Non-psychoactive cannabis ingredient could help addicts stay clean

March 23, 2018, Springer

A preclinical study in rats has shown that there might be value in using a non-psychoactive and non-addictive ingredient of the Cannabis sativa plant to reduce the risk of relapse among recovering drug and alcohol addicts. The study's findings inform the ongoing debate about the possible medical benefits of non-psychoactive cannabinoids, and the way that these may be used as therapeutics. So says Friedbert Weiss, leader of an investigative team at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, in Neuropsychopharmacology.

Staying drug-free is a constant battle for abstinent addicts. This struggle is made more difficult when former-addicts find themselves in drug-related settings, experience stress or higher levels of anxiousness. Many struggle to control their impulses when offered an addictive drug like alcohol or cocaine.

Weiss and his research associate Gustavo Gonzalez-Cuevas set out to test the effect of Cannabidiol (CBD) on drug relapse in a rat model. CBD is the major non-psychoactive ingredient of Cannabis sativa, a plant that is used to make marijuana. CBD has been considered for some time as a possible treatment for various neurological and psychiatric disorders, and more recently also for the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction.

The researchers applied a gel containing CBD once per day for a week to the skin of the in the current study. These animals had a history of voluntary daily alcohol or cocaine self-administration, leading to addiction-like behaviour. Various tests were performed to see how they reacted to stressful and anxiety-provoking situations and behavior in tests of impulsivity, a psychological trait associated with drug addiction. The researchers reported that CBD effectively reduced relapse provoked by stress and drug cues; CBD also reduced anxiety and impulsivity in the drug-experienced rats.

Further studies showed that CBD was completely cleared from the brain and plasma of the rats three days after the therapy was completed. Quite unexpectedly though, five months later, experimental animals that had been treated with CBD still showed a reduced relapse induced by stress or drug cues. The authors of the study believe that insight into the mechanisms by which CBD exerts these effects in future research may open new vistas for the pharmacotherapeutic prevention of relapse to use.

"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," says Weiss. "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." He goes on to say that "Drug addicts enter relapse vulnerability states for multiple reasons. Therefore, effects such as these observed with CBD that concurrently ameliorate several of these are likely to be more effective in preventing than treatments targeting only a single state."

Explore further: Brain mechanisms in drug addiction—new brain pathways revealed

More information: Gonzalez-Cuevas, G. et al. Unique treatment potential of cannabidiol for the prevention of relapse to drug use: Preclinical proof of principle, Neuropsychopharmacology DOI: 10.1038/S41386-018-0050-8

Related Stories

Brain mechanisms in drug addiction—new brain pathways revealed

November 24, 2016
UNSW researchers have identified new brain pathways linked to addiction and shown that by manipulating them, drug seeking behaviour and motivation for alcohol can be reduced.

Cocaine changes the brain and makes relapse more common in addicts

April 28, 2015
Cocaine use causes 'profound changes' in the brain that lead to an increased risk of relapse due to stress - according to new research from the University of East Anglia.

Study with rats suggests drinking alcohol increases risk of addiction to cocaine

November 2, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers working at Columbia University has found a possible link between prior use of alcohol and an increased risk of cocaine addiction. In their paper published on the open access site Science ...

Research offers hope for treatment of cocaine addiction

July 15, 2011
New discoveries by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) offer potential for development of a first-ever pharmacological treatment for cocaine addiction.

In rats that can't control glutamate, cocaine is less rewarding, staving off relapse

July 11, 2017
Rats missing a neuroreceptor that controls the release of the neurotransmitter glutamate are less amenable to the rewarding effects of cocaine, increasing their chance of kicking the habit once addicted, researchers from ...

Could targeting oxtyocin help treat opioid addiction?

April 5, 2017
A new review of published research indicates that the oxytocin system—a key player in social reward and stress regulation—is profoundly affected by opioid use. Therefore, it may be an important target for developing medications ...

Recommended for you

Study shows how bias can influence people estimating the ages of other people

October 17, 2018
A trio of researchers from the University of New South Wales and Western Sydney University has discovered some of the factors involved when people make errors in estimating the ages of other people. In their paper published ...

Infants are more likely to learn when with a peer

October 16, 2018
Infants are more likely to learn from on-screen instruction when paired with another infant as opposed to viewing the lesson alone, according to a new study.

Researchers use brain cells in a dish to study genetic origins of schizophrenia

October 16, 2018
A study in Biological Psychiatry has established a new analytical method for investigating the complex genetic origins of mental illnesses using brain cells that are grown in a dish from human embryonic stem cells. Researchers ...

Income and wealth affect the mental health of Australians, study shows

October 16, 2018
Australians who have higher incomes and greater wealth are more likely to experience better mental health throughout their lives, new research led by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre has found.

Study suggests biological basis for depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances in older adults

October 15, 2018
UC San Francisco researchers, in collaboration with the unique Brazilian Biobank for Aging Studies (BBAS) at the University of São Paulo, have shown that the earliest stages of the brain degeneration associated with Alzheimer's ...

Linguistic red flags from Facebook posts can predict future depression diagnoses

October 15, 2018
In any given year, depression affects more than 6 percent of the adult population in the United States—some 16 million people—but fewer than half receive the treatment they need. What if an algorithm could scan social ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.