If you’re suffering from alcohol or drug dependence or are recently sober, Cannabdiol or CBD, the second most common active ingredient in cannabis, can appear to be a tempting and ‘easy’ way to get over your addiction. With sensationalized media stories of groups like “High Sobriety” and news articles covering the benefits of CBD you may be excited that there is a cure or a medication for various addictions.
Unfortunately, cannabidiols like THC and CBD have been largely illegal for the last 60 years. With that in mind, our ability to study CBD and its effect on the human body and the brain has largely been limited. CBD may be useful in treating addiction symptoms, but with limited understanding of the long-term effects of CBD and its impact on addiction over time, it’s not a guaranteed cure and you should learn a lot more before you try it on yourself.
How Does CBD Work Against Addiction?
CBD is one of over 85 cannabidiols found in marijuana and hemp (known as cannabis together), and the second most common next to THC. Unlike its more famous ‘sister’ cannabidiol, CBD does not appear to produce a hallucinogenic effect, meaning that users do not get the classic ‘marijuana high’ when consuming the drug. For this reason, researchers have been studying CBD since the 1940s, a study which was largely inhibited when cannabis was illegalized.
There are two known CBD receptors in the human body, CBD 1 and CBD2. These receptors are largely present in the brain, but some are spread throughout the body around the spine. When interacting with CBD, these receptors modulate neurotransmitter release which prevents excessive neuronal activity calming anxiety, reduces pain and inflammation, regulates movement, and affects perception and memory. CBD also helps to mediate cytokine release, which reduces inflammation and pain. A 2015 study reviewing existing literature to search for cannabis and CBD therapeutic targets suggests over a dozen applications and potential benefits of the oil, including treating the liver, helping with metabolic syndrome, reducing pain and inflammation and much more.
These effects work to help regulate dopamine and serotonin production, reduce inflammation, and work to reduce cravings. However, we don’t have enough data to show whether or not it’s safe over the long-term or even how it affects addiction on a large scale or over time.
What Does Research Say?
In some cases, you may see articles sharing news about how CBD was used to treat addiction, reduce withdrawal symptoms, or even treat addiction altogether. However, you should look closer at the studies behind these claims.
Research into the efficacy of cannabis treating addiction symptoms is minimal at best, and significantly more so than the average glance at Google might suggest. A case study citing over 50 studies for reducing inflammation with CBD was only able to find one for using CBD to treat withdrawal syndrome, which included a case of just one woman.
In addition, most studies have not actually been performed on humans. In one review, 9 out of 14 available studies testing the efficacy of CBD on treating addiction were performed on rats and mice. Only 5, three of which included just one person each, were performed on humans. One of the most famous, a study showing that CBD reduces cravings in cigarette smokers, included just 24 test subjects. Studies showing how CBD impacts cravings for heroin, morphine, alcohol, and cocaine were all performed on rats. That’s a stark contrast with FDA approved studies and clinical trials, which are necessary for prescription medication, and where hundreds and even thousands of subjects are involved in years long trials.
In short, there are fewer than 50 total studies detailing how CBD affects addiction and recovery, and the large majority of those available were performed on rodents. The human trials available are largely too small to be called more than a case study – and don’t include any of the necessary quality assurance methods required for FDA approval.
We simply don’t have enough information to say exactly how effective CBD is at treating addiction – despite the fact that some GPs are now prescribing the drug.
Is CBD Addictive
The largest draw for CBD is that it is natural and may be non-addictive. Without the THC element of cannabis, you can theoretically get all of the benefits like relaxation and reduced anxiety without paranoia and potential dependence.
Some CBD oils will claim “no THC”, or you may have heard something along the lines of “CBD is safe, it doesn’t contain THC”. But, that just isn’t true. We don’t have the purification techniques to strip all THC out of CBD, so all CBD oil contains trace amounts of THC. If you take enough of it, you’ll get the same high from smoking or eating the plant in raw form. Most CBD oil products on the market are at a ratio of 30:1 (30 parts CBD to 1-part THC), notably low, but still important when the common belief is that CBD doesn’t contain THC at all.
In addition, CBD interacts with different people in different ways. The average user will experience slightly lowered blood pressure, relaxation, mild sedation, reduced pain, and reduced inflammation. A small percentage of users (less than 4%) will experience the same type of psychoactive high as when using a THC-active oil or substance.
However, when taken at recommended doses, CBD oil and cannabis present a very low risk for abuse. Unless you’re taking significantly large doses or combining CBD oil with another drug (and there are more cost-effective ways to get high) the chances of becoming dependent on CBD are minimal.
What’s the Final Verdict?
Right now, we just don’t know enough about CBD, it’s long term effects, or how it will affect you specifically as a recovering addict. Using a substance like CBD to treat withdrawal and reduce cravings is one way to speed up recovery, but once you stop taking it, you’ll still have to face those symptoms, and possibly with THC dependence added on. If you’re regulating dopamine and serotonin production in the brain, your brain won’t likely return to normal until you stop. And, with no long-term research showing how CBD affects the brain of a recovering addict, we don’t actually know whether you will become addicted to the cannabidiols instead.
While research into CBD is promising, especially for pain and inflammation treatment, we simply don’t have enough evidence that CBD or any other cannabidiol product is a safe and effective solution for treating addiction. As a drug, it will suppress cravings, it will reduce withdrawal anxiety, and you will likely feel better while taking it – however, you won’t be clean and you won’t be in full recovery.
Unfortunately, until we know more about CBD, its long-term effects on the human body, and more evidence of its efficacy from clinical, human trials, you should likely stick to a traditional detox and treatment program. Today, there are only three medications approved by the FDA for treating alcohol use disorder (Naltrexone, Acamprosate, and Disulfiram). Behavioral therapy and counseling are still the most recommended solutions for addiction, with prescription medication offered only as a final solution for users who try and fail to quit without it.
In the future, CBD may be further tested and approved for treating drug and alcohol use disorders. Until then, evidence that it is effective is weak at best, and you could be putting yourself in further harm’s way by using the drug.
If you or a loved one is suffering from drugs or alcohol addiction, please contact Lighthouse Treatment Center today for more information. We are to help and happy to provide a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced treatment advisors.