Cannabis has been shown as a promising alternative to opioids, and possibly even a way to help people free themselves from the addiction to them. Accessibility to medical cannabis has even been directly correlated to a decrease in opioid use within legal states. For patients with chronic pain, the analgesic effect of cannabis makes it a viable alternative to prescription opioids.
As we have previously reported, CBD in particular may help with addictions to opioids because it reduces the desire for drug seeking behaviors, as seen through a mouse modeled study and anecdotal evidence among humans.
The endocannabinoid system is deeply connected with how drugs are processed in the human body with established patterns of addiction. A recent study, published in the journal Addictive Behaviors may show an ability for cannabis to help patients with addictions to crack cocaine.
Crack is a crystalline version of cocaine that is normally found in a powdered form. It is heated and smoked, which produces and extremely potent high far stronger than cocaine. The study out of the British Columbia Center on Substance Abuse, which is based in Vancouver, looked at 122 people. These 122 people featured in the study all consumed crack and were tracked over a three year period. When cannabis was consumed, it was found that overall consumption of crack cocaine was reduced.
M.J. Milloy, the senior author of the study and an infectious diseases epidemiologist at the British Columbia Center on Substance Abuse said about the study, “"We're not saying that these results mean everyone will be able to smoke a joint and forget the fact that they are dependent on crack…What our findings do suggest is that cannabinoids might play a role in reducing the harm of crack use for some people.” This study provided similar results to a much smaller study that was conducted in Brazil. The Brazil Study, which only featured 25 people, found that two thirds of those people stopped using crack when they consumed cannabis.
Another study, which was published in the journal Natural Neuroscience in 2011, was a mouse modeled study that looked at cocaine addiction and cannabis. Though cocaine is slightly different than crack it is essentially a less concentrated version of it. The study conducted by joint researchers from Beijing and Baltimore, looked at mice self administration of cocaine. The researchers intentionally got mice addicted to cocaine and then taught them how to administer it.
Some of the mice were then treated with a synthetic cannabinoid, which reduced their desire for cocaine. The study, though conducted with a different substance, was very similar to the mouse modeled heroine study. Another similar study was conducted in Spain in 2005. This study, which was published in the journal Neuropharmacology, looked at how CB1 receptors effect dependency in mice. The study indicated that CB1 receptors are crucial in addiction and self administration desires.
The issue of crack addiction has been largely overshadowed by the opioid epidemic, and it is important to look at the potential that cannabis has on addiction overall. Crack use is highly tied with other diseases and conditions like HIV and Hep C, so addressing this condition is important to improving the overall health of the crack-addicted population. The idea of using cannabis to treat an addictive condition is still seen as very controversial, but the connection of addiction with the body’s internal endocannabinoid system is becoming increasingly evident.
Though cannabis is not necessarily a cure for crack addiction, it indicates a strong necessity for further study into how cannabis could aid people with crack addiction. Milloy, the author of the British Columbia Center for Substance Abuse study stated, "We certainly have no illusions that this is the final word on the matter. Indeed, I think what it really is, it may be a first step…So what we hope is that further study will let us know if it is in fact an effective substitution treatment for crack cocaine use disorder. To that end, we are putting together a clinical trial, which we hope will better test the hypothesis that cannabis could be useful to people who are suffering from this disorder." A clinical trial by the center could be the evidence needed to conclusively determine if cannabis could be the key to helping free people from the bonds of crack addiction.