Can CBD interact with cocaine?

  • A 2019 study revealed that CBD was able to reverse the toxicity and seizures caused by cocaine, as well as the motivation to take cocaine and methamphetamine (meth) in the non-clinical setting(1).
  • It also showed that CBD could be a promising treatment for substance use disorders(2).
  • Observational studies also imply that CBD “may reduce problems related to crack-cocaine addiction, such as withdrawal symptoms, craving, impulsivity and paranoia (Fischer et al., 2015).”(3)
  • Another research conducted by Friedbert Weiss, PhD of Scripps Research Institute focused on the development of behavioural methods that can accurately model certain aspects of human drug-seeking behaviour in animals. During the behavior tests, which included stressful and anxiety-provoking situations, the rats did not display any sign of drug-seeking behavior. Five months later, the involved animals still proved to be free from relapse caused by stress or drug cues(4).
  • Clinical trials and human subjects studies are still needed to fully gauge CBD’s potential to treat substance abuse and disorders.

Does CBD Interact with Cocaine?

What is Cocaine

Cocaine is a strongly-addictive stimulant drug that can have a detrimental effect on the mental health of the user. It is brewed from the leaves of the coca plant which originally came from South America. Although it can serve as local anesthesia for surgeries, cocaine is known as an illegal recreational drug.

Cocaine is known to give short-term pleasurable effects which is one of the main reasons why cocaine abuse has become a global phenomenon. 

What is CBD

Cannabinoids, like CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), are chemicals found in cannabis plants. The most popular kinds of cannabis plants are marijuana and hemp plants.

Cannabidiol or CBD is the second active ingredient of cannabis. CBD can be pressed out from either marijuana or hemp. Hemp plants, or industrial hemps, contain a high amount of CBD, and a lesser percentage of THC, the primary psychoactive compound that brings about euphoria. Hemps naturally has 0.3% THC.

Medical marijuana, or medical cannabis, is the marijuana plant used to treat health issues.

Can CBD Be Taken with Cocaine?

Individually, cocaine and marijuana can already be damaging to the user. Thus, taking cannabinoids along with cocaine can have detrimental effects. The risks of using them together are amplified, which may even lead to a cocaine overdose(5).

Stimulants like cocaine, amphetamines, methamphetamine (meth), methylphenidate (MPH), and amphetamine-dextroamphetamine are often used and misused to boost physical strength, improve performance at work or school, control one’s appetite or lose weight.

A 2014 study by The U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health which presents that the combination of low to moderate dosages of MPH and THC resulted in a significantly higher heart rate which caused an increase in cardiovascular strain(6).

In the same manner as with THC, using CBD along with any kind of stimulant must be only upon the prescription of a medical professional. 

Can CBD Treat Cocaine Craving and Reduce Addiction Relapse?

A 2019 study reveals that CBD could be a promising treatment for substance use disorders(7). CBD was able to reverse the toxicity and seizures caused by cocaine, as well as the motivation to take cocaine and methamphetamine in the scarce amount of human clinical studies available. Observational studies also imply that CBD “may reduce problems related to crack-cocaine addiction, such as withdrawal symptoms, craving, impulsivity and paranoia (Fischer et al., 2015).”(8)

A team from Scripps Research Institute also facilitated a research to verify if it can decrease cocaine craving and treat cocaine addiction. The recent studies conducted by the Scripps Research Institute in Neuropsychopharmacology explained that CBD activates the brain’s serotonin receptors(9).

The leader of the investigative team, Friedbert Weiss, and his research associate, Gustavo Gonzalez-Cuevas, focused on the development of behavioural methods that can accurately model certain aspects of human drug-seeking behaviour in animals. 

Since drug cravings and relapse in humans take place when they are exposed to drug-related environmental stimuli and stressful settings, Weiss’s team experimented on rats that had become dependent on cocaine and alcohol, which led to substance addiction. 

The researchers then applied a gel which contained CBD to the skin of the rats being studied. The team repeated the process once daily for an entire week. 

During the behaviour tests, which included stressful and anxiety-provoking situations, the rats did not display any sign of drug-seeking behaviour. Five months later, the involved animals still proved to be free from relapse caused by stress or drug cues. 

Friedbert Weiss pointed out, “The results provide proof of principle supporting the potential of CBD in relapse prevention along two dimensions: beneficial actions across several vulnerability states, and long-lasting effects with only brief treatment.”

He added, “Drug addicts enter relapse vulnerability states for multiple reasons. Therefore, effects such as these observed with CBD that concurrently ameliorate several of these are likely to be more effective in preventing relapse than treatments targeting only a single state.”

While the results of these studies are on the affirmative, clinical trials and studies (currently lacking) are still needed to fully gauge CBD’s potential to treat substance abuse and disorders.

Effects of Cocaine Addiction

Generally, cocaine consumption affects all systems in the body, but its primary target is the central nervous system (CNS). 

Cocaine blocks the reuptake of neurotransmitters in the neuronal synapses, and this mechanism affects the CNS(10).

Some of the short-term side effects of substance abuse include:

  • Extreme happiness
  • Nausea
  • Paranoia
  • Sensitivity to touch, sound, and sight
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability or anger
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Tremors and muscle twitches

However, heavy and frequent usage of cocaine can lead to more severe health issues, such as:

  • Seizures and convulsions
  • Heart disease, heart attack, or stroke
  • Mood swings
  • Lung damage
  • Memory loss
  • Sleep problems

Using cocaine can be destructive to anyone, but the injurious effect can be greater for pregnant women. 

American Addiction Centers stated that pregnant women who abuse cocaine consumption may suffer from anemia, skin infections, and malnutrition. It may also cause anxiety, severe postpartum depression, and suicidal thoughts. (11)

It can also affect the unborn baby. Taking cocaine during the early stage of the pregnancy may yield to miscarriage, and can also cause placental abruption, decrease blood flow in the uterus, and preterm labor(12).

What Causes Cocaine Addiction?

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) revealed in a 2014 survey that there were close to 1.5 million cocaine users in the United States aged 12 or older (6 out of 10 of the population)(13).

In a latter report, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) said nearly 1.9 million people aged 12 or older used cocaine in 2016, and almost half a million people engaged in using crack cocaine (crystal form of cocaine)(14).

A 2006 review published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health emphasized results that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) has a crucial role in the neurobiological mechanism underlying drug addiction. It engages in the rewarding effects of nicotine, cannabinoids, opioids, and alcohol(15).

Once cocaine is inhaled, snorted, or injected, the drug increases the amount of dopamine in the body. It serves as the chemical messenger into the parts of the brain which control pleasure. As a result, the body experiences heightened alertness and increase in energy, or what is generally known as “high.”

In an attempt to continuously experience the same high, people tend to use cocaine more frequently and in an increased dosage until it becomes a habit. Eventually, trying to stop using drugs can become painful and can cause intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms. 

According to The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), withdrawal happens when a drug-dependent person suddenly stops using substances after a long time. Withdrawal symptoms include insomnia, muscle and bone pain, cold flashes, and vomiting. It may also come with depression or dysphoria (opposite of euphoria) which can last for weeks(16).

Treatments for Cocaine Addiction

Behavioural therapy may be used to help treat cocaine addiction.

Behavioural therapy includes:

  • cognitive-behavioural therapy, or psychotherapy with a mental health counsellor
  • Incentive-based initiatives for recovering addicts who remain substance-free
  • 12-step programs for addiction recovery

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), there are currently no government-approved medicines available to treat cocaine addiction(17).

Conclusion

Despite the benefits of CBD, Peter Grinspoon, MD, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, advises the public through a Harvard health article to be wary of the health risks that it may pose. Some of the side effects of CBD include nausea, fatigue, and irritability(18). It may also increase the level of blood thinners like coumadin. 

Notably, CBD is primarily sold as a dietary supplement and not a medicinal alternative. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate nutritional supplements. FDA also discourages the “use of CBD, THC, and marijuana in any form during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.”(19)

It is always highly encouraged to consult a licensed medical professional for general health care advice or to alleviate symptoms of specific ailments.


  1. Lopez, C. C., Pardo, M. P. G., & Aguilar, M. A. (2019). Cannabidiol Treatment Might Promote Resilience to Cocaine and Methamphetamine Use Disorders: A Review of Possible Mechanisms. Molecules, 24(14). doi: https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules24142583
  2. Ibid.
  3. Gonzalez-Cuevas, G. et al. Unique treatment potential of cannabidiol for the prevention of relapse to drug use: Preclinical proof of principle, Neuropsychopharmacology DOI: 10.1038/S41386-018-0050-8
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Source: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana
  5. U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Published online 2014 Aug 7. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2014.07.014. An exploratory study of the combined effects of orally administered methylphenidate and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on cardiovascular function, subjective effects, and performance in healthy adults. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4250392/
  6. Cannabidiol Treatment Might Promote Resilience to Cocaine and Methamphetamine Use Disorders: A Review of Possible Claudia Calpe-Lopez, et al., 2019) Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/334517310_Cannabidiol_Treatment_Might_Promote_Resilience_to_Cocaine_and_Methamphetamine_Use_Disorders_A_Review_of_Possible_Mechanisms
  7. Lopez and Pardo, op. cit.
  8. Gonzalez-Cuevas, G., op.cit.
  9. Gonzalez-Cuevas, G., op.cit.
  10. U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther Toxicol. 1993 Dec;31(12):575-81. Cocaine and the Nervous System. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8314357
  11. American Addiction Centers. Dangers of Cocaine in Pregnancy. Retrieved from https://americanaddictioncenters.org/cocaine-treatment/dangers-pregnancy
  12. American Addiction Centers. Dangers of Cocaine in Pregnancy. Retrieved from https://americanaddictioncenters.org/cocaine-treatment/dangers-pregnancy
  13. National Institute on Drug Abuse. What Is the Scope of Cocaine Use in the United States? Source: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-scope-cocaine-use-in-united-states
  14. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2017). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 17-5044, NSDUH Series H-52). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/
  15. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2005 Jun;81(2):396-406. The role of endocannabinoid transmission in cocaine addiction. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15925401
  16. National Institute on Drug Abuse https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/frequently-asked-questions)
  17. National Institute on Drug Abuse (May 2016). How Is Cocaine Addiction Treated? Source: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-treatments-are-effective-cocaine-abusers
  18. Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School. (2019, August 27). Peter Grinspoon, MD. Source: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476
  19. U.S. Food and Drug Administration Source: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/what-you-should-know-about-using-cannabis-including-cbd-when-pregnant-or-breastfeeding

More Info

Less Info

Lopez, C. C., Pardo, M. P. G., & Aguilar, M. A. (2019). Cannabidiol Treatment Might Promote Resilience to Cocaine and Methamphetamine Use Disorders: A Review of Possible Mechanisms. Molecules, 24(14). doi: https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules24142583

Ibid.

Gonzalez-Cuevas, G. et al. Unique treatment potential of cannabidiol for the prevention of relapse to drug use: Preclinical proof of principle, Neuropsychopharmacology DOI: 10.1038/S41386-018-0050-8

National Institute on Drug Abuse. Source: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana

U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Published online 2014 Aug 7. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2014.07.014. An exploratory study of the combined effects of orally administered methylphenidate and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on cardiovascular function, subjective effects, and performance in healthy adults. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4250392/

Cannabidiol Treatment Might Promote Resilience to Cocaine and Methamphetamine Use Disorders: A Review of Possible Claudia Calpe-Lopez, et al., 2019) Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/334517310_Cannabidiol_Treatment_Might_Promote_Resilience_to_Cocaine_and_Methamphetamine_Use_Disorders_A_Review_of_Possible_Mechanisms

Lopez and Pardo, op. cit.

Gonzalez-Cuevas, G., op.cit.

Gonzalez-Cuevas, G., op.cit.

U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther Toxicol. 1993 Dec;31(12):575-81. Cocaine and the Nervous System. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8314357

American Addiction Centers. Dangers of Cocaine in Pregnancy. Retrieved from https://americanaddictioncenters.org/cocaine-treatment/dangers-pregnancy

American Addiction Centers. Dangers of Cocaine in Pregnancy. Retrieved from https://americanaddictioncenters.org/cocaine-treatment/dangers-pregnancy

National Institute on Drug Abuse. What Is the Scope of Cocaine Use in the United States? Source: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-scope-cocaine-use-in-united-states

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2017). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 17-5044, NSDUH Series H-52). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2005 Jun;81(2):396-406. The role of endocannabinoid transmission in cocaine addiction. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15925401

National Institute on Drug Abuse https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/frequently-asked-questions)

National Institute on Drug Abuse (May 2016). How Is Cocaine Addiction Treated? Source: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-treatments-are-effective-cocaine-abusers

Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School. (2019, August 27). Peter Grinspoon, MD. Source: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Source: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/what-you-should-know-about-using-cannabis-including-cbd-when-pregnant-or-breastfeeding

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