In light of new research thousands upon thousands of people are finding legitimate relief in the form of CBD oil for alcoholism. Studies on CBD and addiction yield promising results. CBD can be used to curb withdrawal symptoms from substance abuse, including alcohol. The science behind CBD and alcohol addiction cessation. What the data says, information about CBD, and how to use CBD for alcohol withdrawal.
CBD for Alcoholism: Cannabidiol for Withdrawal Symptoms
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The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) estimates that 17.6 million Americans suffer from some degree of alcohol abuse. That’s about 1 in every 12 U.S. adults. Furthermore, the CDC estimates that there are over 88,000 alcohol-related deaths in the United States each year. Hundreds of thousands of people with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) also have serious side effects, including:
- Severe nausea
However, research suggests that CBD oil for alcoholism could prove worthwhile. Cannabidiol is non-intoxicating, meaning that users can enjoy its potential benefits without the high associated with marijuana.
This article outlines what alcoholism is and how CBD could help alleviate certain symptoms.
What Is Alcoholism?
Alcoholism, alcohol abuse, and alcohol withdrawal are mutually exclusive terms with significant differences in meaning and implication.
The term alcohol abuse refers to a pattern of drinking in which the individual’s lifestyle is negatively affected by consumption. This could be in the form of relationships, family life, or professional work habits. It could imply one heavy night out drinking, in which case a person has to call off work the next day, or it could refer to much more serious cases in which the patterns of abuse are manifested on a near-daily basis.
Alcoholism, on the other hand, is the full-blown manifestation of alcohol abuse; the American Society of Addiction Medicine defines it as a “primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors [that influence] its development.”
The disease, often fatal, is characterized by any one of the following symptoms:
- Preoccupation with alcohol as a drug
- Habitual inability to control drinking levels
- Distortion in cognitive processes regarding consumption (i.e., denial)
- Continued abuse of alcohol despite adverse consequences
Additionally, alcoholics display a complete and total reliance on the drug, in which case their day-to-day lives become unmanageable without the physiological and psychological effects of drinking.
Once the physiological effects of full-blown alcoholism manifest in an individual, quitting the drug can present an array of serious biological and emotional side effects.
Alcohol Withdrawal & Conventional Treatment Methods
The exact symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are wide-ranging and can vary significantly from individual to individual. Individuals often experience nervousness, insomnia/restlessness, anxiety, nausea, and irritability. Increased heart rate, tremors, seizures, disorientation, and even hallucinations can become common in more advanced stages.
Of course, any of these symptoms may (and often do) warrant seeking professional medical attention. Over a longer-term scale, chronic diseases such as cirrhosis, alcoholic hepatitis, and liver disease may develop in severe cases. Such individuals are also at greater risk of developing cancer or kidney disease.
Alcoholism can lead to several adverse effects on the body, including liver disease. Medical intervention is sometimes necessary.
As far as treatment, one of the most common and effective measures is admission into a detox center. In these facilities, individuals receive the emotional and medical support needed to make the successful transition to an alcohol-free life. In terms of medical support, doctors often prescribe drugs to help with the onset of anxiety, pain, nausea, and loss of appetite.
Due to financial, personal, or professional reasons, many people find treatment facilities impractical. This is one of the reasons why CBD oil for alcoholism is on the minds of so many. It’s far cheaper than prescription medications and/or admittance into a treatment facility. It also allows individuals to largely self-medicate with a specific oil appropriate for them and their unique condition.
CBD Oil for Alcoholism: How It Might Help
To understand how cannabidiol (CBD) works to alleviate the effects of addiction and subsequent withdrawal, we need first to understand how alcohol itself functions to instigate neurological reliance.
In healthy individuals (i.e., non-alcohol abusers), specific brain structures play a functional role in implementing normal self-care behavior. Therefore, if we’re unhappy or unsatisfied, they tell us that a behavioral change is probably in order.
In the case of alcohol abusers, the consumption of alcohol entirely bypasses this requisite behavioral change. It overrides the brain’s reward structures to supplant the desired feelings of happiness and satisfaction.
On a side note, this is why alcoholism presents such a challenge in terms of its progression as a disease. Individuals don’t want to acknowledge the reward structures in their brains telling them to change their behavior, so instead, they drink. The more alcohol they consume, the more unhappy they become. Thus, the more they feel they need to drink, and this vicious cycle continues.
A Quick Look at the Endocannabinoid System
All mammals have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) which plays a role in regulating various processes such as:
- Fertility and reproduction
Our bodies create endocannabinoids which bind to the two types of endocannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are mainly located in the central nervous system, whereas CB2 receptors are primarily located in the peripheral nervous system.
How Does Alcohol Affect the Endocannabinoid System & What Can CBD Do About It?
All of the reward structures in the brain, the amygdala, basal forebrain, etc., are home to a significant density of CB1 receptors. These receptors play a crucial functional role in helping to implement feelings of reward, satisfaction, and overall well-being, amongst other things.
What effect does the consumption of alcohol have on the abundance and availability of CB1 receptors in the brain? Not a good one, as it turns out.
A 2014 study measured the abundance of CB1 receptors in abusive (alcoholic) and non-abusive (social) drinkers. The researchers found a severely diminished prevalence of CB1 in alcoholics, even after prolonged periods of abstinence. This contrasted sharply with a healthy presence of the receptor among social drinkers after the same period of abstinence.
When someone consumes alcohol, it directly bypasses the normal physiological mechanisms responsible for reward behavior. It supplants the natural functional role of endocannabinoids regarding their ability to communicate with the brain’s reward structures.
From a physiological standpoint, one of the hardest parts of giving up alcohol is that the body lacks some of its natural mechanisms to cope with everyday things like stress and anxiety without the adequate presence of endocannabinoids.
However, this is when the therapeutic effects of CBD come into play. CBD is a natural replenishment to the body’s supply of endocannabinoids, which may be depleted throughout long-term alcohol abuse and reliance.
Based on the latest research…
CBD for Alcoholism: What Does the Research Say?
More studies are necessary for CBD to become a conventional treatment option for alcoholism or other forms of abuse and addiction in the future. However, the available research offers a glimmer of hope.
In 2015, researchers published a peer-reviewed article in Substance Abuse. It identified CBD’s ability to function as a modulator for several neuronal circuits disrupted during long-term addiction. The article recognized CBD’s ability to provide a “stand-in” mechanism for the brain’s reward structures to communicate without naturally-occurring endocannabinoids.
In 2018, an animal study evaluated the “anti-relapse potential of a transdermal CBD preparation in relation to drug-seeking, anxiety, and impulsivity.” In their study, the researchers used rats with histories of alcohol and cocaine self-administration. They gave the rats transdermal CBD at 24-hour intervals for seven days. Then they tested for “context and stress-induced reinstatement, as well as experimental anxiety.”
The results of the study were promising. The research team found that CBD reduced both “context-induced and stress-induced drug seeking without tolerance, sedative effects, or interference with normal motivated behavior.”
The researchers also found that even after they terminated the treatment, drug-seeking behavior in the rats remained attenuated up to five months later. This happened despite plasma and CBD levels only being detectable for three days after the study.
Furthermore, the study found that CBD helped reduce experimental anxiety and “prevented the development of high impulsivity in rats with an alcohol dependence history.” The researchers said that the study provided “proof of principle” that CBD is useful for relapse prevention in two particular dimensions.
Is There Any Other Relevant Research on CBD for Alcoholism?
Yes. In 2019, a systematic review aimed “to evaluate the credibility of CBD as a candidate pharmacotherapy for alcohol use disorder (AUD).” Researchers looked at 303 different articles on the subject and found that only 12 met the criteria for their review. Of these 12 articles, eight studies used rodent models, and only three included healthy adult volunteers. The other was a study that used a cell culture.
In the rodent models and the study that used cell culture, CBD appeared to “exert a neuroprotective effect against adverse alcohol consequences on the hippocampus.”
Some studies on CBD for alcoholism suggest that the cannabinoid could protect against excessive damage.
Interestingly, CBD also seemed to attenuate alcohol-induced hepatoxicity (liver damage), and more specifically, alcohol-induced steatosis” (harmful retention of lipids in the liver) in rodent models.
Their systematic review concluded that CBD “attenuates cue-elicited and stress-elicited alcohol-seeking, alcohol self-administration, withdrawal-induced convulsions, and impulsive discounting of delayed rewards.” This conclusion was based on the findings of the rodent studies. They also noted that in human studies, CBD was “well-tolerated and did not interact with the subjective effects of alcohol.”
Could CBD Help with Alcohol Withdrawal?
There is a suggestion that CBD could reduce the effects of certain alcohol withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, nausea, and irritability. However, we should point out that most studies on CBD’s impact on these symptoms did not involve volunteers with AUD.
A 2019 study published in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry investigated the effects of CBD on anxiety in 57 adult males. The volunteers received either a placebo or 150mg, 300mg, or 600mg of CBD before completing a simulated public speaking test (SPST). The researchers obtained subjective ratings on the Visual Analogue Mood Scale (VAMS) and physiological measures, including heart rate and blood pressure.
Compared to the placebo, those who consumed the 300mg dose of CBD exhibited significantly reduced anxiety during the SPST. Interestingly, those who consumed the 150mg or 600mg doses showed no significant difference in VAMS scores compared to placebo users.
There is a clinical trial in progress that aims to analyze the use of CBD for the treatment of alcohol withdrawal. The trial, which takes place in Sydney, Australia, involves 52 volunteers who will consume either a placebo or between 800mg and 1200mg of CBD per day via capsules. It will be interesting to see the outcome of this particular trial.
How to Use CBD Oil for Alcoholism/Alcohol Withdrawal
Those using CBD for alcohol withdrawal or an AUD, in general, should note that there is no defined recommended dose, and that there is no scientific evidence as of yet that it will be effective.
There are numerous ways to consume CBD, including:
- Vape juice
CBD oil is the most popular form of the cannabinoid and involves placing drops beneath the tongue, holding them for 60-90 seconds, and swallowing. However, not everyone enjoys the taste or texture of CBD oil. In this case, CBD capsules or gummies are viable alternatives. Gummies have a pleasant taste, whereas capsules have no taste at all. Both are easy to swallow and also allow for accurate dosing.
Consuming vape juice requires the purchase of a vaporizer. While this consumption method offers faster effects, there are concerns over the health effects of vaping.
Final Thoughts CBD Oils for Alcoholism
So far, the findings from animal studies point toward CBD having promise as a potential pharmacotherapy for alcohol use disorder (AUD). In addition to the many positive findings regarding CBD use in these studies, researchers have noted that cannabidiol is well tolerated in human studies.
CBD’s tolerability, coupled with the absence of abuse liability, further enhances the prospect of CBD being useful as a treatment for AUD in the future.
Below, we have included information on several CBD brands worth consideration. Each company has a positive reputation for providing high-quality cannabidiol products derived from hemp.
CBD for Alcohol Withdrawal: Using Cannabidiol to Manage Alcoholism
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), 1 in every 12 U.S. adults suffers from some degree of alcohol addiction — adding up to 17.6 million people.
To make things worse, the risks of suddenly cutting down on alcohol consumption when you’re severely addicted can be worse than the addiction itself. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that alcohol withdrawal is to blame for over 88,000 deaths each year. Several hundred thousand more suffer from side effects such as anxiety, nausea, hallucinations, autoimmune conditions, and seizures, among many others.
At its peak, alcoholism can feel nearly impossible to overcome. Hopefully, recent studies show that whole-plant cannabis can help curb addictions — contrary to a popular misbelief associated with marijuana.
Since CBD is one of the two prevalent cannabinoids in whole-plant cannabis products, it’s within reason to assume it can offer some benefits for people recovering from alcoholism.
In this article, we’ll elaborate on using CBD oil for alcohol withdrawal and alcoholism — both in terms of mitigating the symptoms and managing our physiological and psychological mechanisms of addiction.
What Is Alcoholism?
Alcohol abuse, alcoholism, and alcohol withdrawal are three terms that many people use interchangeably, while in fact, there are substantial differences in both meaning and implication.
When a person abuses alcohol, they develop a negative pattern of drinking where the individual’s priorities and relationships are affected by consumption. Alcohol abuse can put a shadow over your family life, professional career, and relationships with friends.
But abusing alcohol doesn’t mean you’re an alcoholic.
It can refer to one heavy night of drinking where a person has to postpone their duties the next day.
However, the moment these patterns of abuse are manifested on a daily basis, this is where alcoholism starts to develop.
In simple terms, alcoholism is a full-blown type of alcohol abuse. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, alcoholism is a “primary chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors [that influence] its development.”
Often lethal, alcoholism usually involves one of the following symptoms:
- Habitual inability to control alcohol consumption
- Denial regarding consumption
- Preoccupation with alcohol
- Continued abuse despite negative effects on a person’s life
Moreover, alcoholics show a total reliance on the drug, meaning their daily lives become unmanageable without experiencing the effects of being under the influence of alcohol.
Kicking the habit once the physiological effects of alcoholism are at their peak can result in serious physiological and mental side effects.
What Are Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?
The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are far-reaching but they’re not the same for every individual.
In most cases, people addicted to alcohol experience anxiety, sleep deprivation, mood swings, nausea, and nervousness. In more severe scenarios, tremors, seizures, racing hearts, disorientation, and hallucinations can start to manifest.
It should go without saying that any of these symptoms require seeking medical attention. When neglected for a long period, chronic diseases such as liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis may develop — not to mention different types of cancer and kidney disease.
How Is Alcoholism Typically Treated?
The most common treatment for alcoholism is admission into a detox center. In less severe cases, psychotherapy may help a person overcome the behavioral symptoms of addiction by rewiring their brain so that it becomes more resistant to addiction cues.
Detox centers provide victims with all levels of support, including medical and emotional help, helping them make a successful move towards an alcohol-free life. Doctors often prescribe medications to help patients deal with pain, nausea, loss of appetite, anxiety, and sleeplessness.
That being said, not everybody can afford to spend several weeks in a detox center — be it for personal, professional, or financial reasons.
That’s why many people are turning to CBD oil for alcohol withdrawals. It’s a less expensive alternative to medications or admittance into a detox facility.
Evidence supporting the health benefits of CBD for alcohol withdrawal is piling up, reaching far beyond anecdotal reports.
CBD Oil for Alcohol Withdrawals: Understanding the Basics
To help you get a better grasp of how CBD works to alleviate alcohol withdrawals, we need to first take a look at the way alcohol functions in the nervous system.
Long story short, alcohol addiction affects the way neurotransmitters in the brain communicate with each other.
In healthy people — those who don’t abuse alcohol — these structures play an important role in controlling normal self-care behavior. In other words, if you’re unsatisfied or sad, they let your brain know about that, producing a behavioral response.
Alcohol abusers, on the other hand, have problems with self-control because the consumption of alcohol entirely breaches this behavioral change. It hacks the brain’s reward system in order to satisfy the cravings for alcohol and become happy.
This is actually the major reason why alcoholism is so difficult to deal with upon progression. People simply don’t want to accept the fact that the reward system in their brains is trying to change their behavior, so instead, they drink more.
The more alcohol they consume, the more unhappy they become — which contradicts the desired result; so they feel the urge to drink again.
And the vicious circle continues to spin.
CBD, Alcoholism, and the Brain
An interesting fact about cannabis and alcohol withdrawals is that all of the above reward structures in the brain — basal forebrain, amygdala, etc. — are home to large concentrations of CB1 receptors. These receptors are part of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which plays a crucial role in the functioning of our brain, including the feelings of reward, satisfaction, and general well-being.
It turns out that alcohol consumption has a negative effect on the availability of CB1 receptors.
A 2014 study analyzing the abundance of CB1 receptors in the brain of alcoholics and non-abusive drinkers found that those who abused alcohol had lower levels of CB1 receptors after prolonged periods of abstinence. These figures stood in stark contrast to a healthy presence of CB1 receptors among healthy drinkers after the same duration of abstinence.
This means that alcohol depletes our CB1 receptors and compromises their communication with the body’s endocannabinoids, contributing to the weakening of our reward system in the brain. This makes individuals more susceptible to addiction.
What Does Research Say About Using CBD to Treat Alcohol Withdrawals?
From a physiological perspective, one of the most difficult aspects of ditching alcohol is that, without sufficient levels of endocannabinoids, the body is deprived of its natural mechanism to cope with withdrawal symptoms, such as abnormal stress levels, anxiety, sleeplessness, pain, tremors, and more.
Fortunately, this is where CBD may help. CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in a way that allows it to replenish the body’s supply of endocannabinoids — even with the compromised functioning of CB1 receptors.
CBD signals the ECS to produce more endocannabinoids while slowing their breakdown by acting on certain metabolic enzymes.
Although more research is needed to draw definitive conclusions about CBD’s efficacy for alcohol withdrawal, current research suggests that it can become a promising treatment in the future not only to mitigate hangovers but also for alcohol abuse.
A 2015 peer-reviewed article from Substance Abuse mentioned CBD’s ability to modulate several of the neurological processes that were negatively affected due to alcohol addiction. The article acknowledged the cannabinoid’s protective mechanism for the brain’s reward structures in spite of the absence of naturally occurring endocannabinoids.
In another study conducted in 2018 by Gonzalez-Cuevas et al., the research team assessed the potential of a transdermal CBD formulation regarding drug-seeking behavior. They used rats with a history of alcohol and cocaine self-administration. The rats received CBD at 24-hour intervals for 7 days. Then, they tested for “context and stress-induced reinstatement, as well as experimental anxiety.”
The authors found that CBD reduced both context-induced and stress-induced drug-seeking behavior without building tolerance. The subjects also didn’t show any sedative effects; CBD didn’t interfere with their normal motivated behavior. The drug-seeking behavior in the rats remained reduced for up to 5 months after the treatment ended.
Other Interesting Facts About CBD and Alcoholism
More interestingly, the said study also concluded that CBD helped reduce and prevent the development of high impulsivity in rats with a history of alcohol dependence.
Gonzalez-Cuevas and colleagues believe that their study delivers a “proof of principle” that CBD can be used to prevent relapse in individuals addicted to alcohol. First, it facilitates positive actions across several vulnerabilities; secondly, and more importantly, a brief treatment provides long-lasting effects.
As the research team stated, it’s important to inform the ongoing medical marijuana debate regarding the health benefits of non-intoxicating cannabinoids and their potential for the development and use as therapeutic compounds.
However, more human studies are needed to replicate the findings from animal-based research.
A 2019 systematic review of the existing literature examined the efficacy of CBD as pharmacotherapy for alcohol use disorder (AUD). The review analyzed 303 different articles on the subject and found that only 12 were eligible for the review. Of that number, eight were studies using rats, and only three included healthy adult humans. The other study was conducted on cell cultures.
In the rodent model and the study on cell cultures, CBD produced “a neuroprotective effect against adverse alcohol consequences on the hippocampus.” CBD also reduced liver damage, and more specifically, alcohol-induced retention of lipids in the liver (steatosis).
The authors note that the rodent models pointed them to a conclusion that CBD “attenuates cue-elicited and stress-elicited alcohol-seeking, alcohol self-administration, withdrawal-induced convulsions, and impulsive discounting of delayed rewards.” They also concluded that in human studies, CBD was safe and well-tolerated, and “didn’t interact with the subjective effects of alcohol.”
CBD Dosage for Alcohol Withdrawals
There are no standard dosage charts or guidelines for CBD use in treating alcohol withdrawals and alcoholism. If you believe CBD can help you overcome addiction and its side effects, we encourage you to seek your doctor’s approval before adding CBD to your treatment. A consultation with a holistic professional experienced in cannabis use will help you find the right dosage for your situation.
The best way to start is to go with a low dose (5–10 mg) and gradually work your way up to the amount that provides you the desired results but without any side effects.
Although safe and well-tolerated, CBD has a few benign side effects when consumed in large doses, including dry mouth, dizziness, lethargy, changes in appetite, and diarrhea.
Keep a journal of your daily doses and write down how you feel each time after taking CBD oil.
How to Take CBD for Alcohol Withdrawals?
CBD can take many forms, including oils, capsules, gummies, vapes, and topicals.
CBD oil is the most common form of CBD. It’s sold in glass bottles with a dropper for accurate dosing. You take it under the tongue, holding it there for about 60 seconds to improve absorption.
CBD capsules and soft gels are better for beginners because they contain a fixed dose of CBD per serving. They’re also easy to take on the go, making them more convenient for people living busy lives.
Edibles work in a similar manner — and they also feature delicious flavors that make CBD consumption more enjoyable than with oils and capsules.
Finally, you can try CBD vapes. These come in a vape pen format and offer the fastest and most effective way to deliver CBD to your system.
Topicals aren’t the best form of CBD for alcohol withdrawals because they are designed to target localized discomfort. Unless your withdrawals involve headaches, joint pain, or stomach pain, we suggest that you opt for one of the above formats.
Key Takeaways on Using CBD for Alcohol Withdrawal
So far, the evidence from animal and human studies suggests that CBD has the potential to become a treatment for alcohol withdrawal and alcoholism.
CBD is also safe and well-tolerated, which, coupled with the lack of abuse potential, further supports its use as adjunctive therapy for alcoholics in the future.
However, before CBD oil becomes a pharmacotherapy for Alcohol Use Disorder, we need more clinical trials on humans to confirm the preliminary findings on larger samples.
If you’re considering adding CBD to your alcoholism therapy, consult a holistic medical professional to gauge your initial dosage and establish the right routine to avoid interactions with other medications.
CBD & Alcohol Withdrawals: FAQ
Looking for more answers? You’ll find them here.
Is CBD safe for recovering alcoholics?
CBD is a safe supplement for recovering alcoholics. Although there has been some controversy around its use due to associations with marijuana, CBD is non-intoxicating, and as such, it doesn’t cause a person to form habits around it. CBD is non-addictive in both physical and behavioral terms. Studies have also found that CBD reduces anxiety and extends REM sleep duration, possibly by reducing inflammation in the brain.
Can CBD cancel out alcohol?
There are no studies that would confirm CBD’s ability to cancel out the negative effects of alcohol. That being said, CBD can be used to reduce a person’s alcohol intake by helping them cope with anxiety, cravings, and sleeping difficulties.
Is CBD a substitute for alcohol?
CBD is a healthy alternative to alcohol as a means of relaxation. You can take off the edge without toxic side effects like hangovers — let alone the long-term consequences of alcohol abuse. There are now many CBD-infused beverages such as cocktails, kombuchas, tea, coffee, and other similar products to drink instead of booze. However, it is best to understand the validity and effects of mixing alcohol and CBD first before taking one.
Does CBD help with anxiety?
Many people use CBD oil for anxiety, and for a good reason. There’s a large number of studies suggesting that CBD has remarkable stress-relieving effects and can reduce anxiety by acting on the body’s neurological mechanisms. CBD regulates serotonin secretion and increases GABA levels, balancing the nervous system and reducing inflammation in the brain.
Is CBD addictive?
Unlike THC, which can be habit-forming, CBD is not addictive in any way. It actually has anti-addictive qualities. Since both CBD and THC occur in cannabis in different ratios, it’s quite self-explanatory why cannabis isn’t believed to be as addictive as alcohol or tobacco.
- Chye, Y., Christensen, E., Solowij, N., & Yücel, M. (2019). The Endocannabinoid System and Cannabidiol’s Promise for the Treatment of Substance Use Disorder. Frontiers in psychiatry, 10, 63. (1)
- Prud’homme, M., Cata, R., & Jutras-Aswad, D. (2015). Cannabidiol as an Intervention for Addictive Behaviors: A Systematic Review of the Evidence. Substance abuse: research and treatment, 9, 33–38. (2)
- Gonzalez-Cuevas, G., Martin-Fardon, R., Kerr, T. M., Stouffer, D. G., Parsons, L. H., Hammell, D. C., Banks, S. L., Stinchcomb, A. L., & Weiss, F. (2018). Unique treatment potential of cannabidiol for the prevention of relapse to drug use: preclinical proof of principle. Neuropsychopharmacology: official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 43(10), 2036–2045. (3)
- Turna, J., Syan, S. K., Frey, B. N., Rush, B., Costello, M. J., Weiss, M., & MacKillop, J. (2019). Cannabidiol as a Novel Candidate Alcohol Use Disorder Pharmacotherapy: A Systematic Review. Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research, 43(4), 550–563. (4)
Nina created CFAH.org following the birth of her second child. She was a science and math teacher for 6 years prior to becoming a parent — teaching in schools in White Plains, New York and later in Paterson, New Jersey.
How To Use CBD For Alcohol Withdrawal
In this article, you’ll learn a ton of CBD and alcohol info and tips. The use of CBD for alcohol withdrawal and other addictive disorders has become a hot topic lately, thanks to cutting-edge research involving CBD oil for alcoholism in rats. Since staying on top of new research is one of my favorite things to do, I quickly sampled some CBD oil for myself – and I will share the results with you below.
This article will primarily focus on the mechanisms by which non-THC, hemp-derived CBD oil may work to alleviate post-acute withdrawal and alcohol cravings.
First, we will give a brief overview of CBD. We will clarify the difference between CBD oil extracted from hemp and the use of marijuana for alcohol withdrawal. We will then discuss research that is relevant for the use of CBD for alcohol withdrawal, as well as my favorite CBD brand and further considerations for people who want to use CBD for alcoholism.
CBD And Alcohol: What Is CBD?
Now, you may be wondering: What on earth is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a natural compound found in both industrial hemp and marijuana. Our bodies contain endocannabinoids in numerous organs, including multiple brain regions. The endocannabinoid system is involved in maintaining bodily homeostasis, especially with regard to the following functions:
Incidentally, exercise is known to powerfully stimulate the endocannabinoid system.
Supplementation with CBD is thought to improve numerous conditions by helping to restore balance to the body and brain.
Unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), another compound found in marijuana and some hemp strains, CBD is not psychoactive and therefore does not give users a “high.” Instead, scientists have focused on CBD for its plethora of health-promoting effects, which may be useful for a variety of conditions as well as general health optimization.
CBD And Alcohol: CBD vs Marijuana For Alcohol Withdrawal
Why CBD Helps With Alcohol Withdrawal
I recently discussed exciting new research in rats that showed the potential for a 1-week administration of CBD oil to reduce alcohol cravings and subsequent relapse for up to 5 months. This particular study noted that CBD reduced biomarkers for inflammation, which disrupts neurotransmitter production, leading to uncontrollable cravings and relapse.
If you have been reading Fit Recovery for awhile, then you know that short-term alcohol consumption causes a cascade of artificial boosts in feel-good brain chemicals.
You also know that heavy drinking creates severe deficiencies in these neurotransmitters, which are required to feel like life is worth living. It does this in part by prompting the brain to rely on alcohol instead of producing optimal quantities of these brain chemicals on its own.
Long-term alcohol consumption also causes deficiencies in nutrients required for optimal neurotransmitter production. To make a bad situation even worse, ethanol and its toxic byproducts (like acetaldehyde) lead to the production of pro-inflammatory compounds that directly inhibit the production of neurotransmitters like dopamine, GABA, and serotonin.
I believe that CBD may ultimately prove to be very useful in eliminating alcohol dependence for two main reasons:
- CBD is known to reduce the presence of pro-inflammatory compounds in the body and brain, removing a major roadblock for the production of feel-good brain chemicals. It may do this by repairing oxidative stress in a similar manner as antioxidants.
- CBD directly restores our natural endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids (and even the number of endocannabinoid receptors) have been found to be severely depleted and even extinguished entirely by heavy drinking.
Why Marijuana Might Help With Alcohol Withdrawal
There is a long history of people using marijuana, which contains varying levels of CBD depending on the strain, to combat alcohol withdrawal. Some people have even successfully “switched” to marijuana from alcohol for long-term use.
Due to biochemical individuality, this form of harm reduction may work especially well for some people. I am sure that marijuana has saved lives from alcoholic destruction and liver disease.
I’m a fan of harm reduction – and I’m not opposed in principle to marijuana use.
However, there are a number of reasons that CBD oil may be safer and more suitable for the vast majority of alcohol-dependent people wishing to repair their bodies and brains:
- THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, alters neurotransmission more drastically than CBD
- Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive, leading at most to feelings of relaxation or sleepiness in high doses
- THC can cause mental discomfort and paranoia in people who are biochemically predisposed to anxiety
- Heavy, long-term THC exposure may affect focus, motivation, memory, learning, and mood stability
- Heavy marijuana smokers experience changes in brain function and reduced blood flow to the brain (source)
Marijuana is known to be less addictive than other psychoactive drugs. However, any substance that alters neurotransmission significantly can theoretically lead to physical and/or psychological dependence.
To the extent that marijuana may be physically addictive, the culprit appears to be THC, which is very similar in structure to a naturally occurring brain chemical called anandamide that “fits” into CB-1 receptors.
Interestingly, some research indicates that THC’s addictive potential may be counteracted by the presence of CBD. While CBD does not fully bind to CB-1 receptors, it has powerful indirect effects. Supplementation with CBD has even been found to alleviate THC withdrawal syndrome. (source)
Since marijuana strains contain varying proportions of these compounds, it can be difficult to determine how much THC or CBD one is consuming when consuming this plant. Generally, indica-dominant strains contain higher levels of CBD, while sativa-dominant strains contain a relatively higher proportion of THC.
The bottom line is that marijuana users may be able to obtain the benefits of CBD. However, they are also consuming up to 112 cannabidiols identified in cannabis, with THC being the most prevalent. By using CBD oil obtained from hemp, you can achieve therapeutic effects without getting high or even using marijuana.
CBD And Alcohol: Benefits Of CBD For Alcoholism
The use of CBD for alcohol withdrawal is still a very new phenomenon. There are many promising anecdotal reports about the use of CBD for alcohol withdrawal, but more studies are needed before we can say that CBD has proven benefits for people struggling with alcohol addiction.
As mentioned earlier, I believe that the two main benefits of CBD for alcohol withdrawal are inflammation reduction and endocannabinoid replenishment, both of which promote optimal neurotransmitter balance.
I also suspect that CBD exerts positive effects for people struggling with alcohol addiction in two specific ways:
- Reducing glutamate toxicity, which is relevant because alcohol withdrawal involves excess glutamate (a stress chemical) that contributes to insufficient GABA (the brain’s “natural Valium”)
- Reducing alcohol cravings through a combination of reducing inflammation, restoring endocannabinoid and CB-1 receptor function, and combating high glutamate levels
In many abstinence-only circles, the use of CBD is controversial. But there are signs that CBD is becoming more widely accepted. The media has begun to give a voice to people who have used CBD for a variety of health issues.
The Huffington Post told the story of a 15-year member of AA named April, who successfully used CBD to treat recurring melanomas. April gathered a large array of research demonstrating the therapeutic benefits of CBD for a wide variety of conditions. She brings up an important point: “ If there was no factually based research proving the benefits of CBD, then why would the U.S. buy a patent on CBD?” (source)
Many users on Reddit have noted that their drinking decreased after consuming CBD.
A growing number of people combine CBD with kratom to reap the benefits of both after they quit drinking. I should note that CBD works much differently than kratom. You can learn more about kratom in my article about how to use kratom for alcohol withdrawal.
Research On CBD For Alcohol Addiction
Scientists have begun to explore the effects of CBD on inflammation and addictive behaviors. Some of the results bear at least indirect relevance for people struggling with alcohol dependence:
- Alcohol-dependent people have a severely diminished prevalence of CB-1 receptors in the brain, even after prolonged periods of abstinence – and endocannabinoids can disappear altogether in severe cases of alcoholism. (source)
- Alcoholic rats given a non-THC version of CBD oil reduced their alcohol-seeking behaviors and prevented high impulsivity often seen with alcohol withdrawal. A 1-week administration of CBD oil produced these effects for 5 months, even though CBD itself left their systems after 3 days. (source)
- CBD reverses glutamate toxicity in the brain by binding to CB1 receptors and reducing oxidative stress (source)
- An analysis of scientific studies found that CBD seems to have direct effects on addictive behaviors, possibly by replenishing endocannabinoids that may be missing from the body, as well as indirectly by improving stress vulnerability and reducing neurotoxicity. (source)
- CBD reduces cigarette consumption in tobacco smokers (source)
- CBD reduces the reward-facilitating effects of morphine (source)
- CBD reduces cravings for cannabis following heavy usage (source)
- No adverse effects have been reported with high doses of CBD (source)
More research on CBD for alcohol withdrawal – particularly in humans – is clearly needed. The use of CBD for various addictive disorders is an exciting new research frontier from which I expect to see further advances in the near future.
Trusted CBD Oil Brands
I haven’t struggled with alcohol withdrawal or cravings in years, due to the supplements and lifestyle strategies discussed on this site and in my online course. My goal in trying CBD was to determine its overall impact on my sense of well-being and any negative side effects that I could discern.
I first ordered a few popular CBD supplements from Amazon. After using them, I noticed that I became slightly more calm and slept a bit deeper than usual.
I then came across a company called CBDPure, which makes CBD oil from organic hemp that contains zero THC. I did some research on this company and was generally impressed. CBDPure gave me 15% off with a coupon (given below), shipped to my condo for free, and had a 90-day unconditional refund policy.
CBDPure offers three different versions of CBD oil: 300mg, 600mg, and 1000mg. I’m very in tune with my body, meaning that I can usually notice some effect when I take a new supplement. I’m often overly cautious when dosing new supplements, but I knew that CBD was harmless even in large amounts. Therefore, I opted to try the 1000mg version.
The first thing I noticed was that the CBD oil from CBDPure tasted less grassy. It has a light golden color, similar to honey, and tastes earthy without the unpleasant grassiness that I noticed with the brands.
As for effects, CBDPure was more potent than the other brands I tried. I felt noticeably calmer within minutes after consuming just 1 dropper of their full-spectrum CBD oil. In my opinion, full-spectrum is better than CBD isolate, because it contains a wider range of natural compounds that work together to provide beneficial effects.
I sat down on my favorite chair and seemed to sink in deeper than usual. I read a few chapters of a book and then floated into bed. I can see how CBDPure offers massive relief for people struggling with discomfort after quitting drinking.
It’s important to note that while CBD oil may help to take the edge off instantly for many people, its most beneficial potential effects – including inflammation reduction – take place over a period of days or weeks.
CBDPure uses organic hemp harvested in Denmark, which apparently has some of the highest quality standards for hemp production. The company then uses CO2 extraction to produce its CBD oil here in the U.S. In contrast to more commonly used ethanol or butane, CO2 extraction is a nontoxic and precise method of isolating plant compounds.
If I were quitting drinking today, I would use 1-3 droppers of CBDPure 1000mg each night for a few weeks and then assess its effects on my overall sense of well-being and alcohol cravings. If I were on a tight budget, I’d simply start with the 300mg dropper bottle and order more if it helped!
Generally, I recommend that my private clients try one of CBDPure’s stronger versions – just to ensure maximum results.
As with every other supplement, CBD should be discussed with your doctor before you start using it.
CBDPure – Price
- 300 mg Dropper – $29.99
- 600 mg Dropper – $54.99
- 1000 mg Dropper – $79.99
- 750 mg Softgels – $89.99
CBDPure – Benefits
- Superior taste
- Superior potency
- 100% Organic
- Third-Party Tested
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- 90 day money back policy (used or unused)
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- If you order CBDPure today, you will get 15% off by using this coupon code: FITRECOVERY
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CBD Oil And Alcohol Withdrawal: Conclusion
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this article about CBD oil and alcohol plus the use of CBD for helping with quitting alcohol. I will continue to be on the lookout for new research on CBD, as well as any other new supplements that hold promise for enhancing alcohol recovery.
My drinking days are long gone. I live an exciting lifestyle that revolves in large part around optimizing my body and brain. There is a definite learning curve here, and I know that trial and error with supplementation can be frustrating.
If you’ve recently quit drinking, frame early recovery as your own individual journey and enjoy the ride. In the meantime, make sure to optimize your own lifestyle by integrating some healthy lifestyle strategies into your daily routine:
If you have any questions about CBD oil and alcohol plus the customized use of CBD, please leave them in the comment box below.
Is CBD safe for recovering alcoholics?
CBD is a safe supplement for people who describe themselves as recovering alcoholics. It is somewhat controversial due to its traditional association with marijuana. But since CBD is not psychoactive, it does not cause a “high.” Studies have found that it lowers anxiety and extends REM sleep, possibly by reducing brain inflammation.
Does CBD cancel out alcohol?
No known substance cancels out the negative effects of alcohol. But CBD can be useful for people who want to drink less alcohol. It helps to combat cravings, lowers anxiety, and helps with sleep.
Is CBD a good alternative to alcohol?
CBD is a healthy alternative to alcohol for “taking off the edge,” without toxic side effects like hangovers. There are now many CBD sparkling waters, CBD-infused kombuchas, and other similar products to sip instead of booze.
Does CBD help anxiety?
Many people have reported anecdotally that CBD helps with anxiety. Research has also begun to emerge that backs this claim. This effect may be related to the ability of CBD to reduce levels of brain inflammation.
Can CBD become addictive?
Unlike THC, which can be physically addictive, CBD is not addictive. It actually contains anti-addictive properties. Since both THC and CBD are traditionally found in marijuana, CBD’s anti-addictive properties may explain why marijuana is not thought of as particularly addictive in comparison with “hard” drugs.
Chris Scott founded Fit Recovery in 2014 to help people from around the world dominate alcohol dependence and rebuild their lives from scratch. A former investment banker, he recovered from alcohol dependence using cutting-edge methods that integrate nutrition, physiology, and behavioral change. Today, Chris is an Alcohol Recovery Coach and the creator of an online course called Total Alcohol Recovery 2.0.
Dr. Rebeca Eriksen is the Nutritional Consultant for Fit Recovery. She has a PhD in Nutritional Genetics from Imperial College London, and over ten years of clinical experience designing custom nutritional repair regimens for patients recovering from alcohol addiction. In addition to her work at the exclusive Executive Health clinic in Marbella, Spain, she helps to keep Fit Recovery up to date with emerging research.