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Is CBD Addictive? Here's What The Research Says...

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Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid that comes from the cannabis plant. Unlike THC—the main psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis—CBD doesn't have intixicating effects. CBD is quickly becoming a well-accepted, naturally derived compound used to support a wide range of wellness goals, from creating healthier sleep patterns, managing stress levels, easing discomfort, and much more.

While the World Health Organization has issued statements on the general safety of CBD, understandably, there's still a lot we don't know about the possible negative effects of CBD when it comes to drug interactions and possible cannabis addiction.

This article investigates whether or not you can get addicted to CBD, and we'll also touch on the concepts behind drug and alcohol dependence and the general safety of CBD products on the market.

TL;DR:

  • What is CBD? CBD stands for cannabidiol, and it's a naturally derived compound from the cannabis plant that may have a wide range of wellness benefits
  • Is CBD Addictive? CBD is not inherently addictive because it doesn't cause intoxicating effects or hijack the reward centers in the brain.
  • Is CBD Safe? CBD is safe and well-tolerated in most people, even in high doses. There's virtually no risk for a lethal overdose with CBD.
  • Anyone can fall victim to drug and alcohol abuse. You must learn to recognize the signs of substance abuse and seek help from health care professionals if you or a loved one are addicted to a substance.

What Is Addiction?

Addiction is a complex condition with a psychological and physiological need to seek out certain substances or behaviors despite harmful consequences. 

Researchers have found that overcoming addiction is much more than developing willpower. Addictive behaviors results in changes in the brain, hijacking reward centers that were designed for our survival as a species such as eating food, having sex, and communing [1].

Addiction can form around substances such as drugs and alcohol, which are defined as substance use disorders or can arise from behaviors such as gambling, sex addiction, and self-injury.

Drug And Alcohol Dependence

Anyone can fall victim to alcohol or drug addiction or substance use disorder. Despite consequences on your health, relationships, or finances, becoming dependent on a substance means you seek it out to make you feel good or cope with everyday life.

The most common substance use disorders, according to the MSD Manual, involve the following substances:

  • Alcohol
  • Anti-anxiety and sedative drugs
  • Cannabis (marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids)
  • Hallucinogens
  • Inhalants (adhesives, paint, and cleaning fluid)
  • Opioids
  • Stimulants (amphetamines)
  • Tobacco

Certain substances are more inherently physically addictive than others. If you use a substance frequently enough, your body will adjust to the active compounds, making them less likely to respond to the stimulus and requiring more to feel the same effects level.

This is how tolerance builds. With certain substances, developing a high tolerance is extremely dangerous as it increases the likelihood of a lethal overdose.

Alcohol abuse, opioid use, and stimulants are fast to develop a dependence—where the body needs the substance to function. Those who try to kick the habit can experience serious withdrawal symptoms, which can be life-threatening.

Those experiencing drug addiction must seek professional help for guidance on how to quit addictive behaviors.

What causes drug and alcohol dependence is a question that has puzzled scientists for many years. 

Many theories about what causes addiction, but the answer is still not completely understood. Some researchers believe that genetic factors may play a role in addiction, while others think environmental factors may be more important.

Behavioral Addiction

We all know that addiction to drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes can be harmful, but what about behavioral addictions?

Behavioral addictions are compulsive behaviors that can be as damaging as chemical dependencies. Gambling, sex, and food are a few of the most common types of behavioral addictions.

While there is not yet a consensus on how to classify behavioral addictions or on the best way to treat them, it is clear that they can be very damaging and should not be ignored. If you or someone you know is struggling with a behavioral addiction, please seek help.

What Causes Drug Addiction?

Addiction is more than a matter of willpower.

The mechanisms of addiction are incredibly complex, but they can be related to both physical and psychological dependence. Addiction specialists have discovered that genetics and environmental factors influence one's susceptibility to drug and alcohol abuse [2].

The chances of getting addicted to certain compounds are determined by several variables, including the intensity, reliability, and speed at which dopamine concentrations build up in your brain after using a substance.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in motivation and reward-motivated behavior. It has long been thought that dopamine may contribute to addiction by inducing feelings of pleasure in response to addictive substances or behaviors.

People addicted to drugs often have abnormally high levels of dopamine in the brain. This can lead to intense cravings for drugs and an inability to resist using them [3].

Early Exposure

Addiction experts believe that early, repeated exposure to drug stimuli can play a significant role in the likelihood of addiction. This suggests that experimentation with drugs and alcohol at a young age may affect one's tolerance and the likelihood of abuse in the future.

Suffering From Chronic Pain

Doctors prescribe opioid drugs such as morphine and oxycodone to manage severe neuropathic pain or injury. These drugs work by blocking out pain signals which is extremely effective, but they're highly susceptible to drug abuse because of their euphoric effects.

It's no secret that chronic pain can be debilitating. Finding relief can feel like a never-ending battle for those living with chronic pain. Prescription opioids are intended for short-term use, but those suffering from chronic pain grow dependent on these drugs to escape the pain.

High-Stress Levels

Many people say they'll have an alcoholic drink to relax in social settings. While it's socially acceptable behavior, using drugs or alcohol to cope with stress is a dangerous habit and can increase one's risk for developing a substance use disorder.

One possible explanation for the high concordance between stress-related disorders and drug addiction is that these people report that their abused substances helped them cope with tension-associated life events or symptoms of anxiety or depression caused by trauma [4].

Rather than turning to substances, the individual must find ways to address their chronic stress by removing themselves from stressful situations, create drastic lifestyle and diet changes, and seek therapy to address the underlying problem rather than turning to substances to escape from stress.

Signs of Alcohol or Drug Dependence

Sometimes spotting addictive behaviors in individuals can be difficult, but learning how to recognize the signs can help you or your loved ones get the help they need sooner.

Here are some signs of substance abuse:

  • Relying on drugs or alcohol to have fun or relax
  • Changes in appetite
  • Disrupted sleeping habits
  • Missing commitments (work, school, appointments, dates)
  • Spending more time with people who abuse drugs
  • Strained relationships with family and friends
  • Experiencing blackouts
  • Drinking or using drugs by yourself
  • Hiding secrets from friends and family
  • Can't stop thinking about when you'll get to use the substance again
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop using the substance

Addiction is a serious problem. If you are struggling with addiction, it is important to seek help from a professional. 

There are many different treatment programs available, and it is important to find one that will meet your needs. Many organizations provide support for people struggling with addiction. You can find help for addiction by seeking out information online or speaking with your doctor.

What Is Cannabidiol (CBD)?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a component of the cannabis sativa plant that has generated significant interest among scientists and health professionals in recent years. This is because CBD displays a range of potential therapeutic properties, including anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antipsychotic effects.

Cannabis plants include both hemp and marijuana—their distinction lies in their THC levels, which is the cannabinoid primary responsible for the psychoactive effects. Many people are turning to hemp over medical marijuana due to its  legal accessibility and its ability to support a wide range of health benefits without leading to intoxication.

You can find CBD products from CBD oil, gummies, capsules, lotions, and smokable products online and in some specialized shops.

How Does CBD Work In The Body?

CBD belongs to a class of phytochemicals called cannabinoids, which closely resemble neurotransmitters in the body in the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which plays an important role in maintaining homeostasis.

Homeostasis is the idea that all biological systems are constantly regulating to stay within optimal levels (i.e., equilibrium). The old fable Goldilocks and the three bears is a story about just what happens when you're too hot or cold. In this analogy, we learn that it's important not to have anything in your body be outside of an acceptable range because everything will suffer.

The research is still emerging on CBD and its ability to support homeostasis, but clinical evidence shows that CBD has a wide range of potential health benefits.

While most major cannabinoids like THC and CBG bind to cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), which are found throughout the body and deliver signals for the brain to interpret. CBD doesn't have an affinity to bind to these receptors to exert its effects. Instead, it helps to increase the sensitivity of cannabinoid receptors to bind with cannabinoids and inhibits the breakdown of cannabinoids for better cell signaling within the ECS.

The Effects Of CBD

The effects of CBD can range significantly from one individual to the next due to genetics, lifestyle, potential drug interactions, and health conditions. Generally, most people experience a sense of relaxation, increased comfort levels, an uplifted mood, better cognitive attention, and a healthier sleep cycle when taking CBD oil.

The type of experience you can expect from your CBD oil will also depend on the dose, extract type, method of administration, and overall quality of the CBD product.

While some convincing studies highlight the potential therapeutic benefits of CBD and other cannabinoids, more research is needed to show that CBD can be used safely to support health conditions. Currently, there's only one prescription made from pure CBD that's FDA-approved (Food and Drug Administration) for rare and severe forms of epilepsy.

Before turning to CBD use, you should steer clear of CBD products that claim to cure, treat, or mitigate any health condition and speak to your doctor for professional medical advice.

Can CBD Be Addictive?

CBD doesn't cause intoxication or a sense of euphoria like prescription pain killers or street drugs, leading many addiction experts to believe that frequent CBD use has a similar potential for abuse to a placebo pill.

Researchers found that cannabinoids, even THC, have a very low threshold for physical addiction, but they can be habit-forming because of their intoxicating effects.

Many people will use marijuana for relaxation to the point where it becomes a habit that interferes with their commitments, relationships, and overall health. This is why it's important to make sure that your CBD is hemp-derived and not from marijuana, as marijuana can have higher levels of THC.

CBD oil isn't an inherently addictive substance like cocaine or nicotine. However, regular use of CBD may increase tolerance—requiring a higher CBD dose to feel the same effects level. You can fix the increase in tolerance by taking a break from CBD for two weeks to allow your system to readjust.

The good news is that CBD is generally well tolerated even at high doses.

Stopping CBD use hasn't been associated with withdrawal symptoms either, so there doesn't seem to be a link between CBD and changes in the brain's reward centers.

Compared to other addictive compounds like prescription pain meds and street drugs, the potential and dangers of CBD addiction are very low and uncommon.

The Dangers And Side Effects Of Cannabidiol Oil

According to the World Health Organization, the research on CBD use in clinical trials is still quite limited, but CBD is shown to be well-tolerated and generally safe. CBD doesn't have effects indicative of abuse or dependence.

The most significant safety concern with CBD is that it is primarily marketed and sold with very minimal regulation. 

Poorly manufactured CBD from contaminated hemp plants or cheaply made extracts could contain traces of pesticides, heavy metal, solvents, and mold that can negatively affect one's health when used long term.

Additionally, CBD derived from marijuana plants with higher levels of THC can cause intoxication or could be illegal in your state.

It's important to know where your CBD products come from. Shop with reputable brands that can ensure that the CBD extract is hemp-derived (not marijuana-derived CBD) and have a third-party certificate of analysis to prove its safety.

Is It Possible To Overdose on CBD?

It's possible to take dangerous amounts of any substance, even water. Hemp-derived CBD is known to be safe and well-tolerated in most people, even at high doses (50–100 MG). 

There haven't been any reported cases of fatal CBD overdoses. CBD is non-toxic in monkeys when given an intravenous dose of up to 212 per kg of body weight before showing any signs of toxicity [5].

To put this into perspective, if you weigh 150 lbs, you'd need 14,424MG of pure CBD injected into your bloodstream to reach a life-threatening dose. This isn't possible with CBD products on the market (they're not intended for intravenous use), and it's expensive.

While CBD oil is considered safe, some people can experience adverse effects. Most of the side effects of CBD oil are improper dosing.

Cannabidiol side effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Changes in appetite
  • Stomach aches
  • Diarrhea

Mixing CBD And Prescription Medications

Some people can experience negative drug interactions when combining CBD products with their prescription medications.

CBD is an inhibitor of the CYP45 enzyme, which is needed to metabolize drugs in the body, which means that taking CBD oil while on certain medications can interfere with your body to process the drug, and you could potentially have higher levels of medication in your body that can lead to adverse effects.

It's always recommended that you speak with your doctor for professional medical advice before taking CBD or any dietary supplements to ensure the safety of compound interactions.

Does Hemp Oil Have Cannabinoids?

There's a lot of confusion surrounding hemp oil (made from the seeds of hemp plants) and CBD oil. While these two products come from the hemp plant, they have very different uses.

CBD and other cannabinoids are found in the resin glands on the budding flowers of cannabis plants. Hemp seeds may be rich in omega fatty acids, but they do not contain cannabinoids that interact with the endocannabinoid system.

Hemp oil is primarily used as a culinary oil, and it has a nutty flavor. It's also commonly used in CBD products mixed with CBD extract as a CBD hemp oil or soft gel capsules.

Are There Any Hemp Oil Dangers?

The biggest concern with hemp oil is scams. Because there's a lot of misinformation about pure CBD and its uses on the market, many scam companies promote culinary hemp oil as CBD products, even though they don't contain any active cannabinoids to promote any health benefits.

What you want to look for in a good CBD product is that it contains cannabinoids. Look to see that the CBD product has been tested from an independent lab that can show you the cannabinoid profile and safety.

The Takeaway: Can You Get Addicted To CBD Oil?

Addiction is a complex illness that involves genetics, psychological, and environmental factors. It's possible to become addicted to substances (drugs and alcohol) and activities (gambling, shopping, sex).

To date, CBD doesn't appear to have a high potential for abuse or addiction

This is likely because it doesn't have intoxicating effects, and the brain may not associate CBD with pleasure or reward. CBD also doesn't cause withdrawal symptoms or dangerous overdoses, which makes the compound so interesting in health and wellness.

If you believe you're suffering from addiction, you must seek professional help as coming off certain substances like alcohol, antidepressants, or opioids can be extremely dangerous.

Resources:

  1. MacNicol, B. (2017). The biology of addiction. Canadian Journal of Anesthesia/Journal canadien d'anesthésie, 64(2), 141-148.
  2. Bevilacqua, L., & Goldman, D. (2009). Genes and addictions. Clinical pharmacology and therapeutics, 85(4), 359.
  3. Wise, R. A., & Robble, M. A. (2020). Dopamine and addiction. Annual review of psychology, 71, 79-106.
  4. Goeders, N. E. (2003). The impact of stress on addiction. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 13(6), 435-441.
  5. Huestis, M. A., Solimini, R., Pichini, S., Pacifici, R., Carlier, J., & Busardò, F. P. (2019). Cannabidiol adverse effects and toxicity. Current neuropharmacology, 17(10), 974-989.

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