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Can CBD Reduce Cravings Stemming from Opioid Addiction?

CBD is taking over the world by storm. Both recreational and medical users of CBD rave about its many health benefits. Besides, recent studies have shown that CBD might reduce cravings in opioid addicts. But, are these claims actually true?

Health Benefits of CBD

CBD users claim that CBD products have a lot of health benefits. According to them, CBD can relieve pain, inflammation, and nausea. Also, it improves sleeping patterns and reduces stress, anxiety, and depression. Moreover, it can ease the symptoms of medical conditions such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis. 

But research on the health benefits of CBD is still at a very early stage. While many believe that CBD a magical cure for all ills, so far, most of its healing abilities haven’t been proven. Still, animal studies and user experience suggest that it could truly be helpful.

Yet, there is one symptom that CBD can help you with — the pediatric epilepsy seizures. Many clinical trials have shown that CBD is truly safe in treating rare forms of epilepsy. Finally, in June 2018, FDA approved Epidiolex, a pharmaceutical grade CBD, for this specific purpose. At the moment, Epidiolex is the only CBD prescription drug.

However, a study has recently shown that CBD can also reduce the cravings in people addicted to opioids. This study is among the first double-blind controlled studies to show that CBD can treat other conditions besides epilepsy. So, it is almost certain that CBD can lend you a hand in your fight with opioid dependence.

Unfortunately, other scientists stress that this study is too narrow. Moreover, they found that CBD binds to different receptors than those related to opioid addiction. Thus, the results of the study do not prove that buying a bottle of CBD oil or a similar product will help you with opioid cravings. Nothing is certain yet.

Is Addiction a Disease?

In order to fully grasp how CBD may be helpful to opioid addicts, you need to understand what addiction is exactly. Also, you should learn how it changes people’s behavior. According to the American Psychiatric Association, addiction is a brain disease. It manifests in compulsive substance use in spite of its harmful consequences. Also, addiction is a complex medical condition. It falls into a disease category because it changes the way our brains process different information.

So, what exactly does addiction do to our brains?

Addictive drugs influence specific areas of the brain. These areas are in charge of controlling the perception of pleasurable or regular, daily activities. Because the addiction alters these areas, an addict’s perception of the world becomes closely related to their drug of choice. For example, their brain will associate drug equipment or a certain location where they did drugs with receiving the drug. So, these associations serve as reminders or even reinforcers of drug use. This process is typical for most popular drugs, including alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, methamphetamines, and opioids.

Many believe that addiction is simply a wish to “get high”. But, the reality is much harsher than that. For a drug-addicted individual, the drug must be present for them to function normally. Taking the drug is not a matter of choice for them, but a necessity. Quitting an addictive drug leads to many painful, torturous symptoms of drug withdrawal. Thus, many recovering addicts relapse despite their desire to quit and the support of their friends and families.

Opioid Addiction

Withdrawal symptoms depend on the drug and can range from mild to extreme intensity. Symptoms of opioid withdrawal can include nausea, vomiting, anxiety, diarrhea, rapid heartbeat, and abdominal cramps. Moreover, people with anxiety disorders tend to use opioids to relieve anxiety symptoms. Thus, they enter a vicious circle and the so-called feed-forward loop of addiction. So, depression and anxiety are closely related to opioid dependence.

So, strong will is usually not enough for opioid addicts to successfully quit the drug. Still, there are some medication-assisted treatments that might decrease the withdrawal symptoms. Thus, they increase their chances of recovery. Most commonly, these treatments use drugs such as buprenorphine and methadone.

Opioid Addiction and CBD

Animal studies on the influence of CBD on opioid addiction were quite successful. Back in 2009, rats were taught to press a lever to receive heroin as a part of an experiment. CBD didn’t reduce their drug-seeking behavior and the amount of heroin they took. Yet, it did help with the withdrawal symptoms. Once the rats were taken off heroin, CBD use resulted in a decreased drug-seeking behavior in the presence of heroin-associated triggers.

Several years later, a couple of double-blind studies were conducted to see if CBD has the same withdrawal-reducing effects on humans. Double-blind studies are placebo-controlled studies. During these studies, not even the doctors know which patient received the drug and which got the placebo. That way, they avoided the placebo effect.

In 2015, a double-blind study showed that CBD, compared to a placebo, decreases opioid cravings and anxiety when the subject is exposed to a drug-associated cue. Another double-blind study confirmed these findings. It also demonstrated that the FDR-approved Epidiolex reduces the cravings of former heroin addicts. Moreover, Epidiolex reduced the anxiety of these individuals, as well as cortisol levels in blood — a hormone that increases under anxiety and stress.

These studies are very optimistic in terms of CBD’s influence on opioid cravings. Still, further research is necessary. Yet, these studies suggest that CBD and Epidiolex may prove to be an important ally in the ever-lasting battle against opioid addiction.

Final Considerations

Numerous studies strongly suggest that CBD can reduce cravings stemming from opioid addiction. Still, there are several things worth considering.

Bear in mind that the FDA approved the use of Epidiolex for only one medical condition — pediatric epilepsy seizures. However, they still haven’t regulated the usage of CBD for other conditions and diseases. Moreover, many of the over-the-counter CBD products contain high amounts of THC, which can show up on drug test results. In addition, Epidiolex can enhance or diminish the effects of other drugs, especially those prescribed for bipolar disorder and migraines. So, until the studies provide us with a final proof of the impact of CBD on opioid withdrawal symptoms, it’s best to consult a doctor before buying CBD products.

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