CBD-mediated regulation of heroin withdrawal-induced behavioural and molecular changes in mice

Addict Biol. 2022 Mar;27(2):e13150. doi: 10.1111/adb.13150.


Cannabidiol (CBD) may represent a promising therapeutic tool for treating opioid use disorder (OUD). This study was aimed to evaluate the effects of CBD on the behavioural and gene expression alterations induced by spontaneous heroin withdrawal. Thirty hours after cessation of 8-day heroin treatment (5, 10, 20 and 40 mg·kg-1 /12 h; s.c.), spontaneous heroin withdrawal was evaluated in CD1 male mice. The effects of CBD (5, 10 and 20 mg·kg-1 ; i.p.) on withdrawal-related behaviour were evaluated by measuring anxiety-like behaviour, motor activity and somatic signs. Furthermore, gene expression changes of mu-opioid receptor (Oprm1), proopiomelanocortin (Pomc), cannabinoid CB1 (Cnr1) and CB2 (Cnr2) receptors in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) and Pomc in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) were also evaluated by real-time PCR. Anxiety-like behaviour, motor activity and withdrawal-related somatic signs were significantly increased in heroin-treated mice compared to the control group. Interestingly, CBD treatment significantly reduced these behavioural impairments and normalized gene expression of Cnr1 and Pomc in the NAcc and TH in the VTA of mice exposed to spontaneous heroin withdrawal. Also, CBD induced an up-regulation of Cnr2, whereas it did not change the increased gene expression of Oprm1 in the NAcc of abstinent animals. The results suggest that CBD alleviates spontaneous heroin withdrawal and normalizes the associated gene expression changes. Future studies are needed to determine the relevance of CBD as a potential therapeutic tool for the treatment of heroin withdrawal.

Keywords: cannabidiol; gene expression; heroin; mice; withdrawal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cannabidiol* / pharmacology
  • Heroin / metabolism
  • Heroin / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Nucleus Accumbens
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome* / metabolism
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / metabolism


  • Cannabidiol
  • Heroin