Products made with cannabidiol, or CBD, a chemical in the cannabis plant, seem to be everywhere these days. But a recent Canadian study finds CBD won’t help cure a person’s cocaine addiction or benefit them during detox.
Improving the treatment of cocaine addiction would be a blessing to many. According to the 2019 World Drug Report, published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (ONUDC), more than 18 million people worldwide use cocaine. In North America, close to 5.5 million people use cocaine regularly, and nearly 1 in 5 becomes addicted.
Facing these statistics, scientists have been investigating potential therapies to help treat cocaine addiction and the associated problems. In the past few years, treatment with cannabidiol—known for its protective effects on the brain and liver—emerged as a potential solution and was the focus of several scientific studies.
However, per a study published in January 2021 in the journal Addiction and conducted by researchers at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Center, CBD does not lessen addicts’ craving for cocaine or reduce their risk of relapse.
Led by Professor Didier Jultras-Aswad, professor of psychiatry and addictology at the University of Montreal, their clinical trial included 78 people with a cocaine use disorder (most cases were considered to be severe), average age 46, who were randomly divided into two groups. One group received 800 mg a day of cannabidiol; the other group was given a placebo. Neither the participants nor the researchers knew which treatment was administered.
After detoxing for 10 days in the hospital, the participants were all allowed to return home and were assessed weekly for the next three months.
The author of the research, Violaine Mongeau-Pérusse, a doctoral student at the research center, stated in a hospital news release, “In our study, the use of CBD was not more effective than a placebo in treating cocaine use disorder. Although it is safe and produces only mild side effects, CBD reduces neither the craving to use cocaine nor the risk of a user’s relapse after detoxification.”
Calling their results instructive, the University of Montreal researchers expressed hope their study will provide helpful medical guidelines in the future regarding the therapeutic use of CBD, given its rise in popularity both in North America and around the world.
Dr. Jutras-Atwad concluded, “Research efforts should continue to find efficacious treatment for this type of dependence.”
“Other studies,” added, Mongeau-Perusse, “will be needed to continue to sort out the conditions under which CBD may be helpful or not.”
For those struggling with or trying to recover from cocaine dependency, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), reports there are a number of evidence-based approaches to treating a cocaine use disorder — often all or a number of these are a standard part of the treatment protocol at local addiction treatment centers around the country. These include, but are not limited to, Contingency Management (CM), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Therapeutic Communities (TC). As well, NIDA states telephone-based counseling—which is in more use, given the current COVID-19 pandemic—has shown promising results as an efficient way to provide aftercare. They also point out community-based recovery groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous or Cocaine Anonymous, that use a 12-Steps program, can be helpful in maintaining abstinence.
The first step in recovering from a cocaine use disorder is reaching out and asking for help. If you or someone you know is considering medical detox and treatment for a dependency on cocaine, please contact a professional addictions treatment center in your area.