As CBD and other marijuana extracts become legalized in various U.S. states, more people are starting to wonder about the effects of these substances on mental health. At Granite Recovery Center, we get quite a few questions about things like whether CBD is harmful and if it is even possible to be addicted to the drug. To understand the addictive effects of CBD, it is important to understand what the drug is and how it works.
What Is CBD?
CBD stands for cannabidiol. As you can probably tell from the name, CBD comes from the cannabis plant. However, this does not mean that CBD is the same thing as marijuana. Like any other plant, the cannabis plant is made up of a wide variety of chemical compounds. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the compound that creates cannabis’ signature psychoactive effect. When people consume THC, they feel a euphoric high.
Meanwhile, CBD is an entirely different compound that does not have psychoactive effects. Despite the similar names, CBD does not cause any sort of intoxication. When people take CBD, they are still sober and can function normally. Over the years, researchers have found that many of the helpful benefits of marijuana are actually in CBD, not in intoxicating THC. Therefore, separating CBD from the rest of the plant allows people to get its benefits while remaining clearheaded.
CBD is most commonly found in an oil extract. There are several ways to separate CBD from THC and other chemicals in marijuana. Often, it is done in a lab through ethanol extraction or CO2 extraction. Once CBD oil is extracted, there are several different ways it can be consumed. Some people use drops of the oil while others put it into capsules. You can also find gummies, hard candies, and other edible treats that use CBD.
How Can CBD Affect You?
If CBD doesn’t intoxicate you, what does it do? Generally, people who try CBD report a calming effect. Unless you take abnormally high doses, the calming feeling is not so intense that it will make you drowsy or interrupt your ability to think logically. Usually, CBD will just result in you feeling relaxed and peaceful.
CBD’s calming effect is so pronounced that it can help people with medical conditions. Clinical research has found that it helps those with anxiety disorders function more normally. It can also calm down anxious thought patterns enough to help improve sleep. CBD’s effects on anxiety can be just as impactful as anti-anxiety medications.
Another use for CBD is treating epilepsy. CBD helps reduce seizures in patients with epilepsy by calming down certain overactive parts of the brain. CBD for epilepsy is so effective that the FDA has even approved a few CBD-based medications for use in treating epilepsy. Since these seizures can damage the brain, CBD’s effects may be literally lifesaving.
CBD also helps with chronic pain. Studies find that people with chronic pain who take a regular CBD prescription are less likely to experience pain. This results in overall improved well-being since test subjects can more easily sleep, focus and move around. Some research indicates CBD might have an anti-inflammatory effect, so researchers theorize that CBD might be helping pain by actually stopping the problem that causes pain.
Is It Possible to Be Physically Dependent on CBD?
The first thing to consider when thinking about addiction is physical dependency. A physical dependency happens when you take a substance so much that your body starts to rely on it. All highly addictive drugs, like opiates or methamphetamines, cause a physical dependency. Even though many people think marijuana is harmless, it is possible to develop a dependency on marijuana. Taking the drug for too long causes the brain to become less sensitive to certain neurotransmitters. Withdrawal from marijuana can cause mood changes, lack of appetite, headaches, trouble sleeping, and stomach problems.
CBD does not seem to cause the same physical dependency that marijuana does. In order to result in any sort of physical dependency, a person would have to regularly take excessively high dosages of CBD. The amount found in a usual prescription dosage is not enough to result in a physical dependency. The reason that CBD does not cause a physical dependency like marijuana is because it affects the brain differently. Though CBD does activate some endocannabinoid receptors, it does not activate every part of the endocannabinoid system like normal marijuana does.
Ultimately, this lack of physical dependency means it is much harder or even impossible to become addicted to CBD. According to medical studies, even people who abruptly quit using CBD do not experience withdrawal symptoms like headaches or difficulty sleeping. Because people are not dependent on the drug, they do not feel intense cravings if they quit using it.
Can You Get Addicted to CBD?
Ultimately, CBD is not physically addictive in any way, but does it cause mental addiction? Any addiction has a strong mental component. Even things that do not cause a physical dependency, like gambling or sex, can cause addiction. For the most part, CBD does not appear to have a risk of causing this sort of addiction either. Unlike other drugs or addictive activities, CBD does not create a euphoric rush or intoxicating effect that makes people want to keep using it.
Due to its lack of a high, CBD has an extremely low potential for abuse. According to a 2017 study from the Drug and Alcohol Dependence Journal, CBD is not likely to cause any sort of addiction. The study examined a number of users for months and found that neither those who took CBD or a placebo exhibited any signs of addiction. Without any intensely positive effects, it is hard for people to develop a strong craving or desire for CBD.
Another reason that CBD is unlikely to encourage addiction is that high amounts cause unpleasant side effects. If a person takes too much, they typically experience nausea, fatigue, and diarrhea. Therefore, the drug does not encourage users to take it in large doses or take it nonstop. Ultimately, the lack of a high sensation and the presence of potential side effects for large doses mean that CBD does not fit the profile of an addictive substance.
Is CBD Dangerous?
CBD is not physically dangerous. Even at extremely high dosages, it has not been linked to any deaths. The most common side effect of the drug is simply drowsiness. CBD can be especially sedating if taken alongside other medications that can cause drowsiness. Some people may also experience stomach problems or nausea with CBD. Though rare, CBD can cause dryness of the eyes and mouth as well. These side effects are not always present, but they can occur. There are many different CBD strains, so people may find that only specific brands cause the problem.
Whether or not CBD is mentally dangerous is a more complicated question. On the surface, CBD is a non-addictive, non-psychoactive substance. It is not likely to result in users doing things like completely neglect essential hygiene or skip duties such as childcare. However, like any other substance that is even slightly mind-altering, there is a potential for misuse. CBD is not technically addictive, but some people feel that they do not like how they behave when using the drug. Some people may do things like find themselves spending more money than usual on CBD or losing a little motivation while using CBD.
The most important factor in whether CBD is dangerous is simply your personal relationship with the substance. For some people, CBD is a helpful medication that improves well-being without dangerous side effects. For others, CBD can trigger unhelpful behavior or unpleasant thoughts. Like any other medication, it is always important to talk to a doctor if you are considering taking CBD or concerned about the side effects. A professional can help you discover whether or not it is right for you.
Does CBD Help With Addiction?
CBD might not be addictive itself, but it can still have a surprising role in the recovery process. As CBD becomes legalized in more places, some drug rehab programs are starting to prescribe CBD to patients. Research has found that it can play a beneficial role in managing conditions like alcohol use disorder. CBD can be helpful due to its ability to relieve anxiety and chronic pain. Many people with health problems like anxiety and pain often end up with a serious substance use disorder as they try to self-medicate for their symptoms. CBD can be a much safer alternative to managing mental and physical challenges.
Even if you do not have a co-occurring anxiety disorder, CBD can still be helpful during detox and withdrawal. When a person has a physical dependence on a drug, their body will struggle to function properly without the drug. This can cause a lot of unpleasant physical symptoms like insomnia or aching joints, and it can also cause some patients to feel irritable or anxious. CBD can be a safe way of treating these withdrawal symptoms.
CBD during addiction recovery is not for everyone. Due to its close association with marijuana, we recognize that some patients might feel cautious about trying it. If you believe that CBD may be a trigger for drug usage, you might want to avoid it. However, other patients can benefit greatly from medication-assisted treatment. CBD may provide a safe way for addressing various unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. CBD is legal in New Hampshire and other New England states, so it might be worth trying this medication. Talk to your rehab treatment center to see if it is a good option for you.
When Does CBD Usage Become a Problem?
If you currently use CBD for any reason, it is most likely a safe alternative to other medications. However, if you are wondering whether or not you are addicted, it is a good idea to stop and look at your behavior. Though CBD usage does not cause the classic symptoms of a substance use disorder, there is no reason to continue taking it if your CBD usage is bothering you.
Some signs you might want to talk to your doctor about alternative medications include:
- You find yourself taking more CBD than you were prescribed.
- You want to cut back on CBD usage but find it hard to stop.
- You are neglecting hobbies or time with loved ones due to CBD usage.
- CBD usage is making it hard for you to handle responsibilities at work, school, or home.
- You find yourself spending more than you can afford on CBD.
Learn More at Granite Recovery Center
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Granite Recovery Center is here to help. For over 10 years, our New Hampshire addiction treatment centers have been working hard to help those dealing with substance use disorders. We offer a unique blend of supportive 12-step curriculum and effective clinical psychotherapies. Depending on your situation, our team may also recommend medication-assisted treatment or holistic therapies.
At Granite Recovery Center, treatment is specially tailored to suit your needs. Our team can help with medical detox, residential treatment and intensive outpatient care. Along every step of your recovery, we can provide much-needed encouragement and care. Learn more about our services by giving us a call today.