Can Cannabis Oil Help Prevent Drug, Alcohol Relapse?

By Paul Gaita 03/29/18

A new study explored whether CBD oil could be an effective tool in recovery from alcohol and substance use disorders.

doctor holding a cannabis leaf and oil.

New research has added to the growing opinion that cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant, may prove effective in reducing chances of relapse in alcohol and drug dependency.  

Fortune examined a study in which a CBD gel was administered to rats that were experiencing cravings from daily doses of cocaine. The study authors found that the rats exhibited fewer signs of relapse after receiving the oil, even when prompted by cues that had instructed them to take the substance.

The research appears to echo what several other studies involving the compound have suggested: that CBD may have potential as an effective tool in recovery from alcohol and substance dependency.

The study, conducted by researchers from the Scripps Research Institute's Department of Neuroscience, University of Maryland and Zynerba Pharmaceuticals, and published in the March 2018 online edition of the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, examined the possible efficacy of CBD in treating craving and relapse caused by drug use and exacerbated by stress and anxiety levels and "impaired impulse control."

Rats with a history of self-administering alcohol or cocaine were given a transdermal dose of CBD once daily for a period of seven days, and then put through stress and anxiety tests.

Their research found that these rats showed reduced issues of craving, as well as lower levels of anxiety and no signs of impulsivity. Upon completion of the week-long CBD treatment, the rats were again tested up to five months later, and again, the cravings and related stressors appeared to be abated, suggesting that CBD had potential for a long-term beneficial effect, even within a brief timeframe of treatment.

A host of studies have suggested that CBD may prove effective in the treatment of numerous conditions; the World Health Organization noted in 2017 that CBD "exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential," and could produce positive results in the treatment of epilepsy, inflammation, pain relief and anxiety and depression.

CBD oil is currently allowed in 17 states for the treatment of a number of serious illnesses, including treatment-resistant epilepsy and other seizure disorders, as well as Parkinson's disease, ALS and other conditions.

Research on various fronts has also supported the theory that CBD may be effective in treating dependency on alcohol, cocaine and heroin.

However, opinion within the recovery and medical communities appears divided on whether the evidence to promote its use as treatment is sufficient—with proponents putting forth positive results in tests involving opioids and heroin, while others have suggested that further testing is required in order to make a definitive statement on CBD and drug dependency.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.