Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-intoxicating compound found in marijuana and industrial hemp that has the potential to produce positive health benefits for a variety of issues. Different studies have shown that CBD is non-addictive and may alleviate stress, improve sleep, reduce anxiety, and provide pain relief. So let’s take a look at how CBD might help as part of a plan to quit smoking.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 14% of Americans over the age of 18 — which translates to 34.3 million people — smoke cigarettes, and over 8 million use smokeless tobacco. Tobacco use is the number one preventable cause of death and one of the hardest addictions for consumers to quit.
Addiction to Nicotine
To combat tobacco addiction, Big Pharma has responded with nicotine patches, pharmaceuticals, nicotine gum, and other smoking cessation devices. Electronic cigarettes challenged Big Tobacco as a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes or chewing until Big Tobacco bought up the marketplace.
But most of these smoking cessation protocols or “solutions” still leave the consumer with an addiction to nicotine — the highly addictive substance found in all tobacco products. While nicotine is naturally occurring in vegetables and our bodies and isn’t the primary cause of tobacco-related health problems, nicotine is incredibly addictive and will lead to serious withdrawal symptoms.
Smoking can lead to lung cancer, heart disease, strokes, and a multitude of other deadly health conditions. It is the most preventable cause of death in the United States. We all know the risks; it’s on all of the labels and common sense dictates that smoking couldn’t possibly be a good idea!
Despite all of the risks, quitting tobacco is a very difficult thing to accomplish. Tobacco use causes a temporary feeling of relaxation, calm and sometimes a mild buzz. Immediately following this brief euphoria are withdrawal symptoms.
Some of the more common nicotine withdrawal symptoms include:
- Intense Cravings
- Sore throat
- Nausea and abdominal cramping
- Depressive feelings
- Slowed heart rate
- Thinking problems
In addition to the physical withdrawal symptoms, the psychological symptoms of nicotine withdrawal include:
- Low mood
- A strong desire or craving for nicotine
- Irritability or frustration
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased stress
- Mood swings
Managing these nicotine withdrawal symptoms is one of the keys to a successful smoking cessation plan.
So, can CBD be used effectively as part of a Quit Smoking or Quit Chewing plan?
Understanding how tobacco addiction happens is important to understanding why CBD might be a part of the solution. Unfortunately, pharmacological solutions — or nicotine replacement therapy such as nicotine gum or patches — produce extremely low tobacco cessation success rates. One of the theories behind this difficulty is the habitual nature of tobacco use, in addition to the actual addiction.
Think about it. What do you think happens when you do something 20 to 40 times a day for 10 to 20 years? It probably would be pretty hard to quit that habit, wouldn’t you agree? The more ingrained a habit is in the human brain, the more difficult it is to change that habit.
CBD Research And Solutions
Enter CBD. Let’s take a look at some of the research on how CBD might help with smoking cessation.
One study focused on smokers who wanted to quit. Each smoker was given an inhaler with either CBD or a placebo vaping CBD cartridge. Each time the participant smoker felt the urge to smoke, they instead used the inhalers. Over the course of the week-long study, the CBD group reduced the number of cigarettes they consumed by about 40 percent while the placebo group in the study showed no reduction in the number of cigarettes smoked.
In the study’s resulting paper, the researchers outlined a potential reason as to why CBD helped reduce cigarette intake. The researchers’ theory involves CBD acting as a weak reverse agonist on CB1 receptors in the brain. Additionally, CBD is a potent inhibitor of FAAH — an enzyme that breaks down the anandamide ‘bliss’ molecule. As a result, CBD interactions with CB1 receptors could cause a reduction in the boosting properties of nicotine. They also offer some speculation on psychological causes, such as the possible action of CBD in reducing attention on contextual cues that may be involved in maintenance of nicotine consumption.
CB1 receptors are primarily found on nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain. This is how cannabinoids are able to generate effects dealing with pain and memory. CB1 receptors have also been found in organs and tissues like white blood cells, parts of the reproductive, gastrointestinal and urinary tracts and the spleen. It is believed that CB1 receptors also affect your appetite and sleep patterns.
Research & Studies on Taking CBD to Quit Smoking
Another study on CBD as an aid to quit smoking that came out of the UK in May 2018 examined a variety of potential positive effects of CBD on smoking behavior. This double-blind, randomized study was comprised of 30 dependent smokers. Each of the smokers were given 800mg of CBD orally or a matched placebo.
Then each of the participants were shown “pictorial tobacco cues” such as parties, drinking, other people smoking, etc. and were examined for withdrawal, cravings, heart rate and blood pressure. The study found an interesting conclusion: a single 800mg dose of CBD could help to reduce the “pleasantness” of tobacco cues compared to the placebo group, especially when participants had abstained from cigarettes overnight as part of the study.
Dr. Amir Englund at King’s College, London told iNews UK, “These findings are exciting as they suggest CBD may interfere with some of the underlying mechanisms behind tobacco addiction and could potentially be a treatment for people who are trying to quit.”
In another study in 2016, Addiction, Hindocha et. al. set out a series of examples in which vaping cannabis is accompanied by a reduction in tobacco consumption. According to these researchers: “there could be reason to be optimistic about the potential of vaporizers. If vaporizers can reduce cannabis and tobacco co-administration, the outcome could be a reduction of tobacco use/dependence among cannabis users and a resultant reduction in harms associated with cannabis/tobacco. Indeed, if vaping cannabis becomes commonplace in the future, the next generation of cannabis users might never be exposed to nicotine or tobacco in the first place”.
While more studies on the subject of CBD as a smoking cessation solution are needed, current studies indicate that both vaping and orally ingesting low-THC CBD products have the potential to be part of a successful quit smoking protocol.