Scientists and representatives from the University of Mississippi pitched CBDVHS, a cannabidiol analog to the National Institute of Health for a program they are running to find a non-opioid analgesic drug in early April, they expect to hear back any day now.
Dr. Kenneth Sufka, a UM professor of psychology, pharmacology, and philosophy, and his team worked with the marijuana Research Center at the University of Mississippi who created a cannabidiol analog (CBDVHS) which was shown to be as powerful as an opioid with no observed adverse side effects.
They also found that when CBD (cannabidiol) was taken with an opioid, it would inhibit or prevent the development of addiction and other adverse side effects associated with the drug.
Dr. Sufka with Dr. Hannah Harris, a UM graduate who works at Columbia University, were working with Dr. Mahmoud ElSohly’s team to find out if pure forms of CBD and THC used separately could relieve pain, using Chemotherapy-induced Neuropathy (CIN) as a model to test it.
They found through their research that THC on its own was not anymore effective than what is currently on the market, and they had read literature that it could promote the growth and proliferation of cancer cells, so they decided to devote their attention to CBD .
They found that CBD either had no effect on growth or inhibited it.
“So, you know, we were thinking our money’s in the CBD ballpark. At the same time, we were trying to come up with a strategy for enhancing Cannabidiol’s effect,” Sufka said.
Sufka said at the point of collecting data from the pure forms of CBD and THC, Dr. ElSohly and his team then created a Cannabidiol analog [CBDVHS], which they found to have powerful analgesic effects.
“When we got the results. All the data or statistics and you graph it out, you look at it, and you know, we might have said something like ‘Oh, my God, this is impossible.’,” Sufka said.
Dr. Hannah Harris, one of the scientists who tested CBDVHS while attending the University of Mississippi for her Bachelors, Masters, and Ph.D., is now working at the University of Columbia with Dr. Adam Bisaga where they are looking for a long-acting opioid antagonist. She is also working on chronic administration of CBD.
Dr. Harris joined Dr. Sufka’s lab while she was in her undergraduate program, she said that she felt a strong urge to research this study.
“That was a very ironic moment, because when I was 10, I was actually diagnosed with cancer, and the same chemotherapy that he [Sufka] wanted to research was the same chemotherapy that I had. So, I knew instantly, that was what I wanted to do, that was what I wanted to research,” Harris said.
While the research is promising, the drug must still be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. To this end, the Licensing for CBDVHS was given to Skye BioSciences, a biotech company in 2018 for the purpose of investing in the drug and to further study CBDVHS in what Sufka calls the “Drug Discovery Pipeline”.
This comes as promising news for those who are both concerned about the effects of opioids on their body and those who are addicted to them.
Many people all over the USA already use CBD as a source of pain relief though. Dylan Crowell, a Mississippi native, started taking CBD after using opioids for several years.
Crowell uses CBD to help treat his rheumatoid arthritis, which he was diagnosed with when he was eight years old, he also uses it for headaches and as a stress and anxiety reliever.
Crowell said that he just wants to get on something natural.
“To get on something, and not craving the pain pill. You are worn out, and you had to worry about with withdrawals. With CBD, you don’t have all that,” Crowell said.
Crowell has a lot of faith in CBD to help a lot of people manage their pain without having to take opioids, and without having to deal with the real possibility of getting hooked as he did. For people like Crowell, CBD offers the only solution for their pain.
But the Opioid crisis is far from over, and unfortunately, the increased stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic has caused an increase in opioid abuse with a concerning increase in synthetic opioids like fentanyl, now surpassing the number of prescription opioid abuse.
During the height of the pandemic, in June of 2020, the CDC reported a 13% increase in substance abuse. And According to the American Medical Association, more than 40 states reported an increase in opioid-related mortalities, Mississippi included.
The Opioid crisis has been tackled by local, state, and federal bodies of government and law enforcement. State initiatives like Stand-Up Mississippi actively work with the government and law enforcement to provide better prevention of opioid addiction and overdoses as well as an effective treatment for those who are rehabilitating.
The crisis has been a problem for many years, especially to law enforcement who are on the front lines of opioid-related crimes. Oxford Police chief Jeff McCutchen commented on some of the challenges officers have faced while trying to protect and serve their communities.
“Officers carry Narcan on their person when they’re responding to these calls. And probably in the last two, two and a half years, you know, we’ve probably had 10, maybe even 15 saves within Narcan,”
McCutchen also said that with the increased number of fentanyl cases, officers have had to use more than just one dose of Narcan, and since officers only carry one dose with them in their belts, this means that they sometimes must call multiple officers to the scene to save people who are overdosing on fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a highly dangerous, highly potent opioid that can cause an overdose in humans with as little as 2 milligrams.
Oxford has not been exempted from this issue. Reporting a rise in fentanyl overdoses and hospitalizations in both the fall and spring semester of the 2020-2021 school year.
McCutchen agrees that the opioid crisis in Mississippi has worsened in the last year.
“we’ve seen a bit of an increase in the last probably two and a half, maybe three years. And it’s steady growth. I believe we’ve had 13, overdoses this year already, which is alarming.”
This is a startling statistic considering that from January to September of 2020, there had only been 11 opioid overdoses cases in the entire county.
Mississippi’s opioid crisis isn’t going anywhere any time soon, but with state initiatives and law enforcement the situation can be managed. And with the potential for new drugs like Cannabidiol Analog, people may yet see an end to one of America’s greatest crises in it’s history.