It’s common for people to worry about CBD being addictive and potentially leading to withdrawals when the usage of it is stopped. This is especially true now that the popularity of CBD in Australia and other countries continues to skyrocket. However, the concerns about CBD being addictive are largely misplaced. Despite being an extract from cannabis, it doesn’t have any of the psychoactive properties you might expect due to its association with this plant. CBD is safe, won’t get you high, isn’t addictive and has minimal noticeable downsides when an individual stops using it. Let’s clear up some of the questions around whether CBD can cause addiction, what happens when you stop using it, plus cover concerns you may have on withdrawals caused by it.
What is CBD?
CBD is the cannabinoid known as cannabidiol extracted from the cannabis plant. CBD has become increasingly popular due to its therapeutic effects and safety profile. Unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), it does not exhibit psychoactive effects, which carry much higher side effect risks. Over time, many people in Australia have become interested in CBD products. In 2021, the government legalised CBD in Australia, making it much easier to access in low-dose formulations.
Today, CBD is being infused into countless consumable products due to its versatility and ease of use. These products include CBD capsules, tinctures, edibles, and topicals. Many users treat CBD as an alternative or additional treatment for their existing health issues and to assist in promoting general wellness, recovery, stress reduction, and more.
Is CBD Addictive?
CBD is not addictive, mentally or physically. This is because although cannabidiol interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system, it does not have effects on dopamine. Dopamine is the neurochemical that controls motivation and addiction. Some chemicals, such as opiates or THC (also from the cannabis plant), are dopaminergic, so they can lead to addiction if used frequently. In contrast, CBD is not habit-forming and won’t cause dependence on it. This is true even when CBD is used in high doses daily. Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t act strongly on cannabinoid receptors in the brain. It is less potent and only triggers therapeutic effects instead of the euphoria that THC can stimulate.
Many studies have demonstrated CBD’s non-addictive characteristics. According to the World Health Organization, CBD does not exhibit effects indicative of abuse potential or dependence on humans. There is no evidence of withdrawal associated with pure CBD. A small 2016 study of 31 adults showed that THC had the opposite properties. After long-term use, abstaining from THC resulted in both physical and psychological withdrawals. Some of the withdrawal symptoms included increased heart rate and body temperature, irritability, problems with focus, and sleep issues.
Instead of causing addiction, CBD might be able to help reduce withdrawal symptoms from addictive substances like THC. Preliminary evidence shows that CBD can lower the likelihood of developing cocaine or methamphetamine addiction. Additionally, it can help prevent relapse after detoxification and sobriety.
Can You Get Withdrawals From It?
CBD isn’t an addictive substance, so it won’t cause any withdrawals if you stop using it. With addictive substances like THC or opioids, you may experience withdrawal symptoms if you cease using them abruptly. Instead, lowering the dose over time or weaning off them is usually advised to rebalance homeostasis and minimise detrimental symptoms.
CBD doesn’t influence dopamine release but helps balance neurotransmitter levels in the brain’s neural pathways. It helps maintain neurochemical balance and minimise stress. While the body will adapt to CBD, and you may need higher doses over time, stopping your doses won’t cause withdrawals. Most users don’t notice any adverse effects even when they stop using CBD. The main problem is symptoms of underlying health conditions being treated by CBD will resurge.
Can You Build a Tolerance to CBD?
Homeostasis means any exogenous chemical used in the body will eventually see tolerance built against it. This includes CBD, where the body adapts to the chemical over time. Eventually, it requires higher dosages to elicit the same effects and benefits. The body responds to more of the chemical being ingested by metabolising and removing it more efficiently. It’s why you need more of a particular medicine or drug in higher quantities over time if you consistently use it to achieve the same health effects.
You’ll need higher dosages of CBD over time to maintain the same benefits before diminishing returns occur. But this still doesn’t cause withdrawal problems if CBD use is stopped. For many pharmaceutical medications that are used long-term, quitting abruptly is usually not advised. It can have serious side effects. Certain chemicals like opioids or benzodiazepine can cause physical withdrawal when the body becomes too reliant on them. The same isn’t true for CBD; however, it’s natural, safe, and easy to stop using.
What Happens When You Stop Taking CBD?
It is safe to stop taking CBD at any time, but there can be consequences. If you started using it to help treat a particular health condition or issue like arthritis, you may see symptoms of your condition return if you cease CBD intake. After stopping CBD, most people see symptoms appear again within days. People who rely on it for insomnia have experienced the return of sleep issues or insomnia, for example. Be mindful of the condition you began using CBD for in the first place. Ensure you are prepared for symptoms to return and have a plan to counteract this.
A notable downside of stopping CBD use is the impact on stress, focus and sleeping patterns in many users. For people who take it during the day for stress, stopping use can mean that day-to-day anxiety and stress levels spike. Managing frenetic workloads and stressful meetings can be more challenging without CBD’s calming support. Similarly, focus can dip for people who take it to stay calm and composed. It is used by many to work more efficiently and stay in a balanced mental state. Removing CBD for many can impact daily mental energy, calmness and focus. In those using it before bed to sleep, ceasing use can also detrimentally affect sleep quality in many people. Using it as a calming sleep aid is very common, which causes delayed, reduced or impaired sleep for a period when CBD is stopped.
Can CBD Stop Addictions?
Contrary to causing addiction, CBD may help in preventing or curing them. Although this is a new area of research and clinical studies are sparse, there is anecdotal evidence suggesting many users find CBD helps them with stopping addictions like nicotine or alcohol. It may be due to the ability of CBD to lower stress and anxiety in the mind and body. Many addictions are worsened or triggered by stress. Smokers, for example, frequently reach for cigarettes as soon as they feel nervous or stressed and come to develop habits around these feelings.
Having a greater sense of calmness and better-regulated stress response could support in preventing the triggers that lead to addictive behaviours. This is where CBD shines by helping to lower anxiety and mitigate overactive stress responses. Some researchers are exploring CBD’s application now in treating addictions to opioids, nicotine, and alcohol. Reducing the impact of stress triggers while helping to lower cravings for an addictive substance are both possible using CBD. But CBD may also help in mitigating withdrawal symptoms that occur when halting an addiction. It’s known to help with anxiety, discomfort, or nausea that can accompany abstinence.
The cause of this process is homeostasis. Your body constantly maintains an internally stable state throughout its organs and metabolic processes known as homeostasis. When the system is disrupted by external factors like a cannabinoid being ingested, it will respond with a feedback loop that brings the body back to its baseline homeostatic state. Homeostasis is critical for survival. Without it, your body would quickly be overwhelmed by chemicals it encounters, and you’d get sick fast. It enables you to maintain stable internal conditions needed for metabolic health.
CBD can be stopped abruptly without causing severe physical withdrawal symptoms. Unlike opioids or benzodiazepines, which can lead to significant withdrawal effects, CBD is not known to produce such intense reactions upon discontinuation. However, it’s always advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before making changes to your CBD regimen, especially if it’s being used for a specific medical condition.
CBD is not associated with the development of classic withdrawal symptoms. Users typically do not experience the physical discomfort, cravings, or mood disturbances commonly seen with substances like nicotine or certain medications. However, if CBD was providing relief for specific symptoms, those issues may reemerge once CBD use is discontinued. It’s crucial to differentiate between a return of symptoms and true withdrawal effects.
Taking a break from CBD is a personal choice and may depend on individual needs, responses, and reasons for CBD use. Some people choose to take breaks to assess whether their symptoms persist without CBD or to prevent tolerance. Tolerance, where the body becomes accustomed to a substance and requires higher doses for the same effects, is a concern for some users.
Over time, CBD may exert various effects on the body and mind, depending on individual factors, dosage, and the reason for use. Some potential long-term effects of CBD include:
Anti-Inflammatory Effects: CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties may contribute to long-term relief for inflammation-related conditions, such as arthritis.
Stress Reduction: CBD’s interaction with the endocannabinoid system may help regulate stress responses, potentially promoting long-term stress reduction.
Improved Sleep: Some users report improved sleep quality with regular CBD use over time.
Neuroprotective Effects: Preclinical studies suggest that CBD may have neuroprotective properties, potentially supporting long-term brain health.
It’s important to note that individual responses vary, and more research is needed to understand the long-term effects of CBD fully.
As mentioned earlier, CBD is not associated with classic withdrawal symptoms. However, individuals who have been using CBD for symptom management may experience a return of those symptoms when discontinuing CBD. This is not a genuine withdrawal reaction but rather a reemergence of the underlying condition. It’s crucial to differentiate between these concepts to make informed decisions about CBD use.
If you’re taking CBD, you can stop using it anytime without serious repercussions. It isn’t addictive and won’t cause withdrawals when you cease to take it. CBD may help people with addictions to manage their addictive tendencies, lower stress, keep a balanced mental state, plus avoid the triggers that cause them to relapse. In addition, it can help provide the foundations of mental resilience and calm to help deal with withdrawals when fighting addiction. Before you stop taking CBD, consider the conditions you’re using it for. You should expect to see symptoms return after you cease dosing CBD and may see impacts on your stress, focus or sleep levels.