CBD For Opiate Withdrawal: New Study to Combat the Opioid Crisis
“It triggered something in me that made me realize I’m not taking these drugs, these drugs are taking me,” Stephen Mandile, a U.S. Army Veteran told Leafy editor, Bailey Rah. The veteran’s powerful words sum up a typical tale that reflects the struggles of people addicted to opioids in the United States.
After his service in the military, the veteran was battling chronic pain and depression. His cry for help to his doctors resulted in Mandile being prescribed 57 different drugs for his conditions.
Opioids come with a high risk of addiction, so they took their toll on Mandile. Luckily, the veteran dared to face the dreadful side-effects caused by the opioids, and battle his abuse disorder differently.
He chose to rather go with something that–according to studies–can be considered as a powerful home remedy for opiate withdrawal–cannabis.
Soon after, high-CBD cannabis became the veteran’s safe place, a natural home remedy that not only helped him with the opiate withdrawal symptoms but also his mental health issues.
“Cannabis allowed me to ignore the pain and withdrawals of fentanyl, oxycodone, and Xanax. Without cannabis, I’m sure I would have overdosed or committed suicide by now,” said Mandile. 
Similar to Mandile, Americans in search for chronic pain relief often end up in the vicious cycle of opioid abuse and sometimes, a fatal overdose.
Fortunately, many do survive, and live to tell how they managed to cut down or even stop opioid use. Here is how some Politico readers successfully tapered off their drug use:
Danielle J. of Naples, Florida, who was using opioids for years, and who, at the time of her reporting to Politico, was transitioning to medical cannabis, encouraged everyone, “Don't be a hero if you're in pain while tapering down. Tell the doctor where you are and ask for advice.”
Another reader, Jamey Feuer of Teaneck, New Jersey, is relying on medical marijuana and regular exercise for his pain—after using opioids for 23 years. 
RELATED: The Truth About CBD And Withdrawal
The Current State of the Opioid Crisis in the U.S.
- More than 115 Americans die per day due to an opioid overdose.
- Approximately 21 to 29 percent of patients who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain, misuse opioids.
- Between 8 and 12 percent develop an opioid use disorder.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are focusing on measures such as:
- improved access to treatment, and,
- safe and effective, non-addictive strategies to manage chronic pain, as a response to the opioid crisis. 
However, despite this, the federal government has made little progress in eliminating the factors that contribute to the growing crisis. A recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report shows that overdoses have increased by a third across the United States in 14 months, between 2016 and 2017.  
RELATED: CBD and Opioids: Is CBD A Solution to The Opioid Epidemic?
CBD As A Potential Remedy for Opioid Withdrawal
More and more prominent academic voices are calling for a different approach to the opioid crisis.
Prof. Yasmin Hurd, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Addictive Disorders within Mount Sinai Behavioral Health, is tirelessly exploring cannabinoids. A part of her research is the effectiveness of cannabinoids for opiate withdrawal. She has even conducted some small-scale human trials to observe the effects of cannabidiol (CBD) on people with substance abuse disorder. 
In a paper reviewing the development of CBD for the treatment of addiction disorders, Hurd mentions her clinical study. She notes that patients' drug cravings were significantly reduced after a single dose of CBD. The effects were also long-lasting—up to seven days after administration—which was confirmed when subjects were tested again. This puts CBD for opiate withdrawal front and center in the national debate. It is interesting that these patients also scored low on anxiety tests. 
An article published in 2014, titled Medical cannabis laws and opioid analgesic overdose mortality in the United States, 1999-2010, compares opioid overdose rates in people between states that have legalized medicinal marijuana to those that haven’t. Interestingly, the results showed a 25 percent decrease in opioid overdose rates in states where people had access to medical marijuana. The authors of the study concluded,
“Medical cannabis laws are associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates.”
Even though these numbers show promising results, more studies are needed to explore cannabis as a means to decrease the opioid overdose rate. 
RELATED: How Cannabidiol is Replacing Prescription Painkillers
Emerging Evidence for CBD’s Role in Opioid Use Disorder
Researchers only have a limited number of scientific studies available to consider the effects of CBD specifically on opiate addiction. However, just by looking into the existent body of research, some researchers have found evidence of cannabidiol for the treatment of certain phases of addiction.
In a 2015 review titled Cannabidiol as an Intervention for Addictive Behaviors: A Systematic Review of the Evidence, the researchers discussed that “data on CBD’s impact on the withdrawal phase of opioid dependence tend to show no or little benefits when administered alone, but may act in synergy with THC on opioid withdrawal. Finally, and possibly most importantly, CBD influences the relapse phase of opioid addiction by decreasing cue-induced, drug-seeking behaviors.” When used during the intoxication phase, CBD also reduced the reward-facilitating effect of morphine in mice, according to the study. 
In another animal study that examined the behaviors of heroin-addicted rats, CBD effectively reduced cue-induced drug-seeking behavior for up to two weeks after testing. The researchers speculated that this was possibly due to physiologic changes in the rats' neurobiology, including the endocannabinoid system. 
RELATED: Can CBD Help With Withdrawal for Heroin Users?
A small, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study that included 24 smokers, showed the positive effects of CBD on addictive behaviors. The scientists concluded that, in comparison with placebo, "... those treated with CBD significantly reduced the number of cigarettes smoked by ~40% during treatment. Results also indicated some maintenance of this effect at follow-up. These preliminary data, combined with the strong preclinical rationale for use of this compound, suggest CBD to be a potential treatment for nicotine addiction that warrants further exploration."
Another recent study published in Neuropsychopharmacology evaluated the relapse-prevention potential of CBD in rats with alcohol or cocaine self-administration histories. The results were promising, since “...CBD attenuated context-induced and stress-induced drug seeking without tolerance, sedative effects, or interference with normal motivated behavior.” What's equally impressive—these results lasted up to five months afterward, long after the CBD has left the mices' systems.
The authors of the study concluded that “(T)he 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. “ 
This basically means that more study is needed, but CBD appears to, in principle, prevent drug relapse even when the addict is experiencing triggers.
Final Thoughts on CBD For Opiate Withdrawal
Even by working with a limited body of research, experts such as Prof. Hurd, as well as the authors of the Cannabidiol as an Intervention for Addictive Behaviors Review, believe the benefits of CBD on substance abuse go beyond that of addiction. It is common for substance use disorder to go hand in hand with other mental health conditions and psychological issues, such as anxiety, sleep and mood disorders, or chronic pain. 
Another, recent article reviewed emerging evidence that cannabis may have a role in ameliorating the impact of opioid use disorder. The article considered the fact that a number of FDA-approved opioid replacement therapies and maintenance medications are not risk-free, nor are they effective for all patients.
The article concluded that “the compelling nature of these data and the relative safety profile of cannabis warrant further exploration of cannabis as an adjunct or alternative treatment for OUD.” 
It is undeniable that CBD for opiate withdrawal shows promising results. Although we are still in the early stages of research, CBD has successfully been used as a remedy for opiate withdrawal by many people with chronic pain. The results of more studies on human subjects that many experts, including Dr. Herd, are eager to conduct, could just stop a national crisis.
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