Norman-A study published on August 9th by researchers out of the University of Mississippi shows that cannabidiol, a nonpsychoactive derivative of cannabis, successfully blocks the opioid receptors in the brain, effectively halting the “reward” component of opioid use that leads to addiction. From the abstract:
“This 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…
…when administered alone, this dose of cannabidiol was void of rewarding and aversive properties. The finding that cannabidiol blocks opioid reward suggests that this compound may be useful in addiction treatment settings.”
The conclusions of the research have, so far, not received as widespread attention as seems to be deserved, considering the implications for how to approach the devastating opioid epidemic currently sweeping the country.
The study is also not the first investigation into the effects of cannabis in the treatment of opioid addiction. A review of the current literature reveals that cannabidiol attenuates the cravings and other withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid addiction.
A 2015 study, “Cannabidiol as an Intervention for Addictive Behaviors: A Systematic Review of the Evidence”, found preliminary evidence of CBD’s importance in mitigating stimulant reward receptors, allowing for a far smoother transition out of addiction.
Marijuana’s effectiveness in treating addiction isn’t limited to heroin alone, but also addiction to other hard drugs such as cocaine and meth. In a study published in 2013 by the National Institute of Health, researchers found that “cannabinoids modulate brain reward systems closely involved in stimulants addiction, and provide further evidence that the cannabinoid system could be explored as a potential drug discovery target for treating addiction across different classes of stimulants.”
Meth addiction in particular may be effectively treated with cannabis during the critical detox stage that addicts must endure in order to successfully free themselves from dependence on the drug. The anxiety and depression that the addict endures during detox can be successfully treated with marijuana, dramatically decreasing the probability of relapse.
Research into the medicinal benefits of marijuana, however, is hindered by its Schedule 1 classification, which means that, for a truly systematic study into the limits of its medicinal potential, researchers must cut through a veritable Gordian Knot of red tape. Which means Congress must act to remove the archaic restrictions that surround the plant. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in particular has been at the forefront in a renewed effort to halt further research into medical marijuana. Sessions, along with the Department of Justice, has halted more than 25 applications for the cultivation of cannabis for the purposes of medical research.
Despite the retrograde attitude of the current Administration, the research appears to prove conclusively that the key to ending the opioid epidemic is to unleash marijuana’s potential. Weaning addicts off of opioid-based painkillers and heroin via THC-free cannabidiol, while simultaneously fast-tracking cannabis-based painkillers to replace prescription heroin would be a good starting point. But cannabis, a drug that has been proven to treat everything from depression, severe childhood epilepsy, post-traumatic stress syndrome, chronic pain, and overall well-being with virtually no side effects, has been viewed as a last resort for many lawmakers. Oklahoma in particular, where meth is still the number one cause of overdose deaths, could benefit enormously from a policy of across-the-board marijuana legalization, yet policymakers appear to fight tooth and nail to prevent any forward movement toward that goal.