CBD is a ‘go-to’ for many who suffer from chronic illnesses and disorders, including chronic pain, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and acne. It is also believed to be a safe alternative to over-the-counter medications. THC, the most abundant intoxicating compound in cannabis, is potentially addictive. Is CBD the same? Let’s find out.
Is CBD Addictive?
The simple answer is ‘no.’ CBD doesn’t produce the intoxicating high of THC, and it isn’t addictive at the molecular level. THC binds to the CB1 receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). These receptors are mainly found in the brain.
When you consume cannabis, the THC binds tightly with the CB1 receptors, and they transmit signals to the body. The cannabinoid helps activate the brain’s reward system and stimulates neurons to release dopamine at higher than normal levels. This flood of dopamine helps produce the pleasurable high you feel. A desire to continue feeling this high can lead to addictive behavior.
While CBD has some impact on CB1 receptors, it is indirect. As a consequence, this particular cannabinoid doesn’t cause an intoxicating high.
What Do the Studies Say?
One of the most relevant studies on whether CBD is addictive was published in Drug and Alcohol Dependency in 2017. The study involved 31 healthy frequent cannabis users. They received one of three oral doses of CBD (200mg, 400mg, and 800mg) or no cannabidiol. They used the cannabinoid with either 0.01% or 5.3-5.8% THC cannabis.
After eight weeks, the researchers found that active cannabis reliably produced abuse-related effects such as an intoxicating high. However, CBD remained placebo-like on all measures. The cannabinoid didn’t affect blood pressure, heart rate, or cognitive function. Moreover, it performed similarly to a placebo regarding self-reported feelings of intoxication.
This came after a 2011 study was published in Current Drug Safety, which looked at the side effects of CBD. The researchers discovered that the volunteers could handle up to 1,500mg of CBD per day without any significant issues. The cannabinoid also didn’t impair motor or psychological functions when compared to THC. As with the 2017 research, users didn’t report blood pressure changes, heart rate, or body temperature.
A Pre-Review Report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2017 stated that CBD wasn’t associated with abuse potential. The WHO later wrote that CBD was non-addictive, was generally well tolerated, has no withdrawal symptoms, and has a good safety profile. It recommended that CBD was removed from lists of controlled substances.
CBD Could Help FIGHT Addiction
Not only is CBD non-addictive, but it could also potentially help people with substance abuse disorders. Although THC doesn’t lead to the same level of physical withdrawal symptoms as alcohol or opiates, it can still result in cannabis use disorder (CUD). Symptoms include low mood, feelings of anxiety, and agitation.
There is evidence that CBD could help reduce the adverse effects of CUD. One study, published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics in 2012, looked at CBD for treating cannabis withdrawal syndrome. It was a case study on a 19-year-old female cannabis user who consumed CBD for ten days. The researchers discovered that the woman experienced reduced withdrawal symptoms.
This came three years after a study published in Neuropsychopharmacology which looked at how CBD to THC ratios affected attentional bias to drug stimuli. Researchers found that high-CBD strain users showed a reduced self-rated liking of marijuana stimuli and decreased attentional bias to drug and food stimuli than high-THC users.
A case study published in Integrative Medicine in 2015 looked at a 27-year-old male with bipolar disorder who used cannabis daily. Researchers discovered that the patient ceased his use of cannabis once he began using CBD oil regularly.
CBD Reduces Reliance on Other Drugs
A 2015 review of studies published in Substance Abuse analyzed 14 studies that showed the impact of CBD on addictive behaviors. Five of these studies focused on humans. According to the evidence gathered, CBD could have therapeutic properties on cocaine, opioid, and psychostimulant addiction.
One of these studies related to CBD’s effect on tobacco consumption, published in Addictive Behaviors in 2013. It featured 24 tobacco cigarette smokers. Half of them consumed CBD from an inhaler, while the other half used a placebo. After a week, the CBD users reduced their cigarette consumption by 40%. Those who used the placebo noticed no difference in their usage of cigarettes.
Meanwhile, a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2019 looked at CBD’s effects on heroin addiction. It involved 42 long-term heroin users. One group received a placebo, another received 400mg of CBD, while a third group consumed 800mg of the cannabinoid. Those who used the CBD reported significantly reduced anxiety and cravings induced by drug cues.
Although CBD is non-addictive and could help fight addiction, it does have some issues attached. It has the potential for adverse effects such as:
- Liver damage
- Fertility problems
- Loss of appetite
There is also the possibility of a drug interaction. A study published in 1993 found that CBD blocked the cytochrome P450 family of enzymes. These enzymes eliminate anywhere from 60% to 80% of pharmaceutical drugs from the system.
Researchers found that CBD blocked CYP450 enzymes from being broken down and metabolized by the liver in the above study. As a consequence, using CBD with certain drugs could increase or decrease their effectiveness.
Final Thoughts: Is CBD Addictive?
Substances such as heroin and opioids cause changes in the brain and induce intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Brain imaging and scans show marked changes in many areas that include judgment, decision making, behavior, and impulse control. Studies show that CBD doesn’t result in withdrawal symptoms, nor does it meet other addiction markers.
In fact, research suggests that CBD could help individuals who are addicted to nicotine, cannabis, or opioids. CBD could cause side effects and interact with certain medications. However, in general, it is relatively safe to use as long as you buy it from a reputable brand.