Imagine if scientific evidence emerged that cannabidiol (CBD), a fundamental medical cannabis extract, showed potential to prevent people from lapsing back into cocaine addiction after they had been rescued from their substance abuse disorder. Can you imagine how valuable that data would be to the medical infrastructure, to many thousands of afflicted individuals struggling with cocaine relapse, and to agonizing families and loved ones?
America’s Cocaine Problem
Cocaine use and the criminal activities that go along with trafficking the lethal drug continue to be a massive strain on American health systems, a drain on the U.S. economy, and a major contributor to America’s incarcerated population.
- Statistics compiled by the National Institute on Drug Abuse indicate that annual cocaine overdose deaths rose from 3,822 in 1999 to 15,883 in 2019, a more than 415% increase.
- Archives from the National Institute of Corrections rank cocaine as the primary drug type for 54 percent of drug offenders in federal prison.
- The Obama White House calculated the economic drain of drug abuse disorder in the USA at $193 billion for the year 2007 (the most recent reckoning available from the National Institute on Drug Abuse).
- $120 billion in lost productivity due to participation in drug abuse treatment, incarceration, and premature death.
- $11 billion in costs for drug‐related medical consequences.
- $61 billion in criminal justice investigation, prosecution, incarceration, and victim costs.
Taking the numbers into account, the federal government’s response to any glimpse of a pharmacological solution to America’s costly and fatal addiction crisis surely should be to fund and coordinate a flurry of research into expanding and clarifying that partial view, even when that glimpsed solution is seen in the marijuana plant.
Indications that legalizing medical cannabis already contributes to reducing prescription drug abuse, bringing down workers comp claims, decreasing problematic alcohol intake and lowering opioid deaths have been reported for years.
If new clues to the cannabis plant’s harm reduction potential were to emerge from accredited researchers anywhere in the world, for instance Spain, it’s only logical that the United States medical establishment would leap across oceans to partner in producing a breakthrough that could rid our country of the scourge of substance abuse disorder.
It’s Time to Partner Worldwide on CBD Research
Juan Carlos Ledesma, Carmen Manzanedo and María A. Aguilar are a team of psychobiology specialists associated with the Department of Psychobiology at the Universitat de València in Valencia, Spain. Their expertise focuses on investigations of psychobiology and drug dependency, in particular neurobehavioral mechanisms that contribute to addictive behavior.
In a study that gives away its conclusions in its title, “Cannabidiol Prevents Several of the Behavioral Alterations Related to Cocaine Addiction in Mice,” the Spanish investigators observed the struggles of male mice who at 21 days old were alternately injected with cocaine and deprived of the drug once they became thoroughly strung out on it. The cocaine craving rodents were next injected with combos and unadulterated shots of CBD and cocaine.
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A variety of experiments was conducted on the mice to determine the effects of CBD intervention on the addict mouse’s susceptibility to reengaging with cocaine after a period of abstinence.
The researchers’ interpretations, to be published in the December 20, 2021, issue of medical journal Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry and currently previewed in online research review Science Direct, conclude that CBD alone will not motivate a strung out mouse to kick its life draining habit, and CBD showed no effectiveness against “acquisition, expression or extinction” of cocaine induced CPP.
“CPP” is an abbreviation for Conditioned Place Preference. The U.S. National Institutes of Health refers to CPP as the preference of drug-seeking laboratory animals to stick close to the place where their reward of choice is dispensed.
Extending the CPP principle to humans, when detoxed addicts compulsively return to the lawless places where dangers awaited them in their using pasts, their psychobiology is driving them toward relapse.
In further discouraging words, the Universitat de València investigators discerned no signs that CBD could relieve the indicators of depression (sad, languid movement when suspended by the tail) experienced by the mice in the throes of withdrawing from regular, expected injections of cocaine at a potency of 25 mg. of drug for every one kg. of body weight.
What Relapse Triggers Did CBD Help Mice Resist?
On a positive note, the critical eyes and actions of Valencia’s exacting neurobiology investigators found evidence that:
When administered during the extinction phase of a mouse’s cocaine conditioned place preference, CBD derailed attempts to trigger reinstatement of CPP—important because it illustrates the possibility that CBD may accelerate the elimination of drug-seeking behaviors.
CBD abolished cocaine generated hyperactivity without altering the spontaneous locomotion of the animals—important because the loss of inhibitory control due to drug-induced hyper-locomotion contributes to the shift from voluntary to compulsive drug consumption. CBD treatments that block cocaine-induced locomotor stimulation may prevent effects that lead to cocaine addiction.
CBD, as tracked by an object recognition test, reduced the memory deficits brought on by cocaine withdrawal—important because memory disturbances and negative feelings experienced by addicts during withdrawal “constitute a potent driver for craving and relapse.” Prevention of emotional and cognitive dysfunction needs to be a priority in an effective pharmacotherapy to extend a cocaine hiatus into enduring abstinence.
“Overall,” summed up the study’s investigators and authors, “our data suggest that CBD can prevent the development of cocaine addiction and, when administered during cocaine abstinence, may be of help in avoiding relapse to drug-seeking and in ameliorating the memory disturbances provoked by chronic consumption of cocaine.”
The National Institute on Drug Abuse lists Methadone (Dolophine®, Methadose®), buprenorphine (Suboxone®, Subutex®, Probuphine® , Sublocade™), and naltrexone (Vivitrol®) as medications effective against opioid dependency.
Spain’s CBD researchers argue that since “no successful [pharmacology] therapies against cocaine use disorder have yet been approved, the development of effective treatments for cocaine addiction is a clinical priority.”
In 2021, a pathway to freedom from cocaine compulsions should not be traveled by mice alone.
What is the Impact of this Study?
Without raising expectations that CBD will cool out every last American crack pipe by the end of summer, the results of “Cannabidiol Prevents Several of the Behavioral Alterations Related to Cocaine Addiction in Mice” are a signpost pointing to cannabidiol as a direction that is ripe for exploration.
Previous attempts to establish CBD as a cocaine cure for humans have not always succeeded, as noted in coverage of the Spanish researchers’ CBD explorations by the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) on June 24, 2021:
Human trials assessing the use of either cannabis or cannabinoids in cocaine-dependent subjects have yielded inconsistent results. A pair of longitudinal trials from Brazil and Canada reported that the use of cannabis was associated with the decreased use of crack cocaine in dependent subjects. By contrast, a more recent study—published earlier this year in the journal Addiction—reported that the daily administration of CBD failed to reduce cocaine cravings any better than placebo in subjects with a history of moderate to severe cocaine abuse.
Defying the mixed results of human CBD trials, NORML titled its addicted mice post “CBD Administration Mitigates Cocaine Dependency in Animals.” The fact remains that drops a day of CBD can take the edge off cocaine withdrawal in animals.
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These small victories of cannabidiol over cocaine should be encouraging to any human who has experience with cocaine addiction, any human interested in harm reduction regarding substance abuse disorders, any human excited by scientifically supported evidence of CBD’s many benefits to body and mind, every human who recognizes that reversing the course of addiction is crucial to the country’s health and emotional wellbeing, and to every human who realizes that scientific advancements are most often incremental.