CBD: Is it addictive?
While current scientific evidence suggests that heavy cannabis use may increase the risk of dependence in some people, CBD by itself does not appear to be addictive. However, research into the long-term effects of CBD usage is still in its early stages.
Researchers, healthcare professionals, and academics continue to explore the potential benefits of cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is a cannabinoid and one of over 400 chemical compounds present in the Cannabis sativa plant.
Unlike its counterpart, delta-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD does not have psychoactive effects. However, people may wonder whether CBD is addictive.
In this article, we discuss what the research says about the addictive potential of CBD.
According to a 2017 Pre-Review Report, the World Health Organization (WHO) states that “evidence from well-controlled human experimental research indicates that CBD is not associated with abuse potential.”
The results of a small 2016 study of 31 adults show that while active THC produced substantial physical and psychological effects, such as rapid heart rate and euphoria, CBD did not affect heart rate, blood pressure, or cognitive function.
CBD also performed similarly to a placebo on self-reported feelings of intoxication. Conversely, the THC group reported feeling euphoric and sedated.
Not only is CBD not addictive, but it may even help treat drug addiction.
Preliminary evidence suggests that CBD might lower the likelihood of developing cocaine and methamphetamine use disorders. It may also help prevent relapse after a period of detoxification and sobriety.
The authors of a 2015 review found evidence that CBD may also help treat nicotine and cannabis addiction.
CBD does not create the ‘high’ effects that many people associate with cannabis use and may help treat a wide range of medical conditions.
CBD is a widely researched alternative treatment for epileptic seizures.
Reduces epileptic seizures
In a 2018 clinical trial, 72 children and 60 adults with treatment-resistant epilepsy received 5–50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight (mg/kg) of CBD daily.
The researchers reported that two-thirds of the participants experienced at least a 25% reduction in seizure frequency while receiving CBD treatment.
In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epidiolex, the first pure-CBD anti-seizure treatment. The FDA approved Epidiolex for treating rare forms of epilepsy, including Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastuaut syndrome.
The FDA cites clinical evidence suggesting people with Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes taking Epidiolex alongside other seizure medications had fewer seizures than those taking a placebo and other seizure medications
Might reduce anxiety
CBD might also help reduce anxiety. However, current research shows conflicting evidence, and researchers need to conduct additional high-quality controlled trials to verify these findings.
In a 2019 study, researchers examined CBD’s effects on 72 adults with anxiety and sleep problems. Within the first month of treatment, 79.2% of participants reported reduced anxiety symptoms, and 66.7% reported improved sleep quality.
In a 2017 study, 60 adults with no history of anxiety, mental illness, or drug dependence received 100, 300, or 900 mg doses of CBD or a 1 mg dose of clonazepam before giving a speech.
Those who took a 300 mg dose of CBD saw significantly reduced social anxiety scores before, during, and after public speaking. Anxiety levels remained high in those who took the 100 and 900 mg CBD dose. Clonazepam reduced blood pressure or heart rate, but CBD had no physical effects.
Relieves chronic pain
A 2020 study found that full-spectrum hemp-extracted CBD reduced neuropathic pain in mice.
Another recent study based in New Zealand examined CBD use among 400 people with chronic pain and mental health conditions. The participants reported improved quality of life outcomes after using CBD.
The researchers also stated that CBD use was not associated with significant side effects. In fact, participants reported improvements in sleep and appetite.
The authors of one 2020 review state that cannabis-based treatments may offer a potential alternative to opioid-based pain medication.
However, the authors draw attention to the fact that most studies use a combination of THC and CBD. As a result, assessing the pain management benefits of CBD alone can be challenging.
Other effects of CBD
Other potential effects of CBD that have only been demonstrated in animals and require further investigation include:
- reducing inflammation
- regulating the immune system
- suppressing nausea
- inhibiting cancer
Epidiolex is the only FDA-approved pure CBD product. Despite this, the FDA states CBD does carry the potential for side effects, such as:
- loss of appetite
- liver injury
- fertility problems
- interactions with prescription medications, alcohol, and illicit drugs
While CBD does carry some risk for adverse side effects, the authors of one 2017 review suggest that the most commonly reported side effects, such as drowsiness, diarrhea, and appetite changes, are less severe than the side effects of other drug treatments for epilepsy and psychotic disorders.
While chronic cannabis use may increase the risk of dependence, CBD alone does not appear to have the potential for addiction or abuse.
Preliminary evidence suggests that CBD may help treat substance use disorder.
Research is still ongoing. However, studies suggest that CBD is an effective treatment for rare, severe forms of childhood epilepsy. Current evidence also suggests CBD may help reduce anxiety and chronic pain.
Researchers need to carry out large-scale, high-quality clinical trials to thoroughly investigate the potential medical applications of CBD.