According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, over 96,700 people die from drug overdoses each year. Opioids are a factor in 7 out of 10 overdose deaths. Naloxone is often used to reverse opioid overdoses, but it is not as effective in its ability to reverse fentanyl overdoses.
New research is showing that CBD medications may reverse fentanyl overdoses. Read on to find out more.
How Can CBD Medications Reverse Fentanyl Overdoses?
Researchers from Indiana University tested cannabis derivatives to find which would reverse fentanyl overdoses.
Taryn Bosquez-Berger, a graduate student involved in these studies, tested various compounds in cells infused with a substance called DAMGO, an opioid reserved for lab studies. She monitored a molecular signal that becomes reduced when the opioid binds to the cells.
15 cannabinoids were tested at varying concentrations to determine their effects on fentanyl. In some instances, they were combined with naloxone, in others they were used on their own.
Findings showed the medications could reduce fentanyl’s binding effects even at incredibly low doses. It outperformed naloxone’s opioid-blocking effects. It provided a synergistic effect when combined with naloxone.
How CBD Works to Reverse Fentanyl Overdoses
Fentanyl is particularly resistant to naloxone because, as compared to other opioids, it binds more tightly to the receptors in the brain.
Naloxone works by competing with drug molecules for the binding sites on the receptors. But fentanyl binds so readily, that it’s difficult for naloxone to beat it. Individuals may need multiple doses for it to be effective.
Although scientists have attempted to find ways to make the treatment more effective, they have been unsuccessful thus far.
They have been looking at CBD medications to reverse fentanyl overdoses based on prior research. In 2006, German scientists concluded that CBD alters the shape of opioid receptors to interfere with opioid binding. They found when the cannabinoid binds with naloxone, it forces the receptors to release opioids enhancing its effects.
One graduate student involved in the German study, Jessica Gudorf, altered CBD’s structures to generate derivatives which may be even more effective in their ability to reverse fentanyl overdoses. These derivatives comprised the 15 used in the study.
The Future of CBD Medication Studies to Reverse Fentanyl Overdoses
The team is continuing its studies by testing the most successful derivatives in mice. They are also looking at how CBD alters behavior associated with fentanyl use.
“We hope our approach leads to the birth of new therapeutics, which, in the hands of emergency personnel, could save even more lives.” Bosquez Berger stated.
Co-principal investigator on the project, Michael VanNieuwenhze, also weighed in saying, “Ideally, we would like to discover a more potent replacement for naloxone. However, finding something that works synergistically with it, reducing the amount needed to treat an overdose, would also be a success.”
Can CBD Reverse Addiction?
CBD’s ability to reverse fentanyl overdoses could be tied to its anti-addictive characteristics.
Studies involving cannabinoids’ ability to reduce addiction can be traced back over 20 years. A scientist named Yasmin Hurd began researching to understand the effects of marijuana on brain development. She and her team were interested in finding out what role the molecules in marijuana play in other forms of substance abuse.
Her animal studies found that THC exposure before birth or during the mice’s adolescent years was more likely to make them seek out heroin later in life. Conversely, CBD made them less likely to use heroin based on environmental cues.
Previous research has established that people who died from heroin overdoses often show abnormalities of faulty communications between nerve cells in the brain. Hurd’s studies showed that CBD normalized some of those changes.
CBD and Opioid Withdrawal
CBD has also been shown to help people dealing with opioid withdrawal. Withdrawal occurs when a person stops taking an addictive drug. The body is so used to having the drug in its system that it gets sick when it is no longer present.
Symptoms include headaches, nausea, vomiting, sleeplessness, hallucinations and more.
The person knows the only way to get rid of these symptoms is to go back to using the drugs. The effect makes opioids difficult to overcome.
CBD helps people get through withdrawal by offering pain-relieving properties. Reduced feelings of pain make withdrawal more bearable.
It may also be an effective substitute for Methadone, Subutex, and Suboxone which are often used as opioid replacements as a safer way to reduce cravings. It has been shown to decrease cravings and reduce the rewarding effects of various drugs. It is also safe and tolerable.
How Bad is the Opioid Epidemic?
Many attempts have been made to end the opioid epidemic, but thousands of opioid-related deaths occur each year. Here are some statistics to consider.
- Opioids are the deadliest type of drug playing a role in 71.76% of overdoses every year.
- Opioids kill three times as many people as cocaine.
- Opioids kill more than 136 Americans every day.
- Opioid-related OD deaths increased by 255.74% between 2000 and 2019.
- The sharpest increase in drug-related OD deaths per year occurred between 2015 and 2016 going up by 21.5%. This same year saw synthetic OD death rates doubling while the rate of OD deaths involving any type of opioid spiked by 27.89%.
- Heroin-related OD deaths increase at an average rate of 55.7% each year.
- The rate of synthetic opioid-related OD deaths increased at an annual rate of 580% between 2012 and 2017.
Hopefully, CBD’s ability to reverse fentanyl overdoses can reduce some of these numbers.