America has a problem – a gigantic problem. It’s a problem that has been growing at a frightening rate over the past few decades and is now the cause of death of more than 140 million Americans every year. It’s none other than opioid addiction.
Anthropologists have not yet discovered a culture where mood or mind-altering drugs aren’t present. Drugs have been with us since the beginning of time. The challenge for users is to achieve health and mood benefits while having the ability to regulate its use – however, many struggle with this. From prescription drugs to heroin and synthetic opioids, the widespread misuse of prescription, as well as non-prescription, drugs has evolved into what has now been deemed as a public crisis.
There are numerous programs that have tried to solve the country’s opioid crisis over the years, but the death toll still continues to rise. With a bleak future ahead if the problem goes unsolved, promising findings from multiple recent studies show that CBD could be the answer that we have been looking for.
Overview of Opioid Addiction
To understand what opioid addiction is, you should first understand what opioids are. The word opioid refers to any chemical or drug that attaches itself to sites in the brain known as opioid receptors. The human body produces its own opioids (endorphins), but the opioids that we are talking about when it comes to opioid addiction are those manufactured in a laboratory. For example; prescription pain pills such as hydrocodone, hydromorphone, and oxycodone are synthesized in a lab. When an individual becomes dependent on these drugs, they will need treatment for opioid addiction.
Anyone who consumes opioids is at risk of developing an opioid addiction. It’s a disease that affects the brain which involves both a psychological and physical need for opioids. A person is considered to be addicted when they engage in compulsive use, despite obvious harm. In other words, they can’t stop using the opioids even when it’s obvious to themselves and others that they should stop.
The two primary signs of opioid addiction are carvings, like an overwhelming and intense desire for the drug, and secondly a loss of control – it becomes increasingly harder to say no to using a drug, or to control the amount that is used, and therefore use becomes compulsive.
Addiction is something that started as pleasurable but now feels like something that you can’t live without. Doctors define drug addiction or opioid addiction as an irresistible craving for that drug, compulsive and out-of-control use of the drug, and continuous use despite repeated and harmful consequences.
How and Why CBD Could Help in the Treatment of Opioid Addiction
CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabis compound that interacts with receptors found in the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). These receptors are distributed throughout the core systems of the body, like the respiratory system and the skeletal system. However, most of the receptors are found in areas of the brain that are responsible for cognitive, mental, and physiological processes.
This is why CBD is able to provide relief for various mental conditions, like anxiety, depression, and stress. After discovering this, researchers were intrigued as to whether CBD could then also alleviate the neurological and mental disorders that are associated with drug addiction. As you might have guessed, it appears as though it just might.
Firstly, CBD could reduce the reward properties associated with opioid drugs. Although CBD doesn’t have rewarding effects of its own, researchers found that rats who were administered CBD were less sensitive to the rewarding effects of morphine. It’s interesting to note that these effects didn’t translate to cocaine, which suggests the reward-processing effects of CBD might be limited to opioid-based addiction.
The power of CBD to regulate opioid reward stems from the ability that it has to enhance the serotonin signaling in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical located in the brain that regulates mood and is a well-known target of antidepressant and anxiety medications. Thus, it should come as no surprise that CBD also helps to relieve anxiety. This is how it can also be used in opioid addiction treatment – it can relieve the prominent withdrawal symptoms.
Lastly, CBD could also help to avoid a possible relapse back into the opioid after a time of abstinence. In one particular study, rats were trained to push a lever for heroin and taught to associate light in a chamber with the availability of heroin. After a period of time, pushing the lever no longer got them heroin. However, when the light went on, they would press the lever like mad hoping that some heroin would be delivered. This happened unless they were given CBD – the light’s power was then reduced to escalate their drug craving. Researchers concluded from this that it’s as if when taking CBD, an addict can walk past a familiar bar or alley, despite having signs that are inviting them in. Also, the effects of CBD persisted. The cue of the light remained less effective at causing a heroin craving for at least two weeks after the last treatment.
Medical Findings: Effects of Cannabinoids and CBD on Opioid Addiction
In a 2015 study, a systematic review was performed by researchers with the objective of summarizing all available clinical and preclinical data on the impact that CBD has on addictive behaviors.
Based on the findings that were gathered from 14 different studies, researchers found that CBD had beneficial impacts on psycho-stimulant and opioid addiction, as well as cannabis and tobacco dependence. The study was concluded by discussing that the horrific burden of opioid abuse creates the need for further studies to look into the potential of CBD to treat addictive behaviors.
Furthermore, in a 2018 study, researchers conducted a series of tests to determine what “anti-relapse” transdermal CBD possibly has. The CBD was administered by researchers to animal subjects who had a history of self-administering alcohol or cocaine and showed characteristics of a relapsing addict such as anxiety, dependency, and impulsivity.
After the CBD had been administered every 24 hours for only seven days, researchers made an exciting discovery. Not only was CBD effective in preventing the development of previously seen “addict-like” behavior, but it also deterred the subject from relapse for over five months.
Also important to note is that an 18-month study is currently being done by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System on CBD, THC, and opioid use. This research is expected to help paint a better picture as to whether CBD really does help, or if the benefits are primarily due to the placebo effect.
Medical Benefits of Using CBD to Treat Opioid Addiction
The benefits of CBD aren’t limited to the treatment of opioid addiction. For example, CBD helps to protect against the ability of amphetamines’ to induce long-term changes in dopamine signaling, which is a brain chemical that is involved in reward processing which underlies early stages of addiction.
In addition to the above, CBD has also been proven to be very effective in pain management. This is very relevant because one of the biggest opioid addictions is to pain medication. If an alternative, such as CBD, could be used to treat pain, the risk of opioid addiction become significantly decreased.
How to Take CBD for Opioid Addiction
The most popular way of taking CBD is by means of CBD oil which is typically consumed orally in the form of paste or drops. It is administered and held under the tongue until it has been fully absorbed. Natural-flavored CBD oil has a distinct taste that many people don’t like, so you may need to drink some juice while ingesting the oil. Alternatively, these days most brands sell flavored CBD oil, while CBD capsules are also a popular method, especially for those who don’t like the taste of the oil. Other well-known forms of oral administration include sprays, chocolate bars, gummies, and other edibles.
The average dose range is between 10 and 50 mg of CBD, one to three time per day. However, much higher doses are sometimes required, especially in the treatment of pain. While some people may experience benefits at the lower end of the dose range, others will need between 15 – 30 mg to notice any effect. Since different products have different concentrations of CBD, packaging usually states how much CBD is present in the entire bottle rather than per capsule or in a certain amount of drops. This is why measuring can be tricky.
If you are consuming CBD oil in liquid form, one dropper of a low concentration product (100 mg of CBD per ounce) will give about 3 mg of CBD per drop. A dropper from a medium-grade product (500 mg of CBD per ounce) will give you about 15 mg of CBD per drop – this is a good starting dose. And a drop of a high concentration product (1500 mg of CBD per ounce) will give about 50 mg of CBD per drop.
As with any medicinal herb, you should start low and gradually build up your dosage until you reach the desired results.
Final Thoughts on CBD for Opioid Addiction
Whether in the recreational or medical context of things, questions are often raised about the addictiveness of cannabis. But studies throughout the years have, in fact, found that cannabis, and more specifically, CBD could actually help in the fight against opioid addiction.
While further research is certainly needed to come to conclusive results, the finding from studies that have been done is indeed promising. With complete CBD legalization becoming a real possibility, an increasing number of people are looking at it as a real solution to the opioid crisis.