It's high time for cannabidiol or CBD research. There have been many studies in recent years showing cannabis' potential as a medicine. One hopeful use of CBD is a therapeutic treatment for drug and alcohol addiction.
Contrary to popular belief, CBD does not get you high. It is not addictive. Find out how CBD combats opioid, alcohol, and nicotine addiction.
Addiction is a disease that changes the structure of the brain. Researchers found that drugs and alcohol can alter the brain's reward circuits. This change leads to dependency. It also damages the prefrontal cortex, where decision-making occurs. With impaired decision-making, dependents won't stop substance use despite its apparent detrimental effects.
The opioid is a known potent pain reliever. Doctors prescribe it for pain management in cancer and post-operative patients. Aside from its painkilling effect, it can also give a sense of euphoria. The brain interprets euphoria as a pleasurable or rewarding activity that needs repeating.
When opioids hijack the brain’s pleasure and reward circuit, it results in tolerance and dependence. Natural opioid receptors in the brain create tolerance which diminishes responsiveness to opioid stimulation. It results in dependents taking higher doses to get the same euphoria as previously experienced. The higher the dose, the higher risk of overdose and fatality.
Another reason for the addiction is avoidance of withdrawal symptoms. Opioid users who have high tolerance also develop a dependence on the drug. It's no longer only about painkilling or euphoria.
The common withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, jitters, diarrhea, and muscle cramps. The dependent user craves the drug to relieve these symptoms caused by the opioid's absence in the system.
Alcohol is widely legal. Like nicotine, it is one of the most accessible intoxicating substances to misuse. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol-related deaths are three million per year. Alcohol causes more than 200 known diseases. Consumption contributes to violence, road accidents, and suicide.
Alcohol Use Disorder or AUD is a spectrum ranging from mild to moderate to severe. The risk for AUD is higher for those who started drinking before age 15. Genetics is also a considerable factor, along with a family history of substance abuse. Mental health conditions like depression, ADHD, and PTSD make people more susceptible to AUD.
Since there is a long-term and grave effect on the brain's cognitive regions, people with AUD are prone to relapse. When there are social or emotional triggers, they are likely to drink again even after a long period of abstinence.
Tobacco cigarettes have 93 known harmful substances. It includes nicotine, lead, ammonia, and carbon monoxide. Nicotine is the primary psychoactive substance in cigarettes that causes addiction. This substance stimulates in a way that gives users brief euphoric feelings. It also enhances focus and memory.
Nicotine’s positive effects are mostly brief, but the adverse effects are long-lasting. Smokers also develop a dependency because they want those short moments of stimulation. The more they crave, the more they smoke, so the more they compromise their health. The overconsumption of cigarettes then causes terminal diseases that affect the brain, heart, lungs, etc.
After a CBD administration trial, individuals abstaining from opioids showed less of the drug's cue-induced cravings. Drug cues are sensory triggers to the brain that make abstinent individuals crave. It could be any material that reminds users of the substance and its pleasurable effects.
Aside from the reduced cravings following the drug cue, there's also less anxiety. The study showed reduced physiological indicators of stress (i.e., heart rate and cortisol levels in saliva.) In other words, CBD can neutralize opioids’ effect on the brain's pleasure/reward circuit.
A similar result of reduced craving and anxiety was also helpful in smoking cessation and AUD treatment. Further, researchers observed CBD’s anti-inflammatory component that reduces damage to the brain and liver of subjects with AUD.
There are two main common grounds across different studies on CBD as a treatment for opioid, alcohol, and nicotine addiction. First, CBD reduces the cravings and rewarding impact of the addictive substances. Second, it relieves anxiety associated with users' withdrawal symptoms. CBD makes addiction treatment more viable with lessened cravings and withdrawal side effects.