Does cbd oil work for quitting smoking

CBD for Quitting Smoking: Why Aren’t You Trying It?

The number of Americans smoking tobacco cigarettes is falling rapidly. According to CDC data, the rate of adults who smoked cigarettes declined from 20.9% in 2005 to 15.5% in 2016, and this percentage reached an all-time low of 13.7% in 2018.

This doesn’t mean that quitting is getting easier. Still, for the millions of Americans planning to stop smoking cigarettes, studies suggest that CBD may reduce nicotine cravings and help with other side effects of quitting smoking.

This article looks closely at the practicality and potential of using CBD to help quit smoking. First, though, let’s discuss why cigarettes are so addictive in the first place.

Why Are Tobacco Cigarettes So Addictive?

For consumers to understand how CBD might work, they need to look at the potential reasons behind tobacco addiction.

Conventional wisdom states that the effects of nicotine cause addiction to cigarettes.

Most experts classify drug addiction as a disease that causes an individual to seek out something compulsively. Addiction can also be chemical, with the body developing a dependence on the drug to function normally.

Despite a significant proportion of cigarette smokers attempting to quit, many are often unsuccessful. This suggests there may be other reasons people smoke than the addictive qualities of nicotine. One theory suggests that tobacco addiction is a habit established over a long period.

Experts feel that habits, aka learned behaviors, become ingrained in humans both psychologically and physically, making it very difficult to disengage from them.

Is Vaping CBD a Viable Alternative to Tobacco Cigarettes?

Some experts argue that replacing the compulsion to smoke is the solution rather than trying to quit tobacco altogether. For this reason, many choose to replace smoking cigarettes with vaping e-cigarettes, as the latter is thought to be a less harmful alternative.

That said, vaping is not without its risks, and there was a rise in a condition known as e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) in 2019.

When people smoke cigarettes, they are inhaling carcinogenic substances released from combustion. The simplified idea is that people expose themselves to fewer cancer-causing agents when vaping than when smoking cigarettes (even if little is currently known regarding the long-term effects of vape use).

However, in many cases, vaping still exposes the body to nicotine. So, making the change does not impact the body’s chemical addiction. In some cases, vaping may even increase the amount of nicotine a person consumes (since the process is easier and performed more frequently than smoking).

However, there is a possibility that CBD could prove beneficial for people looking to quit smoking tobacco cigarettes. Let’s see what science has to say about it.

CBD & Quitting Cigarettes – The Studies

A study by Morgan et al., published in the journal Addictive Behavior in 2013, looked at whether CBD could reduce cigarette consumption in tobacco users. It was a double-blind pilot study that involved 24 subjects, all of whom smoked at least ten tobacco cigarettes a day.

Half of the group were given an inhaler with CBD, while the other half got an inhaler with a placebo. The treatment lasted for one week. All subjects recorded their tobacco cravings and anxiety daily. As part of the study, researchers conducted a follow-up interview 21 days later.

After the initial treatment week, the CBD group smoked 40% fewer cigarettes than before. In comparison, the placebo group showed no difference. While both groups recorded decreased cravings and anxiety during the treatment week, they returned to their initial conditions after 21 days.

The authors concluded that CBD could effectively reduce tobacco cigarette consumption but acknowledged that more extensive studies with longer follow-ups were necessary.

In 2020, a company called The Cannabis Radar conducted a survey featuring 700 volunteers looking to quit tobacco smoking. The participants were asked to inhale CBD oil via an inhaler each time they felt an urge to smoke. Ultimately, 42% of the volunteers reported that they abstained from tobacco cigarette smoking for a month when using CBD. However, one-third of the group couldn’t quit smoking for a week even while using CBD.

Ultimately, this was only a survey rather than a clinical trial. While it yielded interesting results, it can’t be relied upon as evidence that CBD helps people quit tobacco cigarette smoking.

Study Shows That CBD Reduces Attentional Bias to Tobacco Imagery

An interesting study looked at the impact of attentional bias, a phenomenon wherein a person becomes strongly focused on specific stimuli while ignoring others. For example, if individuals who smoke tobacco cigarettes regularly watch a show featuring smoking, they are more likely to crave a cigarette.

The study in question, published in the journal Addiction in May 2018, discovered that CBD could reduce attentional bias to tobacco imagery. In the study, 30 volunteers (who were smokers) received instructions to stop smoking for 12 hours. They also took either 800mg of CBD orally or a placebo.

Then they were shown tobacco-related items such as smoking-related scenes and neutral images. The volunteers who consumed CBD didn’t significantly reduce cravings, but they did find cigarette smoking cues to be less appealing.

The study built on a 2010 publication in Neuropsychopharmacology that made similar conclusions regarding the impact of CBD on high-THC cannabis use. In this study, researchers observed the “range of potential therapeutic uses of CBD,” suggesting its ability to “acutely modulate the reinforcing properties of drugs.”

Could CBD Reduce Tobacco Cigarette Withdrawal Symptoms?

The nicotine in cigarettes is incredibly addictive, and it releases dopamine in the same brain regions as other addictive drugs. Moreover, when you inhale cigarette smoke, the dopamine hits the brain in around 7 seconds, according to Duke University Medical Center research.

Those who try to quit smoking find that withdrawal symptoms present a substantial barrier.

These can include:

  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • High blood pressure

CBD interacts with our endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS controls various essential functions, including stress response, sleep cycles, and pain perception. CBD is also an inhibitor of FAAH, an enzyme that breaks down the natural endocannabinoids in our bodies. These endocannabinoids bind to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, CB1, which influence sleep, mood, reward, and pain regions.

When you use CBD oil while trying to quit cigarettes, it could ensure you maintain a high enough level of cannabinoids to mitigate the severity of the withdrawal symptoms.

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Benefits of Using CBD Instead of Cigarettes

Certainly, it is incorrect to assume that CBD is a cure-all for quitting cigarettes since research is fairly limited. However, CBD has a few possible benefits compared to tobacco smoking.

Product Variety

You don’t necessarily have to stick to vaping. There are many options, including CBD gummies, oils, chocolate, drinks, honey, and more! Of course, cigarette smokers are drawn to vaping or smoking hemp flower due to the process of inhalation, but you have other choices.

Lung Protection

Although vaping is far from 100% safe, it is still likely better for the lungs than tobacco cigarette smoking. Again, you can completely protect your lungs by choosing CBD oils or gummies instead.

Reduced Carcinogen Exposure

One study has found that PG, a popular thinning agent in CBD vape liquids, produces formaldehyde when heated to around 448 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, you should either vape at a low temperature or find a vape liquid that doesn’t use PG or PEG 400, which is also harmful.

The researchers found that VG, another popular thinning agent, released far lower formaldehyde and acetaldehyde levels when heated.

Meanwhile, cigarette smoke produces hundreds of carcinogens.

According to research from Numbeo, the average cost of a pack of 20 Marlboro cigarettes in the United States is $8. If you smoke a pack a day, your annual expense is $2,920. Let’s say you use 50mg of CBD a day, which is more than most people consume. Premium Jane sells 5,000mg of Lemon Lime or Peach Nectar CBD oil for $275. This equates to $2.75 a day or $1003.75 per annum, saving over $1,900 compared to cigarettes!

What About Using CBD Cigarettes to Stop Smoking?

Smoking CBD flower mimics the action of cigarette smoking more closely than any other form of consumption. Smoked CBD flower also boasts a higher bioavailability than other CBD products and takes effect quicker. According to a study published in Chemistry & Biodiversity in 2017, smoking offers fast and efficient drug delivery from the lungs to the brain.

Ultimately, you could feel the effects of smoked CBD flower in a matter of seconds. In contrast, CBD oil can take 15-20 minutes to kick in, whereas edibles may not affect for up to two hours.

However, there are a few things to worry about. Combusting plant material leads to the formation of polyaromatic hydrocarbons, which are also released regardless of whether you light CBD flower or tobacco leaf.

There are also concerns over whether combusted hemp or marijuana could release carcinogens. On the plus side, a study published in Harm Reduction Journal in 2005 found that cannabis and tobacco smoke are NOT equally carcinogenic. The researchers concluded that there was no causal link between smoking marijuana and cancer.

Does this mean that smoking CBD is a harmless habit? No! Excessive usage can still result in respiratory issues such as COPD or bronchitis. Over time, you might find that alternative forms of CBD consumption are better for your lungs.

How to Use CBD to Quit Smoking

With CBD, you have the option to begin by smoking hemp flower if you feel the need to inhale smoke. Vaping is a realistic alternative, but you might want to wean yourself off eventually. Some users mix CBD vape juice with an e-liquid containing nicotine, reducing the strength of nicotine over time.

Ultimately, you can transfer to CBD gummies, oils, or other products that don’t involve inhalation of the substance. However, please note that vaping or smoking CBD offers a higher rate of bioavailability than consuming CBD orally (via gummies) or sublingually (via oils or tinctures).

Here are a few things to consider when buying CBD:

  • Make sure you know where the company sources its hemp; stick with brands that use American or EU-grown hemp
  • Always ensure the product comes with an up-to-date certificate of analysis (COA)
  • Remember that the CBD must come from hemp and have a maximum of 0.3% THC
  • If you want no THC whatsoever, choose broad-spectrum or CBD isolate instead of full-spectrum products

Can I Use CBD Gummies to Quit Smoking?

Absolutely! The CBD in the gummies can help you feel relaxed and perhaps reduce the anxiety felt during the withdrawal phase. You might also find that CBD gummies reduce your nicotine cravings.

While you can also buy CBD chocolate, gummies are far more popular due to their relatively low cost. They are easy to use, offer discretion, and taste delicious. Here are a few of the top brands selling CBD gummies:

Final Thoughts: Can CBD Help People to Quit Smoking?

As mentioned, research is still in its infancy. Indeed, the studies cited in this article are the primary materials available at this time. If people are addicted to cigarette smoking and have tried everything else, CBD could be an option worth investigating.

There is no shortage of options available for those wondering where to start using CBD vape products to help quit smoking.

Things like CBD-rich hemp flower (used in a dry herb vape) may be a good option, as well as products like CBD vape pens and e-liquids. If you’ve found a CBD product that worked well in helping you to quit smoking, be sure to share your experience in the comments section below.

CBD for treating tobacco addiction?

José Carlos Bouso is a clinical psychologist and a doctor of pharmacology. His areas of interest are psychopharmacology and the therapeutic properties of entactogens, psychedelics and cannabis. He has conducted therapeutic research with MDMA, pharmacological research with several substances of plant and synthetic origin and has also performed studies on the long-term neuropsychological effects of substances such as cannabis, ayahuasca and cocaine. He is author of the book “Qué son las drogas de síntesis” [What are synthetic drugs?], and co-author of “¿La marihuana como medicamento? Los usos médicos y terapéuticos del cannabis y los cannabinoides” [Marihuana as medicine? The medical and therapeutic uses of cannabis and cannabinoids] and “Ayahuasca y salud” [Ayahuasca and health]. His research has been published in scientific journals. He is currently the director of scientific projects at Fundación ICEERS.

Although cannabis has long been considered as a “drug of abuse”, in recent years an increasing number of studies published in the biomedical literature indicate that either the plant itself or some of its compounds may be of use in treating addictions. For example, a recent review sets out the current evidence on the involvement of the endocannabinoid system in modulating addictive behaviour, looking at the results of research with animals on the potential role of some cannabinoids in treating psychostimulant addiction 1 . More specifically, there is evidence to indicate that pharmaceuticals that are CB2 receptor agonists may be of use in treating cocaine addiction 2 . Certain observational studies have also been published showing that cannabis may be a substitute for more dangerous drugs, including alcohol 3 . Finally, another recent review compiled current studies focusing on the possible properties of CBD (cannabidiol) as an intervention for addictive disorders 4 . This article will review the current evidence for considering cannabis in general, and CBD in particular, as a possible aid for quitting smoking.

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Tobacco in figures

According to a report published in 2014 by the World Health Organisation (WHO) 5 , tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemical substances, of which at least 250 are known to be harmful for health and at least 69 are known to cause cancer. According to this report, the spectrum of medical problems that can be caused by smoking include: shortness of breath, exacerbated asthma, respiratory infections, cancer (larynx, oropharynx, oesophagus, trachea, bronchus, lung, acute myeloid leukaemia, stomach, pancreas, kidney, ureter, colon, cervix, and bladder), coronary heart disease, heart attacks, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, osteoporosis, blindness, cataracts, periodontitis, aortic aneurysm, atherosclerotic peripheral vascular disease, hip fractures, infertility and impotence.

According to another WHO study, tobacco continues to be the principal preventable cause of death in the world, killing approximately 6 million people each year and causing economic losses estimated at over half a trillion dollars 6 . The latest report of the Global Tobacco Surveillance System, which gathers data from 22 countries representing nearly 60% of the world’s population, shows that there are approximately 1,300 million smokers in those countries, of whom 205 million had made some attempt to quit smoking in the last 12 months 7 . According to the American Cancer Society, only 4-7% of people are capable of giving up smoking in any given attempt without medicines or other help while around 25% of smokers using medication manage to stay smoke-free for over 6 months. Psychological counselling and other types of emotional support can boost success rates higher than medicines alone 8 .

Nicotine addiction or tobacco habit?

Although the accepted theory on drug addiction appears to be that it is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use, causing a deterioration in control of consumption despite harmful consequences to the addicted individual and to those around him or her 9 , an ever larger number of experts are beginning to challenge this view of addiction as a brain disease 10 . At least two studies have found that the percentage of people who recover from their addiction throughout their lives is, in nearly all cases, over 80% 11 . The results of these studies also indicate that tobacco addiction is the one of the forms of addiction with the lowest cessation rates.

One of these reasons may be the extent to which conventional wisdom in our society ascribes tobacco addiction to the pharmacological effects of nicotine. If attributing addiction to the substance used is a problem for understanding drug addiction in general, in the case of tobacco addiction it becomes especially paradigmatic. The problem with drug addiction in general, and tobacco addiction in particular, is, as we have explained, the problem tends to be attributed to a disorder of the brain caused by a pharmacological agent, when at the base of all addictive behaviour, what is actually introduced is a habit. And this habit is established, not so much by the effects of the substance itself, as by the behaviours involved in seeking and consuming the substance. And it is these habits, as forms of conduct, that are difficult to correct. Indeed, in the specific case of nicotine it is very difficult to train animal models to be addicted to the substance. And as we have seen, the rates of tobacco cessation by pharmacological means (including patches, gum and any other nicotine-based pharmaceutical preparation) are distressingly low 12 . Therefore, of all the reasons for which tobacco proves addictive for so many people, the fact that it contains nicotine is probably the least significant. It is precisely the fact that it is a habit, which is generally established over a long time –in most cases over several years– that makes it so difficult to correct. As humans, we establish our everyday behaviour by means of habits and the more ingrained a habit is, the more difficult it is to change. This is all the more true, insofar as the habit –as in the case of tobacco– offers such versatility for that the individual can indulge it when engaged in an animated conversation, in a state of depression or when waiting for a bus – in short, in nearly every aspect of his or her life, except sleep. This versatility and generalisation make the habit of smoking so especially difficult to correct.

Vaping cannabis as an alternative to smoking tobacco

As cannabis users increasingly become aware of the health dangers of smoking, some of them are trying to replace the smoking of cannabis (which involves combustion) with vaping (which does not). Indeed, it is well known that the risks of smoking derive precisely from the combustion of the material smoked, rather than the products smoked. Even so, surveys on preferred methods of consumption indicate that the immense majority (more than 90%) of cannabis users still prefer smoking, even though they recognise that vaping is the most effective way of reducing the harm 13 . Even in states like California, whose citizens are famous for their worship of healthy lifestyles, the preferred means of consuming cannabis in medicinal marijuana dispensaries is by smoking (86.1% of those interviewed), far ahead of vaping (used by 21.8%) 14 . These results may be somewhat skewed by the fact that so many of those surveyed started out as tobacco consumers who when they subsequently began to use cannabis, also preferred to smoke it. It is also well-known that many consumers manage to give up smoking not only “joints” but also tobacco when they start vaping cannabis. In a recent letter to the journal Addiction, Hindocha et al. set out a series of examples in which vaping cannabis is accompanied by a reduction in tobacco consumption. According to these researchers: “ there could be reason to be optimistic about the potential of vaporizers. If vaporizers can reduce cannabis and tobacco co-administration, the outcome could be a reduction of tobacco use/dependence among cannabis users and a resultant reduction in harms associated with cannabis. Indeed, if vaping cannabis becomes commonplace in the future, the next generation of cannabis users might never be exposed to nicotine or tobacco in the first place” 15 .

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Use of CBD in treating the tobacco habit

CBD is in vogue. Whereas in the 1990s seed companies vied to obtain the strain with most THC, they are now competing for more narcotic varieties – in other words, those with the highest CBD content. We don’t know the reason for this change: whether cannabis consumers have grown tired of such a strong high (THC concentrations in Dutch marijuana have been falling by 0.22% per year since 2005 16 ); whether it is a result of the industry’s marketing campaigns attributing the medicinal effects of cannabis to CBD; whether it simply reflects a market in which consumers want a varied product offering different experiences depending on what they are looking for at any specific time, or whether it is combination of all of these factors, or even some other reason. One other possible reason is the fashion for CBD oils which –albeit the labels do no state as much– also contain sufficient quantities of THC to possibly cause a consumer to test positive in a roadside saliva test. Moreover, for reasons we shall not go into here, the legality of these oils is decidedly dubious.

The way CBD acts on the endocannabinoid system is not yet fully understood. Indeed, some articles discuss mechanisms of action that others ignore altogether, and vice versa. I will therefore leave it to readers to search for the mechanism of action of CBD. A recent review on the possible role of CBD as an anti-addictive pharmaceutical, quoted above 17 , after appraising this mechanism of action, concludes that “CBD has been associated with many neural circuits involved in the acquisition of addiction and subsequent drugseeking behaviors, making it an interesting pharmacological candidate to treat substance-use disorders”.

Only one study has researched the role of CBD as a treatment for addiction to tobacco smoking. In a pilot clinical study, the effectiveness of CBD was compared against a placebo in treatment of tobacco addiction. (A pilot study is one with a small number of subjects, used to test a working hypothesis before moving on to a larger, and therefore more economically costly, sample). It was double blind (neither researchers nor subjects knew who received what treatment), randomised (patients were assigned one or other treatment at random) and placebo controlled (the active pharmaceutical was compared with an inactive one). 24 subjects were recruited who smoked more than 10 cigarettes per day and given an inhaler to be used whenever they felt the urge to smoke. Twelve subjects (6 females) received an inhaler containing CBD and the other twelve (6 females) received an inhaler with a placebo. Treatment lasted one week. During this time, they recorded their cravings for tobacco and anxiety on a daily basis. A follow-up interview was conducted 21 days after treatment. Following the treatment week, cigarette consumption in the CBD group had fallen by 40%, a significant contrast with the placebo group, but these differences were not kept up after 21 days. Both groups reported the same reduction in craving and anxiety over the 7 days the treatment lasted, but, again, by day 21 they had returned to the initial conditions. The authors conclude: “the preliminary data presented here suggest that CBD may be effective in reducing cigarette use in tobacco smokers, however larger scale studies, with longer follow-up are warranted to gauge the implications of these findings. These findings add to a growing literature that highlights the importance of the endocannabinoid system in nicotine addiction” 18 .

In their article, the authors of the study offer a series of explanations, based on the effects of CBD on the Endocannabinoid system, which might explain the results. These include the action of CBD on CB1 receptors (as a weak reverse agonist), and its properties as an inhibitor of the enzyme that breaks down the anandamide (FAAH). These actions may be related to a reduction in the boosting properties of nicotine. They also offer some speculation on psychological causes, such as the possible action of CBD in reducing attention on contextual cues that may be involved in maintenance of nicotine consumption.

However, there are doubts that remain to be clarified. As explained, in this study, reported tobacco craving fell by the same amount in the CBD and placebo groups, as did anxiety levels. These scores were taken once a day, but not after the inhaler was used in response to the desire to smoke a cigarette. It is possible that in general terms the placebo is capable of reducing the desire for consumption and anxiety, since the scores had normalised by the 21-day follow-up assessment, when neither group was using the device. Perhaps the CBD, by acting as an anxiolytic 19 , might be a substitute treatment for progressively quitting tobacco, due to the fact that the subject is not as anxious. This study did not assess the possible anxiolytic effect following inhalations. Nonetheless, this pilot study provides more evidence that tobacco addiction is more a habit than a pharmacological effect of nicotine. If tobacco addiction were a matter of nicotine addiction, after a week, when the desire for consumption had already disappeared and where the number of cigarettes –and therefore the nicotine– has been considerably reduced, there would be no reason for the withdrawal symptoms to reappear, inducing subjects to start smoking tobacco again. Finally, as we saw in the previous section, many people quit smoking when they start vaping. It is therefore possible that cannabis and/or CBD inhaled by some means other than smoking might be of use for people who want to quit smoking. As Morgan and collaborators conclude, more studies are necessary in this regard. What does seem clear is that smoking, more than an addiction to a drug (nicotine), is a habit, and like all habits, its interruption causes anxiety. In this regard, replacing tobacco with vaporised cannabis and/or CBD may be a useful substitute measure, although this requires more evidence before it can be confirmed.