Can CBD help with Cannabis withdrawal?

Can CBD help with cannabis withdrawal?

Since we opened our new CBD store in Leeds in January, I have seen a surprisingly high number of people come into the store looking for help with the withdrawal symptoms associated with giving up marijuana or weed, it seems this was quite a popular New Year’s Resolution in Leeds!

So, as we like to do at HempWell, I thought I would do some research and see if there was any history of CBD helping with cannabis withdrawal symptoms, and interestingly there was quite a lot of information out there.

The first thing I found out was the high number of regular cannabis users in the UK. It seems around 30% of the adult population in the UK has taken cannabis. According to the University College London, 1% of adults in the UK and 2% of 14- to 17-year-olds are addicted to cannabis and in drug treatment centres, cannabis is now the primary addiction in 28% of those entering drug treatment, second only to heroin (41%), so it’s a pretty serious problem. Our customers also said it was also quite an expensive problem!

According to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 10 Americans who use cannabis will become addicted. That number jumps to 1 in 6 if you begin using marijuana before the age of 18. 

So, assuming those numbers are correct, it’s safe to estimate that there are around 500,000 to 600,000 people in the UK that are addicted to cannabis.

What are Cannabis Withdrawal Symptoms?

So, what are the withdrawal symptoms when you stop smoking cannabis? The customers in our shop complained of anxiety, poor sleep and terrible dreams. According to With You, a UK charity that helps people with addictions, these are common withdrawal symptoms and other sign of withdrawal are low mood, cravings, irritability and anger, sweats and chills and changes in your appetite.   

When you look at that long list you can see why these people were looking for help!

Can CBD Help with Cannabis Withdrawal Symptoms

Here we get to the interesting part, can CBD help with that long list of cannabis withdrawal symptoms? I think the first thing to say is that all the clinical studies I looked at, were on small sample sizes, which is often the case with CBD as it’s a new product and these studies are very expensive and in the case of CBD, not paid for by pharma companies. However, saying that the research done at this stage looked quite promising.

Going back to the study by University College London, Clinical Health and Educational Psych Department, they stated

“Converging preclinical and human research suggests cannabidiol (CBD) to be a highly promising treatment, with excellent tolerability and safety. One of the key consequences of cannabis withdrawal is anxiety and CBD reduces anxiety.

CBD has shown promising pro-cognitive and neuroprotective effects which may reverse some of the cognitive deficits associated with cannabis dependence.”

The summary of the study said evidence now suggests that CBD is a logical treatment for cannabis dependence, by targeting key mechanisms both in dependence and equally importantly, cannabis withdrawal symptoms. The ongoing clinical study was going to look at difference dosages of CBD in this treatment.

From a technical point of view there was quite a lot of information on how THC reacts with the body’s Endocannabinoid System to stimulate (dopamine) neurons that process reward in the brain which could explain the reasons behind the addiction associated with cannabis. It was also suggested that CBD, which is used by the body’s Endocannabinoid System as a check and balancing mechanism will re-balance excessive dopamine levels created by THC, so this could be another area in which CBD is beneficial.

I managed to find details on 3 other clinical research studies (1) (2) (3) which while having the low sample sizes mentioned above, then did generally suggest that CBD had a positive influence in reducing both the addiction and withdrawal affects associated with cannabis.

Summary

I found this a fascinating subject, as one article put it THC and CBD seem to have opposing Ying/Yang effects on addictive behaviour. While further research clearly needs to be done in this area, all research to date does point to the conclusion that CBD has a beneficial effect on both the addiction created by cannabis and the withdrawal symptoms of giving up cannabis. 

From a personal point of view, we have had several of our new ex-cannabis customers come back to shop and report a decrease in anxiety and improved sleep which would seem to support these findings. I also didn’t realise how addictive cannabis could be and while I think people from my age group would have thought of cannabis as being generally harmless, modern cannabis available on the streets has much higher concentrations of THC than when I was at university 30 years ago, which is causing the increase in cannabis addictions, something I will certainly mention to my 3 kids!