Can You Get Addicted To CBD?
Just a quick disclaimer; we don’t make health claims about CBD, we just share the research. You'll always find references to scientific literature to substantiate what we share. This is for informational use only. Always speak to your doctor before making any changes to your healthcare regimen.
You’ve probably heard the spiel that C. plants are addictive, which naturally leads you to assume that CBD might also be so, as it comes from the plant.
Although CBD is one of over 100 cannabinoids found in C. plants, it is one of the many cannabinoids that are largely ‘non-psychoactive’. That means it does not get you high, and provides very little to no rewarding properties in the way that many drugs of abuse do.
How Addiction Works
Typically, things that get you high are addictive. Sugar, cocaine, sex, gambling, THC and even caffeine provide you with a rush of dopamine which provides a sense of reward, and leaves you craving more.
Things that release your dopamine tend to be habit forming, and for particularly susceptible individuals, that habit becomes something they cant say no to.
Addiction is complex and doesn’t just depend on the substance or activity, but extends to the life experiences, genetics and environment unique to everyone. These factors contribute to individual susceptibility.
CBD and Mood
Although it is largely ‘non-psychoactive’ CBD can make you feel good in other ways, like a nice hot bath, a hug or a delicious (raw) chocolate does.
When was the last time you heard of someone addicted to hugs?
You could argue that chocolate is addictive, but that could be the sugar. Ever eaten raw cacao? Then you’ll know that it has a lesser draw, but still makes you feel awesome.
CBD and chocolate actually make you feel good via a very similar mechanism, by increasing your bodies own feel good endocannabinoid, Anandamide. This is how CBD can make you feel good, but without hacking your dopamine reward system.
Anandamide is also what is produced as a result of the ‘runners high’, one of the cleanest and most natural highs you can get. So, at the very most CBD is addictive in the way that exercise is.
CBD Is Safe & Non-Addictive
The world health organisation recently conducted a comprehensive review on CBD, which also included its potential for addiction.
They concluded that:
“In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential.”
Furthermore, based on the studies in humans to date, CBD has a very good safety profile.
CBD Helps Reduce Addiction
Addiction is largely dependent on your genetics, environment and life experiences, which dictates your craving for dopamine. This means we all have a different susceptibility to addiction, which is (reductively speaking) the seeking of reward (dopamine).
Although THC in cannabis can be addictive (because it releases dopamine), CBD has a different mechanism of action.
THC activates the CB1 receptor on dopamine neurones in the brain to provide you with a sense of reward, and is often what entices users of cannabis to form a relationship with the plant.
CBD does not activate CB1 receptors, but can sometimes block them when THC is around. In this case, CBD can actually reduce the addictive potential of THC.
Additionally, CBD has been found to interact with a specific dopamine receptor (D2) (3). Although more research is needed, this additional mechanism may contribute to how CBD reduces reward seeking behaviour.
CBD also interacts with opioid receptors in a way which may influence the potential addiction to painkillers (4).
Studies with CBD & Addiction
Although CBD could do with more clinical research in humans, there is encouraging results from pilot trials conducted thus far.
C. Plant Dependence
In the pursuit of a greater high, modern C. plants have been bred to maximise the production of THC. In susceptible individuals this can lead to an unhealthy relationship with the plant (dependence).
The prioritisation of THC over CBD in C. plant breeding has no doubt influenced its addictive potential.
This repeated measures study found that smoking high CBD : THC C. plants was associated with lower dependence scores compared to high THC : CBD C. plants in 94 regular smokers (5).
You can now find higher CBD strains of C. plants with very little THC (< 0.2%), which in my experience are pretty innocent.
One of the most notorious addictions is to that of cigarettes. Not only does the habit of smoking become deeply engrained in many of us, the draw of nicotine is also strong.
In a randomised controlled trial of 24 regular smokers (> 10 cigarettes a day), 12 were (blindly) given a CBD inhaler and instructed to use it when they had the urge to smoke. Over the course of one week, those receiving CBD smoked ~ 40% less cigarettes than smokers receiving the placebo inhaler (6).
Although this is a preliminary trial, results are encouraging and certainly warrant further study.
Stressful events in susceptible individuals lives often trigger their reward seeking or addiction behaviour (EG an argument in a toxic relationship). This is known as a cue-induced drug craving.
Stressful environmental and lifestyle conditions often make it difficult to overcome addiction, and perpetuate continued drug use to ease the pain.
This randomised controlled trial (pilot) showed that CBD given for 3 days to Heroin users in remission significantly reduced their craving and anxiety when they were given a drug cue. These effects lasted for up to a week after the initial 3 days of CBD use (7).