If there’s one piece of advice that most cigarette smokers will give non-smokers, it’s “Don’t start smoking.”
As any smoker will tell you, quitting smoking is one of the hardest things to do and can feel nearly impossible at times.
The numbers bear this out. According to a study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about half of all smokers will try to quit in any given year. Only 6% will succeed in their attempt.
Most smokers who are able to quit, require multiple attempts throughout their lifetime before quitting permanently.
Even with these odds, cigarette smokers and other tobacco users shouldn’t give up hope.
There are a number of treatments for quitting tobacco products, from nicotine replacement therapies (patches, gum, and lozenges) that allow you to wean yourself off gradually to prescription drugs like Chantix.
While these treatments are better for your health than smoking, they still come with drawbacks. Prescription drugs can be expensive and have negative side effects. Nicotine replacement therapies only swap one craving for another and can end up being hard to quit.
However, there’s good news for those hoping to quit nicotine for their New Year’s Resolution.
A growing field of research as well as anecdotal accounts are beginning to show that CBD may also be an effective treatment for nicotine addiction.
Why Are Cigarettes So Hard To Quit?
Nicotine, like other addictive drugs, forms a physical dependence by reprogramming the synaptic receptors in the brain. The nicotine molecule causes a surge of dopamine in the reward centers of the brain, leading to a sense of euphoria.
However, over time the molecule changes the dopamine and other neurochemical receptors to only accept nicotine, meaning consuming the drug is the only way to release dopamine.
When a tobacco user tries to quit, the brain can no longer make the same amount of dopamine. This leads to withdrawal symptoms, the list of which is long and includes: anxiety, depression, weight gain, headaches, problems concentrating, drowsiness or trouble sleeping, and feeling tense, restless, or irritable.
Symptoms of withdrawal can begin as little as 2 hours from a smoker’s last cigarette and can last anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of months. The severity and duration of withdrawal depend on a number of factors that include how long someone used nicotine as well as their genetics.
And it looks like CBD may have a positive impact on that withdrawal process…
CBD Reduces Cigarette Consumption, According to Study
In 2013, researchers from University College London published results from a randomized double placebo controlled study with 24 people who wanted to quit smoking. Each person received an inhaler with instructions to use it every time they felt an urge to smoke.
After one week participants who received a placebo inhaler reported no change in the amount of cigarettes smoked, while participants with the CBD inhaler reported a combined 40% reduction in cigarettes.
The research concluded:
These preliminary data, combined with the strong preclinical rationale for use of this compound, suggest CBD to be a potential treatment for nicotine addiction that warrants further exploration.
And it’s not just cigarettes. Scientists are finding that CBD could have widespread application for many substance addictions including cocaine and opioids.
Of course, tobacco is the big one here.
In 2015 researchers out of the University of Montreal published a review of all the current data on CBD as an intervention for addictive behavior, concluding:
The dreadful burden of substance-use disorder worldwide, combined with the clear need for new medication in the addiction field, justifies the requirement of further studies to evaluate the potential of CBD as a new intervention for addictive behaviors.
CBD and Withdrawal Symptoms
CBD’s role as an addiction treatment makes even more sense when you consider some of its other medical benefits.
One of those benefits is stress relief. Consuming CBD can help people who are trying to quit smoking by reducing the severity of the stress, tension, anxiety, and irritability associated with withdrawal that would normally have them buying another pack to relieve.
Additionally, the inflammation-relieving properties of CBD can also help reduce the associated headaches and body pain that nicotine withdrawal can cause in smokers. Without aching through the day, it’s much easier to concentrate and there’s less reason to reach for a smoke.
Finally, CBD can also help with the sleep disturbances caused by nicotine withdrawal. Studies have shown that increased doses of CBD can improve deep sleep cycles while smaller dosages improve wakefulness and alertness.
CBD Restores Brain Chemistry
Furthermore, researchers are beginning to find evidence that CBD may even prevent relapse by repairing the brain’s chemistry.
As stated above, addiction to nicotine and other substances permanently alters the brain’s synapses, preventing them from releasing neurotransmitters like dopamine unless those chemicals are present. Preliminary studies have shown that CBD can return these receptors to their pre-addiction state.
In another study from the Scripps Research Institute on cocaine and alcohol-addicted rats, those administered CBD gel were not only less likely to relapse, but also less prone to display stress-induced or drug-seeking behavior. This was observed for up to five months after all traces of CBD were no longer in their systems.
It’s Never Too Late To Quit Smoking and CBD May Help
The health benefits of quitting smoking, and really all tobacco products, cannot be overstated no matter how many times you’ve tried.
While quitting smoking remains one of the hardest things to do, CBD may provide that edge that you need to finally give up your nicotine habit.
With the number of available CBD products growing every day, from oils to edibles to vapes, there’s no time like the present to make quitting your New Year’s Resolution, or whatever time of year it is when you decide to stop.