November 15, 2021

A Look At CBD & Addiction

You can’t help but wonder about CBD and addiction. In this day and age in the US, news reports are flooded with stories and statistics relating to the opioid crisis of recent years as well as all things cannabis.

According to an annual government-run survey on drug use, 14.5% of people in the US (age 12+) reported having a substance abuse disorder in 2020.(1) And, in 2020, more than 93,000 people in the US died from drug overdose — an astounding all-time yearly high and just stunning number.(2) One can clearly understand why this is such an important topic.

So, this post is going to look at the following key questions:

  • Is CBD addictive or can CBD become addictive?
  • Can CBD help with addiction and, if so, how?

Is CBD Addictive?

You know that CBD is full of physical and mental health benefits. But is there a possible dark side — risk of addiction? If you start taking CBD, will you get hooked?

In short, not likely.

Does CBD Have Addictive Properties?

You have a very low chance of developing an abusive relationship with CBD. This is because CBD doesn’t contain anything that can spur a high or trigger potentially addictive behaviors. The CBD is mingling with your mind and body in a way that doesn’t product “addiction” signals.(3)

Can You Form A CBD Addiction Over Time?

Again, because there’s nothing in CBD that’s producing intoxicating effects with your endocannabinoid system (ECS), you’re prob not going to build up to an addiction to CBD with continued use.

Here’s the big BUT, though.

CBD — as in the stand-alone substance cannabidiol — appears as addictive as a placebo (meaning it basically isn’t addictive). However, unless you’re consuming pure CBD isolate, you’re also getting some THC in your CBD oil products.

And THC has been shown to be quite addictive. In fact, recent data suggests that 30% of marijuana users could have some level of marijuana use disorder.(4) THC is the addictive component of the marijuana.(5, 6)

All this is to say that — if your CBD product contains THC — the chance of developing an addiction may be greater (but still pretty small!). The higher the amount of THC, the higher its potential addictiveness. This is something to keep in mind if you consume full- or broad-spectrum CBD.

Can CBD Help With Addiction?

So, not only is CBD not addictive in and of itself — it may be an awesomely effective weapon in combatting addiction. There’s a wealth of current and existing studies on this, so it’s a pretty exciting time in addiction research!

CBD For Drug Addiction

CBD has been proven to help those with tobacco, heroine, opiates, stimulants, and cannabis use disorders.(7) As such, researchers are looking at how to incorporate CBD into smoking cessation programs, drug treatment protocols, etc.

CBD To Treat Alcohol Addiction

Recent-ish investigations lean in the direction that CBD is beneficial in the fight against alcohol use disorder. While most of the research was done in animals, it suggests that CBD may curb addiction, decrease impulsive behaviors, aid in reducing alcohol intake, and protect the brain from the effects of alcohol overuse.(8) This foundational work also indicates that CBD used for alcohol addiction has enduring effects — lasting several month post-treatment.

CBD For Food Addiction

CBD does not stoke the munchies fire like THC can, so it’s unlikely to spark disordered eating. There are some studies being done on CBD for binge-eating disorders and bulimia. They state the CBD may ease many of the symptoms and triggers of eating disorders, like anxiety and depression. CBD may also regulate the brain’s reward system so that less healthy eating patterns aren’t incentivized.(9)

CBD For Addiction Treatment

Kudos to cannabidiol for helping address many aspects of addiction. But how’s it assisting with addiction treatment and recovery?

CBD is hard at work inside the body cutting addiction off at the knees in four main ways:

  1. Averting addiction
  2. Reducing cravings
  3. Alleviating withdrawal symptoms
  4. Minimizing relapses

Researchers believe that CBD effects its magic by modulating the neurosignals involved in addiction.(9) CBD does this by blocking, diminishing, and otherwise changing the chemical messages addictive substances are ping-ponging around your system. By intervening, CBD is helping to stop the characteristics of addiction disorders that can make them so difficult shake.

Prevent Use Disorders

Perhaps the best treatment is prevention. There’s some evidence that CBD may amp up resistance to cocaine and methamphetamine abuse.(10) Studies indicate that CBD is disrupting the underlying brain mechanisms that drive these use disorders.(11)

Lower Cravings & Urges

According to a 2019 article, CBD significantly reduced cravings and anxiety in people with heroin use disorder. Even better, these effects lasted for several days after the last use of CBD!(12)

Ease Withdrawal

Trying to quit certain substances after extended or intensive use can lead to sometimes-severe physical and mental withdrawal symptoms. CBD is known for its ability to nudge your body back into a state of balance (homeostasis). As such, it could help relieve withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, stress, aches and pains, sleep troubles, appetite issues, uncontrollable cravings, and more.(12, 13)

Reduce Relapses

CBD is showing great promise for reducing addiction relapses. A 2018 animal study, for example, found that CBD improved impulse control in addicted rats and that even short treatment periods had long-lasting effects.(14) Other sources suggest that — after detox and a stretch of sobriety — CBD might add an extra level of relapse protection.(10)

Is CBD Oil Safe For Recovering Addicts?

Despite all the smiley stickers on CBD’s tracking sheet, we can’t say that it’s wise for individuals who are in recovery or living their best sober life to use CBD recreationally or therapeutically (outside the context of a medically-supervised treatment plan).

Research indicates that CBD is a useful tool for addiction prevention and treatment, but those were more controlled circumstances. The CBD was a known entity. Dosing and usage were strictly administered and monitored. Participants were overseen by experts.

CBD products in the wild aren’t regulated in a way that would ensure their quality or consistency. So, there’s a chance that CBD products — even ones labeled as “THC-free” or “CBD isolate” — contain THC. And THC is generally not recommended for people in recovery due to its addictive nature. Plus, everyday usage is done without the guidance and guardrails of a formal study.

Each person and his/her story is unique, so it’s best to consult with the doctor or clinician that’s attending to him/her.

Science Says: Not Only Isn’t CBD Addictive, CBD Helps Addiction

CBD is not habit forming. It lacks the properties that cause intoxication and drive addiction.

On the contrary, CBD may actually be very effective in comprehensive treatment plans for drug, alcohol, food, and other kinds of addiction. Research indicates that CBD could help prevent substance use disorders, reduce cravings and impulsive behaviors, ease withdrawal symptoms, and fend off relapses.

While CBD can be a great component of a medically-supervised addiction treatment plan, personal CBD use is generally not recommended for those in recovery.

We advise consulting with your doctor if you’re interested in CBD for addiction. If you and your care team determine it’s worth trying, use only high-quality CBD that’s confirmed to be THC-free by an independent third-party lab.



  1. (2021). Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, SAMHSA.
  2. Volkow, N. (2021). Drug overdose deaths in 2020 were horrifying. Radical change is needed to address the drug crisis. Nora’s Blog, National Institutes on Drug Abuse.
  3. Babalonis, S, et al. (2017). Oral cannabidiol does not produce a signal for abuse liability in frequent marijuana smokers. Drug and alcohol dependence.
  4. (2021). Is marijuana addictive?. Marijuana Research Report. on 2021
  5. Volkow, N. (2018). FDA Approves First Drug Derived from Marijuana. Nora’s Blog, National Institutes on Drug Abuse.
  6. Zehra, A, et alJ. (2018). Cannabis Addiction and the Brain: a Review. Journal of neuroimmune pharmacology : the official journal of the Society on NeuroImmune Pharmacology.
  7. Grinspoon, P. (2021). Cannabidiol (CBD)-what we know and what we don't. Harvard Health Publishing.
  8. Coelho, S. (2021). CBD for Alcohol Use Disorder: Can Taking CBD Help Decrease Alcohol Consumption? Healthline.
  9. Prud'homme, M, et al. (2015). Cannabidiol as an Intervention for Addictive Behaviors: A Systematic Review of the Evidence. Substance abuse : research and treatment.
  10. Eske, J. (2020). CBD: Is it addictive? Medical News Today.
  11. Calpe-López, C, et al. (2019). Cannabidiol Treatment Might Promote Resilience to Cocaine and Methamphetamine Use Disorders: A Review of Possible Mechanisms. Molecules.
  12. Ashton, L. (2021). Can You Get Addicted to CBD Oil? CFAH.
  13. Hindocha, C, et al. (2018). Cannabidiol reverses attentional bias to cigarette cues in a human experimental model of tobacco withdrawal. Addiction.
  14. Gonzalez-Cuevas, G, et al. (2018). Unique treatment potential of cannabidiol for the prevention of relapse to drug use: preclinical proof of principle. Neuropsychopharmacology: official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology.

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