CBD is a ‘go-to’ for many who suffer from chronic illnesses and disorders, including pain, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and acne. It is also considered a safe alternative to over-the-counter medications. However, is it addictive? THC, the most abundant intoxicating compound in cannabis, is potentially habit-forming, so is CBD the same?
This article looks into whether CBD has the potential for addiction. It begins by examining the nature of addiction before analyzing the available research into whether cannabidiol has addictive properties.
Can You Get Addicted to CBD? Explaining Addiction
To understand whether it is possible to get addicted to CBD, we must first look into the definition of addiction. It is a dysfunction of the brain system that involves motivation, memory, and reward. For instance, someone with a substance use disorder (SUD) focuses on using a substance such as alcohol or illicit drug to the stage where their daily function is impaired.
Changes in the brain’s structure and function cause individuals to have intense cravings, not to mention abnormal movements and personality changes. Someone with an addiction will display the following behaviors:
- A lack of self-control
- The lack of an emotional response
- An increased desire for a given substance or behavior
- An inability to stay away from the subject of their addiction
- Complete dismissal of how the issue is affecting their lives and those of others
What Causes Addiction?
The frontal lobes of the brain play a major role in addictive behavior. These regions of the brain enable people to delay feelings of gratification or reward. If the frontal lobe malfunctions, this delay no longer exists, so gratification is instant.
There is also a suggestion that the brain’s nucleus accumbens and anterior cingulate cortex are involved in addiction. These areas are linked with pleasurable sensations and can increase an individual’s response if exposed to addictive behaviors or substances. This is particularly the case if the exposure happens early in someone’s life and is repeated.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine asserts that genetics can increase the risk of addiction by up to 50%. Additionally, someone’s environment could determine how they react to addictive stimuli.
The list of things that one can get addicted to is lengthy and includes:
Does CBD belong on this list?
How Does CBD Work in the Body?
All cannabinoids produce effects in the body through interaction with cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2). These receptors form part of our endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The CB1 receptors are present throughout the body but mainly in the brain. They help regulate important functions such as mood, appetite, emotion, pain, and memories. CB2 receptors are mainly located in the immune system. They impact inflammation and pain.
CBD works through a network of receptors called the endocannabinoid system, which controls a large range of bodily functions.
It appears that CBD plays a role in maintaining balance in the body, called homeostasis. It has dozens of molecular targets, which helps explain its potential variety of applications. Cannabidiol’s interaction with the ECS could influence 5-HT1A receptors that are sensitive to serotonin, a neurotransmitter.
Serotonin plays a significant role in regulating mood and can increase feelings of relaxation and happiness. CBD is a natural inhibitor of 5-HT1A receptors, meaning it blocks its reuptake in the brain. This process allows greater serotonin concentrations to circulate the body.
Now that we know how CBD works in the body, the next step is to determine if it is possible to become addicted to it.
Is CBD Oil Addictive?
The simple answer is ‘no.’ CBD doesn’t produce the intoxicating high of THC and isn’t addictive at the molecular level.
THC binds to the CB1 receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). When you consume cannabis, the THC binds tightly with the CB1 receptors, transmitting 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 daily without significant issues. As with the 2017 research, users didn’t report a change in blood pressure, heart rate, or body temperature. The cannabinoid also didn’t impair motor or psychological functions when compared to THC.
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, had no withdrawal symptoms, and had a good safety profile. It recommended that CBD be 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 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’s capacity to help with 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.
Some research on CBD suggests that it could help those with cannabis withdrawal syndrome to combat their 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 benefits on cocaine, opioid, and psychostimulant addiction.
One of these studies related to CBD’s effect on tobacco consumption was 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.
The other major issue relates to the unregulated nature of the industry. A shocking number of CBD products contain excessive levels of THC, which increases the risk of indulging in addictive behaviors. Therefore, make sure you stick with brands that provide full and up-to-date Certificates of Analysis (COAs) with every product.
You can also try a broad-spectrum product from a top-rated brand like Joy Organics. A broad-spectrum CBD tincture contains dozens of cannabinoids and terpenes but 0% THC. It is worth considering if you have any concerns about consuming THC.
Yet another option is a CBD isolate product. Such items contain no other compounds barring cannabidiol, although some brands include terpenes. Medterra has developed a reputation for providing high-quality isolate oil with a CBD concentration of up to 6,000mg.
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.
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, it is generally relatively safe to use if you buy it from a reputable brand.