CBD For Quitting Smoking: Is it Effective?

The good news is that the number of Americans smoking tobacco cigarettes is falling rapidly. According to CDC data, the rate of adults who smoked cigarettes fell from 20.9% in 2000 to just 15.5% in 2016. Even so, it still meant that 38 million American adults smoked either everyday or ‘most days.’

The CDC also found that 59% of people who have ever used cigarettes managed to quit during the study timeframe. However, the nicotine in cigarettes is extremely addictive, and the death sticks themselves are responsible for an estimated 480,000 deaths in the United States each year.

Imagine if there was an organic method of kicking the habit; one that was unlikely to cause negative side effects. Imagine no more, as the marijuana compound CBD could be riding to the rescue!

Why Are Tobacco Cigarettes So Addictive?

To understand how CBD might work, it is important to look at the potential reasons behind tobacco addiction. Conventional wisdom states that addiction to cigarettes is caused by the effects of nicotine. In general, drug addiction is classified as a brain disease that causes an individual to seek drugs compulsively. The addict loses control over the consumption of the drug despite the damaging consequences to the individual and those around him.

However, an estimated 80% of drug addicts recover from their addiction during the course of their lifetime. The number of tobacco addicts who quit is far lower. It is interesting to note that in animal studies, researchers have found it difficult to train the animals to become addicted to nicotine.

The rates of tobacco cessation due to pharmacological means such as nicotine gum or patches is extremely low. In other words, perhaps it is time to revisit the idea that it is the nicotine that smokers are addicted to. One theory suggests that tobacco addiction is due to the fact it is a habit established over a long period.

It makes sense when you think about it: Imagine doing something 40 times a day for 20 years; how hard do you think it would be to quit such a habit? In humans, the more ingrained a habit is, the more difficult it is to change it.

Is Vaping CBD a Viable Alternative to Tobacco Cigarettes?

If it is less about nicotine, and more about habit, then perhaps ‘replacing’ the habit rather than trying to go ‘cold turkey’ is the way to go? Smoking marijuana joints can prove to be an effective replacement because you are smoking in the same fashion, using the same type of device, and the joint looks and feels similar to a cigarette.

The real challenge is getting people to replace smoking with vaping. When you smoke weed, you cause combustion, so you are still inhaling carcinogenic substances. While there are almost certainly fewer cancer-causing agents in smoked weed than in tobacco, you are still possibly exposing yourself to harm and irritating your lungs.

Then we have the possibility of CBD helping people to quit smoking. Cannabidiol is a non-intoxicating compound in marijuana and is also abundant in industrial hemp. To say it is a growing industry is an understatement as breeders create special high CBD, low THC types of weed. Now that it is legal to grow industrial hemp, CBD sellers have their pick of growers.

We are hesitant to label CBD as a ‘cure all’ because a lot more research needs to be conducted before we reach any definitive conclusions. Researchers aren’t even 100% sure how the cannabinoid impacts the human endocannabinoid system (ECS). However, it has been the subject of research which reached interesting conclusions, to say the least.

CBD & Quitting Cigarettes – The Studies

A study by Morgan et al., published in the journal Addictive Behavior in 2013, looked at whether CBD could reduce cigarette consumption in tobacco users. It was a double-blind pilot study which involved a total of 24 subjects, all of whom smoked at least 10 tobacco cigarettes a day.

Half of the group were given an inhaler with CBD, while the other half got an inhaler with a placebo. The treatment lasted for one week. All subjects recorded their tobacco cravings and anxiety daily. As part of the study, a follow-up interview was conducted 21 days later.

After the initial treatment week, it was revealed that the CBD group smoked 40% fewer cigarettes than before. In comparison, the placebo group’s reduction was minimal. While both groups recorded a similar reduction in cravings and anxiety during the treatment week, they returned to their initial conditions after 21 days. The authors of the study concluded that CBD could be an effective means of reducing tobacco cigarette consumption, but acknowledged that larger scale studies with longer follow-ups were necessary.

In their paper, the researchers outlined a possible reason why CBD helped reduce cigarette intake. The theory involves CBD acting as a weak reverse agonist on CB1 receptors.  CBD is also a potent inhibitor of FAAH, an enzyme that breaks down the anandamide ‘bliss’ molecule. CBD’s actions could cause a reduction in the effects of nicotine.

Another interesting study looked at the impact of attentional bias; a phenomenon whereby you become strongly focused on specific stimuli while ignoring others. For example, if you smoke tobacco cigarettes and watch Mad Men characters smoking every three minutes, you are more likely to crave a cigarette.

The study in question, by Hindocha et al., and published in the journal Addiction in May 2018, discovered that CBD could reduce attentional bias to imagery related to tobacco. In the study, 30 volunteers who smoked were told to stop smoking for 12 hours. They were also given 800mg of CBD orally or a placebo.

Next, they were shown tobacco-related imagery such as lighters, ashtrays, and groups of smokers, along with neutral imagery. The volunteers that consumed CBD didn’t have a greater reduction in cravings, but they did find cigarette smoking cues less appealing. Aside from the small sample size, the other issue is the size of the CBD dose. It is unrealistic, and expensive, to expect people to consume 800mg of CBD a day.

The study built on a 2010 study by Morgan et al., which was published in Neuropsychopharmacology. This particular study looked at cannabis dependency and analyzed whether CBD could help reduce attentional bias in 94 volunteers. Once again, CBD was effective, and the study concluded by saying it was potentially a treatment for marijuana dependence.

Final Thoughts on CBD – Can It Help You Quit Smoking?

Research is still in its infancy. Indeed, the three studies cited above are the main material we can use at this moment in time. Certainly, if you are addicted to cigarette smoking and have tried everything else, CBD could be a game-changer. It isn’t cheap but neither is nicotine gum or patches! Moreover, there are few reported negative side effects associated with CBD, although once again, more research is required.

According to a study by Chaiton et al., published in the British Medical Journal, it takes an average of 30 attempts for a cigarette smoker to successfully quit. Of course, smokers already know how hard it is to quit, so if you have tried all the rest, maybe now is the time to see if CBD is the best? There are no guarantees that CBD will work, but we can guarantee that it won’t work if you don’t use it in the first place!

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