CBD and Nicotine – Can Cannabidiol Help Quit Smoking?
Feb 13, 2020 | Save On Cannabis
Nicotine dependence is the most common addiction in the U.S. but researchers are now looking into whether cannabidiol (CBD) products may be able to provide a solution. CBD products have become popular for addressing anxiety, insomnia, and even epilepsy, but their possible applications for addiction treatment are only just beginning to be studied.
Approximately 50 million Americans have some form of nicotine dependency. That’s one in every six people. This dependency may come in the form of cigarette smoking, tobacco chewing, snuff inhalation, or vaping. Some reports indicate that nicotine is as difficult to quit as cocaine or heroin. Like many drugs, nicotine goes straight to the pleasure center of the brain, but preliminary research indicates that CBD may be able to influence those brain responses and make quitting easier.
Do CBD Products Contain Nicotine?
CBD extracts do not contain nicotine. They’re derived from hemp (a low-THC variety of cannabis), which contains no nicotine by nature. Nicotine is only present if added after the fact. This most commonly occurs with vape products.
A typical CBD vape juice will include just CBD and carrier liquids like propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin. Some CBD enthusiasts prefer these vape juices because of the faster and more potent delivery system. The CBD reaches the bloodstream through the lungs rather than the digestive system, so the effect is almost immediate.
There are a few CBD vape products that contain added nicotine, but these are rare. The nicotine is most often added by the user, not the manufacturer.
Is It Dangerous to Mix CBD and Nicotine?
You can mix CBD and nicotine as long as the products are designed for that purpose. Some manufacturers sell liquid CBD additives that you can add to your vape tank along with your nicotine e-juice. You can also mix CBD e-juices with nicotine e-juices. Because they contain the same types of carrier liquid, there shouldn’t be any negative interactions.
One CBD company is even trying to get FDA approval for a medication that combines CBD and nicotine for the purpose of helping people quit smoking. Because CBD mimics much of what nicotine does to the brain, the manufacturers believe that their medication may help people give up both tobacco and nicotine addiction. The nicotine helps users to curb cravings and fend off withdrawals, and the CBD ultimately reduces the need for nicotine.
The danger arises when you try to mix sublingual CBD oils (tinctures) with vape juices. This should never be done. CBD tinctures contain thick oils that aren’t meant to be heated, like MCT oil. Mixing these products will result in a disgusting flavor and may clog your coils and damage your device.
But while it’s safe to mix CBD and nicotine under the right conditions, it doesn’t offer you much benefit outside of satisfying your nicotine cravings. The better approach is to phase out the nicotine entirely.
Can You Use CBD Oil to Quit Smoking?
Though the physical addiction to nicotine can lead to painful withdrawals, the mental addiction is especially hard to shake. As you habitually use nicotine, your brain creates associations between the drug and other activities like eating, relaxing, and even waking up. As you engage in these everyday activities, your urge to use nicotine spikes, and before long you find yourself succumbing to temptation.
Multiple studies indicate that CBD might disrupt these mental and emotional associations, making it easier for you to fight the urge. A 2017 animal study found that cannabidiol interrupted the reactivation of drug-related memories in rats. In other words, CBD appears to suppress the types of memories and behavioral associations that contribute to relapse. Although the study focused on cocaine and morphine, its findings are applicable here as nicotine promotes the same types of cognitive triggers. A separate 2018 study found that CBD was effective for inhibiting cue-based triggers related to heroin addiction.
These studies both examine the role of attentional bias, the natural attraction to cues that support recurring thoughts or behaviors. Attentional bias is a key aspect of many addictive disorders, including smoking addiction. It’s believed to be influenced by changes in the reward pathways of the brain, which may help to explain why CBD helps to calm this addiction trigger. CBD has been shown in studies to activate certain reward centers like the serotonin and dopamine receptors, and these reactions may counter the attentional bias.
Another 2018 study—this one specifically focused on tobacco and nicotine—further reinforces the effectiveness of CBD in counteracting attentional bias. Researchers at the University College London (UCL) examined 30 dependent cigarette smokers, each of whom was given CBD or a placebo. The CBD group showed significantly less attentional bias to tobacco-related images than the placebo group.
So although more research is needed, you may be better equipped to avoid those trigger-based addictive urges if you use CBD daily.
CBD for Nicotine Withdrawal
The UCL researchers concluded that “craving and withdrawal symptoms were unaffected” by CBD use but also conceded that they need to follow up with longer-term trials and multiple doses. Participants in the study were only given a single 800-mg oral dose, so there’s not much data to assess the withdrawal effects.
CBD has been shown in various studies to address specific symptoms common with nicotine withdrawal. Its effects on anxiety may be especially noticeable, as CBD has been shown in studies to activate the brain’s 5-HT1A receptors. These receptors boost the availability of serotonin much like SSRI antidepressants.
The extra rush of serotonin and GABA may also help with insomnia symptoms, as these neurotransmitters are associated with relaxation and can have a mild sedative effect. Because CBD doesn’t have the side effects commonly found in prescription and over-the-counter sleep aids, it may help to promote sleep without exacerbating your other withdrawal symptoms.
The anti-inflammatory qualities of CBD may further help to stave off some of the headaches and other physical aches associated with withdrawal. CBD has been shown to inhibit proinflammatory cykotines in mice, leading to fewer inflammation symptoms.
Finally, CBD has been researched as a potential nausea remedy, and at least one study has specifically found it effective in preventing nicotine-induced vomiting. Once again, the effect appears to be related to the activation of the 5-HT1A receptors, though other research indicates that the effect may be related to how CBD stimulates the body’s endocannabinoid receptors— particularly the CB1 receptor, which suppresses vomiting.
What’s the Best Way to Take CBD for Nicotine Addiction?
The best CBD delivery system may depend on how you consume nicotine. If you currently vape, you may benefit from CBD vape oils. If you smoke, you might try CBD cigarettes. The oral fixation is often part of the addiction, so if you can consume CBD in a way that feels like your consumption of nicotine, you may find it easier to wean yourself off the drug.
Another benefit of smoking and vaping is that the effects are fast-acting. However, the downside is that the effects tend not to last as long. If you just want to take one or two daily doses that will keep you going, oral tinctures might be best. They take a little longer to work, especially when swallowed as opposed to taken sublingually, but they enter the bloodstream slowly and promote long-lasting relief.
The optimal dosage will vary from person to person. Doses of up to 1,500 mg per day have been shown in studies to be well-tolerated, but most people start small to minimize side effects. Start with 20-30 mg per day. If that doesn’t provide the relief you need, increase the dosage by 10 mg per day until you get the desired effect. Divide the dosage between 2 to 3 daily servings.
CBD for Nicotine Addiction – More Research Is Needed
If you’re considering CBD for smoking cessation, give it a try. The side effects of CBD are minimal (usually limited to dry mouth and occasional drowsiness), but the benefits may be immediate.
The only exceptions to the rule are if you’re pregnant or you have low blood pressure. There isn’t much research into CBD usage during pregnancy, and this cannabinoid has been known to reduce blood pressure.
If you’re like many users, though, CBD may be able to:
- Reduce your fixation on nicotine and tobacco products.
- Stimulate the same reward centers of your brain that nicotine targets, thereby reducing your need for nicotine.
- Reduce common nicotine withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, insomnia, and nausea.
- Provide you with a way to get the same oral fixation without the nicotine.
- Help you to eliminate your need for nicotine once and for all.
Giving up nicotine is never easy, but if the early research is any indication, CBD may make it just a little bit easier.
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