Cannabis has long been known to ease symptoms like nausea, loss of appetite, panic attacks, and tremors. Many of these symptoms also appear when someone detoxes from a hard drug like heroin or cocaine. The chemicals derived from cannabis are being studied as a potential therapy for addicts because they can ease the symptoms of withdrawal and may even prevent some addicts from relapsing. Some studies have shown that cannabinoids, in particular CBD, can help ease recovery for people addicted to opioid drugs in several ways. Not only does CBD help recovering addicts to eat more, but scientists think the anti-anxiety effects of CBD can help recovering addicts to avoid their drug of choice.
Let’s talk about how CBD can help recovering addicts in more detail, including what it does in the brain to relieve cravings and withdrawals.
CBD Hemp Oil Helps Withdrawal Symptoms
Before we start talking about exactly how CBD helps withdrawal symptoms, let’s talk about the two stages of opioid withdrawal. The first phase is called acute withdrawal and it begins between 12-30 hours after the addict’s last use. Acute withdrawal symptoms peak around day 4 and can last up to four weeks. Acute withdrawal symptoms are most of the physical symptoms, including: running nose, teary eyes, goose bumps, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
The second stage of opioid withdrawal is called post-acute withdrawal and it can last for two years. These are more emotional symptoms. They are generally less severe than the acute symptoms, but they last quite a bit longer. These symptoms include: mood swings, variable energy and concentration, disturbed sleep, and anxiety. These symptoms are very similar to health issues related to PTSD, which many patients relieve with cannabinoids.
CBD Hemp Oil has been proven to help all of these symptoms outside the scope of opioid withdrawal — if you’re an avid cannabis user, you know just how good cannabis is at taking care of nausea and giving you the “munchies.” There haven’t been a lot of case studies directed specifically toward opioid withdrawal symptoms, but some doctors already recommend cannabidiol to cancer and AIDS patients to prevent vomiting and nausea. We already know that CBD has been proven to stimulate an appetite as well.
The reason why CBD helps with opioid withdrawal symptoms like nausea is because appetite is as much mental as it is physical, especially in the case of opioid users and AIDS patients. There has always been an established connection between cannabinoid receptors and an increase in appetite, but these receptors also coordinate with other neurons in the brain. Neurons in the hypothalamus control appetite stimulation, sending signals to the brain when a person is hungry or full. Cannabinoids trick your brain into thinking you’re hungry again even if you just ate by changing the production of these appetite hormones.
Cannabidiol Calms Cravings
We talked about how cravings and up-regulation works in a previous article, but it’s no different with opioids except that the up-regulation is a lot more dangerous when you consider how easy it is to overdose on opioids. However, CBD can help. One major reason why CBD helps with cravings is because CBD can act on opioid receptors. This means that CBD and other cannabinoid molecules basically satisfy the craving by slotting into the opioid receptors like puzzle pieces. Cannabidiol stops the “payoff” factor of addiction by stopping the craving before it starts, so to speak. By filling the receptor, CBD stops the reward pathway from triggering you to desire the addictive substance. Therefore, because the reward pathway was never fired, you have reduced cravings.
It’s not all about little molecules in the brain; CBD has an effect on our behavior and emotions too. Cannabidiol helps break associations between the addictive substance and mundane occurrences in someone’s life. If a person has connected cooking dinner with taking opioids, this is called a cue-induced craving. CBD can break this by interacting with the serotonin system, giving the recovering addict a milder, more natural and calming happy feeling than the drug.
Cannabinoids as Substitutes for Opioids
Because it obstructs the pathways of reward and also calms anxiety, cannabidiol can keep addicts from relapsing by changing their behavior. Recent studies on rats that were addicted to morphine showed that, after being given CBD hemp oil, they didn’t seek out the drug when they had the chance. In other studies, CBD has been shown to limit the drug-seeking behavior in relation to opioid drugs, nicotine, and cocaine.
While we’re trying to fight opioid addiction, we also have to look at why people are taking opioids in the first place. Generally, they are prescribed opioids for acute or chronic physical pain. Many patients may be prescribed opioids for something like a broken leg or chronic back pain, despite the fact that many opioid drugs are highly addictive with harsh withdrawal symptoms like we just described. However, we can stop the opioid addiction before it starts. CBD and other cannabinoids are a viable alternative for people suffering from chronic pain.
CBD has similar effects as opioids but less, if any, withdrawal symptoms and the threshold for an overdose of CBD is almost impossible to meet. Cannabinoid oil has an anti-inflammatory and painkilling effect on the body because it also fits into receptors in the body called the endocannabinoid system. Cannabinoids have also been found to be beneficial in treating insomnia related to chronic pain, and reducing anxiety in many patients.
More Studies Are Needed About CBD and Opioid Addiction
Many studies have focused on CBD and recovery from addiction to opioid drugs, as we’ve just seen. This is in part because of the opioid crisis facing the U.S., as well as the growing support for legalization of cannabis for medical use. Every time scientists look at cannabinoids and their effects on the brain and the body, they find more benefits. With the growing opioid addiction problem, CBD could be a key treatment option if we can prove these benefits. More studies need to be done, however, to fully understand the effects of CBD on drug-seeking, withdrawal, and relapse.