is cbd oil safe for addicts

Can You Get Addicted to CBD Oil?

A growing number of studies support the health benefits of CBD. Researchers point to cannabidiol as the potential anti-inflammatory, neuroprotectant, antioxidant, and seizure suppressant.

People use CBD to manage their daily stresses by reducing anxiety, but reports from CBD users and preclinical studies suggest that CBD oil has remarkable medicinal potential.

As the popularity of CBD continues to grow, reaching every corner of the world, people start asking more and more questions about its properties — including possible downsides.

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued an extensive report about the safety and efficacy of CBD, acknowledging its high safety profile. CBD is well-tolerated by humans, even in doses reaching 1,500 mg daily.

But can you get hooked on CBD oil despite all of the above?

Is CBD addictive?

Today, we provide a complete answer to these questions. We’ll cover the mechanisms of addiction, explain how CBD interacts with the brain, and highlight the possible benefits of CBD when it comes to easing withdrawal symptoms in those suffering from addiction.

The Mechanism of Addiction Explained

Addiction experts define it as a complex psychological and physiological response to certain stimuli. Addiction is associated with changes in brain function and structure — and scientists have outlined three parameters that can influence addictive processes.

Below we have a brief overview of each factor:

Pleasure Triggers

When the brain interacts with substances like caffeine, nicotine, or a drug like amphetamine, this interaction causes a surge of euphoric sensations. The sudden influx of dopamine causes it to gradually increase in the nucleus accumbens, a brain’s area within the hypothalamus that controls addictive behaviors.

Scientists suggest that the chances of getting addicted are dictated by several variables: the intensity, reliability, and speed of dopamine buildup. How a substance is consumed — whether intravenously, in pills, or through inhalation — can affect dopamine response.

Learned Behaviors

Psychiatrists and researchers studying addiction report that pleasure-seeking is just one of the many factors contributing to addiction. Many experts claim that the picture is much bigger, and in fact, it may result from learned behaviors that make users regularly seek out addictive substances.

Dopamine may trigger and strengthen feelings of pleasure, but the activity that led up to this surge is even more significant. The majority of theories around addiction highlight reward-related learning processes as the core driver of addiction. In this process, dopamine interacts with glutamate, another important neurotransmitter — creating associations in the brain between pleasurable feelings and activities that lead to them.

Prolonged Use of Certain Substances

If you use certain substances for long enough, this can cause dependence on the active compounds of addictive substances in your nerve cells located in the prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens.

The users start seeking out the addictive substance more frequently, resulting in a less potent release of dopamine. This is how you build up a tolerance to certain substances. Drug tolerance can be very dangerous, especially for hard drugs such as opioids, which involve a high risk of lethal overdose.

Those who try to kick their habit can experience severe, sometimes life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, including tremors, pain in the bones and muscles, throbbing headache, nausea, vomiting, and depression.

How Does CBD Interact with the Body?

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is one of the two major constituents of cannabis plants. Unlike the other cannabinoid, THC, CBD doesn’t have intoxicating properties, so it won’t get you high in a way that THC in marijuana does. As a matter of fact, CBD can mitigate the psychoactive effects of THC.

CBD engages with major receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS), the major regulatory network in humans. These receptors are spread throughout the body and deliver signals for the brain to interpret. The functioning of your other systems and organs is largely dependent on endocannabinoid signaling.

This way, the ECS can effectively maintain homeostasis throughout the body — a state of chemical equilibrium.

CBD supports homeostasis through several different pathways. Scientists have identified more than 65 molecular targets of CBD, which would explain why this cannabinoid is so versatile in managing our well-being.

CBD’s interaction with the ECS can affect 5-HT1A serotonin receptors. Serotonin is a major neurotransmitter responsible for mood regulation. It can also amplify feelings of happiness and relaxation. CBD is a natural inhibitor of the 5-HT1A receptors. It blocks serotonin reuptake in the brain so that the body can use it more effectively.

Similarly, CBD interacts with TRPV1 receptors by binding to their sites and blocking pain signals. CBD may also impact the nuclear receptor PPAR-gamma, which regulates the storage of fatty acids on top of glucose metabolism.

All these interactions seem promising when it comes to easing withdrawal symptoms and reducing the risk of addiction. Still, there’s one more thing we’d like to cover before we move on to the benefits of CBD for addicted individuals.

Is CBD Addictive?

Since CBD doesn’t induce intoxication, it has a similar potential for abuse to placebo. According to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence, oral doses administered to frequent marijuana users produced similar results to the placebo pill.

An earlier study from 2011 concluded that CBD has a better safety profile than THC and other cannabinoids. Researchers found that even doses as high as 1,500 mg daily didn’t cause any side effects over time. Unlike THC, CBD didn’t acutely impair psychological functions or motor skills, nor did it change the subjects’ heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure.

An interesting fact about cannabinoids is that even THC is not physically addictive. Addiction experts estimate that 91% of marijuana users never become problematic, meaning that 9% will form improper habits around the use of the plant, which may generate some form of abuse.

Since THC can be habit-forming, it’s important to know the difference between CBD oil sources.

After all, CBD can be extracted from both hemp and marijuana.

Let’s take a look at both types of CBD oil.

Hemp-derived CBD vs. Marijuana-derived CBD

Hemp and marijuana come from the same family of plants — Cannabis sativa L. — but they are different in terms of their chemical profiles and the ratios between CBD and THC.

Marijuana naturally contains significant concentrations of THC, so CBD oils extracted from marijuana strains — even the CBD-rich ones — will consider a higher amount of THC than a hemp-derived product. Hemp plants usually contain less than 0.3% of THC, containing higher levels of CBD.

Because of the negligible concentration of THC, hemp-derived CBD oils aren’t addictive. They’re also legal on a federal level; you can easily find CBD oils online and over the counter in dispensaries, vape stores, wellness centers, and major pharmacies.

Marijuana-derived CBD, on the other hand, is legal only in certain states. If your state has a medical marijuana program, you’ll need a prescription for CBD oil. But, if you’re lucky to live in a state that has legalized recreational use, you can walk into a store and buy it — as long as you’re 21 or older.

CBD Could Assist People with Addiction, Studies Say

According to the aforementioned report by the WHO, CBD is a safe substance with no potential for abuse.

Some studies also mention its potential as a supportive agent in overcoming the withdrawal symptoms after cessation.

A 2013 report published in Neuropsychopharmacology described the case of a 19-year-old woman who had cannabis withdrawal symptoms. After being treated with CBD for 10 days, she experienced an effective decrease in the severity of her symptoms [1].

An earlier study conducted in 2010 tested 94 cannabis users to evaluate the role of THC/CBD ratios in modulating the effects of psychoactive compounds and attentional bias to drug stimuli [2]. Those who smoked high-THC strains showed a higher attentional bias to food and drug stimuli than subjects who took high-CBD strains. The authors of the study concluded that CBD could be best used to treat marijuana dependence and other substance use disorders.

In 2013, a study published in Addictive Behaviors evaluated the effects of a CBD treatment for nicotine users over a 7-day period, concluding that it reduced the number of cigarettes smoked by 40% in addicted subjects, while the placebo group didn’t show a significant difference [3].

A 2018 preclinical animal study examining topical administration to rats addicted to alcohol and cocaine found that CBD effectively reduced drug use in the subjects. It also dampened the side effect of addiction, such as anxiety and impulsivity.

Finally, a 2019 study posted in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that CBD could help people who have cravings linked to heroin addiction [4]. The study included 42 adults who had been using heroin for an average of 13 years. Researchers tested three groups: one took 800 mg of CBD, the other one 400 mg, and the last group received a placebo.

Compared with the placebo group, subjects treated with CBD reported lower anxiety levels and cravings from heroin addiction withdrawals.

Can You Overdose on CBD?

CBD can’t lead to a fatal overdose because there are no cannabinoid receptors in the brain stem area that controls respiratory functions. This is true for all cannabinoids, including THC. Simply put, you won’t die from taking too much CBD oil.

Side Effects of Taking too Much CBD

CBD may have a few mild side effects when you go overboard. These include:

  • Dry mouth
  • A temporary drop in blood pressure
  • Appetite fluctuation
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea

We also feel obliged to cover one important issue regarding CBD — potential interactions with drugs.

CBD & Drug Interactions: Consult the Use of CBD with Your Doctor

When you ingest CBD, it interacts with a system of enzymes known as Cytochrome p450 (CYP450). These enzymes are responsible for the metabolism of drugs from pharmaceutical medications. CBD is the inhibitor of CYP45, preventing these compounds from being properly processed in the liver.

The mechanism works similarly to eating a grapefruit along with your medication — grapefruit, too, interacts with CYP450.

The CBD interaction with medicines may trigger a range of second-hand side effects that wouldn’t occur if you took CBD alone. We recommend consulting your doctor if you take any pharmaceutical medications and are afraid CBD may interfere with them.

Final Thoughts: CBD Is Not Addictive

Addiction is a complex disease. It can be psychological, physical, or involve both areas. Intense cravings for a particular substance accompany it. Addicted individuals tend to ignore potential risks associated with abusing the substance — such as its detrimental influence on the quality of life.

Those with addiction experience several symptoms, from impaired cognition to compromised body functions, along with behaviors that negatively impact their social lives and relationships.

To date, no study has found a link between CBD and cognitive alterations. Without inducing intoxication, the brain may not associate CBD with the reward system. CBD also doesn’t cause withdrawals and can’t be fatally overdosed.

Moreover, recent studies point to CBD as a potentially beneficial compound for easing addiction and alleviating alcohol withdrawals and other many substances including, nicotine, heroin, and opioids.

CBD can assist both with physiological addiction and aid people in forming the right habits around different activities and substances by reducing the response to the rewarding stimuli.

To wrap it up in a few words, it seems that CBD is a promising tool for fighting addiction — let’s hope that more studies will confirm the initial findings!

Reference links:

  1. Babalonis, S., Haney, M., Malcolm, R. J., Lofwall, M. R., Votaw, V. R., Sparenborg, S., & Walsh, S. L. (2017). Oral cannabidiol does not produce a signal for abuse liability in frequent marijuana smokers. Drug and alcohol dependence, 172, 9–13. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2016.11.030
  2. Iffland, K., & Grotenhermen, F. (2017). An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 2(1), 139–154. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2016.0034
  3. Budney, A. J., Roffman, R., Stephens, R. S., & Walker, D. (2007). Marijuana dependence and its treatment. Addiction science & clinical practice, 4(1), 4–16. https://doi.org/10.1151/ascp07414
  4. Shannon, S., & Opila-Lehman, J. (2015). Cannabidiol Oil for Decreasing Addictive Use of Marijuana: A Case Report. Integrative medicine (Encinitas, Calif.), 14(6), 31–35.
  5. Morgan, C. J., Freeman, T. P., Schafer, G. L., & Curran, H. V. (2010). Cannabidiol attenuates the appetitive effects of Delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol in humans smoking their chosen cannabis. Neuropsychopharmacology: official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 35(9), 1879–1885. https://doi.org/10.1038/npp.2010.58
  6. Morgan, C. J., Das, R. K., Joye, A., Curran, H. V., & Kamboj, S. K. (2013). Cannabidiol reduces cigarette consumption in tobacco smokers: preliminary findings. Addictive behaviors, 38(9), 2433–2436. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2013.03.011
  7. Gonzalez-Cuevas, G., Martin-Fardon, R., Kerr, T. M., Stouffer, D. G., Parsons, L. H., Hammell, D. C., Banks, S. L., Stinchcomb, A. L., & Weiss, F. (2018). Unique treatment potential of cannabidiol for the prevention of relapse to drug use: preclinical proof of principle. Neuropsychopharmacology: official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 43(10), 2036–2045. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41386-018-0050-8
  8. Hurd YL, Spriggs S, Alishayev J, Winkel G, Gurgov K, Kudrich C, Oprescu AM, Salsitz E. Cannabidiol for the Reduction of Cue-Induced Craving and Anxiety in Drug-Abstinent Individuals With Heroin Use Disorder: A Double-Blind Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial. Am J Psychiatry. 2019 Nov 1;176(11):911-922. DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2019.18101191. Epub 2019 May 21. Erratum in: Am J Psychiatry. 2020 Jul 1;177(7):641. PMID: 31109198.
Livvy Ashton

Livvy is a registered nurse (RN) and board-certified nurse midwife (CNM) in the state of New Jersey. After giving birth to her newborn daughter, Livvy stepped down from her full-time position at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey. This gave her the opportunity to spend more time writing articles on all topics related to pregnancy and prenatal care.

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Is CBD oil addictive?

There’s a growing amount of research pointing out the benefits of CBD. Studies have shown that CBD provides anti-inflammatory and seizure-suppressant properties, as well as the ability to reduce social anxiety.

Outside the United States, countries across the globe have started allowing cannabidiol (CBD) to be used legally inside their borders. In Canada, following the passage of The Cannabis Act, which legalized adult-use cannabis, both hemp-derived and marijuana-derived CBD are available in all provinces. The European Union (EU) has also established regulatory guidelines for hemp-derived CBD oil, allowing the cultivation of hemp as long as the THC content does not exceed 0.2%. A number of South American countries have also loosened restrictions against CBD oil and medical marijuana in general. Both Mexico and Brazil currently allow CBD products to be imported for certain medical conditions, while other countries, such as Chile, have already established full-scale medical marijuana programs.

Despite growing acceptance and recognition of CBD’s potential benefits, concerns remain about the cannabinoid’s power to cause addiction. This may be due to confusion between non-intoxicating CBD and its intoxicating counterpart, THC. Because of the way CBD interacts with receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system, it doesn’t have the psychoactive effects of THC. In fact, CBD basically blocks THC’s access to those receptors found throughout the nervous system, thereby reducing some of THC’s effects.

Is CBD oil addictive?

Because CBD doesn’t produce the high associated with THC, it’s potential for abuse is considered limited by scientists. A March 2017 study published in the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence examined details of a previous study where researchers administered various oral dosages of CBD to frequent marijuana users alone and in combination with smoked marijuana. The researchers determined that CBD had as much likelihood for abuse as the placebo in this study.

A 2011 study concluded that CBD has a better safety profile compared to THC and other cannabinoids. Researchers found that high doses of CBD of up to 1,500 milligrams per day were well-tolerated by the human subjects. Compared with THC, CBD did not impair motor or psychological functions, nor did it alter the heart rate, blood pressure, or body temperature.

Since THC can be addictive and numerous CBD products contain varying levels of THC, the question of whether CBD oil is addictive can depend on where the CBD comes from.

CBD oil can be sourced from both hemp and marijuana. CBD derived from hemp has little to no trace of THC. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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CBD derived from hemp plants contains little to no THC (less than 0.3% according to federal law in the U.S.), and therefore should not put an individual at risk of developing cannabis withdrawal symptoms that might come from heavier THC intake.

Marijuana-derived CBD is extracted from marijuana plants that are usually grown for their intoxicating properties. Unlike hemp-extracted CBD, marijuana-derived CBD oil often contains levels of THC that exceed the federal 0.3% limit. In the event the CBD oil has particularly high levels of THC, an individual could possibly experience cannabis withdrawal symptoms if the oil was used to excess. CBD oil with THC levels above 0.3% is only available in states with medical or adult-use cannabis legalization.

While all signs suggest that CBD is not addictive, someone who takes large amounts of CBD on a daily basis could experience side effects. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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While CBD doesn’t produce the same addictive effects as THC, it’s possible that someone who takes large amounts of CBD on a daily basis could experience side effects such as changes in sleep, inflammation, and anxiety if they quit suddenly.

It’s possible to avoid THC when using a CBD product but the combination of CBD and THC is known to produce an entourage effect, boosting therapeutic benefits while subduing negative side effects. For instance, in a 2010 study involving patients with cancer pain, researchers found that the combination of THC and CBD was more effective in treating the pain than the THC and placebo combination.

CBD could help fight addiction

Evidence suggests that CBD could also be used to help combat the adverse effects of THC, such as cannabis withdrawal symptoms. In a 2013 report, researchers administered CBD to a 19-year-old woman with cannabis withdrawal syndrome over a ten day period, which effectively resulted in reduced withdrawal symptoms. Another study, conducted in 2010 and published in Neuropsychopharmacology, examined a total of 94 cannabis users to see what role CBD-to-THC ratios played in reinforcing the effects of drugs and implicit attentional bias to drug stimuli. Compared with smokers of low-CBD strains, the study found that smokers of high-CBD strains showed reduced attentional bias to drug and food stimuli, as well as lower self-rated liking of cannabis stimuli. The research team concluded that “CBD has potential as a treatment for cannabis dependence” and could offer a potential treatment for other addictive disorders.

Existing research also demonstrates that CBD oil could help thwart addiction to other dangerous substances, such as tobacco or opioids. A 2013 study published in Addictive Behaviors looked at the effectiveness of CBD as a way to reduce tobacco cigarette consumption. Observing a total of 24 tobacco smokers, researchers gave half of the subjects an inhaler of CBD and the other half a placebo, instructing them to use the inhaler when they felt the need to smoke. Over a week long period, those treated with CBD reduced the number of cigarettes smoked by 40%, while those with the placebo showed no notable difference.

CBD has potential as a treatment for cannabis dependence. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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CBD has also demonstrated the potential to curb the use of other addictive substances. In a preclinical animal study published in Neuropsychopharmacology on March 22, 2018, researchers applied CBD gel to lab rats that had a history of voluntary alcohol or cocaine use and showcased addiction-like behavior. The study concluded that CBD was effective in reducing drug use in the rodents, and also reduced common side effects of drug dependency, such as anxiety and impulsivity.

This non-intoxicating cannabinoid has also shown promise in human models. A May 2019 study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, found that CBD could be effective in reducing cravings associated with heroin addiction. To conduct the study, researchers recruited 42 adults who had been using heroin for an average of 13 years. The subjects were divided into three groups: one group was given 800 milligrams of CBD, another 400 milligrams of CBD, and another a placebo. Compared with the placebo, those who were administered CBD significantly reduced both the craving and anxiety induced by the drug cues.

CBD oil side effects

While CBD doesn’t produce the kind of intoxicating effects THC is known for, it’s important to consider any possible CBD oil side effects.

According to Mayo Clinic, the U.S.-based nonprofit academic medical center, CBD use can potentially cause adverse effects, including dry mouth, diarrhea, reduced appetite, drowsiness, and fatigue. In an investigation on CBD hepatotoxicity in lab mice, researchers from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences found that the cannabinoid elevated the risk for liver toxicity. The epilepsy medication Epidiolex, which is currently the only FDA-approved CBD product on the market, has some side effects that are similar to those of other hemp-derived CBD products.

CBD is effective in reducing drug use, and also reduced common side effects of drug dependency, such as anxiety and impulsivity. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Most CBD oil side effects, such as drowsiness and fatigue, are similar to hemp oil side effects, even though this hemp fiber-derived product usually doesn’t contain any CBD or THC. With its low potential for addiction and abuse, CBD’s withdrawal effects should be minimal. But each person must weigh the potential risk versus benefits for themselves.

Drug interactions

One other area of concern is the potentially adverse effect that CBD could have on certain prescription medications such as blood thinners.

A 1993 study found that CBD blocked a family of enzymes called cytochrome P450, which are responsible for eliminating 70% to 80% of pharmaceutical drugs from the system. Researchers found that CBD blocked these enzymes from being broken down and metabolized in the liver. While this blockage could enable patients to take lower doses of prescription drugs, it could also cause a toxic buildup of pharmaceutical chemicals in the body.