“Addictions destroy marriages, friendships, and careers and threaten a person’s basic health and safety,” pleads Addiction Center.
Additionally, deaths from drug overdoses have more than tripled since 1990.
As researchers scramble to solve this public health crisis, CBD steps into the spotlight.
With compelling results for battling three different forms of addiction, CBD may be the future of addiction management.
CBD and Addiction
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the second most abundant active ingredient found in cannabis. Unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning it does not impair the mind of the user.
CBD interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for regulating many of the body’s functions, including mood, sleep, metabolism, pain sensation, among others.
Researchers continue to study CBD as an option for treatment and symptom management for a variety of health and wellness issues, such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, epilepsy, Parkinon’s disease, and more.
CBD itself is safe to use and non-addictive. According to a report released by the World Health Organization (WHO), “CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential.”
Researchers have explored CBD as a tool for addiction management of cannabis use disorder, tobacco addiction, and heroin use disorder.
CBD Curbs Cannabis Use in Individuals with Cannabis Use Disorder
In a clinical trial published in October 2020, CBD was proven to be both safe and effective in reducing cannabis use in patients with cannabis use disorder (CUD). Cannabis use disorder is also referred to as cannabis or marijuana addiction, cannabis abuse, or marijuana use disorder.
The goal of the double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial was to find the perfect dosage of CBD to reduce cannabis use.
In the first stage of the trial, 48 participants received either a placebo or oral doses of 200mg, 400mg, or 800mg of CBD. Upon review of results, the 200mg dose was eliminated as too low to be effective in the second stage of the trial. Additionally, 34 new participants were added, randomly receiving either placebo, or a dose of CBD at 400mg or 800mg.
During the trial, no adverse side effects were reported as the “cannabidiol was well tolerated.”
Researchers at the Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit at University College in London concluded 400mg and 800mg doses of CBD “were safe and more efficacious than placebo at reducing cannabis use” in individuals with CUD.
CBD Combats Tobacco Cravings
Because the endocannabinoid system plays a large role in nicotine addiction, CBD has been investigated as a potential treatment option.
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in September 2013 explored the effects of CBD on cigarette consumption in tobacco smokers.
For one week, 24 smokers were given either a CBD or placebo inhaler, and were instructed to use the inhaler whenever they felt the urge to smoke. Participants also tracked their daily cigarette and inhaler use, and monitored their cravings once daily throughout the week.
While the placebo was proven to have no effect, the study revealed “those treated with CBD significantly reduced the number of cigarettes smoked by ~40% during treatment.” In a 2-week follow-up, the CBD group still reported a reduction in cigarette use.
The findings of this study “suggest CBD to be a potential treatment for nicotine addiction.”
CBD Controls Heroin Cravings and Anxiety
A unique study closely examined the impact of CBD on heroin users when shown drug-related videos and objects.
Published in November 2019, the double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial explored the impact of CBD on individuals with heroin use disorder, a form of opioid addiction. The study investigated the effects of CBD on cravings and anxiety, “two critical features of addiction that often contribute to relapse and continued drug use” in those with heroin use disorder.
42 participants received a daily dose of either a placebo or 400mg or 800mg of EPIDIOLEX over the course of three days. EPIDIOLEX is an FDA-approved CBD prescription medication for severe cases of epilepsy.
The participants were exposed to short videos with either neutral or drug-related cues at three different instances of time: immediately after the administration of the CBD or placebo, 24 hours later, and a week after the final dose. The purpose was to measure both short- and long-term effects of CBD use.
According to the Recovery Research Institute, the neutral videos contained relaxing scenes in nature, while the drug cue-inducing videos “showed intravenous or intranasal drug use, depending on the participant’s reported preferred route of drug use.”
After the videos, the participants were also shown either neutral objects or “heroin-related paraphernalia (e.g., syringe, rubber tie, and packets of powder resembling heroin) for 2 minutes,” reveals the Recovery Research Institute.
During the sessions, researchers collected a wide variety of data, such as “cravings, anxiety, positive and negative emotions, or vital signs, after being exposed to the drug or neutral cues.”
Analysis of the study found CBD “significantly reduced both craving and anxiety” induced by drug cues. The effects were long-lasting; participants still experienced the benefits at least a week after use. Additionally, researchers reported CBD also “reduced the drug cue-induced physiological measures of heart rate and salivary cortisol levels” (stress response) with no serious side effects.
Author of the study Dr. Yasmin Hurd, PhD was quoted in a press release by Mount Sinai Health Systems, where the study occurred, on the implications of the study’s findings for the opioid epidemic:
“Our findings indicate CBD holds significant promise for treating individuals with heroin use disorder. A successful non-opioid medication would add significantly to the existing addiction medication toolbox to help reduce the growing death toll, enormous health care costs, and treatment limitations imposed by stringent government regulations amid this persistent opioid epidemic.”
Over to You
While these studies were small in size, they show great promise for the safe and effective use of CBD for addiction management for individuals with cannabis use disorder, tobacco addiction, and heroin use disorder.
For individuals or families facing mental and/or substance abuse disorders, visit Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at SAMHSA.gov, or call the 24/7 SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 to find local treatment facilities and more information.
Addiction Center. (2020, September 18). Addiction Statistics - Facts on Drug and Alcohol Use. Retrieved October 07, 2020, from https://www.addictioncenter.com/addiction/addiction-statistics/
Freeman, T. P., Hindocha, C., Baio, G., Shaban, N. D., Thomas, E. M., Astbury, D., . . . Curran, H. V. (2020). Cannabidiol for the treatment of cannabis use disorder: A phase 2a, double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised, adaptive Bayesian trial. The Lancet Psychiatry, 7(10), 865-874. doi:10.1016/s2215-0366(20)30290-x, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32735782/
Hurd, Y. L., Spriggs, S., Alishayev, J., Winkel, G., Gurgov, K., Kudrich, C., . . . Salsitz, E. (2019). Cannabidiol for the Reduction of Cue-Induced Craving and Anxiety in Drug-Abstinent Individuals With Heroin Use Disorder: A Double-Blind Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial. American Journal of Psychiatry, 176(11), 911-922. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2019.18101191, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31109198/
Morgan, C. J., Das, R. K., Joye, A., Curran, H. V., & Kamboj, S. K. (2013). Cannabidiol reduces cigarette consumption in tobacco smokers: Preliminary findings. Addictive Behaviors, 38(9), 2433-2436. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2013.03.011, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23685330/
Mount Sinai. (2019, May 21). CBD Reduces Craving and Anxiety in People with Heroin Use Disorder [Press release]. Retrieved 2020, from https://www.mountsinai.org/about/newsroom/2019/cbd-reduces-craving-and-anxiety-in-people-with-heroin-use-disorder
Recovery Research Institute. (2020). Study finds that cannabidiol (CBD) reduces drug craving and anxiety in patients recovering from heroin use disorder. Retrieved October 07, 2020, from https://www.recoveryanswers.org/research-post/cbd-effect-drug-craving-anxiety-heroin-use/
World Health Organization. (2018, June). Cannabidiol (CBD) Critical Review Report [PDF]. Geneva: World Health Organization (WHO), from https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/CannabidiolCriticalReview.pdf
About the Author
Lily Kiepke is a freelance writer and blogger based in the Denver metropolitan area. She enjoys using CBD to relieve anxiety and improve sleep. When she is not writing about cannabis, she can be found hiking in the Rocky Mountains or curled up with a good true crime book.