Opioid addicts resorting to using heroin might be able to kick their habit with the help of medical marijuana.
A small study published this week in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that the cannabis-derived therapeutic property cannabidiol (CBD) reduced cravings and anxiety for patients using heroin.
“To address the critical need for new treatment options for the millions of people and families who are being devastated by this epidemic, we initiated a study to assess the potential of a non-intoxicating cannabinoid on craving and anxiety in heroin-addicted individuals,” said lead study author Yasmin Hurd, director of the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai in a statement.
“The specific effects of CBD on cue-induced drug craving and anxiety are particularly important in the development of addiction therapeutics because environmental cues are one of the strongest triggers for relapse and continued drug use.”
The researchers examined the health records of 42 men and women, ages 21 to 65, with heroin use disorder. Half of the group, who had recently stopped using heroin, received CBD doses of 400 mg or 800 mg once daily, while the other half received a placebo.
Patients were then exposed to neutral and drug-related cues during the course of three different sessions: immediately following administration, 24 hours after CBD or placebo administration, and seven days after the third and final daily CBD or placebo administration.
Participants who received CBD displayed significantly reduced drug cravings, and reported less anxiety when looking at pictures of people using drugs. CBD seemed to have long-term effects, as the drug continued to reduce cravings and anxiety for seven days — more than enough time for the body to be clean from opioids.
Despite the remarkable results, experts say that cannabis must be rescheduled in order to open further research efforts.
“We’re in the middle of a huge movement in CBD research, but the Mount Sinai study is not the first,” said Dr. Danesh Alam, medical director of behavioral health at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, who was not involved in the study, to NBC News. “We’ve seen results like this from studies done in the heroin population in 2015-16. There are many chemicals found in marijuana including CBD that need to be studied further, but the restrictions on marijuana research have set us back.”