The Truth About CBD And Withdrawal
A note from the publisher: Since the publication of this article, the FDA has approved a CBD-based prescription drug for two special types of epilepsy.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is undoubtedly a new and popular alternative therapy. Increasingly prescribed by herbalists, naturopaths and even conventional physicians, it’s used to treat any number of health issues, such as depression, epilepsy, anxiety, inflammation and addictions. But what about withdrawal symptoms after treatment is halted?
With this rise in popularity come the inevitable questions about its safety. After all, the opioid crisis is upon us, and many can remember a time when opioids were prescribed left, right and center without cause for concern. Is CBD safe to use? Is there such a thing as CBD withdrawal?
Two questions need exploration here. The first is whether CBD causes withdrawal symptoms after prolonged use; the second is whether it is an effective treatment for withdrawal from other substances, such as marijuana or opioids. Both are timely questions considering that CBD is often advertised as the all-natural cure-all with no side effects. Is this really true? Can it benefit the harsh effects of withdrawal from other substances without causing ill effects itself?
What Are the Side Effects of CBD
The first question to clear up is about CBD’s safety record. Have researchers uncovered serious health concerns about CBD use? There are thousands of studies on CBD’s potential, ranging from its anti-tumor characteristics to its antidepressant nature. Surely someone somewhere has uncovered the truth about CBD’s side effects.
All medicine, no matter how benign, has some risk of side effect. Hemp CBD oil is no different. A 2017 literature review of the subject of CBD safety concluded that “the most commonly reported side effects were tiredness, diarrhea, and changes of appetite/weight. In comparison with other drugs used for the treatment of these medical conditions, CBD has a better side effect profile.”
Cannabidiol is still going through an extensive preliminary research phase, but the information on side effects is quite promising. According to experts in the field, it looks as if CBD is entirely safe to use. Patients are given extremely high doses during clinical trials, but still tend to respond well to CBD therapy. It’s also a popular alternative for drug-resistant epilepsy in children.
Under normal conditions, CBD is safe to use even for the most sensitive segments of society. That said, it's always best to discuss CBD use with a qualified medical professional. That’s particularly important if you are already taking prescription medications, are a parent exploring CBD for children, or you have other concerns. Make an appointment to cover all your bases. Learn more about the low-risk side effects of CBD here.
Does CBD Trigger Withdrawal?
As posted by one member of the CBD community on Reddit, “CBD, however, has not proven to be even remotely addicting [sic] or habit forming for me ... Still, though, zero dependency [sic] of any kind. It's very nice to have because it helps my severe anxiety, but when I don't have it, I find some of the mood boosting effects stay with me for quite some time. Days even. They fade so slowly that you hardly notice them going….It also helps that the effects are so mild and subtle, to begin with.”
As far as the research goes, there is no evidence of CBD withdrawal symptoms. Even compared with its famous cousin, THC, the difference of withdrawal symptoms is surprising. Medical marijuana still sells itself as safer to use than most pharmaceuticals, but heavy users report difficulty quitting. They also report going through withdrawal. Unlike THC heavy strains, there are no reported issues with tolerance, addiction or subsequent withdrawals from CBD.
RELATED: CBD Tolerance: What you need to know
CBD for Treating Withdrawals
Perhaps the most interesting use of CBD for treating withdrawal symptoms is for cannabis addiction. Yes, CBD and THC come from the same cannabis sativa family of plants, but CBD is used successfully to treat problems associated with prolonged THC use. Medical marijuana, while less habit-forming than other drugs, still carries a 9 percent addiction rate.
The University College of London has an ongoing clinical trial studying CBD as a possible therapy for severe cannabis addiction. The study was inspired by the pivotal case study of a profoundly addicted individual who cured her THC addiction with CBD therapy. More such cases exist, confirmed by a quick scan of the CBD community boards on Reddit. The ongoing trial could prove that CBD is a safe cannabinoid alternative to THC.
What about CBD for Opioid Withdrawal?
Conventional painkillers such as opioids are now very questionable prescriptions. The addiction crisis is visible from rural West Virginia to the downtown streets of Vancouver. Folks with a legitimate opioid prescription for chronic pain soon learn how quickly addiction can happen. No matter how badly someone may want to quit an opioid of choice, the withdrawal period is simply too powerful to overcome.
A typical withdrawal experience begins as quickly as four to six hours after the last dose. The first sign is usually a headache, followed quickly by increasingly severe and rapid onset of symptoms, including depression, fever, stomach cramping, diarrhea, sweating, problems sleeping, muscle pain and rapid heartbeat.
This is where CBD comes into play. Increasingly, research is honing in on its relevant characteristics for substance addiction. Of particular interest is its antipsychotic, antidepressant, anti-anxiety and pain-relieving properties, each explored extensively in other fields of study. These features are now of interest for treating severe drug-withdrawal symptoms.
A review in Substance Abuse, “Cannabidiol as an Intervention for Addictive Behaviors: A Systematic Review of the Evidence,” proposed that CBD was useful for many phases of drug addiction. For example, during the intoxication phase (active phase of addiction) CBD reduces the reward-facilitation of opioids, or the euphoric sensation, and thus the fundamental addictiveness.
The review also concluded that during the withdrawal stage, CBD plays a vital role in reducing the severity of symptoms. It also notes that it seems to work better in combination with other cannabinoids, such as THC, taking advantage of the Entourage Effect.
Finally, and perhaps where CBD most shines for treating drug addiction, is the relapse phase, post-withdrawal. In one animal study included in the literature review, morphine-addicted mice benefited significantly from CBD treatment in the relapse phase. Cannabidiol therapy reduced the morphine-seeking behavior for up to two weeks when compared with the control group that received no CBD.
In study after study, CBD continues to be proven safe to use even in high doses. As far as we know, there are no reported instances of CBD withdrawal. Plus, it may prove to be one of the safest therapies available for those going through the withdrawal phase of drug addiction. According to current research, it’s already thought to have a positive benefit during the intoxication phase, the withdrawal phase and the relapse phase.