Is CBD Addictive?
Posted on March 5th, 2022
CBD has exploded in popularity in recent years. According to a recent study, one in four adults in the United States will use CBD products in 2022. (1) Celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Mandy Moore have touted its health benefits(2). And now these products can be found on store shelves across the country.
The research surrounding cannabidiol shows that there’s a lot to be excited about. Studies suggest it could help manage a wide range of physical and mental ailments. With that said, many people still have questions. Is CBD addictive? How can you use this compound safely?
Thankfully, experts have taken a close look at cannabidiol’s addiction potential. So, if you have concerns about dependency, addiction, and other issues, read on to find the information you need.
What Is Addiction?
The brain’s mesolimbic dopamine pathway (often referred to as the reward circuit) releases a substance called dopamine when it expects a reward. Dopamine gives us a sense of pleasure and satisfaction. It plays a role in motivation, mood, the decision-making process, and more.
When someone suffers from addiction, this part of the brain no longer functions properly. As a result, you can obsessively crave the addiction. Then, you feel compelled to use that substance even when it leads to serious consequences.
Addiction can be both psychological and physical. If you’re physically addicted to a substance, the cells in your body can no longer function without the substance. This can lead to withdrawal symptoms such as chills, nausea, body aches, or diarrhea.
While psychological addiction does not involve physical withdrawal symptoms, sufferers still feel compelled to use the substance they’re addicted to. Both types of addiction can have severe, negative impacts on a person’s daily life.
Certain substances are known for their addictive properties. Nicotine, which is found in cigarettes and other tobacco products, is highly addictive. In fact, it’s the most common type of addiction in the United States. (3) An estimated 60 to 80% of smokers meet the criteria for drug dependence. (4)
Cocaine binds to dopamine receptors in the brain. In the short-term, this produces feelings of euphoria. But in the long run, it makes the substance extremely addictive. Although alcohol isn’t a drug, it’s also incredibly addictive. Annually, approximately 100,000 people die because of alcohol abuse. (5)
The opioid crisis has had a staggering impact. In 2018, it caused two out of every three overdose deaths. (6) People who are addicted to prescription opioids have a higher risk for heroin addiction. (7)
While there are many addictive substances, they all have something in common. And that’s the surge of dopamine they cause in your brain, creating euphoria. It’s possible to develop a tolerance to a non-euphoric substance, or to become dependent on a substance. But these substances impact the brain and body in different ways.
What’s the Difference Between Addiction and Tolerance?
People use the terms addiction, tolerance, and dependence interchangeably. But they have distinct meanings. Learning the differences between these terms will help you properly assess the risk of substances like CBD. When people wonder things like “is CBD addictive?,” they’re often focused on dependence or tolerance, not addiction.
If you use a substance regularly, you can develop a tolerance. This means that your body no longer responds to the substance like it did initially. In many cases, it means you’ll have to take a higher dose to achieve the same effects.
Many people suffering from addiction develop tolerance to a drug. But this process can happen with non-addictive substances as well. For example, you can develop tolerance with frequent antihistamine use. (8)
When you’re dependent on a substance, that means you’ll experience physical and mental symptoms when you stop using it. These symptoms can range from mild to severe. Someone with caffeine dependence might experience headaches. Or, if you were dependent on prescription medication, you could experience vomiting, body aches, and even potentially dangerous side effects if you suddenly stop dosing.
Even though dependence involves withdrawal symptoms, it’s distinct from addiction. When someone is addicted to a substance, they’re brain biochemistry changes. Then, these changes can lead to irrational and even dangerous behavior.
Is CBD Addictive?
Even though CBD comes from cannabis, it doesn’t have the intoxicating effects of THC. In fact, one study found that people using CBD reported the same levels of intoxication and euphoria as people that took a placebo. (9) This suggests that CBD doesn’t have the potential to be addictive.
Experts seem to agree. In fact, the World Health Organization says that CBD research has no potential for abuse or dependence. (10)
Tolerance and Cannabidiol
With that said, you can develop tolerance with long-term use. Over time, this means that you may need higher doses of CBD to achieve your desired effects. Thankfully, this isn’t always a permanent problem. Taking a break from CBD can help to lower your tolerance threshold.
Even though tolerance is possible, it isn’t guaranteed. Many CBD studies show users not developing tolerance. (11) CBD effects different people in different ways, and many people may never have issues with tolerance. (12)
It’s important to note even though CBD isn’t addictive, THC can be. (13) The majority of CBD products on the market contain less than 0.3% THC, but products with higher THC levels could be an issue. If you’re concerned about the risks of addiction, you should choose safe products that have undergone third-party testing and are confirmed to contain no more than 0.3% THC.
CBD can be derived from both hemp and marijuana. Hemp products naturally contain very low levels of THC, making them a safer choice. As long as you’re careful about the CBD products that you use, addiction isn’t something that you’ll need to worry about.
Can CBD Treat Addiction?
It could potentially help manage some types of addiction. In fact, one study involving adults who used heroin found that using CBD reduced cravings. (14)
While further research is necessary, these early results are promising. So many experts are exploring CBD’s potential to treat addictive disorders. It may be able to treat many types of addiction.
Although it’s easy to understand why people ask questions like “is CBD addictive?,” research shows that the substance does not have addictive properties. In fact, some studies suggest that CBD could be used as a treatment for substance abuse disorder!
Addiction is a disease that impairs cognitive function. At the same time, it damages body processes, and causes negative and irrational behaviors. While some long-term users may build a tolerance to CBD, tolerance is distinct from addiction and does not pose the same risks.
Still, it’s important to remember that CBD research is still ongoing. That’s why it’s best to be cautious. Stick to products with proof of third-party testing. Also, make sure to take the appropriate dosage. If you follow these precautious, you should be able to enjoy CBD’s health benefits without taking any safety risks.
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