As CBD is becoming increasingly popular, many misconceptions arise about it. One of these myths is the question of dependence. So, is CBD addictive? According to the WHO, CBD doesn’t cause physical dependence. But can CBD oil be addictive? Studies suggest quite the opposite; some sources claim CBD can even help curb addictive behaviors. What’s the truth about CBD and addiction? Is it possible to develop a CBD addiction? Learn more about current evidence on whether addiction is possible and other side effects that CBD may have.
Is CBD addictive?
CBD products are becoming ever-present, and like many other supplements and treatments, its rising popularity provokes many misconceptions. While it is a fantastic compound that some people may use to relax or get better sleep , the myths surrounding it cause some to avoid it and potentially lose out on the marvellous benefits it may provide.
One of these misconceptions is the question of dependence. Being a soothing compound, people may consider the possibility of addiction. These concerns are often magnified as a result of knowing that CBD can be extracted from the same plant family as cannabis, which is an illegal substance in the UK. So, is CBD oil addictive? Let’s find out.
Is CBD addictive?
CBD does not have an addictive effect, as it is not psychoactive. In the UK, CBD is exclusively produced from the hemp plant — while it is of the same species as cannabis, it does not contain THC. This is known for producing feelings of euphoria. So, THC has the potential to cause addiction because it attaches to the endocannabinoid receptors that are located in areas of the brain which influence pleasure. CBD does not have the ability to do this. Research shows that it has the same effect as a placebo in a trial studying CBD and THC, meaning it doesn’t cause any behavioural or physiological effects.
What are the benefits of CBD?
Now that we know CBD is not addictive, you may be left wondering why people use it in the first place. This can be easily cleared up, as many medical professionals have studied the potential benefits of CBD. Although research into this field is still in its infancy, what we do know looks promising.
There is some evidence that CBD can be prescribed as a treatment for anxiety disorders . A large retrospective case series of people with anxiety found that 79.2% of patients experienced a decrease in their symptoms, starting within the first month of taking the CBD capsules and sustaining for the duration of the study.
While research on the effects of CBD regarding depression is in its early stages, some animal studies have shown that the compound can induce quick and sustained antidepressant-like effects . In humans, CBD was shown to help tackle stress which is hypothesised to be the cause of many people’s depression.
CBD may possess some anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties, which can help combat diseases that usually go hand in hand with oxidative stress.
Regulates the immune system
Our immune system is often unbalanced, and strengthening it, especially during flu season, is essential for our health and wellbeing. By interacting with the Endocannabinoid System, CBD has the potential to balance the immune system as it activates TRPV2 , a protein that aids the communication of cells within our body’s and plays an important role in a healthy immune function.
What are the adverse side-effects of CBD?
CBD may offer a world of benefits to people and does not cause addiction, but it can have some adverse side-effects. These are not typical, as CBD is generally tolerated well by most individuals in varying quantities. That said, it can be a case of trial and error to determine your correct dose. Though, the most common side-effects are mild — we recommend starting with a low dose between 15-30mg a day. You may experience effects such as:
- Changes in appetite
- Dizziness, drowsiness and nausea
- Fertility problems
- Dry mouth
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Mood changes
There is no evidence to suggest that CBD can cause addiction. It’s perfectly safe and legal to use, and the potential it has for your health is why so many people are getting their hands on the latest CBD products available. Of course, it’s important to remember that research is still very much underway, but what we do already know is positive. However, some side-effects can occur naturally when taking the compound — you’ll want to check out any potential interactions with current medicines you are taking. Starting with low doses is always recommended, and consulting with your GP before introducing CBD into your daily routine is also a good starting point.
If you’re ready to start your CBD journey, why not try our flavoured oils or drinks?
Can You Get Addicted to CBD Oil?
A growing number of studies support the health benefits of CBD. Researchers point to cannabidiol as the potential anti-inflammatory, neuroprotectant, antioxidant, and seizure suppressant.
People use CBD to manage their daily stresses by reducing anxiety, but reports from CBD users and preclinical studies suggest that CBD oil has remarkable medicinal potential.
As the popularity of CBD continues to grow, reaching every corner of the world, people start asking more and more questions about its properties — including possible downsides.
The World Health Organization (WHO) issued an extensive report about the safety and efficacy of CBD, acknowledging its high safety profile. CBD is well-tolerated by humans, even in doses reaching 1,500 mg daily.
But can you get hooked on CBD oil despite all of the above?
Is CBD addictive?
Today, we provide a complete answer to these questions. We’ll cover the mechanisms of addiction, explain how CBD interacts with the brain, and highlight the possible benefits of CBD when it comes to easing withdrawal symptoms in those suffering from addiction.
The Mechanism of Addiction Explained
Addiction experts define it as a complex psychological and physiological response to certain stimuli. Addiction is associated with changes in brain function and structure — and scientists have outlined three parameters that can influence addictive processes.
Below we have a brief overview of each factor:
When the brain interacts with substances like caffeine, nicotine, or a drug like amphetamine, this interaction causes a surge of euphoric sensations. The sudden influx of dopamine causes it to gradually increase in the nucleus accumbens, a brain’s area within the hypothalamus that controls addictive behaviors.
Scientists suggest that the chances of getting addicted are dictated by several variables: the intensity, reliability, and speed of dopamine buildup. How a substance is consumed — whether intravenously, in pills, or through inhalation — can affect dopamine response.
Psychiatrists and researchers studying addiction report that pleasure-seeking is just one of the many factors contributing to addiction. Many experts claim that the picture is much bigger, and in fact, it may result from learned behaviors that make users regularly seek out addictive substances.
Dopamine may trigger and strengthen feelings of pleasure, but the activity that led up to this surge is even more significant. The majority of theories around addiction highlight reward-related learning processes as the core driver of addiction. In this process, dopamine interacts with glutamate, another important neurotransmitter — creating associations in the brain between pleasurable feelings and activities that lead to them.
Prolonged Use of Certain Substances
If you use certain substances for long enough, this can cause dependence on the active compounds of addictive substances in your nerve cells located in the prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens.
The users start seeking out the addictive substance more frequently, resulting in a less potent release of dopamine. This is how you build up a tolerance to certain substances. Drug tolerance can be very dangerous, especially for hard drugs such as opioids, which involve a high risk of lethal overdose.
Those who try to kick their habit can experience severe, sometimes life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, including tremors, pain in the bones and muscles, throbbing headache, nausea, vomiting, and depression.
How Does CBD Interact with the Body?
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is one of the two major constituents of cannabis plants. Unlike the other cannabinoid, THC, CBD doesn’t have intoxicating properties, so it won’t get you high in a way that THC in marijuana does. As a matter of fact, CBD can mitigate the psychoactive effects of THC.
CBD engages with major receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS), the major regulatory network in humans. These receptors are spread throughout the body and deliver signals for the brain to interpret. The functioning of your other systems and organs is largely dependent on endocannabinoid signaling.
This way, the ECS can effectively maintain homeostasis throughout the body — a state of chemical equilibrium.
CBD supports homeostasis through several different pathways. Scientists have identified more than 65 molecular targets of CBD, which would explain why this cannabinoid is so versatile in managing our well-being.
CBD’s interaction with the ECS can affect 5-HT1A serotonin receptors. Serotonin is a major neurotransmitter responsible for mood regulation. It can also amplify feelings of happiness and relaxation. CBD is a natural inhibitor of the 5-HT1A receptors. It blocks serotonin reuptake in the brain so that the body can use it more effectively.
Similarly, CBD interacts with TRPV1 receptors by binding to their sites and blocking pain signals. CBD may also impact the nuclear receptor PPAR-gamma, which regulates the storage of fatty acids on top of glucose metabolism.
All these interactions seem promising when it comes to easing withdrawal symptoms and reducing the risk of addiction. Still, there’s one more thing we’d like to cover before we move on to the benefits of CBD for addicted individuals.
Is CBD Addictive?
Since CBD doesn’t induce intoxication, it has a similar potential for abuse to placebo. According to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence, oral doses administered to frequent marijuana users produced similar results to the placebo pill.
An earlier study from 2011 concluded that CBD has a better safety profile than THC and other cannabinoids. Researchers found that even doses as high as 1,500 mg daily didn’t cause any side effects over time. Unlike THC, CBD didn’t acutely impair psychological functions or motor skills, nor did it change the subjects’ heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure.
An interesting fact about cannabinoids is that even THC is not physically addictive. Addiction experts estimate that 91% of marijuana users never become problematic, meaning that 9% will form improper habits around the use of the plant, which may generate some form of abuse.
Since THC can be habit-forming, it’s important to know the difference between CBD oil sources.
After all, CBD can be extracted from both hemp and marijuana.
Let’s take a look at both types of CBD oil.
Hemp-derived CBD vs. Marijuana-derived CBD
Hemp and marijuana come from the same family of plants — Cannabis sativa L. — but they are different in terms of their chemical profiles and the ratios between CBD and THC.
Marijuana naturally contains significant concentrations of THC, so CBD oils extracted from marijuana strains — even the CBD-rich ones — will consider a higher amount of THC than a hemp-derived product. Hemp plants usually contain less than 0.3% of THC, containing higher levels of CBD.
Because of the negligible concentration of THC, hemp-derived CBD oils aren’t addictive. They’re also legal on a federal level; you can easily find CBD oils online and over the counter in dispensaries, vape stores, wellness centers, and major pharmacies.
Marijuana-derived CBD, on the other hand, is legal only in certain states. If your state has a medical marijuana program, you’ll need a prescription for CBD oil. But, if you’re lucky to live in a state that has legalized recreational use, you can walk into a store and buy it — as long as you’re 21 or older.
CBD Could Assist People with Addiction, Studies Say
According to the aforementioned report by the WHO, CBD is a safe substance with no potential for abuse.
Some studies also mention its potential as a supportive agent in overcoming the withdrawal symptoms after cessation.
A 2013 report published in Neuropsychopharmacology described the case of a 19-year-old woman who had cannabis withdrawal symptoms. After being treated with CBD for 10 days, she experienced an effective decrease in the severity of her symptoms .
An earlier study conducted in 2010 tested 94 cannabis users to evaluate the role of THC/CBD ratios in modulating the effects of psychoactive compounds and attentional bias to drug stimuli . Those who smoked high-THC strains showed a higher attentional bias to food and drug stimuli than subjects who took high-CBD strains. The authors of the study concluded that CBD could be best used to treat marijuana dependence and other substance use disorders.
In 2013, a study published in Addictive Behaviors evaluated the effects of a CBD treatment for nicotine users over a 7-day period, concluding that it reduced the number of cigarettes smoked by 40% in addicted subjects, while the placebo group didn’t show a significant difference .
A 2018 preclinical animal study examining topical administration to rats addicted to alcohol and cocaine found that CBD effectively reduced drug use in the subjects. It also dampened the side effect of addiction, such as anxiety and impulsivity.
Finally, a 2019 study posted in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that CBD could help people who have cravings linked to heroin addiction . The study included 42 adults who had been using heroin for an average of 13 years. Researchers tested three groups: one took 800 mg of CBD, the other one 400 mg, and the last group received a placebo.
Compared with the placebo group, subjects treated with CBD reported lower anxiety levels and cravings from heroin addiction withdrawals.
Can You Overdose on CBD?
CBD can’t lead to a fatal overdose because there are no cannabinoid receptors in the brain stem area that controls respiratory functions. This is true for all cannabinoids, including THC. Simply put, you won’t die from taking too much CBD oil.
Side Effects of Taking too Much CBD
CBD may have a few mild side effects when you go overboard. These include:
- Dry mouth
- A temporary drop in blood pressure
- Appetite fluctuation
We also feel obliged to cover one important issue regarding CBD — potential interactions with drugs.
CBD & Drug Interactions: Consult the Use of CBD with Your Doctor
When you ingest CBD, it interacts with a system of enzymes known as Cytochrome p450 (CYP450). These enzymes are responsible for the metabolism of drugs from pharmaceutical medications. CBD is the inhibitor of CYP45, preventing these compounds from being properly processed in the liver.
The mechanism works similarly to eating a grapefruit along with your medication — grapefruit, too, interacts with CYP450.
The CBD interaction with medicines may trigger a range of second-hand side effects that wouldn’t occur if you took CBD alone. We recommend consulting your doctor if you take any pharmaceutical medications and are afraid CBD may interfere with them.
Final Thoughts: CBD Is Not Addictive
Addiction is a complex disease. It can be psychological, physical, or involve both areas. Intense cravings for a particular substance accompany it. Addicted individuals tend to ignore potential risks associated with abusing the substance — such as its detrimental influence on the quality of life.
Those with addiction experience several symptoms, from impaired cognition to compromised body functions, along with behaviors that negatively impact their social lives and relationships.
To date, no study has found a link between CBD and cognitive alterations. Without inducing intoxication, the brain may not associate CBD with the reward system. CBD also doesn’t cause withdrawals and can’t be fatally overdosed.
Moreover, recent studies point to CBD as a potentially beneficial compound for easing addiction and alleviating alcohol withdrawals and other many substances including, nicotine, heroin, and opioids.
CBD can assist both with physiological addiction and aid people in forming the right habits around different activities and substances by reducing the response to the rewarding stimuli.
To wrap it up in a few words, it seems that CBD is a promising tool for fighting addiction — let’s hope that more studies will confirm the initial findings!
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Livvy is a registered nurse (RN) and board-certified nurse midwife (CNM) in the state of New Jersey. After giving birth to her newborn daughter, Livvy stepped down from her full-time position at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey. This gave her the opportunity to spend more time writing articles on all topics related to pregnancy and prenatal care.
Is CBD Addictive?
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.
Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.
Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Verywell / Theresa Chiechi
Because marijuana can be addictive, particularly when it is used heavily and at high doses, you might wonder if CBD addiction is also possible. CBD (cannabidiol) is one of the many compounds found in cannabis. Products containing CBD have grown in popularity in recent years, found in everything from gummy supplements to post-workout smoothies to CBD-infused pillows.
CBD’s burgeoning popularity has been fueled in part by the compound’s purported mental health-boosting properties. However, some people may hesitate to use such products for fear that CBD might have the same potential for addiction as cannabis.
This article discusses whether CBD addiction is something to worry about. It also covers some of the other possible concerns you might have when taking CBD.
Is CBD Addictive?
Drug addiction is defined as a compulsive need to use a substance and an inability to stop using it despite negative consequences.
Substances that lead to dependence and addiction affect the pleasure centers of the brain, often making it so that people need to consume a substance to avoid experiencing symptoms of withdrawal. In many cases, people may also need to use more and more of a drug in order to continue experiencing the same euphoric effects that they initially felt.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive compound in cannabis that produces the high associated with marijuana. When administered, THC travels to the brain via the bloodstream and attaches to the endocannabinoid receptors found in areas of the brain that are associated with things such as pleasure, movement, memory, and thought.
While cannabidiol also interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system, CBD does not have the same intoxicating properties that THC has. Research suggests it has a good safety profile and is well tolerated at doses up to 600mg to 1,500 mg.
Unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD does not produce psychoactive effects. And while marijuana use can lead to dependence, current research suggests that CBD is not addictive.
According to the World Health Organization, in humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential…To date, there is no evidence of public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.
A 2017 study published in the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence suggested that CBD has the same potential for dependence as a placebo pill.
However, it is important to note that many CBD products may contain some level of THC. Federal law requires that hemp-derived CBD products contain less than 0.3% of THC. However, research has found that 70% of CBD products contain significantly more THC than their labels suggest.
While CBD is not addictive, THC is. Evidence suggests that people can develop a tolerance to THC and may experience withdrawal symptoms. Physical dependence on THC is more likely among people who use high-THC cannabis strains.
CBD Might Help Treat Addiction
Some evidence suggests that CBD may actually be helpful for treating drug addiction and addictive behaviors. For example, while the research is still scarce and preliminary, studies have found that CBD shows promise in the treatment of cocaine and methamphetamine addiction.
A 2015 review of available preclinical and clinical data found that CBD had therapeutic properties in the treatment of cocaine, opioid, and psychostimulant addiction. Evidence also indicated that it might have benefits in the treatment of tobacco and cannabis addiction.
A 2019 study found that cannabidiol might help reduce drug cravings, paranoia, impulsivity, and withdrawal symptoms associated with crack-cocaine addiction.
While promising, more research is needed to understand how CBD might be utilized for the treatment of substance use disorders.
Effects of CBD
While CBD does not have psychoactive properties, it does have a variety of effects. Its potential impact on mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression has been a specific point of interest for many.
In addition to mental health benefits, some research indicates that CBD might be helpful for reducing pain, relieving nausea, and treating inflammation. The World Health Organization also suggests that CBD may be helpful for treating conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
Some of the potential uses are listed below.
Research has found that CBD may help reduce seizures caused by epilepsy. A 2018 study of children and adults with treatment-resistant epilepsy found that the use of CBD was associated with reductions in the frequency and severity of seizures.
In 2018, the FDA approved Epidiolex, a CBD solution, for the treatment of rare, severe forms of epilepsy.
Research also suggests that CBD may be helpful for alleviating symptoms of anxiety. For example, one study found that cannabidiol was useful for reducing symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and social anxiety disorder.
Studies also suggest that CBD may have potential in the treatment of depression. For example, one study found that CBD influences how the brain responds to serotonin, which may have an antidepressant-like effect.
What the Research Says
While CBD does not appear to be addictive and may have some benefits, one large-scale review concluded that there was not enough evidence to support the use of CBD as a treatment for mental health conditions.
This doesn’t mean that CBD might not be helpful. It means that more studies are needed to determine what CBD might treat, when it is best used, and what dosage people should take.
Side Effects and Other Concerns
Current evidence suggests that CBD use does not lead to addiction and that the substance may have a number of health benefits. However, it is also important to be aware that CBD does have some potential side effects.
Some side effects that may occur when taking CBD include:
- Changes in appetite
- Drug interactions
- Dry mouth
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Mood changes
Research indicates that CBD is generally well-tolerated up to doses of around 600 mg and as high as 1500 mg. However, it can often be difficult to determine how much CBD you are actually taking. According to one study, 43% of commercially-available CBD products contain substantially more cannabidiol than indicated on the label.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health cautions that CBD may be harmful to some people. In some studies, the use of Epidiolex was linked to liver problems and drug interactions.
While such issues can be managed when taking a prescribed medication under doctor supervision, self-administered CBD could potentially have the same harmful effects, particularly since it can be difficult to determine how much CBD many products actually contain.
CBD products may also contain higher levels of THC than stated on the label. This can be concerning if you are trying to avoid THC.
While current evidence indicates that you won’t develop a CBD addiction, it is possible to have an adverse reaction to cannabidiol. Talking to your doctor first and starting with a low dose can reduce the risk of unwanted side effects.
A Word From Verywell
CBD doesn’t appear to be addictive, but that doesn’t mean that it is right for everyone. If you are thinking about trying CBD, discuss it with your doctor first. Be sure to tell your healthcare provider about any other medications you might be taking in order to prevent any potential drug interactions. Watch for side effects and don’t take more than the dose that your doctor recommends.
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.