When smokers are asked to give one piece of advice to those who are non-smokers, it always ends up being something like, “don’t even think to start,” or “just don’t do it, you’ll regret it,” or even just plain “don’t start smoking” because they know that once you start, it’s near impossible to stop. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, only about 6% of half of all smokers who try to quit in any given year, will be successful and those that are successful often require multiple attempts throughout their lifetime.
The long and drawn-out process of smoking cessation has led to the creation of prescription drug alternatives and replacement therapies like the nicotine patch, gum, and lozenges. However, these can lead to some very negative side effects or just an addiction swap. For those who want to try something new, CBD can help you quit smoking, according to a growing field of research and anecdotal accounts. In this article, we are going to look at why smoking is so hard to quit, how CBD can reduce cigarette consumption, whether vaping has an impact and the growing research behind CBD in treating tobacco addiction.
Why Are Cigarettes So Difficult to Quit for the Majority of People?
When an individual chooses to smoke cigarettes over a long period of time, the nicotine from the tobacco causes the synaptic receptors in the brain to become reprogrammed, leading the individual to form a physical dependence on nicotine. Over time, one’s neurochemical receptors (dopamine) become only accustomed to accepting nicotine, causing the need for nicotine consumption in order to release dopamine. When an individual then tries to quit smoking, the brain can no longer make the required amount of dopamine the user requires because it has been reprogrammed to only release when nicotine is consumed.
This is what leads to withdrawal symptoms, such as depression, weight gain, trouble sleeping, irritability, and headaches. What makes smoking cessation so difficult is the fact that individuals can experience withdrawal symptoms in as little as two hours from one’s last cigarette. These symptoms can last a few hours, a few days, or even a couple of months. For those who have been smoking for a very long time, the withdrawal process often takes months, with most individuals needing to ween themselves off for a year or two before they can fully quit. With this said, let’s look at how CBD can reduce cigarette consumption and speed up this quitting process.
How Can CBD Curb Cigarette Consumption
First off, let’s start with how the consumption of CBD can impact the addicted brain in a positive way. There is evidence that the consumption of CBD, whether it is through a pre-roll or a vape, can loosen up one’s dependence on their drug of choice. Research done by the Society for the Study of Addiction back in 2012, showcased that CBD lessens the amount of reward (dopamine) the brain gets from what the brain craves (the drug). When we combine this with the knowledge that CBD calms the nerves and helps those with depression and social anxiety conditions, it’s clear that consuming CBD instead of nicotine or tobacco products can help minimize how drastic the impact of withdrawal symptoms can be.
Second, published research in the journal, Addictive Behaviors, conducted by the Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit at the University College London in the United Kingdom also suggests that drugs that alter the endocannabinoid system may be effective for treating nicotine addiction. This was found through a double-blind study of twenty-four smoking participants who regularly consumed over ten cigarettes a day.
These participants were given an inhaler to use whenever they felt the urge to have a cigarette. They were told to track their cravings and the number of cigarettes smoked. Half of the participants (including 6 females) were given a placebo inhaler while the other half (including 6 females) were given an inhaler that had CBD in it. The treatment was scheduled to last for a week. In participants who had the CBD inhaler, 40% smoked fewer cigarettes than the placebo group, which saw no change in the number of cigarettes smoked.
After the blind-study had concluded, a follow-up interview was conducted twenty-one days after the treatment and found that both groups had reverted to their initial conditions of smoking 10+ cigarettes a day. The research stated that further, large-scale studies would have to be done with longer follow-ups to find out if the findings from the study had any implications.
How CBD Can Help Reduce Smoking Cues
A recent study done in May 2018, published in Addiction by the University College London in the United Kingdom, found that individuals who have CBD within their systems will have reduced attentional bias to tobacco-related imagery and therefore, fewer cues or triggers. Attentional bias is when an individual focuses strongly on specific stimuli (cue) while ignoring others.
For smokers, seeing any imagery that has strong smoking fumes is likely to cause them to crave a cigarette – because they are wired to focus on this cue. In the study, thirty patients were told to abstain from smoking for twelve hours and were given either a placebo or 800mg of CBD. They were then shown images with heaving smoking cues like lighters, groups of smokers, and ashtrays mixed in with neutral photographs. Those who were given the CBD did not notice any withdrawal symptoms or cravings and found the cigarette cues less appealing.
What We Do Know About CBD and Withdrawal Symptoms
Even though further research is required, we do know that CBD can have a positive impact on the withdrawal symptoms that cigarette smokers experience when trying to quit. Anecdotal evidence suggests that CBD has helped individuals overcome or has made bearable, the severity of the stress, anxiety, irritability, and tension that is accompanied by nicotine withdrawal. If this prevents individuals from buying another pack of cigarettes and instead choosing to consume CBD instead, it can bring them that much further from relapse.
Additionally, CBD has anti-inflammatory properties, which may help some users with the body pains and headaches that can be associated with heavy withdrawal; increasing one’s ability to concentrate on other things throughout the day. Finally, several studies have shown that users who take CBD have improved sleep cycles, better wakefulness, and more alertness, which may be able to combat sleep disturbances and the side effects of poor sleep that smoking users have during smoking cessation.
Can Consuming CBD Help Repair the Reprogrammed Neurotransmitters?
According to preliminary studies, the consumption of CBD, regardless of which state it is taken in, has found that it may be able to prevent addicts from relapsing by repairing the brain’s chemistry system. In a study done by the Scripps Research Institute, rats who were addicted to cocaine and alcohol were administered CBD gel. Not only were they less likely to have relapses but they also displayed less drug-seeking behavior and reduced stress that would normally be caused by cravings. What’s more is that over the period of five months, these results stayed steady until the CBD gel had made its way out of the rats’ systems.
Can CBD help you quit smoking cigarettes: Wrapping It Up
While all this research does point towards CBD being capable of helping one quit smoking cigarettes, many researchers do caution that more studies need to be done over longer periods of time as it is not yet possible to pinpoint a direct cause or correlation between cannabis consumption and smoking cessation. For those who are considering taking up CBD consumption in place of smoking, may want to do so either through pills, gels, or oil instead of through inhalation as this will provide the same benefits without the dangers that combustion presents, essentially allowing your lungs to heal faster.