CBD, a non-psychoactive component of the cannabis and hemp plants, can be used to help treat heroin addiction according to a new study. 

Researchers in New York found that CBD – also known as cannabidiol – can reduce drug cravings in heroin addicts.

This increasingly popular health supplement is being used by consumers to treat a variety of ailments ranging from anxiety to pain relief. One report even showed that CBD oil reduced the size of a tumor in a patient in the UK. So what did this new study say about its effects on heroin cravings?

What does the research say about CBD and heroin?

Researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York tested the effects of cannabis-based medicine, Epidiolex. The drug is the first FDA-approved CBD medication that is currently used for reducing the frequency of seizures in epilepsy patients.

Dr. Yasmin Hurd led the research, which followed her past work which showed that CBD reduced heroin dependency in animals.

In the study, 42 former heroin addicts were split into three groups and given either 800mg of a CBD solution, 400mg, or a placebo. The average person in the study had been addicted to heroin for 13 years.

The former addicts were shown videos of people taking drugs or were shown syringes and packets that contained a powder that looks like heroin. Afterwards, they were asked to rate their anxiety levels and drug cravings. Their blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature were also measured by the researchers.

Both men and women in the CBD groups reported levels of anxiety and drug cravings that were two to three times lower than the group that was given a placebo. The CBD also lowered the rates of cortisol – a stress hormone – which suggests that the cannabis-derived supplement can help calm down addicts. The CBD group also had reduced blood pressure and heart rates.

Interestingly, the amount of CBD consumed didn’t seem to make a difference. Both the 800mg and the 400mg groups reported similar results, suggesting that CBD use has an on-or-off effect. ‘Our findings indicate that CBD holds significant promise for treating individuals with heroin use disorder,’ said Dr Hurd.

“Our findings indicate that CBD holds significant promise for treating individuals with heroin use disorder.”

– Dr. Hurd

Why this study is important

This research comes as the US is in the midst of an opioid epidemic that is claiming the lives of tens of thousands of people annually. Drugs including heroin, fentanyl, and morphine are responsible for the bulk of these deaths.

Cravings are a major problem for recovering heroin addicts. The cravings can draw them into relapsing and cause them to overdose since their tolerance has lowered after becoming clean. Methadone – the current drug that is used to treat heroin addiction – causes some concern since it is part of the same drug class as heroin and can be addictive itself. It’s also tightly controlled by the government.

Unline Methadone, CBD is non-addictive and is widely available over-the-counter. It’s also highly affordable compared to many other treatments for opioid addiction.

‘A successful non-opioid medication would add significantly to the existing addiction medication toolbox to help reduce the growing death toll, enormous health care costs, and treatment limitations imposed by stringent government regulations amid this persistent opioid epidemic,’ Dr. Hurd told CNN.

Dr. Hurd’s study was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. She is planning to follow up on this research with studies that are designed to determine exactly how CBD effects the brain and to examine its effects over a longer time period. It’s definitely exciting to see that due the increased acceptance of medical marijuana, researchers are focusing more on how cannabidiol can help patients with a variety of different disorders. If CBD can help patients suffering from opioid use disorder and reduce the amount of deaths caused by the opioid crisis, then it should definitely be made available to them.