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CBD shows promise as treatment for methamphetamine use disorder: New study

By Jacqueline Havelka
Nov 26, 2018

In a new study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, researchers found that CBD inhibited rats’ motivation to consume methamphetamine. The rats were trained to self-administer the drug by pressing a lever, which led to them receiving intravenous infusions. Researchers found that treating the rats with high doses of CBD, in the area of 80 mg/kg reduced the animals’ motivation to consume more methamphetamine.

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Lower doses of 40 mg/kg or 20 mg/kg had no effect on the rats’ behaviors. Researchers also tested whether CBD impacted the rats’ motivation to ingest sugar, but found that it didn’t, suggesting that CBD has a very targeted effect rather than affecting the brain’s reward mechanism in general.

CBD in the fight against substance use disorder

By now, the benefits of CBD have become widely known to the mainstream public. Cannabidiol is one of over 100 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. CBD has the potential to treat many ailments, such as anxiety, inflammation, and sleep disorders. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved the first CBD-based drug, Epidiolex, used to treat two rare pediatric forms of epilepsy.

While cannabis overall remains a restricted Schedule I drug, Epidiolex was rescheduled to the least restrictive category and is now widely available for physicians to prescribe to patients.

The preliminary findings of this latest study suggest that CBD could be useful in fighting methamphetamine use disorder, a disease which has taken a backseat to the opioid epidemic in recent years even though the consequences of abuse can be equally consequential.  

Researcher Jennifer Cornish of Macquarie University who conducted the study said that CBD had not been previously investigated as a potential treatment for substance abuse disorders.

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“Methamphetamine is a psychostimulant, however, the effect of cannabidiol (CBD) had not yet been investigated for reducing reward or relapse in rats experienced at lever pressing for intravenous methamphetamine infusions,” Cornish said according to a report in Erie News Now. “As it is known that CBD acts on a number of targets in the brain that may impact on the pharmacology of methamphetamine use, this study was a logical next step for discovering more about methamphetamine addiction and the effects of CBD treatment.”

The neurobiology of substance use disorders

Cornish’s team focuses on understanding the neurobiology of methamphetamine use disorder in an effort to discover effective treatments, reduce methamphetamine use and prevent potential drug relapses. Her research adds a new piece to a small but growing body of evidence that CBD may be an effective treatment for patients struggling to stay clean.

“One focus of my laboratory is to understand the neurobiology of methamphetamine addiction so that we can discover effective treatments to reduce this burden on our society,” said Cornish according to Erie News Now. “Cannabinoids are showing promise as medications for a number of mental health disorders and symptoms in preclinical models, including drug addiction and relapse for opiates and psychostimulants.”

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Cornish explained that the results of her study can be used to design further experiments that examine CBD’s effectiveness as a potential therapy for methamphetamine use disorder. Cornish hopes to further delve into the research to understand the exact mechanisms by which CBD reduces the desire to intake more methamphetamine.

Just scratching the surface

According to reports, Cornish said that it is very important for people to understand that medical cannabis refers to a very broad range of natural substances in the plant — much more than just psychoactive THC, the cannabinoid most associated with marijuana use. She also explained that with over 400 chemicals currently identified in the cannabis plant, researchers have barely scratched the surface, and many of the therapeutic uses of cannabis are likely yet to be discovered.

[A third of marijuana sales still black market: Canadian poll]

“The potential therapeutic benefits of these chemicals are great and should be explored to develop targeted therapies for mental health (or other) disorders,” Cornish said, according to reports.

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