Can CBD Help Conquer Addictions & Ease Withdrawals?
By Keith Alban
It's fairly safe to say that nearly every human being in this world is addicted to something. Whether it's a TV show, shopping, sex gambling, technology, social media, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, coffee, prescription medications, food, sugar, sports, cars, video gaming, adrenaline stimulating activities, yoga, or whatever else it may be. Our brains are hardwired with a mechanism that's sometimes referred to as the dopamine reward system.
This is only one system of several reward systems and neurotransmitters that can cause us to chase the feeling we get when engaging in some of these activities. Some of these addictions may be less detrimental to our health than others of course, but our brains are wired with that mechanism. Perhaps
the most detrimental to our mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health is long term drug addiction. Depending on the specific substance that's being used, drug addictions are some of the toughest to overcome.
The intimate ties to the brain and body that drugs create over months or years can make quitting a long, arduous, tumultuous journey. It can be done though, we're stronger than we sometimes realize while in a state of substance abuse. Drugs can manipulate our senses by causing a massive release of certain neuro-chemicals in our brain and body that feel powerful and euphoric to some degree, especially in the early stages. As these chemicals become hardwired and embedded into our neural circuitry and cells, the addiction has the potential to cause intense withdrawals that can leave us feeling incredibly empty, irritated, and uncomfortable.
The Willpower to Take A Leap Into Sobriety
The willpower and discipline to both give up the high and withstand the lows that withdrawals produce for a while is a massive challenge that causes many to stumble. It will often take months until the body is able to balance itself out and the brain starts producing sufficient levels of endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, GABA, and other crucial compounds for balance and well being. This is where a supplement like CBD can come in handy. While no supplement will cure or take away 100% of withdrawals, cannabidiol (CBD) is a natural compound that may help to balance certain mechanisms in the brain and body that may help to make withdrawals and PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome) slightly more comfortable.
This doesn't mean CBD will help with every type of withdrawal. For some people, CBD can provide tangible effects that help to ease symptoms, while for others, it may do absolutely nothing. So what does the research on this subject tell us about CBD? One piece of interesting research actually showed that CBD may have the potential to improve withdrawals from heavy drugs such as heroin. A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry noticed a clear withdrawal-easing effect for long-time heroin users. The study gathered 42 users from different places like halfway houses, social services, and treatment centers that had been using heroin for an average of over 10 years. The 42 participants were divided into three groups.
One group was given a moderate CBD dose, one group a high dose, and one group placebo compound for several days before the examination. The participants were shown different forms of stimulus such as pictures and videos of drug use, as well as paraphernalia like syringes and heroin powder. While this type of study may seem slightly cruel, it was done to evoke a reaction in order to study pathology on the brain and body. Both groups of addicts that were given CBD had a 2 to 3 fold reduction in cravings and less anxiety compared to the placebo group! (1)
The participant's bodies were more relaxed, their minds more at ease, and less physical symptoms that could be seen as cravings were present. The placebo group didn't achieve any results whatsoever. Not much of a difference was seen from either CBD group, although they only supplemented for a very short period of time in this study. Supplementing for a longer period would have likely produced even better results. Yasmin Hurd, director of the Addiction Institute of Mount Sanai and head researcher for this study, said that intense cravings are what drives drug use.
Yasmin Hurd believes that if CBD could dampen the intense cravings, it may greatly reduce the risk of overdosing and relapsing. (2) Something else worth that’s extremely valuable for heroin withdrawal is sodium ascorbate, a form of vitamin C. Research has been hidden about mega-dosing sodium ascorbate powder (that form specifically, NOT ascorbic acid) for certain forms of drug withdrawal, heroin included. Another interesting piece of research that was published in Addictive Behaviors evaluated the potential effects that CBD may have on cigarette smokers.
CBD For Tobacco Addiction
Researchers took 24 tobacco users that smoked at least 10 cigarettes per day and gave half of them a CBD inhaler, and the other half a placebo inhaler. They were instructed to use the CBD inhaler and placebo whenever they felt the urge to smoke. Over the week that was used for testing, the group using the CBD inhaler reduced the number of cigarettes they smoked by 40%, while the placebo group didn't have any reductions! (3) Large scale trials would be very helpful at understanding what's possible with long term supplementation for quitting. We see that CBD has a positive influence on the tapering process, which is a big step in the right direction. Reducing usage has great value with any type of substance addiction. Two other supplements
worth noting for nicotine addictions are low dose lobelia root extract and avena sativa milky oats tinctures. Avena can help calm nerves, nourish the nervous system, while lobelia has a compound called lobeline that closely resembles nicotine that may help slightly lessen withdrawals and relax the body. It is important to do a low dose of lobelia though, it is quite powerful and shouldn’t be taken in high doses.
CBD for Cocaine, Methamphetamine, and Alcohol
The good news for CBD and addictions doesn't stop there. Researchers at the University of Valencia and the University of Zaragoza believe that CBD may have some potential for addictions to stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine. CBD may be able to lend a helping hand against the inflammation, seizures, and some percentage of the toxicity induced by cocaine. The damage will still with continuous use obviously, but CBD may help to decrease cocaine and meth seeking behaviors according to one study. (3) Mice given high doses of CBD were less likely to self administer cocaine and meth when given the option. CBD may also be able to reduce symptoms of withdrawal, cravings, and impulsiveness. (4)
This isn't to say that it will remove them completely, which may not be possible with anyone substance, but it may help to reduce the severity of these symptoms. A study with humans is currently taking place and will hopefully shed light on how well CBD may help with these specific addictions in people. Yet another study elucidated CBD's anti-addiction, withdrawal-easing potential with alcohol. In this study, transdermal CBD was used on rats that were made were given addictions to alcohol and cocaine.
Although PETA may have issues with this type of study, the overall intentions are to see if CBD can potentially help human beings. Researchers gave these poor, boozed up rats CBD once a day for 7 days. They discovered that the CBD helped prevent addict like behaviors in them and actually prevented the rats from relapsing for 5 months. Not sure how such a thing is done in a laboratory setting, but this is what was published. This is interesting because the CBD was cleared from the brain within several days, yet they didn't seek their substance of choice after this occurred. (5)
Supplementation would likely need to be kept up in human beings because of the differences in lifespan and recovery, but those results are very interesting. The battles with addiction go way beyond chemical for humans, so CBD supplementation may not exert such a profound influence in people as some of the animal-based studies. Having said that, several pieces of research show that humans do respond quite effectively to many different types of addictions. Freidbert Weiss, head researcher at Scripps Research Institute stated that this study provides “proof of principle supporting the potential of CBD in relapse prevention.” (6)
CBD For Marijuana Addiction
CBD may help to curb certain withdrawal symptoms from its close relative, marijuana. Most strains that are used these days are very high in THC and low in CBD, so smoking would be somewhat devoid of the therapeutic benefits of CBD. CBD seems to have an effect at balancing and nullifying some of the toxic effects of too much THC, at least according to researchers like Val Curran of the University of London. (7) Heavy marijuana use over several months or years can cause withdrawals such as insomnia, headaches, temperature fluctuations, loss of motivation, depression, indigestion, loss of appetite, subtle waves of nausea, nightmares,
shakiness, dizziness, anxiety, aggression, irritability, and restlessness. These symptoms will subside over time, but it can be somewhat of a slow process that frustrates people and causes them to start up again.
A clinical trial for CBD and marijuana consisted of 82 people who were classified as being severely addicted to marijuana. They were separated into groups and given three different doses of CBD, along with one group taking a placebo. The lowest dose of CBD didn't work for withdrawals, while the middle dose of 400mgs was superior to the highest dose of 800mgs. After 6 months, the 400mg dose group more than doubled the number of days they went without using marijuana compared to the placebo group. (8) The range of applications that CBD is showing has surprised many scientists and researchers, especially for something with no real downside or side effects.
Withdrawals and addictions are very tough to conquer and not many natural compounds would be able to elicit this type of effect for such a range of substances. Heroin, cocaine, alcohol, methamphetamine, marijuana, and nicotine are some of the substances that could possibly benefit from CBD use. We still don't know how consistently it will translate in the human body, although some of these successful studies were done using people. If anyone is struggling with addictions or withdrawals, CBD may be something worth considering. Rather than relying on CBD to battle the power of withdrawals alone, it's much more prudent to use it as part of a supplement stack that gives the body access to a multitude of nutrients that it can use to battle addictions.