Although cannabis has gotten a bad reputation as a “drug of abuse” due to massive misinformation campaigns in the past, our perception of the plant is changing significantly as more research is done.
It actually appears that cannabis compounds, such as CBD and THC, can actually help manage addictive behaviors, and cannabis itself can be considered an “exit drug” instead of a “gateway drug.” (1)
There is evidence that pharmaceuticals that target CB2 receptors may be used in treating cocaine and heroin addiction (2). Certain observational studies have also shown that cannabis may be a safe substitute for substances like alcohol or nicotine (3).
But can you effectively replace CBD with nicotine? How does CBD help people who decide to go cold turkey?
Let’s dig it up!
Nicotine in Numbers
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that on top of nicotine, tobacco smoke contains at least 69 substances that are known to cause cancer (4).
The use of tobacco continues to be the leading preventable cause of death in the world, killing roughly 6 million people each year and leading to massive economic losses estimated at more than half a trillion dollars (5).
According to the latest report of the Global Tobacco Surveillance System, which collects data from 22 countries that represent nearly 60% of the world’s population, there are 1,300 million nicotine users in those countries. 205 million of those users had tried to quit smoking in the past 12 months (6).
Only 4–7% of people are capable of kicking their habit without medicines or other help, while 25% of nicotine users use medication to manage their withdrawal symptoms (7).
Is Nicotine Addiction a Real Thing? Or Is It Just a Bad Habit?
At least two studies have found that 80% of people who have been addicted to certain substances recover from their addiction throughout their lives (8).
Surprisingly, tobacco addiction has the lowest cessation rates.
Is addiction to nicotine actually that strong? Or is there more to it than just a pharmacological effect that shackles the brain?
Although the problem of nicotine addiction is usually attributed to a disorder of the brain caused by a pharmacological substance, it is the habit that paves the way for all addictive behaviors.
When people establish this habit, they focus on the behaviors involved in seeking and consuming the substance rather than the substance itself.
As it turns out, the habit of inhaling smoke or vapor, or the fact that you regularly hold a cigarette in your hand, can be more powerful than the actual nicotine addiction.
In specific cases of nicotine, it’s very difficult to train animal models to get hooked on the substance. And what’s more interesting, the rates of nicotine cessation by pharmacological means — patches, pills, and gums — is distressingly low.
Can You Replace Nicotine with CBD?
CBD interacts with the human endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is a neurochemical network responsible for controlling the physiological and psychological functions of the body.
Addictive behaviors are one of such functions.
The way CBD acts on the endocannabinoid system is yet to be fully understood, but according to a recent review on the possible role of CBD in treating addiction, “CBD has been associated with many neural circuits involved in the acquisition of addiction and subsequent drug-seeking behaviors, making it an interesting pharmacological candidate to treat substance-use disorders.” (9)
But are there any studies to back up this interesting theory?
Research on CBD and Nicotine
Only one study has investigated the impact of CBD on nicotine addiction and tobacco smoking.
A pilot clinical study has analyzed the effectiveness of CBD against a placebo in the treatment of tobacco addiction. It was a double-blind, randomized, and placebo-controlled study with 24 subjects who smoked more than 10 cigarettes per day.
12 subjects received an inhaler with CBD and the other twelve got an inhaler containing a placebo. The treatment lasted for one week; throughout this time, the research team recorded the subjects’ cravings for nicotine and anxiety levels on a daily basis.
In a follow-up interview that was conducted 21 days after the treatment, cigarette consumption in the CBD group had decreased by 40%. The figure stood in stark contrast with the placebo group. Both groups reported the same drop in anxiety and cravings over the treatment’s duration.
By day 21, the subject returned to the initial condition. The authors of the study indicated the need for larger-scale studies, with longer follow-up to gauge the implications of these pilot findings (10).
How Does CBD Help with Nicotine Addiction?
As mentioned, the exact mechanism behind the effects of CBD on nicotine addiction is not yet fully understood. However, the authors of the above study have a series of explanations, based on the interactions of CBD with the ECS.
One option includes the action of CBD on CB1 receptors — as a weak reverse agonist — and its ability to block the enzyme that breaks down anandamide (FAAH), an endocannabinoid (produced in the body) that plays an important role in mood regulation, sensations of pleasure and pain, and addictive behaviors.
The above actions may reduce the boosting properties of nicotine, offering relief from psychological symptoms of the addiction, such as anxiety and irritation.
It is possible that the action of CBD on the anandamide also reduces attention to contextual causes that may be involved in the persistence of nicotine consumption.
Vaping CBD as an Alternative to Smoking Tobacco
People increasingly become aware of the health dangers of smoking, hence the recent popularity of vaporization.
Vaping means heating a substance to specific temperatures where it starts to release concentrated vapor. This process doesn’t involve combustion, so many tobacco users are switching to vape pens to feed their addiction in a healthier way.
Indeed, the risk of smoking stems from the combustion of the material smoked, rather than the product itself.
However, when you switch from smoking tobacco to vaping it, you only change the consumption method. The addictive substance remains the same.
That’s why former tobacco smokers are turning to CBD vapes as a possible solution to their addiction. It is well-known that many tobacco consumers are able to cease their habit when they start vaping CBD.
According to some researchers, vaporizers can reduce cannabis and tobacco co-administration, resulting in a reduction of tobacco dependence and harms associated with its abuse.
If vaping CBD becomes more common in the future, the next generations might never be exposed to nicotine or tobacco in the first place.
CBD Oil vs CBD E-Liquid vs Vape Juice: What’s the Difference?
Some people are wondering if there’s a difference between CBD E-liquids and vape juice. These are actually different names used to describe a CBD-based liquid that can be consumed in a vape pen.
Vape pens are devices designed specifically for e-liquid consumption. They consist of a battery and cartridge that you can fill with any e-liquid or vape juice, including CBD.
CBD e-liquid is available in its pure form or mixed with existing flavors using terpenes or artificial flavorings.
But, can you vape regular CBD oil that you otherwise take under the tongue?
The answer is NO.
CBD concentrated oil in its traditional form is too viscous to be vaped in a vape pen. If you try doing so, it may cause your device to break down. CBD extracts are thinned with vegetable glycerin or propylene glycol (or a mix of both) to be compatible with vape pens.
Can You Substitute Nicotine for Another Stimulant so CBD Oil Can Be Taken?
In a study that analyzed the potential side-effects and drug-drug interactions with CBD use, results showed that interactions between CBD and stimulants may lead to reduced appetite, weight loss, and sleep disturbances (or insomnia).
Sleeping disorders may also result in mood swings and increased anxiety, which should also be managed with behavioral therapies or additional drugs as the potential of side effects is high according to the researchers.
Therefore, we suggest that you don’t take CBD oil with other stimulants unless studies have indicated otherwise (as with CBD and caffeine).
Interactions Between CBD and Stimulants Explained
- Smokefree.gov, a website run by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), reports that some people use smoking as a means of stress management or to cope with other unpleasant feelings. Unfortunately, nicotine, tar, and toxic gas are known as carbon monoxide are also released when tobacco is smoked (11).
- Meanwhile, CBD has remarkable anti-anxiety properties that can help users regulate emotions and manage stress without experiencing a euphoric high associated with marijuana consumption. This point refers to hemp-derived CBD (12).
- Specific data on nicotine and CBD interaction is not available, although one study found that CBD interactions with stimulants cause weight decrease, sleep disturbance, and reduced appetite (13).
- In a 2013 study published in the Addictive Behaviors journal, the authors noted that CBD may be a promising treatment for nicotine addiction (14).
- It’s best to consult a doctor experienced in cannabis use before replacing nicotine with CBD or before trying to fight nicotine dependence with CBD products.
Final Thoughts on CBD and Nicotine: Is CBD the Answer for Tobacco Addiction?
Giving up tobacco is challenging, but it’s one of the best things you can do for your health if you’ve been struggling with this bad habit for quite some time already.
According to the University of California, San Francisco, 70% of smokers report a willingness to quit. However, many of them procrastinate with going cold turkey until they develop a severe tobacco-related disease such as stroke, cancer, or heart disease.
Nicotine addiction and the habit of smoking are treatable, so don’t be afraid if you’ve already tried to quit in the past but to no avail. Those who receive counseling and medication during their attempt to ditch tobacco are more likely to win their battle than those who simply rely on their “strong will.”
CBD has been found to possess several properties that can help those struggling with nicotine addiction. Not only can CBD reduce cravings for cigarettes, but it can also ease the most common withdrawal symptoms of tobacco cessation, such as anxiety, weight gain, irritation, and sleep disturbances.
Although there has been no study that explicitly recommends CBD as a nicotine replacement, you can use the above information to help yourself effectively manage your addiction and live a nicotine-free life as a result of a holistic approach to addictive behaviors.
Do you take CBD to help yourself with nicotine cravings? Does it work? Let us know in the comment section below!
- Wiese, Beth, and Adrianne R Wilson-Poe. “Emerging Evidence for Cannabis’ Role in Opioid Use Disorder.” Cannabis and cannabinoid research vol. 3,1 179-189. 1 Sep. 2018, doi:10.1089/can.2018.0022
- Morales, Marisela, and Antonello Bonci. “Getting to the core of addiction: Hooking CB2 receptor into drug abuse?.” Nature medicine vol. 18,4 504-5. 5 Apr. 2012, doi:10.1038/nm.2722
- Reiman A 2009. Cannabis as a substitute for alcohol and other drugs. Harm Reduction Journal. 6:35. doi: 10.1186/1477-7517-6-35
- The World Health Organization. “A guide for tobacco users to quit.” (2014). Available at: https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/112833/9789241506939_eng.pdf;jsessionid=C620EAFB64304F2C98A6FF8058A88A59?sequence=1
- WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2013.
- Global Adult Tobacco Survey (The GATS Atlas) – section_read
- American Cancer Society. “How to Quit Smoking or Smoke Less Tobacco?” Available at: https://www.cancer.org/healthy/stay-away-from-tobacco/guide-quitting-smoking.html
- Lopez-Quintero, C., Hasin, D. S., de los Cobos, J. P., Pines, A., Wang, S., Grant, B. F., Blanco, C. 2011. Probability and predictors of remission from life-time nicotine, alcohol, cannabis or cocaine dependence: Results from the national epidemiologic survey on alcohol and related conditions. Addiction, 106(3), 657-669; doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2010.03194.x;
- Prud’homme M, Cata R, Jutras-Aswad D. 2015. Cannabidiol as an intervention for addictive behaviors: A Systematic review of the evidence. Subst Abuse. 9:33-8. doi: 10.4137/SART.S25081.
- Morgan, Celia J A et al. “Cannabidiol reduces cigarette consumption in tobacco smokers: preliminary findings.” Addictive behaviors vol. 38,9 (2013): 2433-6. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2013.03.011
- Smokefree.gov. Stress and Smoking. Retrieved from https://smokefree.gov/challenges-when-quitting/stress/stress-smoking.
- Julien, R., Advokat, C., & Comaty, J. (eds.). (2011). A primer of drug action (12th ed.). New York: Worth Publishing.
- Crippa et al. Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety disorder: a preliminary report. J Psychopharmacol. 2011 Jan;25(1):121-30. doi: 10.1177/0269881110379283. Epub 2010 Sep 9. DOI: 10.1177/0269881110379283; Pellati F, Borgonetti V, Brighenti V, Biagi M, Benvenuti S, Corsi L. Cannabis sativa L. and Nonpsychoactive Cannabinoids: Their Chemistry and Role against Oxidative Stress, Inflammation, and Cancer. Biomed Res Int. 2018;2018:1691428. Published 2018 Dec 4. doi:10.1155/2018/1691428.
- Brown JD, Winterstein AG. Potential Adverse Drug Events and Drug-Drug Interactions with Medical and Consumer Cannabidiol (CBD) Use. J Clin Med. 2019;8(7):989. Published 2019 Jul 8. doi:10.3390/jcm8070989.