Does CBD Work for Addiction?

  • A study published in the journal Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment revealed that CBD might be useful in the treatment of several types of addiction, such as marijuana, tobacco, cocaine, psychostimulants, and opioid addiction(1).
  • Research published in the journal Addictive Behaviors has shown that CBD might help reduce cigarette consumption(2).
  • A 2018 study done on rodents suggested that CBD might help in the treatment of alcohol abuse and the prevention of alcohol relapse(3).
  • A study outlined CBD’s promising effects in treating addiction to heroin, an opioid. The researchers suggested that CBD might reduce the cue-induced heroin-seeking behavior of mice test subjects(4)
  • Further research needs to be done on whether CBD alone can treat these addictions. For this reason, patients with addiction-related disorders are encouraged to use CBD as a therapy in conjunction with rehabilitation programs and other addiction treatments.

Why People Are Taking CBD for Addiction

According to the American Addiction Centers, medications used for the treatment of addiction or substance abuse help ease a patient’s withdrawal period and manage other mental health and medical conditions that might have been undiagnosed(5).

These addiction treatment medications include the following(6):

  • Acamprosate (Campral)
  • Baclofen (Lioresal)
  • Buprenorphine (Probuphine or Suboxone)
  • Bupropion (Wellbutrin or Zyban)
  • Disulfiram (Antabuse)
  • Gabapentin (Neurontin)
  • Mirtazapine (Remeron)
  • Modafinil (Provigil)
  • Naltrexone (Vivitrol)
  • Topiramate (Topamax)
  • Vigabatrin (Sabril)

However, some of these medications may have adverse side effects on individuals with addiction and substance use disorders

For instance, disulfiram is prescribed for chronic alcoholism. Drinking even small amounts of alcohol may result in headaches, nausea, vomiting, sweating, breathing difficulty, blurred vision, weakness, and anxiety(7).

Medical professionals deliberately prescribe this drug so that these side effects discourage diagnosed alcoholics from drinking or relapsing. However, disulfiram cannot cure alcoholism entirely(8). Often, counseling and therapy are involved as well.

Research has shown that cannabidiol (CBD) might have therapeutic effects on several types of addiction, such as marijuana, tobacco, cocaine, psychostimulants, and opioid addiction(9).

CBD for Marijuana Addiction

To further understand the purported benefits of the use of CBD in marijuana addiction treatment, it is essential to know CBD in relation to the marijuana plant.

CBD may be extracted from marijuana, but it is predominantly found in industrial hemp plants.

Hemp and marijuana are types of Cannabis sativa plants. Their main difference is that hemp plants cannot have more than 0.30% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on a dry weight basis(10).

THC is the psychoactive (high-inducing) ingredient of the marijuana plant. Unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive(11).

The marijuana plant has been classified by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (US DEA) as a Schedule I controlled substance(12). These substances or chemicals have no accepted medical use and have a high potential for abuse(13).

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization says that no human or animal study has reported physical dependence on CBD nor incidences of CBD withdrawal(14). The organization also says that CBD is not associated with abuse potential. Therefore, CBD is non-addictive.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), marijuana use may lead to marijuana dependence. 

Users who develop a dependence on marijuana may exhibit withdrawal symptoms when they do not take the drug(15).

This marijuana use disorder may develop into an addiction, characterized by users being unable to stop drug use even when it interferes with several aspects of the user’s life(16).

CBD and marijuana may come from the cannabis plant. However, human studies have shown CBD use might have promising effects in the treatment of marijuana withdrawal syndrome.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics was conducted on a 19-year-old female with cannabis dependence. The test subject reported withdrawal syndrome when she stopped cannabis use(17). 

The researchers administered CBD to the test subject for 11 days. They observed a rapid decrease in the test subject’s withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety and dissociative symptoms.

Another case study done on a 27-year-old bipolar male with a severe addiction to marijuana has shown that CBD oil has helped the test subject cease marijuana use(18).

The test subject also reported reduced anxiety and enhanced sleeping patterns.

CBD for Tobacco Addiction

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says that tobacco addiction is caused by addiction to nicotine. Smokers who suffer from this disorder experience withdrawal symptoms when not smoking and have great difficulty quitting their smoking habit(19). 

Research published in the journal Addictive Behaviors stated that CBD might help attenuate cigarette consumption. 

The test subjects were divided into two groups and were given inhalers with CBD or a placebo(20). They were instructed to use the inhalers when they had the urge to smoke.

Over a week, the study’s authors observed that the group that was given inhalers with CBD reduced their cigarette consumption to about 40%. 

Meanwhile, the placebo group was unable to reduce the number of cigarettes they smoked.

In a study conducted in 2018, test subjects who had smoking dependence were given 800mg of CBD. The next day, they reported reduced pleasantness upon seeing visual cigarette cues(21).

However, the authors of the study did not observe CBD’s influence on tobacco craving or withdrawal. 

CBD for Alcoholism

Alcoholism, also called alcohol use disorder, is characterized by an individual’s inability to manage his drinking habits. It may be classified as mild, moderate, or severe(22).

A 2018 study conducted in rodents revealed that CBD might be useful in treating alcohol use disorders. 

The authors observed that CBD attenuated the motivations and reinforcing properties for alcohol use(23).

The research also suggested that CBD may prevent alcohol relapse.

Another study also done in mice has shown that transdermally applied CBD might help prevent alcohol or cocaine relapse in the rodent test subjects. 

The researchers also observed that CBD might reduce the drug-seeking behavior of the test subjects(24).

In the study, CBD was suggested to prevent high impulsivity in mice with an alcohol dependence history. 

The test subjects’ anxiety also markedly reduced upon seven days of transdermal CBD application.

CBD for Opioid Addiction

Opioids are a drug class that includes legally-prescribed pain relievers, such as morphine, synthetic opioids, and the illegal drug heroin(25)

Opioids come from the opium poppy plant. They have substances that help the body relax and relieve moderate to severe pain(26).

Opioids are highly addictive and their abuse has already caused a national crisis in the US(27).

A study has found that CBD might have inhibitory effects on the reward-facilitating effect of morphine(28).

Addiction to substances, such as morphine, can alter the reward circuit of the human brain. Some drugs may cause significant surges in the neurotransmitters involved in the brain’s reward circuit(29).

These surges are more pleasurable than the surges individuals get from healthy rewards, such as music, eating, or social interactions(30). Hence, individuals prone to addiction may seek drug rewards over healthy rewards. 

A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience reported that CBD might help inhibit the cue-induced heroin-seeking behavior of the rodent test subjects. These findings suggest that CBD’s promising effects might help treat heroin craving and relapse(31).

A 2019 study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry has shown that CBD might attenuate cravings in individuals who have a heroin drug addiction. The test subjects had a history of heroin abuse, and they were trying to abstain from relapsing(32).

The researchers showed the participants two types of videos: videos showing nature scenes and videos with drug-related cues aimed at triggering the test subjects’ drug cravings.

Upon seeing the heroin-related videos, the participants had higher drug cravings. However, those who were administered CBD reported less drug cravings than those in the placebo group.

The study also revealed that participants who took CBD experienced reduced anxiety, heart rate, and levels of the stress hormone cortisol. 

How CBD Oil Works to Alleviate Symptoms of Addiction

A study published in the Journal of American Medical Association reported that the neurotransmitter dopamine has an essential role in drug addiction(33)

High levels of dopamine contribute to the motivation of a patient with addiction disorders to procure the drug when the patient is exposed to stimuli associated with the drug.

According to the American Addiction Centers, drug abuse stimulates two to 10 times more dopamine to be released compared to other pleasurable activities, such as eating food or having sex(34)

This surge of dopamine can be highly pleasurable that individuals attempt to repeat the feeling through repeated drug use.  

However, regular drug use causes the brain to lessen dopamine production and transmission. Without the drugs, dopamine levels may drop, resulting in withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. Hence, drug dependence begins. 

A study has found that cannabinoids inhibited the synaptic uptake of dopamine in the mice test subjects(35).

CBD is one of the primary cannabinoids that come from the Cannabis sativa plant(36).

Cannabinoids are molecules that interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and help it regulate functions, such as mood, appetite, memory, and pain perception(37)

The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for Addiction

The Pros

  • Preclinical trials and clinical trials on human and animal models have suggested CBD’s promising potential in the treatment of addiction.
  • Compared with conventional addiction medications, CBD has a more favorable safety profile(38).

The Cons

  • Further research needs to be made on whether CBD alone may be used as a treatment for addiction and other disorders.
  • CBD has side effects, like diarrhea, tiredness, and changes in weight or appetite (39)

How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for Addiction

According to the American Addiction Centers, one of the primary treatments for addiction is an integrated and holistic treatment program that helps patients physically, mentally, and spiritually(40).

Techniques used during the program may include massages, acupuncture, yoga and meditation, and the use of herbal medicines. These methods may help with a patient’s recovery efforts.

These approaches may help patients with their withdrawal symptoms. They may also give people who are suffering from addiction disorders spiritual grounding and even correct unhealthy eating habits which contribute to the improvement of a patient’s overall well-being. 

Further, some of these techniques may reduce the patients’ stress and emotional issues that may have resulted from repeated use of addictive substances(41).

Similar to these alternative treatments, CBD might have calming effects in the central nervous system. It is suggested that CBD may also reduce anxiety and enhance sleep(42)

CBD has an excellent safety profile. However, consultation with a doctor is necessary before using CBD alongside alternative addiction treatments.

How to Choose the Right CBD for Addiction

Patients who have addiction disorders may choose from three CBD types: full-spectrum CBD oil, broad-spectrum, and isolates.

Full-spectrum CBD oil uses all the ingredients of the Cannabis sativa plant, including flavonoids, terpenes, essential oils, fatty acids, and THC.

The THC levels in full-spectrum CBD products are minimal and are typically trace amounts only. 

However, recovering patients should avoid triggers that might lead to a relapse or cannabis withdrawal. Hence, broad-spectrum CBD and CBD isolates are safer alternatives. 

Broad-spectrum CBD has all the ingredients of a full-spectrum CBD product except for THC. Meanwhile, CBD isolates are only made of pure, isolated cannabidiol. 

CBD Dosage for Addiction

Because CBD has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there is no standard dosage chart for CBD in the treatment of addiction. 

It is recommended that patients begin with a low dosage and gradually increase it if no adverse effects are observed.

Patients are also encouraged to document their reactions to CBD treatment through a journal. They may bring this journal during a consultation with their physician. 

How to Take CBD for Addiction

CBD is available in various formats and formulations. The most popular way is through oral administration. 

CBD tinctures allow users to take CBD sublingually (under the tongue) for added efficacy. They may apply the CBD under the tongue for 60 to 90 seconds before swallowing.

CBD tinctures guarantee consistent dosage, which may be useful for patients who need to monitor their CBD intake. They also allow patients to adjust their dosage accordingly. 

Patients recovering from addiction may also ingest it orally via CBD capsules, gel caps, gummies, and edibles. CBD in these formats may be brought anywhere conveniently. 

Unflavored CBD oil may also be mixed with food and beverages to mask CBD’s naturally grassy taste. Users who prefer to take it directly may purchase flavored CBD oil.

Topical formulations, such as lotions, creams, and balms, are also available. Topical CBD may be used during massages, primarily if CBD is being used for chronic pain relief.

CBD vapes and pens are also available. These formats may be useful for patients who are recovering from smoking addiction as they can switch to CBD vaping instead. 

Patients who inhale CBD through vaping may observe its effects instantaneously. However, it is difficult to determine the CBD amounts taken in every draw.

Vaping may also have damaging effects on the lungs(43).

Conclusion

Unlike THC, CBD does not have psychoactive effects. Studies have shown that CBD may help in the treatment of dependence on marijuana, opiates, and other addictive substances.

The benefits of CBD include its suggested ability to remove cravings and prevent relapse, such as in heroin addiction. 

However, further studies need to be made on the effects of CBD and the potential of CBD in the treatment of addiction disorders.  

More importantly, more research also needs to be done on whether CBD alone can help cure such disorders.

Before using CBD, patients who have addiction disorders should first consult with a doctor.  


  1. Prud’homme, M., Cata, R., & Jutras-Aswad, D. (2015). Cannabidiol as an Intervention for Addictive Behaviors: A Systematic Review of the Evidence. Substance abuse: research and treatment, 9, 33–38. https://doi.org/10.4137/SART.S25081
  2. Morgan, C. J., Das, R. K., Joye, A., Curran, H. V., & Kamboj, S. K. (2013). Cannabidiol reduces cigarette consumption in tobacco smokers: preliminary findings. Addictive behaviors, 38(9), 2433–2436. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2013.03.011
  3. Viudez-Martínez, A., García-Gutiérrez, M. S., Navarrón, C. M., Morales-Calero, M. I., Navarrete, F., Torres-Suárez, A. I., & Manzanares, J. (2018). Cannabidiol reduces ethanol consumption, motivation and relapse in mice. Addiction biology, 23(1), 154–164. https://doi.org/10.1111/adb.12495
  4. Ren, Y., Whittard, J., Higuera-Matas, A., Morris, C. V., & Hurd, Y. L. (2009). Cannabidiol, a non-psychotropic component of cannabis, inhibits cue-induced heroin seeking and normalizes discrete mesolimbic neuronal disturbances. The Journal of neuroscience: the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 29(47), 14764–14769. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4291-09.2009
  5. Editorial Staff. (2020, March 9). Rehabilitation Drugs – What Treatment Drugs Are Used to Assist in Rehab? Retrieved from https://americanaddictioncenters.org/addiction-medications
  6. Ibid.
  7. Disulfiram: MedlinePlus Drug Information. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682602.html
  8. Ibid.
  9. Prud’homme, M. op. cit.
  10. Research Involving Cannabis, Hemp, and Marijuana. (2019, September 19). Retrieved from https://ovpr.uchc.edu/services/rics/research-involving-cannabis-hemp-and-marijuana/
  11. Shannon, S., Lewis, N., Lee, H., & Hughes, S. (2019). Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. The Permanente Journal, 23, 18–041. https://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/18-041
  12. Research Involving Cannabis, Hemp, and Marijuana. (2019, September 19). Retrieved from https://ovpr.uchc.edu/services/rics/research-involving-cannabis-hemp-and-marijuana/
  13. Drug Scheduling. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.dea.gov/drug-scheduling
  14. “CANNABIDIOL (CBD) Critical Review Report.” World Health Organization, 2018.
  15. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, July 02). Is marijuana addictive? Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/marijuana-addictive
  16. Ibid.
  17. Crippa, J. A., Hallak, J. E., Machado-de-Sousa, J. P., Queiroz, R. H., Bergamaschi, M., Chagas, M. H., & Zuardi, A. W. (2013). Cannabidiol for the treatment of cannabis withdrawal syndrome: a case report. Journal of clinical pharmacy and therapeutics, 38(2), 162–164. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpt.12018
  18. Shannon, S., & Opila-Lehman, J. (2015). Cannabidiol Oil for Decreasing Addictive Use of Marijuana: A Case Report. Integrative medicine (Encinitas, Calif.), 14(6), 31–35.
  19. Is nicotine addictive? (2020, January). Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/tobacco-nicotine-e-cigarettes/nicotine-addictive
  20. Morgan, C. J., op. cit. 
  21. Hindocha, C., Freeman, T. P., Grabski, M., Stroud, J. B., Crudgington, H., Davies, A. C., Das, R. K., Lawn, W., Morgan, C., & Curran, H. V. (2018). Cannabidiol reverses attentional bias to cigarette cues in a human experimental model of tobacco withdrawal. Addiction (Abingdon, England), 113(9), 1696–1705. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1111/add.14243
  22. Galbicsek, C. (2020, May 19). What is Alcoholism?. Retrieved from https://www.alcoholrehabguide.org/alcohol/
  23. Viudez-Martínez, A., op. cit. 
  24. Gonzalez-Cuevas, G., Martin-Fardon, R., Kerr, T. M., Stouffer, D. G., Parsons, L. H., Hammell, D. C., Banks, S. L., Stinchcomb, A. L., & Weiss, F. (2018). Unique treatment potential of cannabidiol for the prevention of relapse to drug use: preclinical proof of principle. Neuropsychopharmacology: official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 43(10), 2036–2045. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41386-018-0050-8
  25. Opioids. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/opioids
  26. Prescription Opioids DrugFacts. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-opioids
  27. Opioid Abuse: Statistics, Signs & Symptoms – When Seconds Count. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.asahq.org/whensecondscount/pain-management/opioid-treatment/opioid-abuse/
  28. Katsidoni, V., Anagnostou, I., & Panagis, G. (2012, August 02). Cannabidiol inhibits the reward‐facilitating effect of morphine: Involvement of 5‐HT1A receptors in the dorsal raphe nucleus. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1369-1600.2012.00483.x
  29. Drugs and the Brain. (2018, July). Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drugs-brain
  30. Ibid,
  31. Ren, Y., op. cit. 
  32. Hurd, Y., Spriggs, S., Alishayev, J., Winkel, G., Gurgov, K., Epstein, D. (2019, May 21). Cannabidiol for the Reduction of Cue-Induced Craving and Anxiety in Drug-Abstinent Individuals With Heroin Use Disorder: A Double-Blind Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial. Retrieved from https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.ajp.2019.18101191
  33. Volkow, N., MD, Fowler, J., Ph.D., & Wang, G., MD. (2007, November 01). Dopamine in Drug Abuse and Addiction. Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaneurology/fullarticle/794743
  34. Drug Abuse and Chemical Imbalance in the Brain:  Dopamine, Serotonin & More. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://americanaddictioncenters.org/health-complications-addiction/chemical-imbalance
  35. Pandolfo, P., Silveirinha, V., dos Santos-Rodrigues, A., Venance, L., Ledent, C., Takahashi, R. N., Cunha, R. A., & Köfalvi, A. (2011). Cannabinoids inhibit the synaptic uptake of adenosine and dopamine in the rat and mouse striatum. European journal of pharmacology, 655(1-3), 38–45. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejphar.2011.01.013
  36. Manzanares, J., Julian, M., & Carrascosa, A. (2006). Role of the cannabinoid system in pain control and therapeutic implications for the management of acute and chronic pain episodes. Current Neuropharmacology, 4(3), 239–257. https://doi.org/10.2174/157015906778019527
  37. Ibid.
  38. Iffland, K. & Franjo, G. “An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies.” Cannabis and cannabinoid research vol. 2,1 139-154. 1 Jun. 2017, doi:10.1089/can.2016.0034
  39. Iffland, K. op. cit. 
  40. Hardey, S. (Ed.). (n.d.). Holistic Treatment Techniques in Drug Rehab – How Effective It Is? Retrieved from https://americanaddictioncenters.org/rehab-guide/holistic
  41. Ibid.
  42. Shannon, S., Lewis, N., Lee, H., & Hughes, S. (2019). Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. The Permanente Journal, 23, 18–041. https://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/18-041
  43. “Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with the Use of E-Cigarette, or Vaping Products.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 Feb. 2020, www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/severe-lung-disease.html
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