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How Does CBD Treat Addiction?

CBD treat addiction
Written by Dr. Leah Zachar

What addiction is, how drugs become addictive by way of binding to the CB1 receptor, and how CBD can treat addiction.

Before discussing the mechanism by which CBD treats addiction, we should first understand what addiction is and how is it born.

What is addiction?

Addiction is when a drug, whether it be nicotine, opioids, alcohol, or heroin causes physical changes to the body resulting in the need to take progressively higher doses to get the same effect.  Neurotransmitters in the brain are involved in the addiction process, the most excitatory one being glutamate. The other common ones are dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.

How does addiction start?  The person wants emotional or physical relief.  The drug gives the user a pleasurable effect.  That effect may be reduction of anxiety, pain relief, ability to focus, less sadness, or feeling “high”.

The addiction process begins when the drug binds to the CB1 receptor on the cell wall.  This causes a change in the configuration of the CB1 receptor.  If the drug is taken regularly, the CB1 receptor diminishes in quantity and the user then needs to take progressively higher doses of the drug in order to get the same pleasurable effect.

When the effects of the drug wane, the person begins to feel “down”.  For example, if the drug helped you relax, when the effects wear off, you feel anxious.  If the drug helped you sleep, when the effects wear off you have insomnia.  If the drug made you “high”, when the effects wear off you feel “low”.

Next – the craving.  In order not to experience these negative effects, or “withdrawal symptoms” such as anxiousness, restlessness, inability to concentrate, anger outbursts, paranoia, insomnia, digestive ailments, or depression you seek out the drug – but no longer for the pleasurable effect it may bring you, but rather in order to avoid the very uncomfortable withdrawal effects.

And so, addiction is born – the compulsive desire to seek and use drugs despite negative consequences.

General statistics about opioid, nicotine, and alcohol:

How does CBD treat addiction? Opioid addiction

How does CBD treat addiction? Opioid addiction

More Americans died of opioid overdose (opioid, heroin, fentanyl) in 2016 than died in the entirety of the Vietnam war, and more Americans died of opioid overdoses in 2017 than died of breast cancer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that tobacco causes 6 million deaths per year. This makes tobacco the leading cause of preventable death, causing one of every five deaths in the United States each year.

Smokeless tobacco is a known cause of cancer. In addition, the nicotine in smokeless tobacco increases the risk for sudden death from a condition where the heart does not beat properly (ventricular arrhythmias).

How does CBD treat addiction? Alcohol addiction

How does CBD treat addiction? Alcohol addiction

Twenty five percent of people in the United States binge drink.  One third of all driving fatalities are alcohol related.  Alcohol is the third leading preventable cause of death (after cigarette smoking, and poor diet).

What do all theses addictive agents have in common?

  1. They all become addictive by way of binding to the CB1 receptor and
  2. They can all be treated by CBD.

How does CBD treat addiction and what is the biochemistry behind it?

CBD is a weak inverse agonist at the CB1 receptor site.  When CBD binds to the CB1 receptor, it blocks the drugs which bind to CB1 from “getting you high”.

CBD stimulates TRVP1 and blocks the hydrolysis of AEA by inhibiting fatty acid amine hydrolase. The result: increased “bliss”.

CBD is an agonist of 5-HT1a serotoninergic receptor and allosterically modulates the μ and δ opioid receptors.  The result: pain control and less anxiety. Decreasing the anxiety level is critical because this rises during the symptoms of withdrawal.

An added benefit of CBD – CBD protects glutamate toxicity – which is why it is so effective in the treatment of stroke and cardiovascular ischemia – but this will be discussed in another article.

How does CBD treat addiction?

How does CBD treat addiction? Nicotine addiction

How does CBD treat addiction? Nicotine addiction

CBD treats addiction by blocking the withdrawal symptoms as well as the “high” from the drugs of abuse.  When both the symptoms of the withdrawal and reward are blocked, the addiction is controlled.   As an added benefit, CBD has multiple unrelated benefits which include anxiety relief, stress reduction, decreased pain, control of migraines, an ability to focus, and a more restful sleep.

Not only does CBD treat the addiction, but you don’t need high doses of CBD to prevent the withdrawal or to treat the addiction. However, you do need 24/7 coverage – because when the “craving” is felt, the temptation is very hard to resist.

Reaching for a CBD vape when you feel the need to smoke or reaching for a tincture when you wish to “pop” a pill is a good start.  However, taking a once-a-day CBD Softgels, may be the best way to keep yourself in a centered state 24/7 – and allow you to live your life at its best.

Take-home point: CBD gives one an emotional centering and feeling of bliss – which very often was what the drug user was seeking in the first place.


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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.