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, which was also 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 CBD’s effects on human alcoholism is 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 published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology reported that CBD might have positive effects on rodents with alcohol and cocaine self-administration histories(5).
In the study, 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.
The researchers concluded that CBD might 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 damages on 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 of the studies were done on animal models, the findings are useful for future studies and clinical trials on humans.
How CBD Oil Works to Alleviate Symptoms of Alcoholism
In a 2018 animal study, increasing doses of CBD (30, 60, and 120mg of CBD per kilogram of the test subjects’ weight) were given to mice to assess the effects on the animals’ motivation to drink alcohol. The mice had to press a lever to get access to 36ml of ethanol(12).
According to the researchers, this method was useful in evaluating 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 receptor 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.
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 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
- Human and animal studies have shown the potential benefits of CBD in treating alcohol abuse.
- CBD has a favorable safety profile(18). Hence, it may be used safely for alcohol addiction.
- There is no record of drug addiction to CBD(19). Hence, substance abuse of CBD is highly unlikely.
- CBD may be useful in treating some hangover symptoms, like nausea(20). Thus, CBD may benefit those who want to stop drinking.
- 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).
- CBD as a treatment option for binge-drinking and alcoholism has not been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA).
- 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 the insomnia of people in recovery(23).
Dandelions may also be useful as an herbal remedy because they are believed to be good for liver detoxification. However, it may have harmful side effects, such as worsening of acid indigestion symptoms and specific allergic reactions(24).
Similar to 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).
How to Choose the Right CBD for Alcoholism
There are three types of CBD oils to choose from, namely, 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 under 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) has 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.
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 the CBD products. They should avoid extraction methods that utilize harsh solvents.
Before buying a CBD product, buyers should check if the product has a certificate of analysis or lab reports verifying its contents and claims.
When purchasing CBD online, buyers are also encouraged to check reviews and read customer insights online. It is a good practice 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 are advised to seek their healthcare provider’s approval before adding CBD to their alcoholism therapy.
It is recommended to begin with low-dose CBD. If no adverse reactions are observed, individuals 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 gelcaps, pills, capsules, gummies, and edibles.
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 an option. 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 an alcohol relapse. Vaping or smoking may be one of them(29).
Vaping may also cause lung problems in some individuals(30).
Alcoholism is a serious health issue. It is classified as the most severe form of alcohol abuse involving an individual’s 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. It may also take a toll on 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
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 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
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
CBD may have therapeutic benefits on alcoholism and the symptoms associated with it. Studies have shown that CBD has properties that may help lessen alcohol consumption and relapse in animal models.
CBD may also have promising effects on alcohol-related damage, such as neurodegeneration, brain damage, and liver injuries.
CBD’s profile may make it a safe option that could be added to the therapy of recovering alcoholics or individuals who are planning to treat their disorder under a doctor’s supervision.
Before adding CBD to one’s alcoholism therapy, they should first seek their doctor’s advice.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Viudez-Martinez, A. op. cit.
- Gonzalez-Cuevas, G. op. cit.
- Nona, C. op. cit.
- 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
- (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.vivo.colostate.edu/hbooks/pathphys/digestion/liver/stellate.html
- 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
- De Ternay, J. op. cit.
- 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
- Viudez-Martinez. op. Cit.
- 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
- Alcohol Withdrawal: Learn the Symptoms and Signs. (2020, May 19). Retrieved from https://www.alcoholrehabguide.org/alcohol/withdrawal/
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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:10.1089/can.2016.0034
- “CANNABIDIOL (CBD) Critical Review Report.” World Health Organization, 2018.Parkinson’s Foundation. op. cit.
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- Herbal Remedies In Recovery. (2019, May 07). Retrieved July 28, 2020, from https://alcoholrehab.com/addiction-recovery/herbal-remedies-in-recovery/
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- 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
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