How CBD Works - How does CBD work for Addiction
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Some very interesting discoveries have recently been found in the study of addiction.
Just in nick of time.
Our knowledge is unfortunately late to the party.
The opioid crisis intensifies across the country.
On the science front, it’s getting very interesting.
Just recently, two completely novel discoveries on addiction itself.
First, a discovery that addiction may be a result of an ancient retrovirus.
Retroviruses are found in our DNA itself, not the body.
They tagalong and have our cells make copies of them along with our DNA.
Dopamine is important to our story with addiction since it’s the reward center of the brain.
With CRISPR technology advancing quickly, we might be able to “edit” these snippets of DNA out eventually.
So, IT is the gateway drug after all.
While we wait for these and many other discoveries to turn to treatment, what does the research say about CBD?
That’s why we’re here after all!
Turns out that it has quite a bit to say and it’s very positive.
If you want to jump right to the screened list of CBD by value:
Otherwise, let’s get into CBD and addiction:
Let’s get right to the information.
Addiction has long been held as a moral failing.
Modern science is actually showing it to be a disease of the brain.
There are many factors:
It comes down to the dark side of our brain’s ability to learn!
We get a reward when we accomplish something that’s good for us.
These are all obviously good for us and evolution rewards them.
So why would the brain reward the horrible consequences of very risky behavior?
The brain is able to “learn” addiction by changing its pathways and actual structure!
That’s why addiction can so difficult to cure.
You have to re-learn and rewire the brain.
Even after decades of not smoking.
This process of learning (which is really strengthening certain connections and weakening others in the brain) is especially amplified in teens.
The chemical in charge of learning new things is turned way up in the teenage brain.
This makes learning addiction especially easy!
So dopamine is incredibly important in this whole process of addiction (some drugs are less dependent on this system).
Glutamate (the excitability neurotransmitter in the brain) also comes into play.
Of course, there are genetic impacts with anything in the body or brain.
A good summary of the genetic effects here:
Some are stark.
It was a pretty insightful comment for someone of 19 years.
Science has found out which is that some Native American’s lack the gene which metabolizes or breaks down alcohol.
It hits their brain full force and the results have been catastrophic.
Other genetic effects are more subtle or involve many genes.
The retrovirus interaction mentioned in the first paragraph is another example that’s brand new!
So…predisposition to addiction can have a genetic base.
Environment and prior experience can interact with this genetic predisposition (called epigenetics).
Finally, addiction is learned behavior in terms of how the brain processes it.
Let’s start there.
What does all the endocannabinoid system have to do with this process and can we use it to our advantage?
The endocannabinoid system runs through our entire body.
It’s only recently discovered (in the scheme of things) and has been shown to exert a powerful influence on balancing key systems in the body:
You can check out How CBD Work and the Beginner’s Guide to learn about the endocannabinoid system.
Here’s a quick visual:
What is research showing how the endocannabinoid system affects the process (and recovery) of addiction?
First, the endocannabinoid system may be a key player in this whole process!
It’s a very cool summary of the physiological process of reward and addiction with an emphasis on the endocannabinoid system’s role (which is huge!).
A few key takeaways:
DA is the Dopamine pathway.
A quick detour before we get back to the endocannabinoid system and addiction.
“Fine-tuning” is very important because it reflects what we’re finding out about the endocannabinoid system.
Most neurotransmitters can only move in one direction.
Gaba pumps the brakes (inhibitory)
Nature is smart and will use the same tried-and-true pathways in many different contexts.
Glutamate can pump the gas across different systems.
There are paired push-pull equivalents across the brain for different aspects of functioning.
It works to balance out the different push-pull actors in each system.
Its role is traffic cop to make sure there is “homeostasis” or balance between the different pairs.
In the article above, it’s balancing the dopamine system which is crucial to addiction.
Furthermore, the CB receptors (where endocannabinoids do their work) are directly implicated in the addiction process:
They further found that substances such as alcohol and nicotine affected the endocannabinoid system structure and function.
Keep in mind that the endocannabinoid system is governed by your same genes!
Genetic differences in a person’s system may directly affect risk for addiction:
Finally, why is it so hard to get past addiction?
Why so intractable?
The brain is able to change. Literally, rewire itself based on reward and experience.
Thus, chronic drug exposure disrupts EC-mediated forms of synaptic plasticity in several regions involved in reward processing
This is partially why it’s so hard for a person with addiction to change.
The EC (endocannabinoid) system’s impact on the brain’s ability to change back has been tampered with.
As for the genetic landscape, the endocannabinoid system is also implicated.
The CNR1 gene has been associated with people at risk for addiction.
Guess what it does.
It’s a cannabinoid CB1 receptor gene!
There’s also a new interest in the FAAH gene which also governs part of the endocannabinoid system.
It has a strong tie with addition as well.
Again…the research paper is here and although it’s not easy reading…it shows the integral relationship between the endocannabinoid system and addiction.
No wonder there’s so much interest.
So what about CBD and addiction?
We’ve talked about the endocannabinoid system above as it relates to addiction.
How does CBD fit into this picture?
CBD is a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant.
It’s not psychoactive in that it doesn’t create a high.
As a cannabinoid, it can influence the endocannabinoid system described above.
CBD is getting a great deal of press recently for addiction and other issues due to its safety profile (see Is CBD Safe here) and it impact on the body and brain.
There are other cannabinoids (THC being the other big one in the cannabis plant) such as CBG, CBN, CBC, but CBD is in much higher levels within the plant.
It’s also more researched than the others aside from THC.
Let’s look at the research now on CBD and addiction.
Everything else is just marketing!
Let’s dig in.
An interesting study delved into relapse, impulsivity, and anxiety for rats prone to alcohol and cocaine addiction:
The interesting element is that the results lasted for 5 months even though the CBD showed in the blood for 3 days!
There’s a great summary of different CBD and addiction studies here:
Some key takeaways…
CBD reduces the reward effect of morphine:
They even found the pathway it operates on…the 5HT1A pathway.
This is very important for depression and anxiety as well.
Interestingly this pathway did not impact cocaine addiction.
In terms of opiates, more good news there:
Another study found that CBD’s effect on heroin seeking behavior helped to break the cycle of triggers for using the drug again.
The results on this cue-seeking lasted 2 weeks after the CBD delivery which is very interesting.
Cocaine operates via a different pathway than opioid/alcohol addiction but there is a connection with CB receptors (where CBD has its influence) in the endocannabinoid system.
To translate this, cocaines impact on the CBD receptors appears to alter the ability of cocaine addict’s brain to “unlearn” their habit.
This is huge!
We’re getting at the heart of why addicts find it so hard to stop using or fall back into relapse.
These drugs literally turn off the mechanism in the brain that it allows it to change after drug is absent.
CBD helps to mitigate this effect.
Furthermore, CBD appears to help with the actual damage that alcohol causes in the brain.
Alcohol is toxic to the brain. There’s actually a known poison (Acetaldehyde) in alcohol that caused recent studies to deem there is no “healthy” amount of alcohol consumption.
The effect of alcohol is that it’s neurotoxic and CBD appears to offset this damage.
Studies stemming from CBD’s positive effects on schizophrenia’s psychosis lead researchers to determine that CBD helps to reduce the effects of amphetamine use on key parts of the brain.
This sheds light on both schizophrenia and amphetamine addiction through a shared pathway!
Keep in mind that drug addiction often uses both a carrot and a stick.
For the stick, there can be tremendous anxiety and unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
Studies show that CBD minimizes both the cues that cause recurrent drug use but also diminishes the “memory” of the drug effects in the brain:
This is the nervous twitch and irritability that usually leads to drug use.
This research is incredibly important to PTSD and other traumatic historical events where CBD shows promise in helping to erase the emotional history of said events.
Interestingly, CBD has been researched for addiction to cannabis (due to THC levels).
CBD appears to help cannabis addicts reduce the negative results of stopping to use cannabis:
Learn about THC versus CBD here.
As for CBD and nicotine addiction, further good news there:
This is really important since new research shows that nicotine primes the brain for addiction to other substances.
Furthermore, researchers found a mechanism by which CBD might address nicotine withdrawal symptoms and it’s tied to the CB1 receptor:
2-AG is one of our natural endocannabinoids that CBD can influence.
A great summary and review of CBD research addiction can be found here:
We will leave you with this result for heroin cravings in people from a single dose:
Why this isn’t front and center across the media with the raging opioid crisis is enough to make you scream.
Let’s look at other questions people commonly have regarding CBD and addiction.
Research is showing that CBD is not habit-forming.
The scientific term is hedonic.
This article does a good job of summarizing the different metrics of addiction which CBD appears to pass:
Scroll down to “CBD in Preclinical Addiction Models”
A great resource to have!
The relationship between CBD, THC, and even opioids is interesting.
There’s been a documented association between opioid addiction and cannabis use (with THC).
On one hand, a study showed that cannabis use (both THC and CBD) helped to stabilize methadone adoption in addicts by reducing withdrawal symptoms:
Researchers also found that States legal cannabis showed lower levels of opiate drug overdose:
In fact, research shows that CBD might be a good treatment for cannabis withdrawal!
CBD can be effective for the treatment of cannabis withdrawal syndrome.
It’s the THC in cannabis that might have trouble.
There’s even a direct relationship between the ratio of CBD to THC and a host of positive effects.
Maybe most importantly, CBD is shown to protect against the brain mass loss tied to chronic cannabis usage.
With the legalization of cannabis everywhere, CBD might be an important tool to offset some of the negatives of usage.
The safety profile of CBD is very strong.
You can check out the Is CBD Safe page for more detail.
It can help with the withdrawal effect of narcotics without the terrible side effects of other medications.
Always make sure to work with your doctor on any new addition of supplements.
The primary means of taking CBD for addiction is via oil tincture.
Some people may need a faster effect since the oil can take 20-40 minutes to get into the system.
The fastest approach is vape oil.
Make sure to use a vaporizer to offset combustion and the lungs.
The skin patches are faster as well.
With the latter two options, more of the CBD gets into the system but the duration will be slower.
We want to make sure to focus on CBD Isolate to avoid Histamine issues.
How much should a person take?
This obviously depends on the severity of the addiction and a person’s system and genetics.
That being said, the typical approach is to start with 20-30mgs and test your body’s reaction.
The error that most people make is to use too little CBD to get an effect.
Work your way up until you get relief.
Then you can come down for maintenance after than.
PLEASE let others know what worked for you here!
It’s very important that we help each other with our own experience.
This is important.
We need a certain level of CBD and with nothing else!
The research is based on high levels of CBD ONLY!
It makes sense to start with isolate to test.
We’re not sold on full-spectrum until research shows a benefit!
You don’t want to have to take 4-5 droppers to get a sufficient dose!
Two options which are priced the best based on cost per/mg of CBD and 3rd party safety rating:
You can see pricing for safety screened products here:
Again, please let us know your results! Spread the word.
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