New Study Shows This Chemical in Marijuana Could Make Drug Relapses a Thing of the Past
It's ironic that marijuana, the same drug that spawned a panic in 1936 with the film Reefer Madness, may turn out to be one of the best tools to deal with hardcore drug addiction: according to a new study published in Neuropsychopharmacology (that's a mouthful), a non-psychoactive chemical called Cannabidiol (also known as CBD) has the potential to mitigate relapses for those addicted to cocaine, heroin, and alcohol. The chemical wasn't tested on human addicts, however—instead, researchers got their lab rats hooked.
The tests involved allowing rats to self-administer doses of alcohol and cocaine and watching for addictive behavior, then exposing the rats to stressful situations that would (in theory) provoke them to cope by using more of the chosen drug. The rats that had a CBD gel concoction applied to their skin ended up showing less impulsive behavior and anxiety, even after the chemical had cleared from their blood plasma.
According to researcher Friedbert Weiss:
"The efficacy of the cannabinoid [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."
CBD may not directly treat addiction in patients, however—instead, it appears to help mitigate stress, anxiety, and depression, all of which can cause a relapse.
Still, CBD may end up being a versatile answer to the complex problem of addiction: "Drug addicts enter relapse vulnerability states for multiple reasons," says Weiss. "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."
As of 2018, recreational marijuana is legal in nine states, while medical marijuana has been approved in 29. Considering this new research, those numbers are likely to grow in the coming decade.