Cannabidiol (CBD) reduces cravings and anxiety in individuals with heroin use disorder, a study has found.

The study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry last month, found CBD’s potential to reduce craving and anxiety “provides a strong basis for further investigation of this phytocannabinoid as a treatment option for opioid use disorder”.

AT A GLANCE

  • There have been little signs the American opioid epidemic — killing 130 people a day — is abating
  • One clinical trial has found CBD has the potential to make an impact as a treatment for opioid addiction
  • A study from University of Queensland researchers said doctors should not fear repercussions prescribing opioids for terminally ill patients

It found CBD administration, in contrast to a placebo, significantly reduced both craving and anxiety induced by the presenting patients images of drugs.

In addition, CBD reduced physiological measures of addiction including heart rate and salivary cortisol levels. There were no significant effects on cognition, and there were no serious adverse effects.

Human trials had only previously demonstrated efficacy in patients suffering from epilepsy, though many pre-clinical animal trials are underway.

The opioid crisis has meant some doctors have become fearful of legal and professional repercussions if terminal ill patients they prescribe opioids pass away, though a UQ professor says those fears are unfounded.

“Some are choosing to abandon end-of-life care altogether rather than risk professional ruin should they persist in the use of any opioid therapy,” Professor Mitchell said.

“The fear is that the use of medicines to minimise suffering and distress at the very end of life may hasten death and be construed by critics as euthanasia by stealth.”

But the research showed regulatory bodies were not seeking to apportion blame, Professor Mitchell said.

Opioids should not be avoided, and the minimum dose that achieves pain relief or reduction of chronic breathlessness should be prescribed. Clinical practice that seeks to alleviate suffering will be respected by the law and not punished,” said Geoff Mitchell, professor of general practice and palliative care at UQ.

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