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Study Shows How Marijuana Component CBD Can Help People With Substance Use Disorders

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Cannabidiol, or CBD, shows promise as a potential treatment option for various types of substance use disorders, according to a recent review of existing studies.

A team of Australian researchers summarized the results of multiple human and animal trials on CBD and addiction, finding that the non-intoxicating component of marijuana can reduce cravings and the risk of relapse for chronic alcohol, tobacco and opioid misuse. They found “mixed” results when it came to stimulants like methamphetamine.

Here’s what they found: 

—CBD caused reduced self-administration of ethanol (alcohol) among animal subjects, and when the dose was higher (120mg), it decreased the risk of relapse.

—A separate study indicated CBD caused animal subjects to become less responsive to cue- and stress-induced triggers for alcohol administration. That effect lasted “up to 138 days post-CBD.”

—For tobacco, a study that involved 24 smokers found that those who used CBD inhalers “significantly reduced the number of smoked cigarettes” compared to the placebo groups. That’s in spite of the fact that CBD didn’t seem to reduce cravings or withdrawal.

—Smokers who received CBD were less susceptible to cigarettes cues after being abstinent for one night, another study found.

—Research shows that CBD can interfere with the “reward-facilitating effect” of morphine but, generally speaking, the compound is less effective than THC or a combination of THC and CBD at addressing opioid misuse.

—THC alone “demonstrated to be more effective than CBD in inhibiting morphine abstinence syndrome in mice.”

The paper, published in the journal Frontiers In Psychiatry, ultimately determined that CBD plays on the endocannabinoid system in ways that empower people with substance use disorders to use less of a harmful substance even though the compounds doesn’t necessarily curb withdrawal symptoms.

The compound also seems to reduce the “motivation to self-administer” or continue using drugs in animals. That said, “evidence on its efficacy” remains “limited and mixed,” and so additional studies are needed to substantiate these initial findings.

The review also suggests that CBD could be more effective at treating substance use disorder when administered in tandem with THC and/or in conjunction with a broader treatment protocol, at least in certain cases.

“CBD alone may not be sufficiently effective in maintaining long-term abstinence without ongoing support and behavioral therapy,” the researchers wrote. “A combination of pharmacotherapy and behavioral therapy may increase treatment potency and adherence, and CBD may be better suited as an adjunct treatment to primary behavioral or psychosocial therapy.”

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Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based senior editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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