CBD Shows Promise In The Opioid Crisis


But Medical Production Standards Are Crucial.

America’s opioid addiction is a medical emergency with more than half a million deaths over the past two decades. However, recent studies into cannabidiol (CBD) suggest that it could be the crucial weapon needed to combat the crisis.

Researchers are finding the cannabinoid not only curbs opioid cravings but enhances the effects of the opioid antidote, naloxone. 

While the opportunity to use CBD in medicine is enormous, there is a lack of regulation and quality control in the industry, with many products untested for purity and potency. Therefore, medical standards are crucial to creating trusted and effective products at the epidemic front lines. Let’s explore how this can be achieved.

The potential of CBD in combating opioid addiction

Two peer-reviewed studies from the past month have highlighted the potential benefits of CBD in the opioid crisis.

The first comprehensive study into the impact of inhaled CBD on opioids found that the cannabinoid reduced opioid reward in female rats. The study also found that CBD is “modestly efficacious” in reducing neuropathic pain and has no adverse effects on measures of cognitive function or social behavior. This study suggests that clinical studies examining CBD as an adjunct treatment during opioid use disorder are highly warranted.

In the second study last month, researchers conducted experiments with CBD’s structure in the laboratory to develop and test derivatives against an opioid. After screening and selecting 15 compounds, they evaluated them against fentanyl, both with and without naloxone. Several of these compounds were more effective than naloxone – also known as Narcan – in blocking opioids and reducing fentanyl binding. Additionally, two of the derivatives enhanced the effectiveness of naloxone when used in combination.

The problem with CBD today

But there’s a catch. Many CBD products on the market today are untested for purity and potency, contain incorrect label information and exceed legal contaminant limits. This is because a lack of regulation and enforcement has allowed bad actors and poor-quality products to proliferate. 

For example, roughly half of the products in one study delivered the wrong amount of CBD as advertised on the label. In another study, samples from CBD shops and smoke shops labeled as hemp were actually high-THC cannabis products. Further, more than 40 percent of the samples exceeded legal limits for pesticide and heavy metal contaminants.

This lack of quality control is simply not good enough for use in medicine, especially in the context of the opioid epidemic.

The future of CBD and the opioid crisis

The industry must clean up its act and meet the moment. This can be achieved through regulation with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stepping in and setting baseline production standards. 

Right now, there are very few restrictions when it comes to CBD products, from oils and salves to bath bombs to candies. So, in the continued absence of federal oversight, the industry must better regulate itself by making third-party, independent product testing a norm for the many rather than the few. 

In my view, companies should pressure other industry players to publish their test results and ensure the product does what it says on the label. Further, we should call out those who aren’t meeting the bare minimum.

With more research, attention and legitimacy, CBD has a great opportunity to play a role in combating the opioid crisis. At the same time, other technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning will further our knowledge in this direction. As I wrote last year, technology will help make better inferences over time about how cannabinoids interact with the human body, leading to more effective treatments.

I wholeheartedly believe CBD can one day help combat the opioid epidemic. But, the lack of today’s product quality control undermines the potential benefits. It’s up to us in the industry to step up in the face of this public health crisis and find a way forward for effective, safe treatment with CBD.

This article is by Scott Mazza, COO and Co-Founder of Vitality CBD


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