How To Use CBD For Alcohol Withdrawal
In this article, you’ll learn a ton of CBD and alcohol info and tips. The use of CBD for alcohol withdrawal and other addictive disorders has become a hot topic lately, thanks to cutting-edge research involving CBD oil for alcoholism in rats. Since staying on top of new research is one of my favorite things to do, I quickly sampled some CBD oil for myself – and I will share the results with you below.
This article will primarily focus on the mechanisms by which non-THC, hemp-derived CBD oil may work to alleviate post-acute withdrawal and alcohol cravings.
First, we will give a brief overview of CBD. We will clarify the difference between CBD oil extracted from hemp and the use of marijuana for alcohol withdrawal. We will then discuss research that is relevant for the use of CBD for alcohol withdrawal, as well as my favorite CBD brand and further considerations for people who want to use CBD for alcoholism.
CBD And Alcohol: What Is CBD?
Now, you may be wondering: What on earth is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a natural compound found in both industrial hemp and marijuana. Our bodies contain endocannabinoids in numerous organs, including multiple brain regions. The endocannabinoid system is involved in maintaining bodily homeostasis, especially with regard to the following functions:
- Immune system responses (e.g., inflammation)
Incidentally, exercise is known to powerfully stimulate the endocannabinoid system.
Supplementation with CBD is thought to improve numerous conditions by helping to restore balance to the body and brain.
Unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), another compound found in marijuana and some hemp strains, CBD is not psychoactive and therefore does not give users a “high.” Instead, scientists have focused on CBD for its plethora of health-promoting effects, which may be useful for a variety of conditions as well as general health optimization.
CBD And Alcohol: CBD vs Marijuana For Alcohol Withdrawal
Why CBD Helps With Alcohol Withdrawal
I recently discussed exciting new research in rats that showed the potential for a 1-week administration of CBD oil to reduce alcohol cravings and subsequent relapse for up to 5 months. This particular study noted that CBD reduced biomarkers for inflammation, which disrupts neurotransmitter production, leading to uncontrollable cravings and relapse.
If you have been reading Fit Recovery for awhile, then you know that short-term alcohol consumption causes a cascade of artificial boosts in feel-good brain chemicals.
You also know that heavy drinking creates severe deficiencies in these neurotransmitters, which are required to feel like life is worth living. It does this in part by prompting the brain to rely on alcohol instead of producing optimal quantities of these brain chemicals on its own.
Long-term alcohol consumption also causes deficiencies in nutrients required for optimal neurotransmitter production. To make a bad situation even worse, ethanol and its toxic byproducts (like acetaldehyde) lead to the production of pro-inflammatory compounds that directly inhibit the production of neurotransmitters like dopamine, GABA, and serotonin.
I believe that CBD may ultimately prove to be very useful in eliminating alcohol dependence for two main reasons:
- CBD is known to reduce the presence of pro-inflammatory compounds in the body and brain, removing a major roadblock for the production of feel-good brain chemicals. It may do this by repairing oxidative stress in a similar manner as antioxidants.
- CBD directly restores our natural endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids (and even the number of endocannabinoid receptors) have been found to be severely depleted and even extinguished entirely by heavy drinking.
Why Marijuana Might Help With Alcohol Withdrawal
There is a long history of people using marijuana, which contains varying levels of CBD depending on the strain, to combat alcohol withdrawal. Some people have even successfully “switched” to marijuana from alcohol for long-term use.
Due to biochemical individuality, this form of harm reduction may work especially well for some people. I am sure that marijuana has saved lives from alcoholic destruction and liver disease.
I’m a fan of harm reduction – and I’m not opposed in principle to marijuana use.
However, there are a number of reasons that CBD oil may be safer and more suitable for the vast majority of alcohol-dependent people wishing to repair their bodies and brains:
- THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, alters neurotransmission more drastically than CBD
- Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive, leading at most to feelings of relaxation or sleepiness in high doses
- THC can cause mental discomfort and paranoia in people who are biochemically predisposed to anxiety
- Heavy, long-term THC exposure may affect focus, motivation, memory, learning, and mood stability
- Heavy marijuana smokers experience changes in brain function and reduced blood flow to the brain (source)
Marijuana is known to be less addictive than other psychoactive drugs. However, any substance that alters neurotransmission significantly can theoretically lead to physical and/or psychological dependence.
To the extent that marijuana may be physically addictive, the culprit appears to be THC, which is very similar in structure to a naturally occurring brain chemical called anandamide that “fits” into CB-1 receptors.
Interestingly, some research indicates that THC’s addictive potential may be counteracted by the presence of CBD. While CBD does not fully bind to CB-1 receptors, it has powerful indirect effects. Supplementation with CBD has even been found to alleviate THC withdrawal syndrome. (source)
Since marijuana strains contain varying proportions of these compounds, it can be difficult to determine how much THC or CBD one is consuming when consuming this plant. Generally, indica-dominant strains contain higher levels of CBD, while sativa-dominant strains contain a relatively higher proportion of THC.
The bottom line is that marijuana users may be able to obtain the benefits of CBD. However, they are also consuming up to 112 cannabidiols identified in cannabis, with THC being the most prevalent. By using CBD oil obtained from hemp, you can achieve therapeutic effects without getting high or even using marijuana.
CBD And Alcohol: Benefits Of CBD For Alcoholism
The use of CBD for alcohol withdrawal is still a very new phenomenon. There are many promising anecdotal reports about the use of CBD for alcohol withdrawal, but more studies are needed before we can say that CBD has proven benefits for people struggling with alcohol addiction.
As mentioned earlier, I believe that the two main benefits of CBD for alcohol withdrawal are inflammation reduction and endocannabinoid replenishment, both of which promote optimal neurotransmitter balance.
I also suspect that CBD exerts positive effects for people struggling with alcohol addiction in two specific ways:
- Reducing glutamate toxicity, which is relevant because alcohol withdrawal involves excess glutamate (a stress chemical) that contributes to insufficient GABA (the brain’s “natural Valium”)
- Reducing alcohol cravings through a combination of reducing inflammation, restoring endocannabinoid and CB-1 receptor function, and combating high glutamate levels
In many abstinence-only circles, the use of CBD is controversial. But there are signs that CBD is becoming more widely accepted. The media has begun to give a voice to people who have used CBD for a variety of health issues.
The Huffington Post told the story of a 15-year member of AA named April, who successfully used CBD to treat recurring melanomas. April gathered a large array of research demonstrating the therapeutic benefits of CBD for a wide variety of conditions. She brings up an important point: “ If there was no factually based research proving the benefits of CBD, then why would the U.S. buy a patent on CBD?” (source)
Many users on Reddit have noted that their drinking decreased after consuming CBD.
A growing number of people combine CBD with kratom to reap the benefits of both after they quit drinking. I should note that CBD works much differently than kratom. You can learn more about kratom in my article about how to use kratom for alcohol withdrawal.
Research On CBD For Alcohol Addiction
Scientists have begun to explore the effects of CBD on inflammation and addictive behaviors. Some of the results bear at least indirect relevance for people struggling with alcohol dependence:
- Alcohol-dependent people have a severely diminished prevalence of CB-1 receptors in the brain, even after prolonged periods of abstinence – and endocannabinoids can disappear altogether in severe cases of alcoholism. (source)
- Alcoholic rats given a non-THC version of CBD oil reduced their alcohol-seeking behaviors and prevented high impulsivity often seen with alcohol withdrawal. A 1-week administration of CBD oil produced these effects for 5 months, even though CBD itself left their systems after 3 days. (source)
- CBD reverses glutamate toxicity in the brain by binding to CB1 receptors and reducing oxidative stress (source)
- An analysis of scientific studies found that CBD seems to have direct effects on addictive behaviors, possibly by replenishing endocannabinoids that may be missing from the body, as well as indirectly by improving stress vulnerability and reducing neurotoxicity. (source)
- CBD reduces cigarette consumption in tobacco smokers (source)
- CBD reduces the reward-facilitating effects of morphine (source)
- CBD reduces cravings for cannabis following heavy usage (source)
- No adverse effects have been reported with high doses of CBD (source)
More research on CBD for alcohol withdrawal – particularly in humans – is clearly needed. The use of CBD for various addictive disorders is an exciting new research frontier from which I expect to see further advances in the near future.
Trusted CBD Oil Brands
I haven’t struggled with alcohol withdrawal or cravings in years, due to the supplements and lifestyle strategies discussed on this site and in my online course. My goal in trying CBD was to determine its overall impact on my sense of well-being and any negative side effects that I could discern.
I first ordered a few popular CBD supplements from Amazon. After using them, I noticed that I became slightly more calm and slept a bit deeper than usual.
I then came across a company called CBDPure, which makes CBD oil from organic hemp that contains zero THC. I did some research on this company and was generally impressed. CBDPure gave me 15% off with a coupon (given below), shipped to my condo for free, and had a 90-day unconditional refund policy.
CBDPure offers three different versions of CBD oil: 100mg, 300mg, and 600mg. I’m very in tune with my body, meaning that I can usually notice some effect when I take a new supplement. Therefore, I opted to try the 100mg version.
The first thing I noticed was that the CBD oil from CBDPure tasted less grassy. It has a light golden color, similar to honey, and tastes earthy without the unpleasant grassiness that I noticed with the brands.
As for effects, CBDPure was more potent than the other brands I tried. I felt noticeably calmer within minutes after consuming just 1/2 a dropper, which contains 1 gram of “full spectrum” hemp oil (i.e., various non-THC cannibidiol compounds) and 1.6mg of CBD.
I sat down on my favorite chair and seemed to sink in deeper than usual. I read a few chapters of a book and then floated into bed. I can see how CBDPure offers massive relief for people struggling with discomfort after quitting drinking.
It’s important to note that while CBD oil may help to take the edge off instantly for many people, its most beneficial potential effects – including inflammation reduction – take place over a period of days or weeks.
CBDPure uses organic hemp harvested in Denmark, which apparently has some of the highest quality standards for hemp production. The company then uses CO2 extraction to produce its CBD oil here in the U.S. In contrast to more commonly used ethanol or butane, CO2 extraction is a nontoxic and precise method of isolating plant compounds.
If I were quitting drinking today, I would use 1/2 of a dropper of CBDPure 100mg each night for a few weeks and then assess its effects on my overall sense of well-being and alcohol cravings.
If you don’t have a hyper-sensitive biochemistry like I do, then you might benefit from trying one of CBDPure’s stronger versions – just to ensure that you get maximum results.
As with every other supplement, CBD should be discussed with your doctor before you start using it.
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CBD Oil And Alcohol Withdrawal: Conclusion
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this article about CBD oil and alcohol plus the use of CBD for helping with quitting alcohol. I will continue to be on the lookout for new research on CBD, as well as any other new supplements that hold promise for enhancing alcohol recovery.
My drinking days are long gone. I live an exciting lifestyle that revolves in large part around optimizing my body and brain. There is a definite learning curve here, and I know that trial and error with supplementation can be frustrating.
If you’ve recently quit drinking, frame early recovery as your own individual journey and enjoy the ride. In the meantime, make sure to optimize your own lifestyle by integrating some healthy lifestyle strategies into your daily routine:
- Begin a supplement regimen
- Work out daily
- Get better sleep
- Clean up your diet
- Take yoga classes
- Get a Swedish massage
If you have any questions about CBD oil and alcohol plus the customized use of CBD, please leave them in the comment box below.
Is CBD safe for recovering alcoholics?
CBD is a safe supplement for people who describe themselves as recovering alcoholics. It is somewhat controversial due to its traditional association with marijuana. But since CBD is not psychoactive, it does not cause a “high.” Studies have found that it lowers anxiety and extends REM sleep, possibly by reducing brain inflammation.
Does CBD cancel out alcohol?
No known substance cancels out the negative effects of alcohol. But CBD can be useful for people who want to drink less alcohol. It helps to combat cravings, lowers anxiety, and helps with sleep.
Is CBD a good alternative to alcohol?
CBD is a healthy alternative to alcohol for “taking off the edge,” without toxic side effects like hangovers. There are now many CBD sparkling waters, CBD-infused kombuchas, and other similar products to sip instead of booze.
Does CBD help anxiety?
Many people have reported anecdotally that CBD helps with anxiety. Research has also begun to emerge that backs this claim. This effect may be related to the ability of CBD to reduce levels of brain inflammation.
Can CBD become addictive?
Unlike THC, which can be physically addictive, CBD is not addictive. It actually contains anti-addictive properties. Since both THC and CBD are traditionally found in marijuana, CBD’s anti-addictive properties may explain why marijuana is not thought of as particularly addictive in comparison with “hard” drugs.
CBD for the Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder
The current study will directly test the hypothesis that a moderate dose of CBD leads to a reduction in alcohol consumption, alcohol craving, peripheral markers of inflammation, and anxiety. It is further hypothesized that CBD will lead to increased sleep duration and quality among individuals with AUD who want to quit or reduce their drinking. The study will also determine whether the small amount of THC found in full spectrum hemp-derived CBD products produces any negative effects. The hypotheses are grounded in previous studies suggesting that CBD reduces the reinforcing properties of alcohol and decreases drinking motivation and consumption (Viudez-Martínez, García-Gutiérrez, Fraguas-Sánchez, et al., 2018). Further, CBD has shown clinical promise for tobacco, cannabis, and opioid use disorders (Hurd, 2017; Hurd et al., 2015; Prud’homme et al., 2015), and evidence indicates that these effects may be due to the ability of CBD to reduce cue-induced craving and anxiety (Gonzalez-Cuevas et al., 2018; Hurd et al., 2019). The hypotheses are also grounded in the pre-clinical literature suggesting that CBD may modulate the immune system and have anti-inflammatory effects which also helps to reduce harm associated with alcohol and may have a positive effect on those attempting to quit. Other potential mechanisms that might underlie the effects of CBD include a reduction in the severity of acute withdrawal, a reduction in protracted withdrawal, and the neuroprotective effects of CBD. Given the background literature with respect to CBD and AUDs, a logical next step is for human studies to address these questions.
To better understand the effects of hemp-derived CBD with and without a small amount of THC, the investigators propose a Phase II randomized clinical trial (RCT) to examine the safety, tolerability, and clinical effects of Full Spectrum CBD (fsCBD, contains less than 0.3% THC) vs. Broad Spectrum CBD (bsCBD, does not contain THC), vs. a matching placebo in a population of AUD subjects.
This is a double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group study designed to assess the efficacy of fsCBD and bsCBD, compared to a placebo control (PC), to reduce drinking in participants with moderate alcohol use disorder according to the DSM-V. If eligible for the study, subjects will be randomized to receive one of the conditions for 8 weeks.
To minimize risk of COVID transmission, the investigators will utilize Zoom for weekly subject check-ins and our Mobile Pharmacology Lab (MPL) for the collection of blood samples and clinical data for the majority of in-person visits. The initial Week 0 / Baseline visit will take place at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. There will be MPL follow-up visits at Weeks 1, 4, and 8. Participants will be contacted by Zoom each remaining week during the 8-week period. A follow up Zoom interview will occur in Week 16 approximately 8 weeks after the end of dosing.
Overall, the clinical study is expected to take 1-2 years to complete enrollment and data analysis.