CBD, a non-addictive ingredient found in the cannabis plant, has become more popular in the world of alternative medicine. Available in the form of creams, tinctures, gummies, oils, and capsules, CBD has received attention for its supposed health benefits, which range from pain relief to improved sleep. There is also some evidence that CBD may promote health in people who are fighting addiction. The latest research tells the story.
CBD as an Alternative to Pain Medications
Beyond weakening drug-related memories and preventing relapse, CBD may be useful for people going through addiction treatment by serving as an alternative to addictive opiate pain medications. In fact, a 2018 study in the Archives of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences found that oils containing a mixture of CBD and THC (Full Spectrum CBD Oil), the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, were more effective than prescription pain medications for relieving pain. In addition, many patients were able to discontinue their use of opiate pain medications after beginning treatment with CBD. CBD may be a good alternative for opiate pain medications for managing occasional pain.
Based on the research, CBD appears to have potentially positive effects in reducing drug memories, weakening drug-seeking behavior, and assisting with smoking cessation. Those who are in treatment for addiction or smoking cessation may benefit from adding CBD to their usual treatment regimen. More research is needed to determine the specific effects of CBD on humans in treatment for addiction, but the current scientific literature suggests that this substance shows promise for fighting against the drug epidemic.
CBD and Hard Drug Addiction
CBD may be effective for reducing marijuana and cigarette use, and animal research shows that it may also be useful for supporting health in people who are dependent upon powerfully addictive drugs like methamphetamine and opiates. For example, in a study in a 2018 edition of the Journal of Psychopharmacology, rats were trained to administer methamphetamine by pushing a lever. They were then treated with CBD, which reduced their motivation to administer methamphetamine and prevented them from seeking methamphetamine.
Similar effects have been seen with opiate addiction. In a 2009 study in the Journal of Neuroscience, rats who were trained to self-administer heroin were exposed to a cue that encouraged them to administer heroin. CBD weakened their drug-seeking behavior when they were exposed to the cue. This research suggests that CBD may reduce drug-seeking behavior in animals.
Effects of CBD on the Brain
The impact of CBD on drug-seeking behavior may be a result of the effects of this substance on the brain. For instance, scientists writing for a 2017 publication of the British Journal of Pharmacology have reported that studies show that CBD can interfere with the formation of memories associated with drug use. By weakening drug-related memories, CBD may prevent people from glamorizing their drug use and remembering the euphoric effects of drugs, thereby reducing future drug use.
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Reducing drug use may also be accomplished by reducing the reasons people turn to drugs in the first place. Many people use substances because they are experiencing a lot of stress or because they have mental health disorders. CBD is known to help boost mental health. Multiple animal studies have found that treating mice with CBD leads to fewer markers of stress and less impulsive behavior. Future studies may show that CBD can help people have a healthier response to stress and be less likely to use drugs.
CBD may also have a protective effect on the brain. Mice have fewer cocaine-induced seizures while on CBD. Additionally, while drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, and even cigarettes often cause problems with memory and focus, experiments have shown that mice that took CBD had better brain function. This has not yet been well-studied in humans, but it may mean that CBD can support brain health.
Effects of CBD on the Body
Scientists don’t yet know for sure why CBD may affect people with addiction, but some early laboratory studies provide a few clues. Animal studies have shown that CBD may affect some of the side effects caused by addiction. For example, cocaine typically causes liver damage, but this effect was decreased in CBD-treated mice. This shows that CBD may boost organ health in people struggling with substance misuse.
CBD for Stopping Smoking
Whether you’re looking to give up nicotine, marijuana, or both, CBD may play a role in helping you to quit for good. A case study, published in a 2015 edition of Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal, followed a patient who had bipolar disorder and marijuana addiction. This patient was able to stop using marijuana after he began treatment with CBD oil; his sleep also improved, while his anxiety levels were reduced.
CBD can also make it easier to cut back on cigarettes. In 2013, a study in Addictive Behaviors found that cigarette smokers were able to reduce their cigarette consumption by 40 percent after they started using CBD. On the other hand, study participants who took a placebo did not cut back on cigarettes, showing that the CBD did have a meaningful effect.
CBD and Quitting Marijuana
While marijuana is becoming legalized in many places and increasing numbers of people are using the drug, it can have negative effects. THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, can lead to psychosis and addiction. People are seeking substance abuse treatment for marijuana at skyrocketing rates, but currently, there is no recognized treatment for cannabis addiction.
Brand-new research shows that CBD may help people who abuse marijuana. In a randomized controlled clinical trial recently published in The Lancet Psychiatry, researchers enrolled 82 people who struggled with marijuana use disorder. All of the participants received counseling for addiction and were randomly assigned to receive different doses of CBD or a placebo. People who took the lowest dose of CBD, 200 milligrams, did not experience any effects, but CBD was useful for people who took 400 or 800 milligrams. Study participants who took these higher doses abstained from using marijuana for longer periods of time and reduced the overall amount that they smoked. The study found that using CBD to treat marijuana misuse was not only effective but also safe, with no participants experiencing any major side effects.
CBD and Alcohol
Just as CBD may help people fighting substance use, it may also help people who drink heavily. One mouse study showed that CBD led to 50% less brain cell death during binge drinking. Another experiment found that when mice with a history of alcohol dependency received CBD, they were less likely to drink in the future.
Additional human studies are needed in order to better determine how CBD affects addiction. Animal studies look promising, and clinical trials looking at the role of CBD in substance use disorders are ongoing. For example, CBD treatments are currently being investigated for people struggling with cocaine or alcohol abuse. Future research will help us better understand how CBD affects people with addiction.