cannabis, could be used to fight heroin addiction, according to a new study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry. The new study specifically focused on whether CBD could curb craving and anxiety among heroin users. Not only did the study find that CBD immediately helped reduce cravings among heroin users, it also noted the effects seemed to last seven days after the subjects were administered a dose of CBD.
Speaking with CNN, Yasmin Hurd, the lead researcher on the study said, “The intense craving is what drives the drug use. If we can have the medications that can dampen that [craving], that can greatly reduce the chance of relapse and overdose risk.”
For the study, Hurd and her team worked with 42 adults who had used heroin for an average of 13 years and had, at the time, gone less than a month without using (subjects also could not use heroin during the study). Participants were divided into groups and given either 800 milligrams of CBD, 400 milligrams or a placebo, receiving one daily dose for three straight days (the team used Epidiolex, which is the first FDA-approved cannabis-based medication). Over the next two weeks, the participants were shown photos or videos of either calm, natural scenes, or scenes that depicted drug use and paraphernalia, then asked to rank their anxiety and cravings.
According to the study, those that had received CBD saw their cravings drop two to three times more than those that received a placebo (there were no major differences between the participants that received 800 milligrams and those that got 400 milligrams). Researchers also found that those who had received CBD showed lower levels of the so-called stress hormone, cortisol.
The CBD business has boomed since the 2018 Farm Bill was passed with a provision legalizing hemp (though the exact legal standing of CBD remains a bit murky as the Food and Drug Administration still has not offered any official guidance). CBD — which is not addictive along with being non-psychoactive — is believed to have a variety of legitimate medical uses, such as treating epilepsy, PTSD, MS, gastrointestinal disorders and anxiety.
The heroin study could mark another major breakthrough when it comes to the benefits of CBD, especially at a time when heroin and opioid overdose deaths are on the rise. Hurd said she wants to conduct a longer study on CBD and addiction that would follow subjects over the course of about six months.
Speaking of the benefits of CBD, Hurd said, “”It’s not addictive. No one is diverting it. It doesn’t get you high, but it can reduce craving and anxiety… [T]his can really help save lives.”