Many addicts are using CBD to support lower stress and a better mental state that can aid them in overcoming their addiction issues. It is a natural extract from the hemp plant that has unique properties making it helpful in aiding addiction treatment. Those with substance use disorders or addictive tendencies find it useful frequently in working alongside their rehabilitation and treatment pathway to avoid relapses. CBD itself is non-toxic, well tolerated and not addictive but rather helps to fight addictive behaviour triggers like stress. While pharmaceuticals such as benzodiazepine or clonidine are more powerful at stopping addiction, CBD can provide useful help in tandem as a natural remedy. More research and clinical studies are now being targeted at this application. Let’s take a look at how CBD can help with ceasing addictions and fighting addictive tendencies.
- 1 Understanding Addiction
- 2 The Endocannabinoid System and CBD
- 3 What is CBD?
- 4 Does CBD Help with Addiction?
- 5 Research Studies
- 6 CBD and Substance Addiction
- 7 Helping with Withdrawal Anxiety
- 8 How to Use CBD for Addiction
- 9 Is CBD Safe?
- 10 Choosing a CBD Product for Addiction
- 11 Conclusion
Addiction is a compulsive behaviour resulting in urges to constantly engage in certain behaviours. This could manifest as addictions to food, substances, gambling or even games. There are both environmental, social and genetic factors at play for an individual in their tendency to develop an addiction. It can be hard to treat because of the complex interplay of factors that cause an addiction. Psychological factors such as past abuse or trauma often also impact the likelihood an individual gets an addiction. This tendency may also be the result of neurotransmitter imbalances such as serotonin or GABA issues.
The most common addictions are to cigarettes and alcohol. Millions of people in Australia and other countries suffer from addictions to chemicals like these each day. But other substances are also addiction-prone for those with addictive tendencies including opioids, cannabis and other drugs. The impact of addiction in any scenario can be detrimental to the lives of those it affects. It can cause long term health and organ damage, harm and individual’s relationships, impair decision-making, affect financial health and cause isolation. Most addictions have triggers which are factors that can cause a compulsive incidence of addictive behaviour. An example is stress, encountering the addictive substance or social pressure. Triggers play a big part in causing and reinforcing addictive behaviour.
The Endocannabinoid System and CBD
Many neurological conditions including addictive behaviours are influenced or modulated by the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Its a complex system of signalling enzymes, receptors and lipids in the body. Cannabinoid receptors in the ECS are able to receive and bind with cannabinoids like CBD to trigger metabolic and neurological effects. It has the capacity to regulate mood, appetite, sleep, stress and pain. Its ability to assist with addiction comes from its mental effects and capacity to reinforce homeostasis.
The main agents produced from this system are endocannabinoids. These are created by the ECS when CBD or other cannabinoids activate it. Once produced they have powerful metabolic effects. Endocannabinoid are lipid signalling molecules. They can change the function and activity of other bodily systems. For example they’re able to stimulate neurotransmitter activity, normalise sleep patterns, aid with memory and mood, plus stimulate anti-inflammatory effects in the immune system. Endocannabinoids are even being shown to alter the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin and GABA which have neurological benefits.
What is CBD?
CBD or cannabidiol is one of many naturally occurring cannabinoid compounds produced by the cannabis sativa plant. Cannabinoids are therapeutic chemicals with an array of benefits in the body. The body can absorb them through the endocannabinoid system which helps regulate sleep, immunity, and homeostasis. Cannabinoid receptors in the brain known as CB1 receptors bind with cannabinoids like CBN or CBD and activate the release of endocannabinoids.
These compounds are produced by the body naturally and are highly anti-inflammatory and calming. CBD is non-toxic, non-psychoactive, and non-addictive. It also has very minimal, if any, side effects. Many who suffer from addictions are turning to this promising all-natural product for support in mitigating addictions. CBD oil may be able to help those with an addiction in changing their damaging behaviour.
Does CBD Help with Addiction?
CBD can’t cure or treat addiction by itself. It has no real pharmacological means of doing so. Where it can assist is preventing addiction triggers and calming the mind to make it resilient against the pull of addictive behaviours. One of CBD’s key properties is reducing stress and symptoms of anxiety. This is known as an anxiolytic or anti-anxiety effect. The calm it induces is what’s thought to help those with addictions like smoking. It helps suppress a major trigger of addiction for many, which is stress. How many times have you reached for a cigarette when work has been hard? Addiction is the reason for this. Addictive behaviours feel good and reward the action with a pleasant dopamine response.
This is great when our dopamine response is aimed toward healthy habits like exercising. But many behaviours and substances will hijack the dopamine response. They can provide an artificial good feeling that is often stronger than our natural level of dopamine release. This occurs with compounds like nicotine in cigarettes or opiates. They can hijack the brain’s dopamine. CBD can help to calm users, lowering anxiety and giving support in avoiding addiction. Many addicts turn to their substances to deal with stress. By reducing stress, CBD oil can help to suppress the mental draw of their addiction. This is known as reducing drug cue salience. CBD can help lower the link between thoughts of an addictive drug and a user’s dopamine response.
Much of the research into CBD’s benefits for addiction has been on its ability to reduce cravings. It is theorised that the ‘bliss’ feeling provided by endocannabinoids like anandamide helps suppress these feelings. Anandamide is released when CBD is consumed. It helps lower the thoughts driving someone to habitually use a substance. It’s been shown in clinical trials a single 800mg dose of CBD was able to lower cravings for nicotine. Patients in this test were shown trigger images of people smoking, drinking, and partying to attempt to stimulate smoking desire. The test group dosed with CBD showed much lower stimulation to the images versus those in the control group.
CBD and Substance Addiction
More evidence is indicating CBD helps break addictive behaviours and triggers through endocannabinoid system activity. This activity means it can act on several key neurotransmission systems that play a key role in addiction. It has potent neuroprotective effects in the brain, helping to normalise excitatory activity, prevent neuroinflammation and encourage healthy neurotransmitter levels. In combination with its anxiolytic and calming effects, it can help mitigate and stop substance abuse issues.
Some of the most important amongst its neurotransmission modulating effects are its interaction with GABA and serotonin. CBD has an effect on 5-HT1a receptors that produce serotonin. This neurotransmitter has an effect on how individuals respond to stress, their mood and cravings, plus reward system and habits towards drugs like alcohol. It may play a key part in multiple stages of the addiction cycle, helping users to better control stress and habits throughout. In the brain CBD interacts with the CB1 receptors, GABA and vanilloid receptors. Each may also play a part in the reward response, brain plasticity and habit formation. This is important in breaking the pull of addiction and deep habits it creates.
Cigarette addiction is primarily caused by the chemical nicotine. It can present as both a physical as well as psychological addiction, making it very hard to break. Physical addiction is caused by a chemical reliance physically for a substance. This causes withdrawal, nausea, irritability, and even toxicity in some cases when abstinence occurs. Alcohol, nicotine, and most opioids are physically addictive. Psychological addiction occurs due to compulsive behaviours resulting in substance use. It is different from physical addiction as it is reinforced by perceptions, environmental influences, and neurology. For example, a stressful workday can trigger the compulsion to smoke and use cigarettes even if the user isn’t physically addicted.
Cigarettes are particularly hard to stop using as they create a pleasurable sensation and ‘high’. Most treatments with nicotine lozenges, patches, or gums are low in their effectiveness. These products don’t offer the same pleasure that cigarettes offer. They can even become a trigger to additional cigarette use. Abstaining completely can also be very challenging.
In research, CBD has been shown to lower the usage of cigarettes and triggers that stimulate its use. A 2013 study recently examined the effects of CBD oil consumption on overall cigarette and tobacco use. In this trial, patients were instructed to use a dosage of CBD whenever they had cravings for a cigarette. Over several weeks they eventually formed habits around this behaviour and used CBD instead of cigarettes in many cases. The study showed a 40% level of reduction in overall cigarette usage on average versus the control group who used no CBD. This type of clinical study indicates there may be an opportunity to substitute vaping CBD products instead of nicotine to reduce or even eliminate addiction in some cases.
Alcohol is considered an addictive substance because of its dopaminergic effects. It can stimulate a strong reward response in users which is frequently reinforced by social and genetic factors. Some research is now showing CBD can help in reducing alcohol cravings and addictive tendencies in animal models. It has been shown to lower overall intake of the drug, reduced desire to seek it, lower anxiety and better impulse control. Simultaneously it supported health outcomes for organs that are susceptible to damage from alcohol like the brain and liver. This was due to the antioxidative and anti-inflammatory capacities of CBD, making it valuable in protecting and reversing cell damage. In other words, it both supported the halting of addiction while aiding the body in protecting itself from damage at the metabolic level.
In both human and animal studies, cannabinoids like CBD are now being shown to have therapeutic abilities in treating opioid addiction. Its been shown to suppress cravings for heroin in clinical randomised trials. In studies, CBD was dosed to users during cue-induced craving tests that displayed triggers such as images and videos to stimulate cravings. Dosages were given 1 hour before each cue test and craving levels were compared to the same testing regime 24 hours and 7 days later. The test demonstrated CBD had effectiveness in suppressing cravings, alongside the anxiety that abstinence caused in heroin addicts. This points towards its ability to help with compulsive behaviours even when in the presence of triggers and avoid relapsing into substance use.
Helping with Withdrawal Anxiety
For those quitting nicotine or other addictions, abstinence from the substance will often lead to anxiety or headaches. This is called withdrawal which happens with addictive substances. CBD oil can help in lowering the withdrawal anxiety that accompanies quitting. CB1 receptors in the brain are responsible for this action. A key function of the ECS is its ability to lower stress and anxiety. Many cannabinoids like CBN and CBD are anxiolytic and help lower anxiety. CBD can also act on serotonin (5-1HTA) receptors to help promote calm and better mood. This can have a profound capacity to improve day-to-day mental state and in-turn lower the risk of relapse and cravings.
How to Use CBD for Addiction
CBD is best used in combination with other treatments such as therapy, rehabilitation, lifestyle changes and addictive cue removal. It won’t cure an addiction on its own and is best suited to providing support for craving reduction. In addition it’s great in helping to lower the stress and anxiety that occurs from reducing or eliminating substance use. It can be used daily as a general tool to help with addiction or when cravings are felt to help curb them.
When starting with CBD you’ll need to test that you don’t have any allergies. Start at a low dosage of several drops a day (10-15mg) and work up to a higher dose to suit your needs. Always consult with your doctor before starting. Stronger results are typically reported amongst users at higher dosage ranges, which the body can support once tolerance is built up over time. Side effects are typically very minor, although CBD should never be mixed with alcohol or medications as it is processed by the liver.
Maximising the effects of CBD in mitigating addictions can be tricky. Everyone’s body and brain are different. Your type of addiction, its severity as well as environmental factors like your support network can play a significant part. You’ll need to experiment and find out what works for you. Its calming, anxiety-relieving effects help in preventing the draw of addictions and avoiding relapses.
Is CBD Safe?
CBD itself is not addictive and won’t cause any cravings or withdrawals. It has minimal side effects. These can include dry mouth and mild upset stomach. You can use it frequently at high doses to accelerate its benefits in addiction reduction without a high risk of side effects. Pharmaceuticals like varenicline used to treat smoking addiction often have nasty side effects. They also tend to fail in the long term. These are designed to lower craving levels by providing some nicotine while helping the user wean off. But the side effect risk and potential for harming health from these compounds is material. For many, CBD offers a natural alternative to help support weaning off addictive substances. It won’t be as potent but can be much safer to use in the long run.
Choosing a CBD Product for Addiction
While all CBD products are extracted from the same plant, they aren’t all equal in quality or effectiveness. There are also a few product types you might consider to assist with stopping addictions. A few key elements to consider when purchasing are:
Look for whole plant and organically sourced CBD products. These use all components of the cannabis plant, providing the best blend of nutrients and cannabinoids to help lower anxiety and reduce cravings. Organic products are generally better quality and have a much lower risk of contamination with pesticides, herbicides, or foreign chemicals. They use organic farming methods to minimise use of these chemicals which can make their way into your oil.
Always purchase from reliable and reputable brands. Look for reviews and third-party endorsements. Lab reports or certificates of analysis should be available that provide a breakdown of cannabinoid concentration. These are quality indicators that let you know what you’re getting. A lab report will give you a breakdown of active ingredients and cannabinoid profiles.
Don’t shop for CBD products based on cost. A cheap product has a much higher risk of being fake, contaminated, or simply produced poorly. It will have much lower effectiveness and not help as much with addiction. Cheap products have lower concentrations of therapeutic cannabinoids like CBD and are often significantly watered down with fillers like olive oil. While CBD is expensive and should be used carefully to maximise the value you get from it, you also don’t want to skimp on product quality.
CBD products come in isolate, full=spectrum, and broad-spectrum varieties. Each has a different cannabinoid and nutrient profile. CBD isolates strip out everything except for high concentrations of CBD. Broad spectrum contains CBD and other cannabinoids like CBG and CBN in varying quantities as well as phytonutrients like omegas and flavonoids. Full-spectrum oils are generally the best as they contain an array of cannabinoids like CBD offering the ‘full spectrum’ of hemp’s benefits. They’re also rich in terpenes, which trigger the entourage effect and encourage the uptake of cannabinoids in the body. This amplifies the benefits of cannabinoids like CBD for addiction, making the overall product more powerful in breaking your habit. Always avoid products with psychoactive THC. It can exacerbate underlying mental illness and addictions or cause psychosis. Typical CBD oil has less than 0.2% THC content in Australia.
CBD isn’t a cure for addiction. But the clinical research on its therapeutic effects is suggesting it helps in lowering cravings, preventing addiction and protecting the brain which all support recovery. By minimising stress through its anxiolytic properties it also aids in supporting a resilient mental state that is better able to resist addictive tendencies. It helps lower sensitivity to addiction triggers and cues. Plus, it can mitigate withdrawal anxiety when abstaining from an addictive substance. Simultaneously, CBD aids in promoting metabolic health, antioxidative effects and reduced oxidative stress to protect cells. Always look for a full-spectrum CBD oil that is organic, contains terpenes, and comes from a trustworthy source. Seek lab reports and third-party reviews to ensure you’re getting a quality product.