The neuroscientist Yasmin Hurd is superfluous in her ambitions because she cares. The New York-based scientist wants to build a global consortium on how cannabidiol can beat what is currently known as the “opioid crisis.”
With political challenges hampering research on cannabis especially amid the latest federal crackdown on the ever mushrooming marijuana industry, Hurd is frustrated.
“I don’t need to be the only person in the room studying cannabidiol for opioid addiction,” Hurd told Stat News. “It can’t be done with just one little Yasmin Hurd lab.”
Hurd, who has long studied human brains of those who died from cocaine and heroin addiction, predicted the looming opioid crisis. She believes cannabidiol, a component found in marijuana, might hold the potential to squash cravings for heroin and other opioids.
There are already past studies, which showed how cannabidiol works on a number of brain circuits involved in addiction.
“If this is something that could be potentially beneficial, and there’s an indication that it could be beneficial,” she said, “why not put all hands on deck?”
Hurd, who was named to the prestigious National Academy of Medicine, along with dozens of other top-tier researchers last fall, said the U.S. federal government classifying marijuana as a Schedule I drug like heroin, LSD, ecstasy, and peyote is a big problem.
“Our hands are tied even though cannabidiol is not addictive,” Hurd said.
To fully research cannabidiol or any part of the cannabis plant for research, a scientist has to get a special license from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which can take years.
Afterward, scientists have to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to administer it to patients.
On top of that, patients who are participating in clinical trials must come to the lab of the researcher who holds a DEA license to get the drug, which isn’t always practical for those suffering serious ailments.
These hiccups are the reason why there are relatively few scientists researching cannabis, and how even fewer of them are studying its potential especially that of cannabidiol in eradicating addictions in humans.
These obstacles are also the reason why it is impossible for her to study the specific formulations of cannabidiol she suspects would be the most therapeutic.
So far, Hurd is currently running Phase 2 clinical trials in New York to test cannabidiol’s ability to reduce cravings in people addicted to heroin. She is also starting similar studies to test cannabidiol soon in Canada and Jamaica.