Cannabidiol as a Strategy to Treat Alcohol Dependence

INVESTIGATOR: Giordano de Guglielmo, PharmD, PhD

STUDY LOCATION: University of California, San Diego

PROJECT TITLE: Cannabidiol as a Strategy to Treat Alcohol Dependence

FUNDING SOURCE: Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research

PROJECT TYPE: Pre-Clinical Study

STATUS: Active


The legitimate medical use of marijuana and cannabinoids has been recently debated. Various medical benefits of cannabinoids have been described, but the prescription of cannabis for medical use faces major challenges. Cannabis contains distinct non-psychoactive, non-addictive constituents that may have medical benefits and may be more amenable to therapeutic use. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a major candidate that has recently received attention for its potential to decrease drug and alcohol use. The currently approved medications for alcohol use disorder (AUD) have limited efficacy and significant side effects and are used by only 10% of patients with AUD. Thus, the development of novel and more effective medications for AUD is a pressing medical need. Preclinical studies showed that chronic CBD treatment decreased alcohol drinking and prevented the reinstatement of alcohol seeking that was induced by environmental cues and stress. However, these studies were performed in nondependent animals, and the effects of CBD on addiction-like behaviors in dependent animals remains to be determined. The present proposal seeks to fill this critical gap in the literature by testing the effects of chronic CBD treatment on addiction-like behaviors in dependent rats using an innovative animal model of the voluntary induction and maintenance of alcohol dependence in rodents (chronic intermittent ethanol vapor self-administration [EVSA]). We generated data that suggest that the neuropharmacology of the EVSA model may differ from the current gold standard in the field, namely chronic intermittent ethanol vapor (CIE), suggesting that the EVSA model may help identify novel medications. The present proposal will directly test whether chronic CBD treatment prevents the development and/or reverses the expression of addiction-like behaviors, prevents and/or reverses the alcohol withdrawal-induced activation and/or neurodegeneration of brain regions that are responsible for the volitional aspects of alcohol dependence (Specific Aim 1) and prevents relapse (Specific Aim 2) in alcohol-dependent rats using state-of-the-art animal models.