Cannabidiol (CBD) – a non-psychoactive component of cannabis – is seemingly everywhere at the moment, from face creams to Martha Stewart's line of dog food. But beyond the fad, there’s also been a surge of studies looking to sift the science from the bunk and investigate the lofty claims of CBD.
In yet another new study for this field, a randomized and placebo-controlled trial has investigated whether CBD could help curb cravings and anxiety in people with a history of heroin abuse. It’s early days for this small-scale research, but the findings look promising so far.
Published this week in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the results showed that people with a history of heroin use had “significantly reduced” cravings and anxiety linked to drug abstinence compared to the control group. They also experienced reduced physical measures of stress reactivity, such as increased heart rate and cortisol levels. Best of all, there were only minimal side-effects. These encouraging findings suggest CBD could be used as part of treatments to help prevent people from slipping back into cycles of addiction.
"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 non-intoxicating cannabinoid on craving and anxiety in heroin-addicted individuals," lead author Yasmin Hurd, PhD, from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said in a statement. "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."
For the study, they gathered 42 people who were abstaining from drugs and randomly assigned them a dose of CBD – 400 milligrams or 800 milligrams daily – or a matching placebo. They then assessed their state of mind in the very short term (one hour, two hours, and 24 hours), short-term (three consecutive days), and slightly longer term (seven days after the last of three consecutive daily administrations).
The results showed that those who received CBD doses had significantly reduced drug cravings, experienced level anxiety when looking at drug-related imagery, and had more positive vital signs, such as heart rate and blood pressure.
As mentioned, there’s a lot of unverified claims when it comes to CBD. However, an increasing number of studies are finding that it could have some real medicinal benefits, especially for conditions like depression, anxiety, insomnia, and epilepsy. While the mechanism behind these apparent claims is not perfectly clear yet, the research is promising.
Next up, the team hope to deepen their understanding of the mechanisms of CBD's effects on the brain. They will also look to investigate whether CBD medicinal formulations could be used to address the ongoing opioid epidemic.