What leads to addiction in the first place?
If we are to understand just how CBD can work against addiction or addictive behaviors, we have to first understand how addiction occurs in the brain. According to an article in the journal of Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, we know that brain abnormalities are at play in the pathology of addiction. Some of those brain abnormalities are actually genetically predisposed. It’s also important to differentiate between addiction and dependence. Dependence is a short-term side effect, sometimes serious, that occurs after one ceases consuming a certain drug. The body’s dependence on the drug is what leads you to go through withdrawal. But this resolves itself with a bit of time. Addiction is a psychological inclination that proceeds to exist, producing cravings and desire for a certain drug, even after the body’s dependence issues have resolved.
The comedian and actor Russel Brand has brandished himself with a public persona of being an addiction survivor. In his own documentary, “Russel Brand: From Addiction to Recovery,” an interview with Professor David Nutt explains the neurochemistry of addiction. “Unquestionably, addiction has got something to do with the brain. Most people take drugs. Almost every person in this country drinks alcohol at some point in their life, but only 10% get addicted. And that 10% are different, and they’re different because their brain is different. Our experience tells us addiction occurs usually through one of three things. One is that people get stressed. When you’re stressed, you activate the amygdala in your brain. In some people, it reacts excessively to stress, and we know that drugs and alcohol can dampen that down. So many people become dependent on alcohol because they used it to reduce stress. The second is that people get pleasure. They start to do something, which is enjoyable, and then they start to take the drug to reinforce that. That comes from an area of the brain which has a lot of the neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine gets you going in the morning. If your dopamine’s not working, then you’re stiff and flat. And the third is that some people are just very impulsive. Impulsivity is actually a very straightforward behavior, which we can actually model in animals, for instance. And it turns out that when you have a very impulsive rat, it has alterations of the dopamine system in the brain. … Those rats are interesting because they like cocaine. You give them cocaine, they take a lot more than the other rats because they have a deficiency of dopamine.”
How CBD can stave off certain types of addiction
There are different kinds of addiction, each interacting with different neuropathways beyond just the dopamine receptors. An alcohol addiction is not quite the same as an opioid addiction. A systematic review published by Libertas America Freedom to Research looked at 14 studies to examine the effects of CBD in different areas of addiction. After examining the results, it came to find that CBD can have an influence on specific phases of addiction and only for certain substances. The following are areas where CBD can have an actual positive effect:
- It had an impact on the intoxication phase of opioid addiction in animal models; it achieved this impact by reducing the reward-facilitating effect of morphine on the ICSS threshold.
- CBD also influenced the relapse phase of opioid addiction by decreasing cue-induced, drug-seeking behaviors.
- In the instance of tobacco addiction, CBD did appear to help by reducing the number of cigarettes smoked by a person who wanted to quit.
- Other interesting effects rely on the findings that CBD is anxiolytic at doses between 300 and 600 mg. CBD can also have anticonvulsant and antidepressant effects. This leads some to think it might help in recovering from certain addictions, but there is a complex interplay between the endocannabinoid system and several drugs or substances.
- CBD in combination with small to moderate amounts of THC is known to also help alleviate pain, and pain is one of the reasons thought to be behind certain addictions.