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We now have scientific evidence that cannabidiol (CBD) could be an effective replacement for opioids addiction, as well as useful in treating pain. CBD blocks the reward of opioids, and may be used in treating those addicted to them by blocking their rewarding effects, according to a new medical study.

Breakthrough for addiction treatment

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The study was conducted by University of Mississippi researchers and published in the journal Planta Medica.

Researchers discovered that a dose of 10 mg per kg of cannabidiol, which is non-psychoactive, was effective in blocking opioid rewards, and that “when administered alone, this dose of cannabidiol was void of rewarding and aversive properties. The study “sought to determine whether the cannabis constituent cannabidiol attenuates the development of morphine reward in the conditioned place preference paradigm.”

Separate groups of mice “received either saline or morphine in combination with one of four doses of cannabidiol using three sets of drug/no-drug conditioning trials. The scientists concluded,

The finding that cannabidiol blocks opioid reward suggests that this compound may be useful in addiction treatment settings.

Exit drug, not a gateway

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The findings support the idea that marijuana is an “exit drug,” rather than a “gateway drug,” as drug warriors used to claim. (That “gateway” claim, has, by the way, been thoroughly debunked.)

A Los Angeles-based addiction treatment center named High Sobriety allows opioid-addicted patients to use cannabis to help wean themselves off hard drugs, reports Jane Street. Cannabis can, in many scenarios, satisfy the same ailments – insomnia, pain, anxiety – that opioids can.

Many pain patients, in fact, say they prefer cannabis to opiate painkillers. A study of almost 3,000 medical marijuana patients showed that 97 percent said cannabis could help them decrease their use of opioids.

Another 80 percent said cannabis, by itself, was more effective than opioid painkillers and marijuana together. An overwhelming 92 percent said they preferred just cannabis to treat their pain.

New study reinforces previous findings

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The new University of Mississippi study bolsters the results of previous studies. A 2015 study found that CBD is an effective intervention for addictive behaviors, and speculated that this is because cannabis modulates “various neuronal circuits involved in drug addiction.” Researchers concluded,

CBD has several therapeutic properties on its own that could indirectly be useful in the treatment of addiction disorders, such as its protective effect on stress vulnerability and neurotoxicity. …

The dreadful burden of substance-use disorder worldwide, combined with the clear need for new medication in the addiction field, justifies the requirement of further studies to evaluate the potential of CBD as a new intervention for addictive behaviors.

With about upwards of 19,000 Americans dying of opioid overdoses each year – and with a four-fold increase in opioid prescriptions since 1999 – we definitely need some help in dealing with this crisis.

A 2014 study found that states with medical marijuana laws have 25 percent fewer deaths fro opioid overdoses, compared to states without medical cannabis.

Since CBD interacts with the same neurological systems as opioids, scientists speculate that it can help dissolve the associations of reward with opioids, through interacting with the serotonin system, reports Leafly

Early research has shown that CBD has shown remarkable potential to reduce drug-seeking behavior, diminish withdrawal symptoms, and limit cravings.

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Steve Elliott

Editor/Publisher at Toke Signals
Steve Elliott has been a journalist since 1974, has been trained on how to do that since 1982, and has worked the cannabis beat since 2007. Elliott is the author of The Little Black Book of Marijuana. He runs the blog TokeSignals.com.
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