Humans like all kinds of stimuli, and are prone to be tired of them. These stimulating behaviors may be risky or unhealthy (gaming, gambling, drinking, smoking, sweets, even drugs, etc.), and the ultimate goal is to obtain pleasure or satisfaction (the brain’s reward signal). Once these behaviors are excessive, they form psychological or physical desires and impulses, which become what we often call “addiction”.
Among many addictive behaviors, the severity of drug abuse (SUD) has become the focus of attention, and more than 130 people in the United States die after taking overdose of opioids every day. The most common substances involved in drug addiction include prescription drugs, illegal opioids, nicotine, alcohol, cocaine and methamphetamine (meth). Existing treatment methods include psychological behavior counseling, drug therapy and medical equipment to solve the problem of drug addiction, but these are not the most effective solutions.
Endogenous cannabinoid system may suppress addictive urges
The body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) is composed of receptors. These cannabinoid receptors mediate multiple functions, including cognition, memory, emotions, appetite, and sensory responses. The role of ECS in reward signals may affect repetitive behavior.
CBD (cannabidiol) is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. It can interact with ECS receptors (especially CB1) to provide therapeutic intervention for addiction. CBD can mediate responses in multiple receptor systems, including opioid receptors, so CBD is a potential means of treating drug abuse.
Medical marijuana can replace opioids
Opioids are commonly used to relieve pain, but have other serious side effects of drowsiness, confusion, euphoria, nausea, and constipation. Such drugs include prescription narcotic analgesics, synthetic opioids, and heroin. It takes only 4 weeks after use to develop a physical dependence on opioids. In 2017, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) published a report in the New England Journal of Medicine, recognizing the role of cannabis as an alternative to opioids in the treatment of chronic pain.
Opioids act on the brain’s reward system, and CBD can inhibit certain brain reward mechanisms related to opioid-enhancing properties. Studies have shown that CBD actually reorganizes the brain’s urge to perceive the substance by reducing drug-related rewards (deCarvalho & Takahashi, 2017), and lasts up to two weeks after administration.
In addition to CBD, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, a psychoactive cannabinoid) has a significant effect on persistent pain. Male rats who have received oxycodone (strong opioids) have reduced their desire to use tetrahydrocannabinol. Additional data showed that rats receiving the THC / oxycodone combination experienced a slower rate of pain during sensory testing compared to rats receiving only either drug, showing that THC potentially enhances opioid treatment Efficacy and therefore may reduce the use of opioids over time.
The pain and unpleasant physical reactions caused by withdrawal of opioids will drive people to become addicted to drugs. THC has been shown to reduce signs of quasimorphine withdrawal syndrome in rats, and other plant cannabinoids such as cannabinol (CBN) may also be useful in this situation. Therefore, full spectrum cannabis oil can help alleviate withdrawal symptoms that lead to relapse.
Regarding the clinical evidence that cannabis reduces the use of opioids, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded Columbia University / New York Institute of Psychiatry research to show that 62% of narcotic patients begin to regularly use specially formulated medical cannabis products ( TheraCeed ™, EleCeed ™ and ClaraCeed ™) reduce or abstain from the use of narcotic drugs during the nine-month observation period, and the study is still ongoing.
Medical cannabis for nicotine addiction
In 2013, researchers conducted several studies among smokers on marijuana withdrawal from nicotine cigarette addiction. Compared with subjects receiving a placebo, aerosol inhalation of CBD agents by “wants to quit” when they feel a desire to smoke can significantly reduce the number of cigarettes smoked-by about 40%. This effect was maintained even during follow-up, showing that CBD may have the potential to treat nicotine addiction.
Medical marijuana used to treat alcohol addiction
Alcohol dependence covers several clinical criteria, including alcohol tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, alcohol cravings, and psychosocial effects. Subjects often resolve not to drink alcohol, but withdrawal physical symptoms (such as opioid dependence) can be overwhelming.
An animal study in 2018 showed that CBD administration can reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms and total ethanol intake. CBD administration to rats can reduce alcohol-seeking behavior, while having less sedation and more normal behavioral motivation.
However, mice with alcohol addiction were given CBD and THC at the same time, and found that their response to alcohol was overactive. These effects were not observed in mice treated with CBD alone, which made the combination of cannabinoids to be considered in subsequent human clinical studies.
Medical marijuana used to treat cocaine addiction
Cocaine is an illegal addictive drug made from the leaves of the coca plant. In addition to the behavioral risks exhibited by users, even short-term use of cocaine may cause several negative health consequences.
A 2017 study concluded that acute administration of CBD has a small effect on the rat model of cocaine relapse. Another study in 2018 showed that repeated CBD administration can reduce anxiety and cocaine intake in mice.
However, adolescent male rats using THC enhanced the effect of cocaine and increased their sensitivity to cocaine. Obviously, in order to fully understand how medical marijuana adapts to cocaine use and addiction treatment, additional research is necessary.
Medical marijuana used to treat methamphetamine (meth) addiction
Methamphetamine is a highly addictive substance with a high relapse rate. There is a strong link between sleep disorders and methamphetamine relapse, leading researchers to study CBD as a potential treatment for sleep disorders and reducing relapse. The results of the study showed that CBD treatment reduced the likelihood of relapse and ingestion of methamphetamine in rats even under pressure.
These findings indicate that CBD as a drug that can be successfully used to reduce human dependence on methamphetamine deserves further study.
By alleviating withdrawal symptoms, providing alternative pain control, and helping to restore normal sleep patterns, cannabinoids are supported by clear scientific evidence in the treatment of drug addiction. Animal studies have shown that medical cannabis products have the potential to treat opioid, nicotine, alcohol, cocaine and methamphetamine addiction, and will be further expanded into the clinical environment.