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Does CBD produce addiction?

CBD Oil Drops are non-addictive

In recent years, the interest in buying CBD has experienced a remarkable increase, attracting the attention of millions of people around the world. This cannabis compound has been the subject of intense scrutiny and study due to its wide range of potential health and personal wellness benefits. However, as its use has become more widespread, another question has also arisen that deserves a thorough analysis: Is CBD addictive?

What is CBD and what is it used for?

The CBD or cannabidiol is one of hundreds of chemical compounds produced by the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, the cannabinoid responsible for the effects of marijuana, CBD does not produce psychoactive effects.

Today, more and more people are showing interest in products containing CBD because of its potential health benefits. There has been a lot of talk about how CBD could help with conditions such as anxiety, insomnia and chronic pain. Although CBD products are available over-the-counter in many countries, it is worth mentioning that the treatment of these conditions requires professional advice.

Where is CBD extracted from? Is it legal?

CBD is the major component of hemp extract, a THC-free cannabis strain, different from the marijuana plant. As it is THC-free, hemp cultivation is completely legal, as well as CBD-derived products, which are THC-free.

Is CBD addictive?

One of the most frequent concerns people have before considering the use of CBD is its addictive potential.

In short, the answer to this question is that CBD is not addictive. In order to be able to affirm this, scientists base their assertion on the fact that cannabidiol does not activate the same neuronal pathways as other addictive substances and does not produce tolerance or withdrawal symptoms. In animal studies, it also does not induce behavioral changes observed in experiments with other drugs. And ultimately, there are no published cases of people addicted to CBD.

This cannabis compound even has anti-addictive properties, and its use is being investigated to treat addictions to substances such as tobacco and alcohol.

Frequently asked questions about CBD and addiction

Can CBD produce side effects of addiction or tolerance?

There are no reported cases of cannabidiol addiction, and possible side effects of CBD are generally infrequent and mild, and are not related to addiction problems. Adverse effects observed in clinical trials with healthy volunteers were diarrhea, nausea, decreased appetite or fatigue, but these usually occur at high doses (20, 21).

If I need to increase the dosage of CBD oil for pain, does it mean I have developed addiction?

Increasing the dose of CBD oil for pain relief does not imply that addiction has developed. Because pain is a complex experience, it may be necessary in certain situations to adjust the CBD dosage for relief, always under professional advice and supervision. Unlike opioids and some conventional pain medications, cannabidiol is not addictive or addictive.

If I quit smoking tobacco to vape CBD, is it another kind of addiction?

The nicotine in tobacco is the substance responsible for its high addictive potential. Like CBD, the most common route of administration is through the lungs. However, smoking does not carry the same risks as vaporizing, and CBD is a substance with virtually zero dependence potential compared to tobacco as will be discussed throughout this article.

Is it possible to be addicted to cannabis without THC?

The addictive potential of cannabis is related to THC, which is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana. CBD is another compound in cannabis that does not produce psychoactive effects and is not associated with addiction. However, it is important to keep in mind that the development of addictions can be influenced by various factors, including psychological and social aspects. Therefore, the answer should be assessed on an individual basis by a professional.

Is it safe to use CBD products if I have a history of addiction to other substances?

Although CBD is not addictive, it should be used appropriately and a professional should be consulted if you have concerns or a history of addiction.

Why CBD is not addictive?

To answer this question we talked to Dr. Caudevilla, a family doctor and expert in drug addiction with extensive experience in care, research and teaching projects related to drug use.

Join us until the end to better understand what addictions are, why CBD is not addictive and how this compound affects our body and mind:

What is an addiction?

Addiction is a complex and multidimensional term that has been studied in various disciplines such as psychology, medicine, psychiatry, anthropology and sociology. It refers to a pattern of substance use in which significant distress is experienced and where the individual is unable to control his or her use, despite the negative consequences it may have on different areas of his or her life, such as health, family relationships, work, social life, economy or even legal problems.

How is an addiction diagnosed?

Addiction is a complex phenomenon and its definition and diagnosis may vary according to the perspective and context in which it is analyzed.

To define and diagnose mental disorders, the two most common systems used are the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM) and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) of the World Health Organization (WHO). The latest edition of the DSM (5th) published in 2013 included new criteria for defining “Cannabis Use Disorder”, which has generated debate and criticism from the scientific community (1-3).

What substances can cause addiction?

When considering the question of whether CBD is addictive, it is crucial to understand that addiction is not limited to drugs alone, but can manifest itself with a variety of substances, including addictive behaviors or activities.

The potential for dependence problems varies among substances that affect the Central Nervous System. Drugs such as opiates, amphetamines and cocaine have greater addictive potential than other substances such as MDMA or marijuana. Moreover, not all banned substances generate dependence. For example, the dependence potential of LSD and psychedelics in general is nil (4).

On the other hand, some prescription drugs can also produce dependence and withdrawal symptoms when withdrawn abruptly, such as benzodiazepines, zolpidem and its derivatives, pregabalin or some antidepressants. There is a myth that addictions are exclusive to drugs, but the reality is that the distinction between “drugs” and “pharmaceuticals” is more theoretical than real.

What are the symptoms of addiction?

Addictions can manifest as physical and psychological dependence. Physical dependence involves changes in the body due to the continuous use of an addictive substance, such as the development of tolerance and withdrawal syndrome. Tolerance refers to the need for increasing doses to obtain the same initial effect of a substance, leading to increased consumption and the development of physical dependence. On the other hand, withdrawal symptoms are the set of symptoms that appear when the consumption of an addictive substance is abruptly stopped. These symptoms can be unpleasant and may vary depending on the type of substance and the severity of the addiction. Avoiding withdrawal is one of the causes that perpetuate physical addiction.

In contrast, psychological addiction focuses on the emotional and behavioral aspects related to the compulsive desire to consume an addictive substance or engage in an addictive activity or behavior. Unlike physical addiction, psychological addiction is not necessarily linked to changes in the body, but rather to patterns of thought and behavior that maintain the compulsive desire to consume or engage in the addictive activity. Emotional and psychological factors, such as anxiety, depression, boredom or the need for escape, can contribute to the development of psychological addiction.

The difference between physical and psychological dependence is theoretical, since the brain is the anatomical and functional substrate of both the psychological and the physical. The psychic or mental sphere also conditions objective and measurable changes in the central nervous system. Ultimately, addiction involves a complex interaction between the physical and psychological aspects of the individual.

In which parts of the brain do addictions occur?

At the anatomical level, addictions are related to the set of brain structures of the mesocorticolimbic dopaminergic system (9). This network includes, on the one hand, the mesolimbic pathway, which connects the ventral tegmental area with the nucleus accumbens, playing a crucial role in the perception of reward and in the formation of memories associated with pleasure. It also involves the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for judgment, decision making and impulse control.

A decrease in prefrontal function may contribute to the perpetuation of addictive behavior, hindering a person’s ability to stop using substances or engaging in addictive activities.

Relationship between dopamine, addictions and CBD

At the neurobiological level, addictions involve the brain’s reward system, in which dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and motivation, plays a key role in reinforcing addictive behavior. Dopamine reinforces the association between the addictive stimulus and pleasure, thus establishing a positive feedback loop (8).

Over time, repeated exposure to addictive substances or behaviors leads to changes in the brain that are sustained over time, strengthening the neural connections associated with addiction. This creates increased dependence and tolerance, leading to compulsive seeking of the addictive substance or activity.

CBD can influence the brain’s reward and dopamine circuits, but in a different way than addictive substances. Although still an area under study, it has been suggested that cannabidiol may affect the brain’s reward circuits by reducing the pleasurable effect of addictive substances and thereby decreasing the motivation to consume them. In addition, through the endocannabinoid system, CBD may help reduce anxiety associated with withdrawal from addictive substances.

Scientific studies on whether CBD is addictive

Scientific studies on the addictive potential of CBD have concluded that this cannabinoid lacks addictive effects, at least as this concept is applied to other psychoactive substances, and according to studies from cell cultures (13-15) and experimental animals. (16-18)

  • CBD does not activate the neural mechanisms and pathways that are stimulated by other drugs.
  • It does not induce the behavioral changes observed in animals exposed to addictive drugs.
  • It does not produce pharmacological tolerance or withdrawal syndrome.
  • No cases of people addicted to cannabidiol have been published.

CBD’s lack of psychoactive properties has been linked to its zero potential for addiction or dependence. In fact, it has anti-addictive properties and its potential as a drug for the treatment of various addictions is currently being studied.

It is important to note that the addictive potential of cannabis is related solely to THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana. When considering the addictive potential of any substance, psychological and social factors must also be taken into account. Addictive disorders linked to cannabis are less frequent than those associated with substances such as alcohol, tobacco or cocaine (19). In cases involving cannabis-related addictive disorders, THC is the pharmacological compound involved.

How do we determine what is addictive?

Scientific studies investigating the addictive potential of substances are based on the neurobiological model of addictions, presented as a problem of neurotransmitters and brain pathways. However, it is important to recognize that this approach has been criticized because of its reductionist approach and its exclusion of other relevant factors, such as the social, cultural and psychological context.

The evidence on addictive substances comes mainly from studies conducted on experimental animals (mainly rats and mice), under controlled laboratory conditions. In this experimental setting, it is possible to get a mouse addicted to a substance. But, for example, it is relevant that when these experiments are carried out in spaces where animals have access to games, they show an enormous disinterest in drugs. (10)

In addition, the neurobiological model neglects other relevant factors such as the social, cultural and psychological context of individuals. This reductionist approach neglects psychosocial, environmental and genetic factors that also play an important role in the development of addictions. (11)

It is clear and important to note that the development of addictions in humans may be very different from that observed in experimental animals. Animal and human behaviors are very different. Especially in aspects that involve cultural conditioning factors, such as food or the sexual sphere. In activities related to these aspects, people (at least the vast majority) do not behave like dogs or mice.

After fifty years of experimentation, no single effective pharmacological treatment based on this neurobiological model has yet been obtained. It is significant that language and communication (psychotherapy) is one of the most effective treatments for addictive disorders, indicating that it is probably a uniquely human behavior (12).

This highlights the importance of professional assessment in the diagnosis of addictions, as scientific research often excludes human factors in its study, and may not reflect the reality about a substance.

In conclusion…

In general, CBD is a safe, non-psychoactive and non-addictive substance. Proper and responsible use is recommended. In relation to addiction concerns, a professional assessment and an individualized response is essential.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, prevent or cure any disease or symptom. Its content can complement, but never replace, the diagnosis or treatment of any disease or symptom. Cannactiva products are not medicines. We recommend that you consult a health professional before using CBD products, especially if you have a history of addiction or other health problems.

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  2. Schlag, A. K., Hindocha, C., Zafar, R., Nutt, D. J., & Curran, H. V. (2021). Cannabis based medicines and cannabis dependence: A critical review of issues and evidence. Journal of Psychopharmacology (Oxford, England), 35(7), 773-785.
  3. Sznitman, S. R., & Room, R. (2018). Rethinking indicators of problematic cannabis use in the era of medical cannabis legalization. Addictive behaviors, 77, 100-101.
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Dr. Fernando Caudevilla
Family Physician | Expert in Drug Addictions. He works in different assistance, research and training projects related to drugs, including therapeutic cannabis.

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