About 1.1 billion people worldwide regularly smoke tobacco – a plant containing the highly addictive alkaloid nicotine. Tobacco kills approximately 7,000,000 people every year and estimates state that tobacco ultimately kills up to half of its users.
Every day in the United States, approximately 130 people die from a drug overdose – a number that has tripled in the past two decades alone.
Additionally, unless you’ve been living under a rock, there’s an excellent chance you’ve heard extensive media coverage (and maybe even heard people talking about it) regarding the increasing severity of the opioid epidemic. In 2017, nearly 50,000 living, breathing humans died from opioid-related drug-overdoses (with many of those involving the ultra-potent opioid fentanyl).
It is clear that in the world, and America, we are facing a severe problem with substance abuse, misuse, and addiction. Traditional 12-step programs seem to be the only option for many individuals (given the cost prohibitive nature of attending professional rehab). Although statistics vary, addiction specialists believe AA has a success rate of about 8-12% – that means about one in ten people in AA stay sober long term.
Rehab doesn’t fare much better, hovering somewhere around a 21% success rate.
There’s got to be something else, yes? Let’s take a look at the evidence surrounding the use of CBD in aiding with drug addiction, withdrawal, and recovery.
A Crash Course On ‘Getting High’
Certain drugs, such as benzodiazepines, alcohol, GHB, and barbiturates work by slowing neurotransmitters to a grinding halt – often through increasing the concentrations of GABA (the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter) in the brain.
Other substances like amphetamines, methamphetamine, and cocaine do the reverse – they speed things up and encourage the release of enormous amounts of dopamine and norepinephrine.
Nicotine as a tricky one, as it is often considered both a stimulant and a relaxant (usually depending on how quickly one smokes the cigarette). Nicotine stimulates the release of dopamine, and also partially prevents the breakdown of acetylcholine – a major neurotransmitter involved in memory formation. This fact is perhaps why nicotine is so addictive, as the brain vividly remembers every high created by the drug.
CBD and Drug Addiction
As we discussed here, endocannabinoids can act as a flow-control mechanism, moderating the activity of virtually every neurotransmitter in the body. As many likely know, the ‘high’ from ingesting psychoactive substances is induced by a dramatic alteration in neurotransmitter activity. Consider these facts about alcohol and CBD, from studies published by NCBI:
- CBD mitigates liver damage from alcohol consumption.
- Agonists of the CB1 receptor, such as THC, tend to increase alcohol consumption, whereas CB1 receptor antagonists like CBD reduce it.
- The CB1 receptor plays a major role in the reinforcing qualities of alcohol consumption.
- Taking CBD and alcohol together results in a substantially reduced BAC.
- CBD helps to prevent neurodegeneration from chronic alcohol consumption.
- Cannabinoids significantly impact virtually enzymes involved in alcohol metabolism (CYP450, ADH, ALDH).
- CBD reduces motivation and relapse potential for drinking alcohol.
Additionally, this study demonstrated that tobacco smokers reduced their cigarette consumption by approximately 40% when taking CBD. Here, scientists concluded that the CB1 receptor is pivotal in encouraging the rewarding effects of nicotine; CBD has many direct and indirect therapeutic benefits on this very receptor.
And again, scientists studied CBD for addiction to opioids, psychostimulants, and cannabis – with promising results. They stated:
“CBD has several therapeutic properties on its own that could indirectly be useful in the treatment of addiction disorders, such as its protective effect on stress vulnerability and neurotoxicity.”
The research and discussion regarding the use of CBD for substance abuse, addiction, and withdrawal remains in its infancy, but many experts seem convinced CBD is indeed a valuable tool for a current or recovering addict – what remains to be see is exactly what CBD does in the brain and body that causes these benefits.
As always, consult with your healthcare provider before embarking on any natural products regimen, and be safe!
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