Drug addiction is an increasingly common and serious problem around the country. A survey by the Pew Research Center1 shows that most Americans believe that addiction is a pressing issue in their community. This concern comes amid the increasing rate of drug-related deaths in recent years. According to statistical data2 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 70,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in 2017, which is up from 16,849 in 1999. Although the government is attempting to enforce measures that tackle the issue by facilitating access to recovery/treatment centers, an alternative solution is quickly emerging – cannabidiol (CBD).
With the drug abuse epidemic plaguing the United States, could the therapeutic effects of CBD include helping with addiction? This article will evaluate and discuss the scientific evidence on using CBD to help with different types of addictions.
What is Addiction? – Definition and Causes
According to the American Psychiatric Association3, addiction is a “complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequence.” It is classified as a disease because it alters brain processes. Addictive drugs such as opioids, nicotine, and alcohol influence regions of the brain that are associated with pleasure. These cues reinforce drug use and facilitate an addictive behavior.
When you think about addictions, the obvious picture that comes to mind is the pursuit of a drug’s high. However, even when the addict no longer desires the high, addicts may still relapse when they attempt to quit. This complication is due to negative withdrawal symptoms. There are several options and recovery procedures that are designed to help patients with these symptoms as they quit addictive drugs. While these can relatively improve the patient’s quality of life, they come with some costly drawbacks or side effects.
However, there is hope for individuals attempting to find an alternative option to end drug addictions. Anecdotal evidence and a growing field of research show that CBD may be an effective alternative for addictive behaviors.
How CBD Helps People with Addictions – Effects and Benefits
Scientists discovered that humans have a system in their body known as the endocannabinoid system4. This system is designed to respond to chemicals, such as CBD from hemp plants, or the cannabinoids naturally produced by the body. This complex system is made up of the cannabinoids and receptors (CB1 and CB2) which are found throughout the body in different organs and systems.
The cannabinoids, such as CBD, interact with these receptors to help regulate many body functions including appetite, behavior, temperature, sleep, and mood, and more. Research and anecdotal reports are beginning to show that CBD offers a wide range of therapeutic benefits including pain relief5, reducing anxiety6, and improving sleep7, among other health benefits.
But, does CBD get the user high? No! The World Health Organization states that CBD (cannabidiol) is safe, non-toxic, non-addicting, and non-intoxicating. All too often, CBD is wrongfully associated with the psychoactive chemical, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Both CBD and THC can be derived from the same plants, but have unique chemical structures and very different effects.
How does CBD help different types of addictions?
Are the claims for using CBD for drug, alcohol, and smoking addictions backed by scientific evidence? Yes! As we will highlight below, scientific studies show that CBD could help people recover from many different types of addiction, including:
- Opioids, Heroin & Other Street Drugs
- Cigarettes & Nicotine
CBD helps addicts break free from the chains of dependence through its ability to help reduce cravings, manage the symptoms of withdrawal, and even address some of the reasons for initial dependence. There is significant evidence to demonstrate that CBD can also help with insomnia, anxiety, and depression which are often highly associated with substance abuse and can occur while quitting an addiction.
A 2012 study8 demonstrated that CBD reduced cravings in patients recovering from addiction and helped lower their perceived levels of stress. The therapeutic benefits9 of CBD help with pain management, nausea and vomiting, and the anxiety effects that are experienced as symptoms of withdrawal. CBD can also help manage the original inflammation and pain that led to the use of prescription drugs like opioids in the first place. Below are some of the medical and scientific studies highlighting the therapeutic potential of CBD and the specific types of addiction.
CBD for Opioids, Heroin, & Other Street Drug Addictions
What are prescription opioids? This class of drug commonly prescribed by doctors as medications for intense pain (Ex: Oxycodone, Vicodin, codeine, and morphine). Prescription opioids are used to manage pain and relax the body. However, they may also make users feel a high – hence their recreational use. Opioids are highly addictive and patients are susceptible to fatal overdoses. In 2017, President Trump officially declared10 the opioid epidemic a national health emergency and called for Americans to “liberate our communities from this scourge of drug addiction.”
Heroin is an illegal opioid and regarded as a highly dangerous drug. It is not legal in the United States due to it being highly addictive, having serious adverse effects, and a lack of any redeeming medicinal value. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse11, people who consume heroin have a high chance of addiction. Heroin and other forms of illicit street drugs such as cocaine and meth are cheaper and easier to acquire illegally than prescription opioids, making them an urgent cause for concern. These drugs endanger the life of users with potentially fatal overdoses. CBD may help rehabilitate addicts over prescription opioids, heroin, and other illegal street drugs by reducing dependence and alleviating the withdrawal symptoms.
Opioids, Heroin, & Street Drug Addiction Research
- The researchers of a 2019 study12 on CBD for heroin addiction state that, “CBD holds significant promise for treating individuals with heroin use disorder”.
- In a 2013 study13, CBD was shown to loosen dependency to opioids by interfering with “brain reward mechanisms responsible for the expression of the acute reinforcing properties of opioids.” Leading the researchers to conclude that “cannabidiol may be clinically useful in attenuating the rewarding effects of opioids.”
- According to a study14 published in the Journal of Addiction, symptoms of opioid withdrawal include rapid heartbeat, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, and anxiety. Fortunately, the National Institute of Drug Abuse9 presented that CBD can act as a potential remedy for most of these opioid withdrawal symptoms.
- CBD has also been shown to reduce the rewarding aspects of multiple drugs of abuse, such as cocaine and amphetamine according to a 2004 research study15.
CBD For Alcohol Addiction
Did you know that alcohol abuse is one of the most costly and common substance abuse disorders in America? Statistics show that alcohol use disorders account for nearly $223 billion16 in lost productivity and health care costs. Worse still, approximately 88,000 people lose their lives annually due to alcohol-related deaths, making it the 3rd leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Regardless of its legal status, availability, and social significance, alcohol is a highly addictive substance with extremely unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Where does CBD for alcohol addiction come in? Various scientific studies show that CBD could help alcohol addicts in recovery to reduce the risk of relapse and manage symptoms.
Alcohol Addiction Research
- A 2018 study17 shows that CBD may help reduce some of the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol addiction such as insomnia, anxiety, and nausea. This extensive study also showed that CBD helps reduce the addiction motivation to take alcohol, prevent relapse, and reduce alcohol intake.
- Another study18 published in the Journal of Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior showed that CBD could decrease cell damage from excessive alcohol consumption by nearly 50%.
CBD For Cigarette Addiction
According to the Centers for Disease Control19 (CDC), cigarette smoking is a leading cause of preventable deaths in the world. Additional studies by the National Institute on Drug Abuse20 show that nearly 50% of cigarette smokers try to quit every year, but only 6% are successful. Conventional therapies for nicotine addiction, the addicting chemical in cigarettes, include prescription medications such as Chantix or nicotine replacement therapies such as gum, and patches. While these are noble initiatives that are better than smoking, nicotine replacement therapies are merely a substitution of one craving for another. Studies on CBD for stopping smoking show that the cannabinoid helps with social anxiety, calms the nerves, and reduces the nicotine craving, thus weakening dependency without the risks.
Cigarette Addiction Research
- Researchers of a study21 published in the Journal of Addictive Behaviors concluded, “CBD significantly reduced the number of cigarettes smoked by ~40% during treatment.” This suggests that CBD oil could significantly help people stop smoking by reducing the nicotine cravings of cigarettes.
- According to a 2018 study22, CBD may be a “promising novel smoking cessation treatment due to its anxiolytic properties, minimal side effects and research showing that it may modify drug cue salience.”
Final Thoughts on CBD & Addiction
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction to any of the substances mentioned, it may be worth considering CBD as an option to help users quit. According to the above scientific research, CBD offers a long list of benefits for addressing drug addiction. These therapeutic benefits include reducing the intensity of cravings, helping manage withdrawal symptoms, and reducing the risk of relapse. All these benefits come without the risk of addiction to CBD products or other negative adverse side effects. If you are ready to take the next step to end an addiction, check out our CBD products on our online store.