A supplement derived from cannabis may help alcohol and cocaine addicts overcome their cravings, new research suggests.
Recovering rats given cannabidiol (CBD) are less likely to relapse when exposed to drugs, a study, by the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, found.
This is thought to be due to the supplement easing anxiety and stress, as well as reducing impulsive behaviour, according to the researchers.
After just three days of receiving CBD, recovering rats are still less likely to relapse five months later, the study found.
The researchers hope the findings will assist in the development of treatments to prevent human drug relapses.
CBD is a cannabis-derived nutritional supplement that is thought to possess a range of medicinal benefits and has been reported to help people suffering from migraines, psoriasis, acne and depression.
Legal in the UK, it does not contain any THC, which is the psychoactive component of marijuana that makes users ‘high’.
Cannabis supplement may help alcohol and cocaine addicts overcome their dependencies
WHAT IS CANNABIS OIL AND IS IT LEGAL IN THE UK?
Government advisers made it legal to buy cannabis oil in 2016
Government advisers made it legal to buy cannabidiol (CBD) oil in 2016 after they admitted that it has a ‘restoring, correcting or modifying’ effect on humans.
However, the oil’s legal status has confused thousands across England and Wales, after the MHRA back-tracked on its position just weeks after.
Suppliers now have to obtain a licence to sell it as a medicine, following the decision in October two years ago – but some weave the strict rules.
Manufacturers are able to avoid regulation by selling it as a food supplement – ignoring the lengthy process of gaining a medicinal licence.
CBD oil, which can reportedly help with back pain, anxiety and epilepsy, has yet to be approved for use on the NHS in Scotland.
It comes in many forms, the most popular being an oil – which users spray under their tongue – or gel tablets which melt slowly in the mouth.
However, cannabis oil – which contains THC, the compound that produces the ‘high, is illegal under UK laws.
But Billy Caldwell, from Castlederg, Northern Ireland, made headlines last April when he became the first Briton to be prescribed it on the NHS.
Cannabis oil, which reportedly has no side effects, influences the release and uptake of ‘feel good’ chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin.
Treatment potential across a range of addictions
Speaking of the findings, lead author Dr Friedbert Weiss said: ‘The efficacy of the CBD to reduce reinstatement in rats with both alcohol and cocaine – and, as previously reported, heroin – histories predicts therapeutic potential for addiction treatment across several classes of abused drugs.
‘The results provide proof of principle supporting the potential of CBD in relapse prevention along two dimensions: beneficial actions across several vulnerability states and long-lasting effects with only brief treatment.
‘Drug addicts enter relapse vulnerability states for multiple reasons.
‘Therefore, effects such as these observed with CBD that concurrently ameliorate several of these are likely to be more effective in preventing relapse than treatments targeting only a single state.’
Results further suggest CBD is completely cleared from such rats’ brains just three days after the treatment ends.
The findings were published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.
Recovering rats given cannabidiol are less likely to relapse when exposed to drugs (stock)
The differences between THC and CBD
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are both derived from the cannabis plant.
Together, they are part of the cannabinoid group of compounds found in hashish, hash oil, and most strains of marijuana.
THC is the psychoactive compound responsible for the euphoric, ‘high’ feeling often associated with marijuana.
THC interacts with CB1 receptors in the central nervous system and brain and creates the sensations of euphoria and anxiety.
CBD does not fit these receptors well, and actually decreases the effects of THC, and is not psychoactive.
CBD is thought to help reduce anxiety and inflammation.
How the research was carried out
The researchers applied a gel containing CBD every day for a week to the skin of rats who were addicted to cocaine or alcohol.
Tests were performed to determine the animals’ responses to stressful and anxiety-provoking situations.
Such scenarios included placing the rodents, who are typically agoraphobic, in a maze with open and enclosed spaces, and assessing the amount and length of time they chose to spend outside.
The researchers also assessed how impulsive, a trait associated with drug addiction, the animals were.
CBD halves the risk of a seizure in more than 40% of epilepsy patients
This comes after research released last month suggested CBD halves the risk of suffering a seizure in 44 percent of epilepsy patients.
Taking CBD alongside the commonly-prescribed medication clobazam also makes 10 percent of epilepsy patients drug-free, a US study found.
The dual treatment also enables up to 26 percent of people with epilepsy to reduce their medications’ doses, the research adds.
In addition, introducing CBD into epilepsy patients’ drug regimens makes 14 percent feel more alert and better able to communicate, the study found.
Nearly one in three epilepsy patients are resistant to existing treatments and continue to endure seizures.