Does CBD Treat Drug and Alcohol Addiction?

CBD for Alcoholism

The United States is in the midst of an addiction epidemic. Whether it be heroin, alcohol, or even tobacco, death rates are at a record high. As of March 2018, over 115 people die from opioid overdoses every day. Alcohol related deaths are at a 35-year peak. Cigarette smoking causes an astonishing 480,000+ deaths a year, 41,000 of which are from secondhand smoke!

While there are a plethora of solutions, these are not always ideal. Rehab success rates float around 15-30%, and AA is even more abysmal. “Natural” routes of treatment include refraining from all drug urges, sleeping more, eating right, exercising, meditation, etc. However, this is not a modest set of tasks for many Americans. Quite simply, beating addiction is hard. Many addicts say they wouldn’t wish it on their worst enemy.

Drug overdoses are common, but CBD can help
Drug overdose rates are rising like never before.

As a direct consequence, doctors have been prescribing drugs such as Prozac and Xanax at all-time rates. Despite being harder to overdose on, this isn’t much of an improvement. In this article, we examine cannabidiol (CBD) as an alternative medicine for drug and alcohol addiction.

A Novel Result: CBD Treats Alcohol and Cocaine Dependent Rodents

CBD was recently featured in a study published March 22, 2018 in Nature’s Neuropsychopharmacology.  Recently, there has been significant interest in testing whether CBD can treat opioid addictions, and a wide variety of studies point in the positive direction. However, we do not know if CBD has anti-addiction properties for drugs such as cocaine and alcohol, the two addictive substances featured in the studies.

It is known that there are several factors contributing to addiction relapse and drug seeking, such as a heightened impulsive behavior trend, and withdrawal symptoms such as depression and anxiety. The study aims to show that CBD is a non-addictive substance capable of treating these side effects which contribute to drug-seeking behavior.


The subjects used were rats that had previously been self-administrators of alcohol and cocaine (i.e. In previous studies) and which showed each of the contributing factors to addiction (withdrawals, decreased inhibition, etc.).

Uniquely, the CBD was applied transdermally as opposed to the standard injection-route used in animals. Doses were administered in 24 hour intervals for 7 days.

The effects on impulsive behavior were studied using a delay-based task in dependent rats. Stress based behavior was also measured.


Significant improvements in impulsive behavior seeking were found in each of the rats.

Amazingly, benefits from the CBD were observed up to 5 months after the administration period ended, despite CBD only being detectable in plasma for 3 days.

What is CBD?

CBD has demonstrated evidence in helping a number of conditions:

  • General anxiety
  • Chronic depression
  • PTSD
  • Panic/phobic disorder
  • Chronic stress

It is even being studied for specific diseases such as cancer. This scientific interest has given CBD a reputation as a healing molecule. Unlike many other “healing molecules”, cannabidiol is not addictive and is considered safe to use. CBD is not psychoactive like marijuana.

Over the last couple years, CBD has been featured in a number of studies demonstrating phenomenal healing evidence.

CBD oil for nausea
CBD comes from cannabis, but does not get you high.

How CBD Works Against Drug and Alcohol Addiction

How Cravings Work

There are both physical and mental components to addiction. The mental part is perhaps what non-addicts know the best – uncontrollable cravings. This desire is frequently beyond reason and can cause personal and interpersonal damage.

Nature confirmed that these cravings are the result of increased glutamate transmission. Glutamate is the main excitatory neurotransmitter, and accounts for greater than 90% of the total connections in the brain.

CBD GABA Alteration Reduces Cravings

GABAon the other hand, is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter of the brain. That is, it is the exact opposite of glutamate in action. Sedatives and addictive drugs such as Xanax and alcohol increase GABA levels in the brain. Large levels of GABA are associated with:

  • Insomnia
  • Sedation
  • Anxiety reduction
  • Lowered inhibitions

Cannabidiol interacts with the GABA system, but not in the way you might expect. Rather than increasing GABA levels, CBD alters the shape of GABA receptors. This mechanism can effectively amplify the brain’s sensitivity to GABA, and in a safe way. Since CBD works on the neurotransmitters’ geometry as opposed to the specific chemicals released in the brain, no tolerance can be achieved by the chemical, hence why it is considered non-addictive.

By amplifying GABA sensitivity, glutamate activity is modulated. This regulatory action directly impacts how intense a craving is, making it more likely for an addict to gain control over the situation.

Physical Withdrawals and CBD

The physical component of many drug addictions can be brutal for a user trying to quit. Physical withdrawal symptoms for many drugs such as opioids can include:

  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Muscle aches
  • General flu-like symptoms
  • Extreme lethargy
  • Severe physical anxiety/depression
  • Lack of appetite

CBD has been demonstrated time and time again to help with anxiety and depression. CBD is also a potent anti-emetic, or nausea reducer. Furthermore, CBD has been demonstrated to assist with pretty much everything else on the list of physical withdrawal symptoms, including appetite regulation, sleep regulation, and pain.

Regenerative Effects of CBD

Long-term drug and alcohol addiction can cause serious damage to the brain. The US government filed a patent for CBD describing it as a neuroprotectant. CBD has potent anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, which contribute to healing damage caused by long-term drug addiction.

One study carried out on rodents found that transdermal delivery of cannabidiol treated specific damage caused by alcohol abuse.

Another study found that cannabidiol protects the liver from binge drinking. Furthermore, it can attenuate inflammation in the central nervous system (CNS), which is commonly associated with drug and alcohol abuse.

Holistic Studies Regarding CBD and Addiction

Some studies have focused on the “big picture” of addiction rather than specific mechanisms.

For more studies, see this page on addiction/alcoholism treated by cannabinoids.

CBD for nicotine and tobacco smoking addiction.
CBD can help you quit nicotine and tobacco once and for all.

Is CBD Right For Me?

As if things couldn’t get any better, there was a survey finding half of people who use CBD stopped taking traditional medicines. This is not because it is addictive. This is because these people truly believe the compound just works. To their benefit, there is substantial evidence in their favor.

In the survey, over 80% said they found cannabidiol to be very or extremely effective.

It is important, however, to be realistic in your expectations. Clearly, a substance which causes euphoria in all cases would be addictive. Cannabidiol does not do this. It is not like traditional depression treatments. It is also important to stay wary of potential drug interactions. Since cannabidiol may have an effect on serotonin receptors, it may be unwise to mix it with another serotonin-affecting drug. This can lead to serotonin syndrome. We do not recommend mixing any cannabinoid with an SSRI like Prozac or Zoloft.

Safety comes first in all cases. If there is no problem with potential interactions, and if you are currently treatment-resistant to some mental health affliction, or don’t want to be dependent on a drug, it may be worth giving CBD a shot. The positive effects of cannabidiol, coupled with its unlikeliness of experiencing side effects make it a promising buy. For high quality, safe, lab tested CBD products, see the CBGenius shop.