CBD oil is effective at treating addiction, but this is one of it’s least known benefits. At a glance, it could seem strange to claim that CBD can help those suffering from addiction; how could a health supplement that improves immune health, concentration, energy levels and stress also aid addiction recovery? However, there’s loads of medical research and scientific studies that suggest CBD is extremely effective at treating addiction.
What is CBD?
CBD is a health supplement that comes from the hemp plant. It is the same plant from which cannabis derives but, unlike cannabis, CBD contains only trace amounts of THC. This is the psychoactive ingredient that makes people high. CBD on the other hand has opposing qualities: it makes you feel calmer, more alert and switched on, decreases your appetite and works in incredible ways on your immune system to name a few.
You can read more about CBD in our ultimate guide which covers where CBD comes from, how it works and looks in detail at its uses!
How Can CBD Help with Addiction?
In order to understand the impact CBD can have fighting addiction, it’s important to understand why we become addicted to things. It’s all due to the way our brain chemicals respond to addictive substances or activities such as alcohol, drugs and gambling.
How Does Addiction Work?
There’s a lot of stigma around addiction, but it’s important to point out that addiction is a disease. Certain substances or activities cause our brains to release chemicals which leads to addiction -- a dependency upon a substance or activity. This could be anything from drugs, alcohol and gambling through to more minor addictions such as playing a certain game or going on a social media app.
Different addictions are more harmful that others, but any kind of addiction shows the way our brains become dependant upon an activity or substance to a point where it becomes incredibly difficult to stop.
Drugs, alcohol and addictive behaviours impact our brain chemistry.
Addiction is partly caused by two neurotransmitters; dopamine and serotonin. These are two chemicals in our brains that are found in abundance when we’re happy, experiencing something pleasurable or exciting, or if we experience an adrenaline rush. They have a complex effect on the body, but what they’re primarily known for is putting us in a good mood.
Both dopamine and serotonin play a part in addiction, but the primary culprit is dopamine.
A lot of substances and activities that commonly cause addiction also release high levels of dopamine into our brains. Other natural activities release dopamine, but addictive substances such as drugs do so much more effectively than natural triggers. Different drugs work in different ways, some causing more dopamine to be processed while others prolong the effects of dopamine.
Either way, the brain adapts to the changes in dopamine levels adjusting to the changing levels to a point where it becomes accustomed to a high level of dopamine at all times. The brain itself often stops producing dopamine naturally, or decreases the number of neurotransmitters that can process dopamine, in order to adjust to the constant high amount coming from a different source.
This means that when an individual stops using a drug, the brain doesn’t produce enough dopamine on its own and the person will experience severe mood-swings, depression, anxiety or physical effects, such as feeling sick.
Memory and Learning
The issue is two-fold because dopamine is also an essential chemical in learning and memory development. High levels of dopamine due to a drug causes the brain to learn and remember the activity of using the drug much more effectively than with other activities. It hard-wires the need for that substance or activity into the brain. Addiction becomes a subconscious and uncontrollable problem very quickly.
However, like most diseases, it can be treated. There’s no simple solution to addiction as it’s a biopsychosocial disorder -- this means it’s caused by a combination of genetics, neurobiology and psychological and social factors. However, it’s becoming increasingly clear that CBD can go a long way in helping people with addiction recover.
How Does CBD Help?
Scientists found in one study that rats given CBD were less sensitive to morphine’s rewarding effects -- less sensitive to the way morphine impact dopamine in the brain. But how does this work?
The Endocannabinoid System
The key property of CBD, which means it has so many benefits, is that it interacts with a system in our bodies called the endocannabinoid system. This has a huge host of important roles in the body which include regulating the immune system, playing a part in the working of our central nervous system and even maintaining hormone levels. Everything it does is with the goal of achieving equilibrium -- balance -- in our bodies.
CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system to allow it to work as effectively as possible. The endocannabinoid system helps to regulate the serotonin and dopamine levels in our brains, as well as acting on neurotransmitters -- the parts of our brains that process dopamine and serotonin.
The way CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system helps to promote and regulate the processing of dopamine in the brain. This means that CBD can impact the way we become addicted and help in quitting.
CBD and Addiction
Research has suggested that CBD could be highly effective in treating substance-related addiction (there is not yet sufficient research into its effects upon other types of addiction) because of the way the endocannabinoid system regulates dopamine receptors.
To be precise, it was found that CBD protects against the ability of amphetamines (mood altering drugs) to induce long-term changes in the brain. As said, high levels of dopamine alters the brain’s natural production of dopamine and natural processing which means that when an individual stops using a drug, they can’t produce the normal levels of dopamine the brain needs.
This study showed that CBD helps to prevent the brain from making these long-term changes. It means it can help to protect the brain from addiction and relief from withdrawal symptoms including:
- Excessive hunger
- Sleep issues
- Muscle pain
- Disorientation and mental confusion
- Agitation and mood swings
- Cold and sweaty outbreaks
Not only can CBD reduce withdrawal symptoms by preventing long-term changes in the brain, it also has positive effects on many of the above naturally. CBD is thought to promote better sleep patterns, reduce stress and reduce hunger.
In addition to this, CBD has been proven to be beneficial for those suffering from anxiety. Therefore, it may serve as an effective way to reduce the anxiety associated with overcoming addiction and handling withdrawal, making it easier to overcome addiction.
Overcoming addiction is never a one-time thing. Those who have overcome addiction and substance dependency have to be constantly aware of relapse. The likelihood of relapse is tied up with serotonin in the brain. The way the brain processes serotonin can lead to drug-seeking behaviour in people recovering from addiction, causing relapse.
In one study, rats previously addicted to drugs or alcohol, and who exhibited behaviours associated with relapse (such as impulsivity, dependency and anxiety), were administered CBD oil once every 24 hours for just seven days while they were coming off the drug to which they were addicted. Not only did they stop showing the previous relapse behaviours, the effects lasted for five months after CBD had left their systems.
It shows that not only can CBD be extremely powerful to help people overcome addiction, it also has long-lasting effects -- essential in preventing relapse.
Preventing Causes of Addiction
There is also evidence that suggests CBD might be beneficial in tackling addiction because it can minimise the risk of people turning to substances and addictive behaviour before it begins.
CBD is used to help people suffering from a wide range of illnesses including depression, anxiety and PTSD. Many people who suffer from addiction originally turned to substances as a way to cope with PTSD or depression, for example. As CBD is known to bring relief from these conditions, it can help to prevent addiction before it starts.
The studies mentioned are just an incredibly small sample of a huge amount of medical research that’s been done and is continuing to be done on the impact CBD can have upon addiction.
It’s worth noting that we would always recommend using CBD for addiction along with getting professional medical help. It is a serious disease that isn’t easy to overcome, but CBD can support you and provide a boost to help you conquer addiction.
CBD continues to prove itself as an incredible health supplement with wide-ranging effects on the body. Want to read more about it? Read our blogs and guides such as our top tips to improve concentration or how to use CBD for sleep. We have loads of information!