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Can CBD Be Used to Treat Cocaine Addiction?

A new study from Spain shows promising results.

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One of the many unfortunate facets of cocaine addiction is that there is no reliable medication to help people overcome it. After years of research, scientists have yet to develop a medicine that directly combats the addictive power of the human-made drug.

However, a new study involving mice offers some hope that such a medication is possible. And it consists of the use of CBD, which is fast emerging as a potential treatment for everything from chronic pain to acute anxiety.

Researchers found that mice treated with CBD were less likely to re-start using cocaine after a period of non-use. That behavior continued even after researchers subjected mice to triggers associated with their use of cocaine.

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The research offers hope to people suffering from cocaine addiction.

Cocaine addiction ranks among the worst addictions a person can suffer. Made from the leaves of the coca plant in South America, the drug is a "powerfully addictive stimulant," according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). 

Depending on how cocaine is used, its addiction can lead to loss of smell, asthma, respiratory disease, severe bowel decay, and stronger risk for contracting HIV and hepatitis C. Because the human brain becomes used to the extra dopamine released by the drug into the brain, they need increasingly stronger doses of cocaine to get high.

There are an estimated 1.5 million cocaine users in the United States. The NIDA points out that there are no FDA-approved medications to treat cocaine use disorder.

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CBD breaks the addiction cycle in the brains of cocaine-using mice.

The recent study, done by researchers in Spain and published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, involved mice who became addicted to cocaine and then went through a period of abstinence for three to four weeks. 

Those treated with CBD showed strong resistance to reusing cocaine when given the opportunity. Notably, the researchers also found that CBD seemed to reverse the brain reprogramming that comes with cocaine use, making people seek higher doses of the drug. That reprogramming is at the very heart of addiction.

Researchers used two different kinds of stress to induce the mice to reuse cocaine - cocaine priming (in which they gave mice one dose and then see if they voluntarily take another) and "social defeat" that puts them under immense stress. That the mice remained resistant to reusing cocaine suggested that CBD could help those whose cocaine addiction is fueled by stress or anxiety.

Other researchers not involved in the study told the Observer that the study's findings support anecdotal evidence from treatment centers that cannabis works well as a "replacement therapy" for people weaning themselves off far more dangerous drugs.

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