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Ask A Doctor: THC Vs. CBD – Addiction, Dependence and Abuse 

Ask a doctor
Written by Dr. Leah Zachar

Did you know that CBD is less active when it comes to heady sensations than THC? But what amazing health benefits do both these compounds offer patients?

When it comes to addiction nothing’s ever simple. But just how addictive is THC, and what about CBD? To understand how to use these cannabis compounds safely and effectively it’s worth asking a doctor…So that’s what we did…

Question: Which form of cannabis may help to treat addiction disorders, and how?

Answer: Preclinical studies have shown that CBD can be used to treat opioid, cocaine, psychostimulant, cannabis(THC), and tobacco addiction. CBD can be used to treat THC dependence because CBD acts as a noncompetitive antagonist of THC at the CB1 receptor.

When CBD binds to the CB1 receptor, it prevents THC from activating the CB1 receptor.

But at the very same time, CBD gives you many of the same benefits of THC (lowers anxiety, decreases pain, helps you sleep…and the list goes on..) but without the psychoactive effect.

Question: Has either THC or CBD been shown in any studies to be without risk of dependence or abuse?

Answer: Both THC and CBD were studied. In the THC studies, abuse and dependence were seen due to the downregulating of the CB1 receptors after chronic use. Because of the downregulating of the receptors, more and more THC was needed to elicit the same effect.

In both animal & human studies, CBD exhibited no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential. To date, there is no evidence of recreational use of CBD or any public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.

Question: How does THC cause dependence and become a drug that is abused?

Answer: Nearly all drugs that are abused, which include opioids, such as oxycodone & heroine, and THC have one thing in common.

They cause increased dopamine release in the cells of the nucleus accumbens after binding to the CD1 receptor. When any of these agents are taken regularly, there is eventual down-regulation of CB1. As a result, the person taking any of these agents needs more of the drug to get the same effect.

Question: I am a heavy smoker. I want to quit – for health reasons. Can CBD help me quit?

Answer: Yes. Extensive preclinical studies have shown that that CBD can be used to treat opioid, cocaine, psychostimulant, THC, and tobacco addiction.

CBD increases the “bliss” hormone, decreases anxiety, and helps improve the sleep. All of this makes the dream of quitting cigarettes become a reality.

Question: Can CBD be used to treat THC dependence and THC abuse?

Answer: Yes. It does this by acting as noncompetitive antagonist THC at the CB1 receptor. CBD binds to the CB1 receptor and prevents THC from activating the CB1 receptor.

Question: What are the benefits of taking CBD?

1. CBD blocks anandamide (the bliss hormone) from being broken down & inhibits fatty acid amide hydrolysis (FAAH) which breaks down anandamide.
The result is increased anandamide levels, and thus the increased feelings of “bliss”.
2. CBD inhibits adenosine uptake. Increased adenosine protects the person from the cellular damage seen in ischemia, trauma, stress, seizures, and inflammation.
3. CBD enhances the activity at the 5-HT1a receptor. The result is decreased anxiety.
4. CBD enhances activity at the glycine receptors. The result is decreased pain transmission from the periphery to the brain.
5. CBD blocks the GPR55 receptor. GPR55 controls cancer cell proliferation. When GPR55 is blocked, the ERK cascade is inhibited which results in cancer cell death in many types of cancer.
6. CBD decreases pain and heat from tissue injury or inflammation. CBD binds to the TRPV1 receptor. This also where capsaicin, better known as “hot chili pepper” exerts its effect.
When CBD bind to the receptor, it briefly activates, and then immediately blocks the TRPV1 receptor. When the receptor is blocked, the sensation of pain and heat is blocked from being felt.
7. CBD stops the growth of certain forms of tumors but does NOT stop the growth of normal cells.

As per your request, we are moving the weekly In-house doctor session from Thursday at 1 pm EST, to Thursday at 3 pm EST (That’s UK’s 20:00, NYC’s 15:00 and LA’s 12:00)

If you want to read more from Dr Zachar, check out: ‘Ask A Doctor – Benefits of CBD

[maxbutton id=”10″] [Image credit: Pixabay]

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About the author

Dr. Leah Zachar

Dr. Leah Zachar, M.D. is a physician who worked for nearly thirty years in Internal Medicine.
She currently is a scientific adviser to CBD Testers. Dr. Zachar believes that there is much that medical cannabis, and cannabidiol in particular can offer to traditional medicine.