Given the damage that alcohol consumption is doing to society, isn’t it somewhat odd that it is so widely available? It is thoroughly addictive and offers no medicinal benefits whatsoever. And yet, there is seemingly a liquor store on every corner. And once you are of legal age, you can purchase as much of it as you like.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 14.4 million adults aged 18+ have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Tragically, 401,000 kids aged 12-17 also have an AUD. Approximately 88,000 people die from an alcohol-related cause in the United States annually. In 2010, misuse of the substance cost the nation some $249 billion.
Meanwhile, marijuana remains a controlled substance that is federally illegal while also being against the law in 17 states. There are no known deaths due to overdose, yet America has prohibited it since 1937. The ban on the substance makes it difficult for scientists to perform research.
In 2018, President Trump signed the Farm Bill into law. It legalized the growth of industrial hemp. While it didn’t strictly legalize CBD, it has opened the door to a significant boom for the industry.
CBD is the most abundant non-intoxicating compound in hemp and marijuana.
The lifting of the hemp ban should help increase the level of research into CBD. It is linked with a variety of potential uses. Researchers also believe it could assist in the fight against alcoholism. Keep reading to find out what they have found to date.
Alcoholism Signs & Effects
It isn’t always easy to spot someone with AUD, although it is helpful to look for the following warning signs:
- A lack of interest in activities that were once a source of pleasure.
- Always feeling tired, irritable, or unwell.
- Telling lies about drinking; ‘hiding’ alcohol in secret places.
- Requiring more alcohol to feel the same effects as before.
- Appearing drunk far more regularly.
- Consumption of alcohol even while suffering the effects of excess drinking from the day before.
- Difficulty in ceasing the consumption of alcohol once they get started.
- Evidence of increased alcohol tolerance.
However, no two people with an AUD are the same. The American Psychiatric Association created the DSM-5 to provide a set of 11 factors that helps physicians diagnose AUD. If a person has experienced at least two of these factors or symptoms in the previous 12 months, they are deemed to have an AUD. 2-3 symptoms indicate a mild AUD, and 4-5 is indicative of a moderate AUD. Six or more symptoms indicate a severe problem.
What Alcoholism Does to Body & Mind
Once a person reaches end-stage alcoholism, it is already too late for them. They have reached a point where they can no longer stop drinking. Also, they have no aims or ambitions in life other than determining where their next drink is coming from. Chronic alcoholism also has a variety of physical effects, including:
- Anemia: Alcoholism can cause the number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells in your body to fall to abnormally low levels. The condition, also known as anemia, causes shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and fatigue.
- Cancer: Heavy drinking increases the risk of mouth, throat, liver, breast, and esophageal cancer.
- Cardiovascular diseases: Binge drinking, in particular, increases the chances of platelets clumping together to form blood clots. This leads to an enhanced risk of stroke or heart attack.
- Cirrhosis: Alcohol is particularly toxic to liver cells. If you are a heavy drinker, you could end up with cirrhosis. It is a condition where the liver becomes scarred to the point where it no longer functions.
- Dementia: Alcoholism increases the rate of shrinkage in some regions of the brain. It could result in memory loss and other dementia symptoms.
Could CBD Oil Help with Alcoholism?
The first thing to remember is that CBD is very different from THC. The latter is intoxicating and helps you become ‘high.’ CBD does not provide you with the same effects. However, the fact it could have an impact, even a positive one, means it is technically also ‘psychoactive.
When it comes to treating alcoholism, some people recommend choosing a CBD-laden strain instead of marijuana as a whole. If you have an AUD, it is best to steer clear of intoxicating substances lest you end up swapping one addiction for another.
The body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) is potentially the most important physiologic system in the maintenance of human health. Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found throughout the body. There are receptors in the brain, immune system, organs, and connective tissues, for example.
Researchers have identified the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors. For a long time, researchers assumed that CBD had little in the way of binding affinity for the CB1 receptors. However, it now seems that CBD at least interacts indirectly with the CB1 receptors. The interactions between cannabinoids and receptors could be the reason why marijuana, and its compounds, supposedly have healing properties.
CBD also has interactions with the CB2 receptors, which are primarily in the immune system. As a result, CBD could potentially impact symptoms of alcoholism, such as skin problems, inflammation, and chronic pain. In theory, CBD could affect receptors in the brain, which would help reduce the craving for alcohol.
What Does the Science Say?
A systemic review of CBD’s effect on addictive behavior was written by Prud’homme, Cata, and Jutras-Aswad, and published in Libertas Academica in April 2015. The review focused on 14 studies, five of which involved human patients. The goal was to determine whether CBD could be used as an effective intervention for people with an addiction.
The review concluded that “CBD has several therapeutic properties on its own that could indirectly be useful in the treatment of addiction disorders.” The researchers also said it was justifiable to perform further studies on CBD to help people with addictions.
A more recent study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology in 2018, found that CBD helped rats reduce their alcohol dependence. The study involved rats with a history of voluntary daily cocaine or alcohol self-administration who displayed addict-like behavior. Next, the team gave the rats a gel containing CBD once a day.
The researchers then put the rodents through a series of tests designed to induce stress and anxiety. These are well-known triggers for impulsive behavior. Overall, CBD reduced the rates of relapse while lowering anxiety and impulsive behavior. The brains of the rats were cleared entirely of CBD within three days. Nonetheless, they still showed reduced relapse rates five months later.
Up to Date Research Finds More Evidence
A recent spike in research into CBD and its effects on alcoholism has provided us with something to work with. A study by Gonzalez-Cuevas et al., published in Neuropsychopharmacology in September 2018, looked at CBD for the prevention of drug use relapse.
The researchers looked at alcohol-addicted rats. They found that CBD helped prevent relapse and reduced their intake of alcohol. The team also linked cannabidiol with a decreased motivation to consume alcohol.
A study by Turna et al., published in the Alcoholism, Clinical, and Experimental Research journal in February 2019, analyzed CBD as a possible pharmacotherapy for AUDs. Once again, it involved the use of rats, but there were also three adult volunteers. The researchers concluded that CBD had therapeutic potential.
De Ternay et al. had a study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology in October 2019 that reached a similar conclusion. It reviewed existing experimental studies. The researchers said that “CBD could directly reduce alcohol drinking in subjects with AUD.” They also found that cannabidiol reduced alcohol-related brain damage and fibrosis in the liver.
At present, there isn’t enough research to determine what happens when you mix CBD and alcohol. There is a suggestion that the cannabinoid could reduce some of alcohol’s side effects. However, research into this topic to date focuses on drinking copious amounts of alcohol with CBD. Until studies say otherwise, it is prudent to avoid combining the two substances.
Final Thoughts on CBD For Alcoholism
Tens of millions of Americans are plagued by AUD, and millions more consume far more alcohol than is recommended. Our society has yet another threat to add to the growing list of health crises. Alcoholics become dependent on the substance. They believe an alcoholic beverage is essential for them to function as a normal human being.
Even when someone with AUD manages to kick the habit, their withdrawal symptoms increase the risk of relapse. Side effects include irritability, anxiety, depression, and heart palpitations.
The research we outlined above suggests that CBD has the potential to reduce an alcoholic’s dependence on the substance. It may also decrease the risk of relapse.
One of the most important things about CBD is the fact that it is non-intoxicating. The last thing an alcoholic needs is to become addicted to something else. With CBD, you could potentially reduce the horrible side effects of alcohol withdrawal. The compound interacts with the receptors in your ECS, which is why it has a potential impact.
The evidence so far suggests that CBD has the potential to soften withdrawal symptoms. It may even reduce the risk of relapse. However, there is a long way to go in the field. Research is ongoing, and individuals with an AUD should consult with a medical professional first and foremost.
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