Multiple cannabinoids derived from the marijuana plant have potential therapeutic benefits but most have not been well investigated, despite the widespread legalization of medical marijuana in the USA and other countries. Therapeutic indications will depend on determinations as to which of the multiple cannabinoids, and other biologically active chemicals that are present in the marijuana plant, can be developed to treat specific symptoms and/or diseases. Such insights are particularly critical for addiction disorders, where different phytocannabinoids appear to induce opposing actions that can confound the development of treatment interventions. Whereas Δ9-tetracannabinol has been well documented to be rewarding and to enhance sensitivity to other drugs, cannabidiol (CBD), in contrast, appears to have low reinforcing properties with limited abuse potential and to inhibit drug-seeking behavior. Other considerations such as CBD’s anxiolytic properties and minimal adverse side effects also support its potential viability as a treatment option for a variety of symptoms associated with drug addiction. However, significant research is still needed as CBD investigations published to date primarily relate to its effects on opioid drugs, and CBD’s efficacy at different phases of the abuse cycle for different classes of addictive substances remain largely understudied. Our paper provides an overview of preclinical animal and human clinical investigations, and presents preliminary clinical data that collectively sets a strong foundation in support of the further exploration of CBD as a therapeutic intervention against opioid relapse. As the legal landscape for medical marijuana unfolds, it is important to distinguish it from “medical CBD” and other specific cannabinoids, that can more appropriately be used to maximize the medicinal potential of the marijuana plant.
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