CBD, also known by its full name of cannabidiol, is the marijuana compound of the moment. A potential ability to help with medical conditions like epileptic seizures, ease chronic pain, and reduce inflammation are just some of the reported benefits of CBD. But researchers have been looking into a potential use for CBD that may come as a shock to some of you – as a pharmacological way to treat substance abuse and addiction.
Yes, that’s right. A compound that is found in marijuana, the plant which has been classified as a schedule 1 drug because it’s considered to have a high potential for abuse and no medicinal benefits, could possibly be used to help sufferers of addiction to everything from heroin and cocaine to alcohol, tobacco, and pain medications. This is possibly one of the most overlooked benefits of CBD.
Since CBD is non-psychoactive, non-addictive, and according to some research appears to reduce the anxiety and drug cravings experienced by addicts, it seems that it has potential in aiding in the addiction recovery process.
CBD for addiction is becoming a hot topic, but it’s also a controversial one. While studies are coming out to show that CBD can help recovering addicts to stay sober, there is still a very real stigma against marijuana, especially in the recovery community. Let’s take a closer look to understand better just how CBD oil might have the potential to help in addiction recovery.
What is Addiction?
Addiction is a condition in which someone engages in the use of a substance or in behavior for which the rewarding effects give an incentive to pursue the act repeatedly despite the detrimental consequences. Addiction can include the use of substances such as opioids, alcohol, pain medication, cocaine, inhalants, nicotine, and others, or even behaviors such as gambling.
There is scientific evidence showing that addiction to substances and behaviors share a key neurobiological feature – they intensely activate the brain’s pathway of reward and reinforcement. An addictive substance feels good because it stimulates the pleasure center of the brain through neurotransmitters, like GABA and dopamine. If you have a genetic predisposition, these addictive substances don’t just feel good; they feel so good that you want to chase after them. This is where addiction comes in. If you suffer from a genetic predisposition, addictive substances feel so good that you’re willing to suffer negative consequences to get more and to continue to feel the high.
People who have a substance use disorder display distorted behavior, thinking and body functions. Changes in their brain’s wiring are what causes them to have intense cravings for the drug, and this makes it hard to stop using the substance. Studies that were done via brain imaging show changes in the area of the brain that relate to decision-making, memory, judgment, learning, and behavior control. Both gambling behaviors and substance use disorders are often accompanied by mental health conditions like anxiety and depression or other pre-existing problems.
Addiction affects approximately 10% of any population; it is more common than diabetes, which affects approximately 7% of the population. You should be aware that the terms alcoholism, alcohol dependence, and alcohol addiction are all equivalent. The same is true of the terms drug dependence and drug addiction.
What research says on CBD and addiction recovery
In a recent study* that was published by Neuropsychopharmacology in March 2018, researchers ran a series of tests to find the “anti-relapse” potential of CBD. As part of the study, researchers administered the transdermal CBD to animal subjects who had a history of self-administering alcohol or cocaine and showed characteristics of a relapsing addict, like anxiety, dependence, and impulsivity.
After administering the CBD once every 24 hours for seven days, the researchers found that the short 7-day period of CBD treatment had some profound results. Not only did it prevent the development of previously displayed “addict-like” characteristics, but it also deterred the subjects from relapsing for five months. This was despite the CBD clearing from the body and brain after three days.
Essentially, what this study is saying is that not only is CBD effective for preventing relapses in alcohol and drug addicts, but it also provides long-lasting benefits which are vital when fighting substance addiction.
Most research surrounding cannabis for addiction focuses on the opioid epidemic. Cannabis, and more specifically CBD, can be an effective “exit drug” that can help people to wean themselves off opioids for two reasons. Firstly, CBD can help with the pain that got them hooked on the opioids, and secondly, CBD appears to help with the opioid withdrawal symptoms.
A recent study* published in the Liebert Publication in 2017 found that people who have access to cannabis take fewer prescription drugs for pain. Also, doctors prescribe fewer opiates to pain patients in states that have access to medical and adult use marijuana. Additionally, cannabis and CBD for addiction can help several types of recovering addicts. A 2015 review looked into 14 studies that were done on CBD for addiction, all published before 2015. It found that CBD may have therapeutic properties for cocaine, opioid, and psychostimulant addiction and may also be beneficial in tobacco and cannabis addiction in humans. From cigarettes to tobacco, CBD for addiction has shown some promising results.
Here are some highlights from the CBD and addiction clinical trials that have been published:
- A 2013 study* published in PubMed found that, in patients that were treated with CBD, the number of cigarettes that they smoked was significantly reduced.
- A study* published in ScienceDirect in 2013 used CBD in the treatment of neurodegeneration. Neurodegeneration is thought to be one of the main causes of the chronic and relapsing nature of alcoholism.
- According to a 2009 study* that was published in PubMed, CBD can lower stimulus cue-induced heroin-seeking behavior, helping to prevent heroin craving and relapse.
- Another 2013 study* published in PubMed found that CBD counterbalances the “high” effects of THC, which helps to curb the side effects of smoking weed.
How does CBD oil work for addiction recovery?
CBD is one of the over 85 cannabinoids that can be found in cannabis and hemp. It’s possibly the second most common compound next to THC. But, unlike it’s more famous “sister” compound, CBD doesn’t appear to produce a hallucinogenic effect, nor any psychoactive effect. This means that users don’t get high when consuming CBD. For this reason, researchers have been studying CBD since the 1940s.
In the human body, there are two known CBD receptors. These are the CB1 and CB2 receptors. They are largely present in the brain, but you will find them spread throughout the body and around the spine. When these receptors interact with CBD, they modulate neurotransmitter release, preventing excessive neuronal activity in order to reduce pain and inflammation, affect perception and memory, regulate movement, and calm anxiety. Also, CBD helps to mediate cytokine release to reduce pain and inflammation. In a 2015 study* that reviewed existing literature to look for cannabis and CBD therapeutic targets, it was suggested that there are over a dozen applications and potential benefits of CBD oil. These include helping with metabolic syndrome, reducing inflammation and pain, treating the liver, and much more.
These effects help to regulate serotonin and dopamine production, reduce inflammation and aid in reducing cravings. The reason that CBD is thought to be so beneficial for addiction recovery is due to the role it plays in our neurological system. To better understand this, let’s look at how it helps with alcoholism and smoking addiction.
CBD might be able to protect the brain against damages that are caused by alcohol
When a person drinks alcohol excessively, the two main areas that the liquor damages in the body are the brain and the liver. The reason that one starts to rely on alcohol and often relapses into a habit of drinking is because of the brain. Excessive consumption of alcohol causes neurodegeneration, meaning that it will slowly start to kill off neurons in the brain. This causes cognitive and behavioral changes that will increase the tendency for us to relapse into the abuse of substances chronically.
One of the main benefits of CBD is that researchers think it may function as a neuroprotectant. This means that it may protect or even repair the brain from damages that are caused by substances like alcohol.
CBD could help to reduce withdrawal symptoms from smoking
The most obvious behaviors of withdrawal symptoms from smoking are insomnia, anxiety, and irritability. The main cause of this is that THC and nicotine enhance the brain’s reward mechanism, and also desensitize the neuron receptors at the same time. As you stop smoking, your brain will ask for reinforcements through signals of withdrawal.
CBD might be able to help reduce these negative symptoms by interfering with the brain’s mechanisms that are responsible for reinforcements. Also, CBD stimulates the receptors in the nervous system which prevents or repairs neurons from being desensitized.
CBD isn’t generally an addictive substance, meaning that it doesn’t have addictive properties that would encourage your body to develop a physical dependence on a substance. Also, as long as the CBD oil doesn’t contain large traces of THC, it shouldn’t have a psychoactive component and therefore isn’t supposed to get you high. As a result, pure CBD has a lot of great therapeutic benefits without the effects of being high. Thus, it’s a great option for some people who might turn to mind-altering substances as a way to numb their feeling and avoid their problems.
In addition, CBD might have some neuroprotective benefits as we mentioned before. In other words, it might be able to help to nourish and protect your neurons and brain, therefore, encouraging optimal body and brain health if you supplement your diet and daily life with moderate doses of CBD.
By most accounts, CBD is a much safer alternative to prescription painkillers and hard over the counter drugs. It doesn’t have the risks and danger that comes along with the pop of a pill or drinking alcohol. It comes from a plant and has very few side effects.
However, it is important to keep in mind that CBD oil might not always be the answer. The main issue for some addicts is turning to a substance or some type of crutch as an aid to their feelings or daily struggles. Addiction can take a variety of routes. In a lot of cases, it involves turning to drugs or alcohol, because these substances have powerful mind-altering and sedative effects. But sometimes, it could be turning to food, relationships, work, or exercise.
The point is, a person who suffers from addiction could get psychologically addicted to anything, from chocolate to CBD. Though these substances may not have addictive properties in themselves, some addicts often need to free themselves of every and anything that they turn to in life for comfort, assistance, or relief from any unpleasant emotions that come up over the course of a day. Because of this, CBD is not always a good option for addicts.
Final thoughts on CBD oil for addiction recovery
If you or anyone that you know suffers from addiction to any sort of substance, the important thing to do is get help. Whether this is in the form of therapy, speaking to a psychologist or trying out CBD oil, the key to recovery is taking that first step. The recovery process could involve some major lifestyle changes, new relationships and friendships, and even forming new habits.
It’s important to bare in mind that CBD may merely aid in the addiction recovery process. You may still need to reorient the way that you see the world and live your life. Relying on any substance to get through life is not a way to live. If you’re concerned about addiction, know that there is hope. In any case, always consult with your primary physician before you decide to go down the CBD path.
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