Medical Cannabis Shows Promise to Treat Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms

27th January 2021

Recent studies have found that a cannabis derivative may be effective in reducing withdrawal symptoms associated with cocaine and methamphetamine use. Cannabidiol (CBD) treatment has been linked to a reduction in cocaine self-administration. 

Addictive substances, such as cocaine, can have a damning impact on the users’ brain function, with drug abuse potentially leading to “seizures, ischemic strokes, myocardial infarction, and acute liver injury.”

While there are still no approved pharmacotherapies for the treatment of cocaine addiction and addiction to other “psychostimulant drugs”, some studies found that cannabidiol (CBD) use could be useful in mitigating withdrawal symptoms.

As Gary L. Wenk Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today, withdrawal symptoms are the result of exposing the brain to chemicals, including drugs as well as sugar. When it happens, the brain adjusts.

This explains why, when we suddenly remove the substance (in this case, cocaine), “the brain demands its return.”

Following long-term cocaine abuse, he continues, it is now known that there is a significant effect in gene expression in the brain – more precisely, in the brain’s “reward and pleasure-related neurotransmitter systems, dopamine and endocannabinoids.”

Could CBD be the solution?

The results of a recent study, cited in Wenk’s article shows that mice exposed to the spontaneous cocaine withdrawal model presented increased motor activity, somatic withdrawal signs, and high anxiety-like behaviour.

The researchers concluded that CBD normalised motor and somatic signs and “induced an anxiolytic effect.” Moreover, they say, CBD treatment corrected changes in the gene expression.

Elsewhere, Marijuana Moment cites a study published in the Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behaviour journal in which researchers analysed more than a dozen animal studies assessing CBD treatment in cocaine abuse. The findings of this review were equally promising.

The paper quotes: “CBD promotes reduction in cocaine self-administration. Also, it interferes in cocaine induce brain reward stimulation and dopamine release.

“CBD promotes alteration in contextual memory associated with cocaine and in the neuroadaptations, hepatotoxicity and seizures induced by cocaine.”

The findings of these studies demonstrate that CBD could be a promising option for the treatment of cocaine dependency. However, researchers stress that more clinical trials are needed to determine whether the success in animal trials is transferrable to humans struggling with drug misuse disorders.

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