Study Investigates Whether Cannabis Derivative Can Supplement Effects of Naloxone in Reversing Opioid Overdoses

Published on: 

Initial findings from a recent study suggested that cannabidiol (CBD) derivatives made naloxone treatment more effective, even against the opioid fentanyl.

In a study presented at the American Chemical Society spring meeting, researchers investigated whether different derivatives and dosages of cannabidiol (CBD) could be used as an adjunct or substitute for naloxone – sold as Narcan – in treatment of overdoses. Narcan is an antidote for overdoses of opiate drugs like fentanyl and works by blocking opioid receptor sites in the brain and the effects on the central nervous system (1). It was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as an over-the-counter medication (2).

To develop the CBD derivatives, researchers changed the structure of CBD to create new compounds, and eventually narrowed the field to 15 compounds that were tested against fentanyl, both with and without naloxone (3). Researchers found that some CBD derivatives prevented fentanyl from binding to opioid receptor sites, even at low concentrations, and two compounds enhanced naloxone's performance when used in combination with it. Past studies suggest that CBD can hamper opioid binding by altering the shape of receptor sites, forcing the receptors to release opioids and making naloxone treatment more effective (3).


“Mostly we’ve been trying to figure out which parts of the CBD compound were relevant for these effects and building on that to find compounds that are more effective,” said. Dr. Alex Straiker, the study’s co-principal investigator.

The researchers plan to conduct a follow-up animal study to test the most promising derivatives on mice.