Does CBD Work for Alcoholism?

  • A 2018 study observed that cannabidiol (CBD) reduced alcohol consumption and alcohol-induced relapse in mice models(1).
  • Another study, conducted on rodents with alcohol and cocaine self-administration history, showed that CBD diminished their drug-seeking behavior without detrimental effects or interference with their normal motivated behavior(2).
  • A 2019 systematic review of preclinical and human studies suggested that CBD might help attenuate alcohol consumption and protect against alcohol-related brain and liver damage(3).
  • Still, further studies on the effects of cannabidiol on human alcoholism are warranted. Before treating alcoholism with CBD, it is recommended to seek the advice of professionals.

Why People Are Taking CBD for Alcoholism

A 2018 study found in the journal Addiction Biology stated that the use of CBD might be promising in treating alcohol use disorders(4).

The research conducted on rodents revealed that CBD reduced alcohol consumption and alcohol-induced relapse in the test subjects.

Another study led by Gustavo Gonzalez-Cuevas of the Scripps Research Institute and published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology reported that CBD may have positive effects on rodents with alcohol and cocaine self-administration histories(5).

The researchers found that CBD reduced drug-seeking without sedative effects, tolerance, or interference with normal motivated behavior.

The authors also observed that CBD attenuated anxiety and prevented high impulsivity in rats with a history of alcohol dependence. They concluded that CBD may be promising in relapse prevention. While the CBD administration was only for a week, the test subjects felt the positive effects for five months.

A 2019 review of preclinical and human research suggested that CBD might reduce alcohol consumption and protect against the harmful effects of alcohol, like liver and brain damage(6)

A study found in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology outlined CBD’s purported protection against alcohol-related liver and brain damage in animal models(7).

According to the researchers, CBD’s supposed liver-protective properties include contributing to the reduction of lipid (fat) accumulation, modulation of inflammation, attenuation of oxidative stress, and induction of the death of activated hepatic stellate cells. 

Hepatic stellate cells help the liver respond to injuries and heal damages(8). Their activation may lead to hepatic fibrosis, the excessive wound-healing that can result in the buildup of connective tissues(9).

The study also reported that CBD prevented the loss of neurons (brain cells) through its antioxidant and immunomodulatory effects(10).

A systematic review was conducted on eight rodent studies, three human research literature, and one study using cell culture to evaluate CBD’s potential as a therapy for alcohol use disorder(11)

In the studies involving mice and cell culture, the researchers observed that CBD exhibited neuroprotective properties against alcohol damage to the hippocampus.

They also noted that CBD reduced alcohol-induced liver damage and steatosis in rodent models. Steatosis is the retention of lipids in the liver, which could be detrimental to one’s health.

The researchers reported that CBD reduced alcohol self-administration, withdrawal-induced convulsions, alcohol-seeking, and impulsive discounting of delayed rewards in the mice test subjects. They concluded that CBD is well-tolerated in humans. 

While most studies were done on animal models, the findings may be helpful for future studies and clinical trials on humans.

How CBD Oil Works to Alleviate Symptoms of Alcoholism

In a 2018 animal study, researchers gave increasing doses of CBD (30, 60, and 120mg of CBD per kilogram of the test subjects’ weight) to mice to assess the effects on the animals’ motivation for drinking alcohol. The mice had to press a lever to access 36ml of ethanol(12).

According to the researchers, this method helped evaluate motivation to drink alcohol because the test subjects had to exert effort (press the lever) to be able to consume alcohol. 

The researchers found that CBD administration decreased alcohol preference (from 75% to 55%) and intake (from 6g of pure ethanol per kilogram of the test subjects’ body weight daily to 3.5g of ethanol per kilogram of the mice’s weight every day).

Even when the researchers increased the requirement to get alcohol to three lever presses, they observed that CBD administration reduced the active lever presses. 

The researchers believe that these CBD-induced effects are associated with changes in the gene expression of critical targets closely related to alcohol use disorder.

Among the key targets are the endocannabinoid system’s (ECS) cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1 receptor) and cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2 receptor). 

The authors noted that a single administration of CBD when the test subjects were taking alcohol decreased the expression of CB1 receptors in the brain and increased CB2 receptor expression.

The endocannabinoid system is responsible for several body functions, including memory, pain perception, appetite, and mood(13).

Cannabinoids, or compounds that help the ECS with these vital functions, interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors.

CBD may help with specific alcohol withdrawal symptoms. These disorders include anxiety, nausea and vomiting, and insomnia(14).

Recent studies have reported that CBD might be anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing).

A study done on mice has shown CBD’s anxiety-reducing and antidepressant properties(15).

Another study in 2019 concluded that CBD might have a calming effect on the nervous system. Results showed that the substance reduced anxiety disorder and improved sleep(16).

CBD may also help with nausea and vomiting because of its antiemetic (nausea-reducing) properties(17).

The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for Alcoholism

The Pros

  • Human and animal studies have shown the potential benefits of CBD in treating alcohol abuse.
  • CBD has a favorable safety profile(18). Thus, individuals may use it safely for alcohol addiction.
  • CBD does not exhibit effects associated with drug abuse(19). Hence, the substance abuse of CBD is highly unlikely.
  • CBD may help manage some hangover symptoms, like nausea(20). Thus, CBD may benefit those who want to stop drinking.

The Cons

  • More research on CBD and human alcoholism is warranted.
  • Researchers have reported the side effects of CBD, including tiredness, diarrhea, and changes in weight or appetite(21).
  • The United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) has not approved CBD as a treatment option for binge drinking and alcoholism.
  • A study showed that CBD mixed with alcohol did not have significant interactions(22). However, combining the two substances is still not recommended until further research has been conducted.

How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for Alcoholism

Chamomile tea is being used for its benefits on addiction recovery. The herb may help with insomnia of people in recovery(23).

Dandelions may also be useful as an herbal remedy as some individuals believe these plants are suitable for liver detoxification. However, dandelions may have harmful side effects, such as worsening acid indigestion symptoms and specific allergic reactions(24).

Like chamomile tea, CBD may have health benefits that are good for sleep(25).

Compared with dandelions, CBD also has therapeutic properties that may help the liver. A study found in the British Journal of Pharmacology reported that CBD restored liver function in mice models(26).

CBD is generally safe to use(27). Hence, individuals attending rehabilitation programs for their alcoholism may consider using the substance.

How to Choose the Right CBD for Alcoholism

There are three types of CBD oils: full-spectrum CBD oil, broad-spectrum, and CBD isolates.

Full-spectrum CBD contains all the phytocannabinoids from the Cannabis sativa plant, including less than 0.30% of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), terpenes, flavonoids, fatty acids, and essential oils.

CBD products of this type are believed to be the most therapeutic because all the active ingredients synergize and create the entourage effect. 

Still, they contain THC, which is the component of the cannabis plant that has mind-altering properties. Despite being available in trace amounts only, THC may be detected by some drug tests.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) under the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported that marijuana (THC) use may precede abuse of other illicit substances, such as alcohol(28). Hence, it may be best to avoid CBD products with THC.

NIH provides detailed information on marijuana on the agency’s website at https://nida.nih.gov.

Individuals diagnosed with alcoholism may use broad-spectrum CBD, which contains all the ingredients of a full-spectrum CBD product except THC. They may also use pure isolated cannabidiol, also known as CBD isolates.

CBD product prices may vary depending on the hemp source and CBD potency.

High-quality CBD products, specifically non-GMO, certified organic, and hemp-derived CBD, may be more expensive than low-grade ones. However, buyers are advised to use high-quality products from trusted and credible manufacturers only.

Buyers should also research the extraction process used for CBD products. They should avoid extraction methods that utilize harsh solvents.

Before buying a CBD product, buyers should check if it has a certificate of analysis (COA) or lab reports verifying its contents and claims.

When purchasing CBD online, buyers are encouraged to check reviews and read customer insights online. One good practice is to countercheck if a CBD manufacturer, especially those without brick-and-mortar stores, has been authorized to sell CBD products.

CBD Dosage for Alcoholism

There is a lack of a standard dosage chart for CBD use in treating alcoholism. Individuals should seek their healthcare provider’s approval before adding CBD to their alcoholism therapy.

It is recommended to begin with low-dose CBD. If consumers do not observe any adverse reactions, they may work up to a larger dose until the desired effects are achieved.

It is encouraged to keep a journal to record one’s reactions to the substance. 

How to Take CBD for Alcoholism

There are several ways to take CBD for alcoholism. 

CBD may be ingested as it is available in edible forms, such as gelcaps, pills, capsules, and gummies like CBD gummy bears.

Individuals interested in purchasing the best CBD gummies should consider reviewing CBD gummies reviews to determine whether this form of CBD helps with their needs.

CBD oil may be taken directly or mixed with food and beverages to mask CBD’s natural grassy taste.

CBD tinctures (drops) may also be applied under the tongue (sublingually) for added efficacy.

CBD topicals, like lotions, ointments, salves, and balms, are also options. However, they may not be as effective for treating alcoholism. 

CBD also comes in a vape pen format. However, recovering alcoholics should refrain from anything that could trigger alcohol cravings or relapse. Vaping or smoking may be one of them(29).

Vaping may also cause lung problems in some individuals(30).

Understanding Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a severe health issue. It is classified as the most severe form of alcohol abuse involving individuals’ inability to manage their drinking habits(31).

It is also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD). There are three AUD categories, including mild, moderate, and severe.

AUD should be treated as soon as possible, as an individual may spiral out of control. 

Alcoholism may also affect one’s emotional and mental health. If the individual does not stop drinking alcohol, it may also affect an individual’s quality of life and be detrimental to their personal and professional goals.

Common signs of alcoholism include(32):

  • Inability to control alcohol consumption
  • Craving alcohol when an individual is not drinking
  • Neglecting personal responsibilities for alcohol
  • Feeling an insatiable need to drink more
  • Spending significant amounts of money on alcohol
  • Behaving differently after drinking

The most common reasons for drinking include(33):

  • Relieving stress
  • A way to feel good
  • Coping with loss
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Filling a gap due to a lack of connection
  • Masking shame
  • Treating unresolved trauma

Alcoholism may also have short-term effects, including:

  • Reduced brain activity
  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Poor reflexes
  • Slow reaction time
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Blurry vision
  • Restlessness

Long-term effects may include:

  • Brain defects
  • Neurobiological diseases, like Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome
  • Liver diseases
  • Heart problems
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Diabetes complications
  • Bone loss
  • Vision damage

Conclusion

CBD may have therapeutic benefits on alcoholism or the symptoms associated with alcoholism. Studies have shown that CBD has properties that may help lessen alcohol intake and relapse in animal models(34).

CBD may also have promising effects on damage due to alcohol-related toxicity, such as neurodegeneration, brain damage, and liver injuries.

The World Health Organization (WHO) considers CBD well tolerated and with a good safety profile(35). This profile may make it a safe option that may be added to the therapy of recovering alcoholics or individuals planning to treat their substance use disorder under a doctor’s supervision.

CBD brands claiming to sell the best CBD products often place a disclaimer stating that individuals should not use such products to treat diseases or medical conditions. 

Before individuals consider adding CBD as a supplement to their alcoholism therapy and help promote well-being, they should first seek their doctor’s advice.


  1. 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
  2. Gonzalez-Cuevas, G., Martin-Fardon, R., Kerr, T.M. et al. Unique treatment potential of cannabidiol for the prevention of relapse to drug use: preclinical proof of principle. Neuropsychopharmacol 43, 2036–2045 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41386-018-0050-8
  3. Nona, C. N., Hendershot, C. S., & Le Foll, B. (2019). Effects of cannabidiol on alcohol-related outcomes: A review of preclinical and human research. Experimental and clinical psychopharmacology, 27(4), 359–369. https://doi.org/10.1037/pha0000272
  4. Viudez-Martinez, A. op. cit.
  5. Gonzalez-Cuevas, G. op. cit.
  6. Nona, C. op. cit.
  7. De Ternay, J., Naassila, M., Nourredine, M., Louvet, A., Bailly, F., Sescousse, G., Maurage, P., Cottencin, O., Carrieri, P. M., & Rolland, B. (2019). Therapeutic Prospects of Cannabidiol for Alcohol Use Disorder and Alcohol-Related Damages on the Liver and the Brain. Frontiers in pharmacology, 10, 627. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2019.00627
  8. (n.d.). Hepatic Stellate Cells (Ito Cells). Retrieved from http://www.vivo.colostate.edu/hbooks/pathphys/digestion/liver/stellate.html 
  9. Tsuchida, T., Friedman, S. Mechanisms of hepatic stellate cell activation. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol 14, 397–411 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrgastro.2017.38
  10. De Ternay, J. op. cit.
  11. Turna, J., Syan, S. K., Frey, B. N., Rush, B., Costello, M. J., Weiss, M., & MacKillop, J. (2019). Cannabidiol as a Novel Candidate Alcohol Use Disorder Pharmacotherapy: A Systematic Review. Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research, 43(4), 550–563. https://doi.org/10.1111/acer.13964
  12. Viudez-Martinez. op. cit.
  13. 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
  14. Alcohol Withdrawal: Learn the Symptoms and Signs. (2020, May 19). Retrieved from https://www.alcoholrehabguide.org/alcohol/withdrawal/
  15. de Mello Schier, A. R., de Oliveira Ribeiro, N. P., Coutinho, D. S., Machado, S., Arias-Carrión, O., Crippa, J. A., Zuardi, A. W., Nardi, A. E., & Silva, A. C. (2014). Antidepressant-like and anxiolytic-like effects of cannabidiol: a chemical compound of Cannabis sativa. CNS & neurological disorders drug targets, 13(6), 953–960. https://doi.org/10.2174/1871527313666140612114838
  16. 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
  17. Parker, L. A., Rock, E. M., & Limebeer, C. L. (2011). Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids. British journal of pharmacology, 163(7), 1411–1422. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1476-5381.2010.01176.x
  18. Iffland, Kerstin, and Franjo Grotenhermen. “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: https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2016.0034 
  19. WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence: Fortieth Report https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/279948/9789241210225-eng.pdf 
  20. Parker, L.A. op. cit.
  21. Iffland, K. op. cit.
  22. Consroe, P., Carlini, E. A., Zwicker, A. P., & Lacerda, L. A. (1979). Interaction of cannabidiol and alcohol in humans. Psychopharmacology, 66(1), 45–50. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00431988
  23. Herbal Remedies In Recovery. (2019, May 07). Retrieved July 28, 2020, from https://alcoholrehab.com/addiction-recovery/herbal-remedies-in-recovery/
  24. Ibid.
  25. Shannon, S. op. cit.
  26. Avraham, Y., Grigoriadis, N., Poutahidis, T., Vorobiev, L., Magen, I., Ilan, Y., Mechoulam, R., & Berry, E. (2011). Cannabidiol improves brain and liver function in a fulminant hepatic failure-induced model of hepatic encephalopathy in mice. British journal of pharmacology, 162(7), 1650–1658. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1476-5381.2010.01179.x
  27. Iffland, K. op. cit.
  28. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, April 08). Is marijuana a gateway drug? Retrieved July 28, 2020, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/marijuana-gateway-drug
  29. Weinberger, A. H., Platt, J., Jiang, B., & Goodwin, R. D. (2015). Cigarette Smoking and Risk of Alcohol Use Relapse Among Adults in Recovery from Alcohol Use Disorders. Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research, 39(10), 1989–1996. https://doi.org/10.1111/acer.12840
  30. Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with the Use of E-Cigarette, or Vaping, Products. (2020, February 25). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/severe-lung-disease.html
  31. What is Alcoholism? – Learn about Alcohol Addiction. (2020, May 19). Retrieved from https://www.alcoholrehabguide.org/alcohol/
  32. Ibid.
  33. Ibid.
  34. Viudez-Martinez, A. op. cit.
  35. WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence: Fortieth Report https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/279948/9789241210225-eng.pdf
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