A groundbreaking study from The American Journal of Psychiatry has found that CBD is effective in treating heroin addiction.
The study found that CBD reduced cravings for the drug and reduced anxiety levels.
Yasmin Hurd, the lead researcher on the study and director of the Addiction Institute of Mount Sinai 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.”
There are already medications available to treat opioid addiction, such as buprenorphine and methadone, but they are not often used. According to the 2016 surgeon general’s report on addiction, only 1 in 5 people who needed treatment for opioid use disorders received any sort of treatment.
Why aren’t people using these drugs? Despite buprenorphine and methadone’s success in reducing mortality by up to 59%, there are concerns about addiction. After all, these are still opioids with dangers of their own.
A Need for a Better Treatment
Nearly 400,000 Americans have died of opioid-related causes since 2000. There is clearly a need for an effective, accessible treatment.
Yasmin Hurd sought to find a better treatment. She and her colleagues surveyed 42 adults who had a recent history of heroin use and were not using methadone or buprenorphine.
The participants used heroin for an average of 13 years. Most came from social services groups, halfway houses, and treatment centers, revealing the dire circumstances that many addicts find themselves in.
The participants were divided into three groups. One group received 800 milligrams of CBD. Another, 400 milligrams of CBD, and the last group received a placebo.
All the participants received one dose daily for three consecutive days. Their reactions were then observed over the next two weeks.
Over the course of numerous sessions during those weeks, the participants were shown images or videos of nature scenes as well as images of drug use and heroin-related paraphernalia.
The participants were then asked to rate their anxiety levels and craving for heroin.
The Study’s Findings
A week after the last administration of CBD, those who had been given CBD had a two- to three-fold reduction in cravings relative to the placebo group. Yasmin Hurd said the difference between the 800 milligrams and 400 milligrams CBD groups was insignificant.
The team also measured the participant’s heart rates and cortisol. They found that the levels in those who received CBD were significantly lower than those who hadn’t received CBD.
“This can really help save lives.”
Participants of the study reported very few negative effects, such as mild diarrhea, headaches, and fatigue. These findings are similar to those of a pilot study Hurd ran.
The next step is to do a longer-term study, following subjects for up to six months.
According to Yasmin Hurd, there are still a lot of questions to answer in the next study. What is the best dose? How does it work to diminish cravings? She is optimistic about future findings.
“It’s not addictive. No one is diverting it. It doesn’t get you high, but it can reduce craving and anxiety,” Hurd said. “This can really help save lives.”
A longer version of this story appears on CNN.