Non-psychoactive cannabinoid may enable drug addiction recovery

Science Spotlight

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Researchers in a lab
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An animal study finds that cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive chemical found in marijuana, may help reduce the risk of drug and alcohol relapse. The research, conducted by the Scripps Research Institute, was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, both part of the National Institutes of Health.

The researchers applied a gel containing CBD every day for a week to the skin of the rats with a history of daily alcohol or cocaine self-administration. The CBD appeared to be effective in reducing reinstatement of drug-taking — considered a model of drug and alcohol relapse.  It also reduced anxiety and impulsivity often associated with drug dependence. Notably, the reduced reinstatement, which was induced by stress or drug-related environmental cues, lasted for five months after the initial treatment was discontinued, when CBD was no longer detectable in either blood or brain. 

CBD has been studied as a treatment for certain severe childhood epilepsy syndromes. These findings reinforce other possible therapeutic benefits of non-psychoactive cannabinoids, but the authors highlight the need for additional research on the use of CBD for relapse prevention.

For a copy of the abstract, go to "Unique treatment potential of cannabidiol for the prevention of relapse to drug use: Preclinical proof of principle," published in Neuropsychopharmacology.

For more information about cannabinoids/marijuana, visit NIDA's medical marijuana webpage.

For more information about drug and alcohol relapse prevention, visit NIDA's treatment approaches to drug addiction webpage.

For more information, contact the NIDA press office at media@nida.nih.gov or 301-443-6245. Follow NIDA on Twitter and Facebook.

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About the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): NIDA is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug use and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to inform policy, improve practice, and advance addiction science. For more information about NIDA and its programs, visit www.drugabuse.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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