CBD to Treat Drug Addiction: How it Works [And How You Can Use it]

How CBD could help you kick the habit
Nicole Richter / Updated on November 9, 2018

CBD for drug addiction

In recent years, drug addiction has become an increasingly common problem. One prime example which has received a lot of press is the opioid epidemic that has been sweeping across the United States. It is now estimated that over 130 people die from opioid overdose every day – a shocking figure by anyone’s standards.

However, it is not just opioids which are responsible for drug-related deaths. Although opioids, including prescription painkillers such as fentanyl, and heroin accounted for the majority of drug-related deaths in 2017, cocaine and benzodiazepines are also a significant cause for concern and are responsible for 14,556 and 10,684 annual deaths respectively.

While the government is taking measures to improve this situation by facilitating access to treatment and recovery centers and revising pain management practices, it appears that another solution could be emerging, and that is CBD.

How CBD Works for Drug Addiction

CBD is just one of hundreds of active compounds found in the plant Cannabis sativa. Unlike THC, CBD does not have psychoactive properties, but it does offer a range of health benefits including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

CBD (and other cannabinoids) work by influencing what is known as the endocannabinoid system. This complex system is made up of a series of receptors known as the CB1 and CB2 receptors, alongside chemicals called endocannabinoids. When endocannabinoids bind with CB1 or CB2 receptors, they have a number of regulatory effects on the body including modulating the levels of certain neurotransmitters.

Neurotransmitters are substances which are present in our nervous systems and are responsible for controlling our mood, sleep, behavior, and appetite, among other things. Certain neurotransmitters are involved in addictive behavior; for example, glutamine and dopamine. These chemicals are associated with the “reward” centers in our brains. They enhance the effects of drugs and increase the risk of relapse for former users.

Although THC can be addictive in itself, CBD is not, and it has shown the ability to regulate the stress response and compulsive behavior. CBD is also thought to have an effect on opioid receptors, meaning that it could be helpful for recovering opioid addicts.

CBD for Opioid Addiction

Opioid addiction is one of the most disastrous public health crises of the 21st century. Since the 1990s when pharmaceutical companies first claimed that prescription opioid painkillers were safe and non-addictive, their usage has been on the rise. However, these claims have now proven to be false, with an estimated 11.4 million people admitting to misusing their prescription painkillers and around 8–12% of prescriptions thought to lead to addiction. Between 2016 and 2017, a massive 81,000 Americans used heroin for the first time – a sign that the opioid epidemic is not likely to be over any time soon.

Opioids are notoriously addictive and challenging to stop using. Opioid withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • A runny nose and eyes
  • Body aches
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia

Studies on CBD for opioid addiction indicate that this natural treatment could help by reducing symptoms such as anxiety and depression while having a beneficial effect on the nervous system and the neurotransmitters which influence addictive behavior.

CBD for Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine is the second biggest killer after opioids, and is a highly addictive substance. As well as powerful cravings, people trying to come off cocaine report symptoms including:

  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Paranoia

Animal studies have shown CBD to be helpful in the treatment of addiction to cocaine and other stimulants such as amphetamines.

One particular study published in Neuropsychopharmacology looked at rats who were using cocaine and alcohol on a daily basis. The researchers applied a transdermal CBD gel to the rats’ skin every 24 hours for seven days, and the results were astonishing. Although no CBD could be detected in the rodents’ blood three days after the treatment period was over, the rats showed decreased anxiety and impulsivity for a further five months!

CBD for Alcoholism

Alcohol is still one of the most addictive substances out there, and it accounts for almost 40% of admissions to drug treatment centers.

Alcohol withdrawal is extremely unpleasant and can cause symptoms including:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Sleep disorders
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Hallucinations
  • Fits (in severe cases)

CBD could help recovering alcoholics to cope with some of these symptoms including anxiety and insomnia, as well as decreasing the risk of a relapse.

CBD for Tobacco Addiction

Tobacco addiction is another widespread problem across the globe. Although the withdrawal symptoms may not be so severe as opioids or cocaine, they can still be enough to stop millions of smokers from kicking the habit despite the long-term health risks of tobacco use being well-known.

Studies have shown that CBD could help to combat the effects of nicotine, the addictive substance in tobacco. One study involving 24 smokers provided half of the subjects with an inhaler containing CBD and the other half with a placebo inhaler. They were instructed to use their inhalers whenever they felt the urge to smoke. In the CBD group, the participants reduced their tobacco intake by around 40%, whereas those in the placebo group continued to smoke as much as before.

Another study asked 30 smokers to abstain from tobacco overnight before the researchers administered 800 mg of oral CBD or a placebo. The participants were then shown images related to cigarettes and smoking, with the intention of inducing cravings. CBD was found to reduce the pleasantness of these images compared to the placebo, although there were no significant differences in cravings between the two groups.

CBD for Marijuana Addiction

It may seem strange to use CBD to treat addiction to cannabis, the plant from which it is extracted. However, this idea is not as crazy as it might sound.

It is estimated that around 30% of cannabis users suffer from “marijuana use disorder” to some extent, especially those who pick the habit up at a young age. Marijuana use disorder means that pot-smoking becomes a priority over regular activities and begins to interfere with work or relationships. Regular users who try to quit may suffer from withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Reduced appetite
  • Insomnia

These effects occur because the cannabinoids in marijuana affect the body in a similar way to the endocannabinoids which we produce naturally. One result of frequent cannabis use is that the body’s production of and sensitivity to endocannabinoids is reduced.

When cannabis consumption is stopped, the body takes a bit of time to catch up and restore its endocannabinoids to their normal levels, resulting in the withdrawal effects listed above. The effects of cannabis withdrawal usually begin 24 –48 hours after cessation, peaking at 4–6 days and lasting up to three weeks.

So how exactly could CBD help?

The primary compound in cannabis that causes addiction is THC. However, CBD can reduce THC’s addictive effects by binding with CB1 receptors in the body, preventing THC from doing so and blocking some of its activity. CBD can also help with marijuana withdrawal by reducing anxiety and restoring normal sleep patterns.

In recent years, the THC content of weed has been steadily increasing, meaning that marijuana addiction could become even more prevalent in the future. Therefore, it is vital that regular pot users are aware of just how strong their weed is to avoid developing problems later on. If you are smoking weed with a high THC content, it may be wise to find a strain which is rich in CBD too.

How to Use CBD to Treat Addiction

The most natural way to dose up on CBD is by using marijuana. However, if you do this, not only will you also be consuming potentially addictive THC, but you will never be quite sure just how much CBD you are getting from each hit.

The best way to get a steady dose of CBD is by using a specially formulated CBD product, and there are plenty on the market to choose from. CBD oil can be taken orally in its pure form or added to food and drink. CBD is also available as pre-made edibles, chewing gum, e-liquid, topical creams, and more. There is now even a CBD-infused beer!

Whichever product you choose, read the instructions carefully before you begin. It is always advisable to begin with the minimum dose and gradually build up once you know how the product affects you.

And remember, although CBD may help with addiction, it is no substitute for proper medical care. If you or somebody you care about is being affected by addiction, talk to a qualified health care professional who will ensure you get all the support you need.

Article Sources:
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CBD to Treat Drug Addiction: How it Works [And How You Can Use it]
November 9, 2018
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