Non-Psychoactive Chemical In Marijuana Could Prevent Recovering Addicts From Relapsing

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A chemical found in marijuana could be used to treat drug and alcohol addiction, according to a new study published in Neuropsychopharmacology

The non-psychoactive and non-addictive chemical called Cannabidiol (CBD) is found in Cannabis sativa, the plant that produces marijuana flowers. Unlike Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD doesn’t get you high and researchers say they’ve proven in a preclinical study that it reduces the risk of relapse in rats “addicted” to cocaine and alcohol.

Using rats that had been trained to self-administer cocaine or alcohol (which could indicate addictive behavior), researchers applied a CBD gel to the skin of the animals once per day for a week. They then ran a series of tests to see how the rats reacted to stressful and anxiety-provoking situations, as well as impulsive behaviors associated with drug addiction. The researchers observed whether those with or without the gel were likely to relapse, and found rats exposed to CBD were less likely to experience anxiety and impulsivity associated with drug addiction.

In later studies, researchers say the CBD had cleared from the rats’ brain and plasma within three days. Five months later, the rats still showed a reduced relapse induced by stress or drug cues. The authors say their study could provide insight into how CBD might reduce the effects of drug and alcohol addiction.

“The efficacy of the cannabinoid [CBD] to reduce reinstatement in rats with both alcohol and cocaine – and, as previously reported, heroin – histories predicts therapeutic potential for addiction treatment across several classes of abused drugs,” said researcher Friedbert Weiss in a statement.  “The results provide proof of principle supporting the potential of CBD in relapse prevention along two dimensions: beneficial actions across several vulnerability states, and long-lasting effects with only brief treatment.”

Furthermore, it could inform the possible medical benefits of non-psychoactive cannabinoids and how they can be used as therapeutics.

CBD has been shown to provide a number of medical benefits. When applied topically, it can manage and provide relief for certain types of pain. When ingested, CBD can ease symptoms of generalized social anxiety disorders and depression.

Scientists say the benefits of CBD on drug addiction could be linked to its aid in stress, depression, and anxiety – all of which can trigger a relapse in addiction.

“Drug addicts enter relapse vulnerability states for multiple reasons. Therefore, effects such as these observed with CBD that concurrently ameliorate several of these are likely to be more effective in preventing relapse than treatments targeting only a single state," said Weiss. 

All of this is preliminary and done, of course, on mice. Researchers hope that further investigation and studies will help aid a more complete understanding of the effects of CBD.  

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