Nirvana Recovery

Role of CBD in Arizona Addiction Treatment: Separating Hype from Evidence

As the popularity of cannabidiol (CBD) has surged in recent years, so too has interest in its potential therapeutic applications, including in the field of addiction treatment in Arizona. In Arizona, where adult-use marijuana was recently legalized in 2020 and hemp-derived CBD products are widely available, individuals in recovery and treatment providers alike may be curious about CBD’s possible role in managing substance use disorders (SUDs).

However, while some preliminary research suggests CBD could have benefits for addiction, much of the hype around it has outpaced the evidence. This article will examine the current state of the science on CBD in treating SUDs, with a focus on studies relevant to Arizona populations, to help separate facts from unsupported claims.

CBD's Mechanisms of Action

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in marijuana and hemp plants, which does not produce the psychoactive “high” typically associated with THC. CBD’s therapeutic effects are believed to arise from its interactions with the body’s endocannabinoid system and various other receptors within the brain.

In the short term, CBD has been noted to cause changes in alertness, mood alterations such as irritability or agitation, and drowsiness or sedation. It also has the potential to interact with other drugs, potentially causing serious side effects. There are gastrointestinal effects as well, such as distress, nausea, or diarrhea. In the long term, there may be risks such as liver injury and male reproductive toxicity, although these effects are less well-understood and require further research.

Delta-9 THC, on the other hand, is known for its more immediate effects on the brain and nervous system, including altered senses, distorted perception of time, mood changes, and cognitive disruptions like difficulty in thinking and memory impairment. It may also lead to psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and psychosis. Chronic use of Delta-9 THC is associated with long-term impacts on brain development, potential breathing problems, and digestive system effects like nausea and vomiting.

When we consider CBD as part of a treatment strategy for substance abuse, it’s important to weigh its potential short-term and long-term health effects, as evidenced by the image.

Preclinical studies have shown promise in CBD’s ability to reduce cravings, anxiety, and impulsivity related to substance abuse. However, as research evolves, a more thorough understanding of CBD’s exact mechanisms of action and the full scope of its benefits and potential risks will be crucial for its application in addiction treatment.

potential health effects of delta 9 thc and cbd

The State of the Evidence

Most clinical research on CBD for addiction has focused on opioid use disorder (OUD) and cannabis use disorder (CUD). Here’s a brief overview of key findings:

Opioids

  • A 2019 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that CBD reduced cue-induced cravings and anxiety in individuals with heroin use disorder. However, the study was small (42 participants) and only looked at short-term effects.

    Here’s the table regarding demographic characteristics of participants in a study of cannabidiol (CBD) for the reduction of craving and anxiety in drug-abstinent individuals with heroin use disorder.
table regarding demographic characteristics of participants in a study of cannabidiol CBD for the reduction of craving and anxiet
  • In a 2015 report, researchers from the University of Arizona reviewed preclinical evidence suggesting CBD could help reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms and relapse risk. They called for human trials to investigate CBD as an adjunct treatment for OUD.

Cannabis

  • A 2019 clinical trial published in The Lancet Psychiatry tested a 4-week course of CBD in treating CUD. While CBD was well-tolerated, it was no more effective than a placebo in reducing marijuana use or cravings.

  • However, a 2021 systematic review in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research concluded that CBD may have a role in treating specific cannabis withdrawal symptoms, like anxiety and sleep disturbances, based on limited evidence.

Other Substances

Research on CBD for other SUDs, such as alcohol and stimulant use disorders, is even more scarce and inconclusive. A few small studies have shown potential benefits for reducing cocaine and methamphetamine cravings, but larger trials are needed.

Limitations and Unknowns

Despite some promising early findings, the evidence for CBD in addiction treatment is far from conclusive. Most studies to date have been small, short-term, and preclinical, making it difficult to draw firm conclusions about CBD’s efficacy and safety in real-world clinical practice.

There are also many open questions about optimal dosing, formulation, and duration of CBD treatment for SUDs. The FDA has only approved one prescription CBD product (Epidiolex) for seizure disorders; all other CBD products on the market are unregulated supplements that may vary widely in quality and content.

Furthermore, CBD’s long-term effects and interactions with other SUD treatments are largely unknown. The potential for adverse reactions like liver toxicity or medication interactions underscores the need for caution and medical supervision when considering CBD use in addiction treatment.

Implications for Arizona Providers

While CBD may hold promise as a complementary tool in managing certain addiction symptoms, Arizona treatment providers should be cautious about recommending it prematurely. The available evidence supports continuing research on CBD in SUD populations but is not yet strong enough to warrant widespread clinical use.

Instead, providers should emphasize evidence-based therapies like medication-assisted treatment, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and contingency management that have more established benefits for SUD recovery. If clients express interest in CBD, providers can share objective information about the current state of the science and encourage them to discuss any CBD use openly.

The Path Forward

Continued research is essential to clarify CBD’s potential role in addiction treatment, including for underserved populations disproportionately affected by SUDs in Arizona. Future studies should investigate CBD’s efficacy, safety, and mechanisms of action in larger, more diverse samples over longer periods, as well as its interactions with standard SUD therapies.

Partnerships between Arizona universities, medical centers, and addiction treatment programs can help advance this research and provide valuable insights into CBD’s real-world utility in local clinical settings. Only through rigorous scientific inquiry can we hope to separate the realities of CBD from the current hype.

Conclusion

CBD is a promising but unproven candidate for enhancing addiction treatment. While preclinical findings and some small clinical studies suggest potential benefits, many uncertainties remain about its efficacy, safety, and appropriate use in SUD populations, including in Arizona.

As research continues to evolve, the best approach for Arizona treatment providers is to stay informed about the latest evidence, discuss any CBD use with clients openly and objectively, and continue prioritizing proven therapies as the foundation of effective, evidence-based addiction treatment. That is why we have attached its PDF below so that you can get clarity regarding how it is derived and how it differs from delta-9 THC. By doing so, we can help Arizonans in recovery make informed decisions about their care while hoping for new adjunctive tools that may one day expand our therapeutic arsenal.

author avatar
Nirvana Recovery