Effects of cannabidiol on anandamide levels in individuals with cannabis use disorder: findings from a randomised clinical trial for the treatment of cannabis use disorder

Cannabidiol (CBD) has shown promise in treating psychiatric disorders, including cannabis use disorder – a major public health burden with no approved pharmacotherapies. However, the mechanisms through which CBD acts are poorly understood. One potential mechanism of CBD is increasing levels of anandamide, which has been implicated in psychiatric disorders including depression and cannabis use disorder. However, there is a lack of placebo-controlled human trials investigating this in psychiatric disorders. We therefore assessed whether CBD affects plasma anandamide levels compared to placebo, within a randomised clinical trial of CBD for the treatment of cannabis use disorder. Individuals meeting criteria for cannabis use disorder and attempting cannabis cessation were randomised to 28-day administration with placebo (n = 23), 400 mg CBD/day (n = 24) or 800 mg CBD/day (n = 23). We estimated the effects of each CBD dose compared to placebo on anandamide levels from baseline to day 28. Analyses were conducted both unadjusted and adjusted for cannabis use during the trial to account for effects of cannabis on the endocannabinoid system. We also investigated whether changes in plasma anandamide levels were associated with clinical outcomes relevant for cannabis use disorder (cannabis use, withdrawal, anxiety, depression). There was an effect of 800 mg CBD compared to placebo on anandamide levels from baseline to day 28 after adjusting for cannabis use. Pairwise comparisons indicated that anandamide levels unexpectedly reduced from baseline to day 28 in the placebo group (-0.048, 95% CI [-0.089, -0.007]), but did not change in the 800 mg CBD group (0.005, 95% CI [-0.036, 0.047]). There was no evidence for an effect of 400 mg CBD compared to placebo. Changes in anandamide levels were not associated with clinical outcomes. In conclusion, this study found preliminary evidence that 28-day treatment with CBD modulates anandamide levels in individuals with cannabis use disorder at doses of 800 mg/day but not 400 mg/day compared to placebo.

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