CBD could be used to treat cannabis addiction, a new study findsCannabis has made the list of most controversial topics over the years. While mainly health claims have been linked to the plant, one ingredient in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), has been shown to produce worrying symptoms, leading to its label as an illegal drug in many countries.
Common temporary symptoms of cannabis include elevated heart rate, mood changes, decreased coordination, memory problems and trouble sleeping. But studies have suggested long-term use can lead to more lasting and serious complications, such as damage to the lungs, heart problems and depression.
But now, another ingredient in the cannabis plant has been shown to treat cannabis use disorder - CBD.
There are many cannabinoids (compounds) found in the cannabis plant, but THC and CBD are perhaps the most prominent.
THC is famed for its psychoactive effects. But CBD doesn’t have this, so may offer a better alternative.
While research is in its early stages, studies have suggested CBD can offer pain relief, ease anxiety and clear skin conditions like acne.
Now, a new study has suggested CBD could treat cannabis addiction.
The study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, is the first to report such a finding.
But the four-week study wasn’t designed to provide robust estimates of the magnitude or duration of efficacy, so further studies are needed.
Researchers found an optimal daily dose of between 400mg and 800mg of CBD.
The authors of the study said these findings are important in light of major policy changes surrounding the production and sale of cannabis products, as well as increases in the number of people entering treatment for cannabis use disorders and the absence of recommended treatments for this.
Dr Tom Freeman, the study's lead author and Director of the Addiction and Mental Health Group at the University of Bath, UK, said: "Our study provides the first causal evidence to support cannabidiol, or CBD, as a treatment for cannabis use disorders.
“This is encouraging, as there are currently no drug treatments for cannabis addiction.
“CBD products are widely available in many countries but we would not advise people to self-medicate with these products. People with concerns about their cannabis use should always speak to a healthcare professional in the first instance."
Cannabis addiction affects an estimated 22 million people worldwide, but there are currently no medications recommended for the treatment of cannabis use disorders.
Previous studies have suggested taking CBD products could help to reduce withdrawal symptoms in people who are actively trying to quit cannabis use.
But the studies weren’t clear as to whether these effects were due to CBD because participants knew what medications they were taking or CBD was administered with THC.
As part of this study, participants were randomly assigned to treatment groups and asked to take two capsules of CBD twice daily for four weeks.
The placebo group were given capsules containing no CBD, while the other participants received a daily dose of either 200mg, 400mg or 800mg of CBD.
They all then received six counselling sessions designed to help them quit causing cannabis, which took place before and during the study period.
Weekly urine samples were taken and tested for levels of THC to assess how much cannabis has been consumed in the past week.
Participants were also asked to report how many days they have abstained from using cannabis that week.
In the first stage of the trial, 12 people per group were assigned to either the placebo, 200mg, 400mg or 800mg of CBD. After the first phase, the 200mg dose was found to be ineffective. The participants taking this were then removed from the trial.
A further 34 people were recruited to the second stage of the study and randomly assigned either the placebo, 400mg of CBD or 800mg of CBD.
Daily doses of 400mg and 800mg were found to reduce participants’ cannabis intake. Also, abstinence from cannabis use increased by an average of 0.5 days per week in the group who received the 400mg daily doses of CBD, and 0.3 days per week in the group who received 800mg CBD daily.
There was no difference in side effects experienced by the placebo group and those receiving any dose of CBD.
There were also no serious adverse events during the study, suggesting CBD is safe and well tolerated at the doses tested.
Professor Valerie Curran, senior author and Director of the Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit at University College London, UK, added: "Our findings indicate that CBD doses ranging from 400mg to 800mg daily have the potential to reduce cannabis use in clinical settings, but higher doses are unlikely to bring any additional benefit.
“Larger studies are needed to determine the magnitude of the benefits of daily CBD for reducing cannabis use."
The study was carried out over a four week treatment period with a follow up which extended to six months.
The researchers concluded additional research is needed to investigate the extent to which their findings translate to different durations of treatment.
Studies are also needed to investigate whether CBD directly reduces cannabis use or if it reduces other mental health symptoms which may indirectly affect cannabis use.