Here’s What the Science Says About CBD and Addiction Treatment

By The Fix staff 03/22/20

Some research indicates that CBD could help treat addiction to opioids, methamphetamine, cocaine, and nicotine.

Image: 
Masked researcher studies CBD
ID 163645151 © Tinnakorn Jorruang | Dreamstime.com

Over the past few years, CBD has been heralded as a cure for ailments from arthritis to addiction. But it can be challenging to know what’s rumor and what is scientifically verified fact. That’s why it’s essential to review what real scientific studies say about using CBD to treat certain conditions.

When it comes to addiction, the research shows that CBD is promising. Here’s what you should know about using CBD to treat addiction.

What is CBD?

You’ve probably heard of CBD, but still not understand exactly what it is. CBD, or cannabidiol, is a chemical component found in marijuana or hemp. Unlike THC, it’s not psychoactive, and it’s not thought to be addictive either. CBD can be infused into a variety of products, from oils to bath bombs. People who use it believe it helps treat many conditions, including addiction.

CBD can help people with opioid addiction

Opioids are among the most powerfully addictive substances. CBD can be useful in helping people get off and stay off opioids, research indicates.

For starters, having access to medical marijuana might help people from becoming hooked on opioids in the first place. A 2014 study found that states with medical marijuana programs had significantly lower rates of opioid overdoses. The study did not investigate the cause of this correlation, but it could be that people who were able to treat their pain with cannabis products were less likely to use highly addictive opioids.

Another study indicates that CBD might lessen the appeal of opioids. A 2013 study done on rats founds that rats who were given CBD did not find morphine as rewarding. That suggests that CBD interferes with the way that the brain responds to opioids and could potentially impact the addictive nature of opioids. 

Many people who become addicted to opioids are treated using methadone. One 2013 study found that people who were using cannabis while on a methadone treatment plan reported less intense opioids withdrawals.

CBD can help with methamphetamine and cocaine addictions, too

A 2019 scientific review indicated that CBD could be useful for treating cocaine and methamphetamine addiction. The research shows that CBD might help people avoid relapsing on meth or cocaine.

“A limited number of preclinical studies indicate that CBD could have therapeutic properties on cocaine and METH addiction and some preliminary data suggest that CBD may be beneficial in cocaine-crack addiction in humans,” the study authors wrote. “Importantly, a brief treatment of CBD induces a long-lasting prevention of reinstatement of cocaine and METH seeking behaviours.”

This use of CBD is particularly crucial because there are currently no medication-assisted treatments for methamphetamine or cocaine addiction. Opioids can be treated using methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone, and this medication-assisted treatment improves outcomes for people with opioid use disorder. However, there’s no similar course of treatment for people struggling with meth or cocaine addiction. Because of that, CBD could be particularly promising for those patients.

CBD could be useful if you’re trying to quit smoking

Many people who are in recovery from substance use disorder still smoke cigarettes. Research shows that CBD could be useful in breaking the addictive pull of nicotine. A 2018 study looked at cigarette smokers who had abstained overnight, after being given a dose of CBD. Researchers found that the CBD didn’t reduce the cravings for nicotine, but it did make the experience of smoking a cigarette the next morning less pleasurable.

An earlier study, published in 2013, showed even more promise. Researchers found that cigarette smokers who took CBD as needed reduced the number of cigarettes they smoked by 40%. The study concluded, “CBD [is] a potential treatment for nicotine addiction that warrants further exploration.”

Is CBD safe for people who have a history of addiction?

CBD is generally considered safe, and it isn’t addictive. It’s key to make sure that you’re getting CBD from a reputable seller so that you can be sure that the CBD you’re taking doesn’t contain THC, the active ingredient in marijuana that can be addictive.

Want to learn more about the science of CBD and addiction? Click here.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix
the-fix-logo.png

The Fix staff consists of the editor-in-chief and publisher, a senior editor, an associate editor, an editorial coordinator, and several contributing editors and writers. Articles in Professional Voices, Ask an Expert, and similar sections are written by doctors, psychologists, clinicians, professors and other experts from universities, hospitals, government agencies and elsewhere. For contact and other info, please visit our About Us page.