Want to Quit Smoking? Study Says CBD Oil Can Help
A recent scientific study suggests that you may be able to use CBD oil to stop smoking. Read on to discover how it could be possible.
Firstly, let’s clear the air – we are not suggesting that you should start smoking weed in order to quit smoking cigarettes.
Unlike THC, the primary compound found in most commercially grown cannabis plants, CBD doesn’t get you “high.” It is a secondary cannabinoid extracted from CBD-rich cannabis plants or hemp (cannabis plants with less than 0.3% THC content), and it is responsible for all the positive health benefits of consuming marijuana and none of its mind-altering effects and body load. CBD oil has numerous health applications which are being more and more understood by science. One of these applications is to disrupt addictions to substances such as nicotine.
The Scope of the Issue
Cigarette smoking is a massive public health problem. In the US, although cigarette use has greatly declined since the days it was allowed on flights and in hospitals, there is still a concerning number of people addicted to tobacco. According to a 2017 CDC survey, almost every fifth American adult uses some tobacco product; over 41 million of those individuals are cigarette smokers.
The data becomes even more troubling if we look at the 2019 FDA & CDC National Youth Tobacco Survey, which shows that over 5 million American youth are active users of e-cigarettes. Although vaporizing is supposedly less harmful than using combustible tobacco products (this is debatable and with insufficient evidence; we will discuss it later), it does have its own risks. The critical issue is that many of these teenagers will develop long-lasting nicotine addiction, and some of them are likely to also start smoking regular cigarettes.
E-cigarette use is rapidly rising, and nicotine is reaching record numbers of the population within the younger demographic. This process is undermining the overall national-level efforts of reducing tobacco use, and we can expect to see an uptick in smoking statistics during the coming years if everything continues as it is.
The Health Risks of Smoking
It goes without saying that smoking is bad for health. However, it doesn’t hurt to briefly review some of its main dangers. Smoking makes you several times more likely to contract many kinds of cancer, and especially likely to develop oral, esophageal, or lung cancer. It does irreversible damage to your lungs, which can increase the risk of contracting dangerous conditions such as pneumonia or chronic bronchitis. Smoking also damages your cardiovascular system, making you more prone to heart disease or stroke. It has also been correlated with erectile dysfunction and sub-fertility.
Biochemical damages of smoking aside, inhaling smoke which is the result of combustion of solid matter is genuinely bad for the body because our lungs are not made to withstand such heat. When a cigarette or joint is burned, the temperature at which the smoke is inhaled creates an environment of stress for all the organs it passes through – the mouth, the esophagus, and the lungs. In time, these organs can suffer irreversible cumulative damage, which is why smoking is associated with higher risks of developing chronic health issues.
The Current Options
Main conventional treatments for smoking cessation currently include:
- nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), which relies on delivering small doses of nicotine into the bloodstream. It can come in several forms, including skin patches, chewing gum, inhalators (which look like plastic cigarettes), tablets, oral strips and lozenges, or nasal/mouth sprays.
- medication such as Varenicline (Champix) or the antidepressant Bupropion (Zyban).
- e-cigarettes, which are commonly viewed as the lesser evil, and may be used to gradually wean one off nicotine by using lower cartridges with lower concentrations.
Using CBD Oil to Stop Smoking
An emerging natural treatment option with almost negligible side effects is CBD oil. Numerous studies have already demonstrated the ability of CBD to interrupt addictive behavior in general. One highly important study, however, focused specifically on smoking, and reported that a week of CBD treatment reduces the number of cigarettes smoked by about 40%.
In this study, 24 smokers were recruited and split into two groups; one group received inhalers containing CBD oil and the other one received inhalers containing a placebo. Both groups were told to use the inhalers whenever they felt the urge to smoke for a period of 7 days.
The study found that while the placebo group showed no difference in their smoking habits, the group which was using CBD oil reduced the number of cigarettes consumed by 40% on average.
Dr. Morgan, one of the researchers in this study, concluded that “CBD might mean the positive smoking memories are gradually erased,” meaning that a new association is formed between the craving, the physical motions involved with having a cigarette (replaced with the inhaler), and the healing effects of the CBD (which replaces the satisfying effects of the nicotine).
Merely replacing the process of smoking with inhaling a dose of CBD oil seems to calm the craving for nicotine and make cigarettes seem at least acutely unattractive. This represents a great psychological benefit for those who are seeking to use CBD oil to quit smoking as the physiological pattern is quite strong in smokers, and especially connected with the state of mind during stressful or social situations.
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However, Dr. Morgan says it is hard to draw a direct comparison with other therapies based just on the results of her team’s study. She stated that “This (40%) was more than expected. However, it is difficult to compare to other smoking cessation therapies as we did not ask people to stop smoking, simply to try using the inhaler when they wanted a cigarette.”
Although various treatments for cigarette addiction are available, researchers are always searching for more effective and natural alternatives. CBD oil seems to be a promising candidate on account of Dr. Morgan’s research and some other more recent studies, such as this one, which found that even a single overnight dose of CBD can reduce the salience and pleasantness of cigarette cues (pictures of tobacco products) in smokers the following morning.
How Does CBD Help in Quitting Smoking?
CBD is known to act as a stimulant of the parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for promoting rest, healing, rejuvenating, and regenerating) and as an inhibitor of the sympathetic nervous system (responsible for eliciting responses to stress and triggering the fight-or-flight mechanism). Its calming effects are harnessed to relieve anxiety, depression, pain, and stress in general. All of these factors correlate with smoking, and alleviating them can greatly contribute to how efficiently smokers can use CBD oil to stop smoking.
All this said, the science of the therapeutic effects of CBD is still in its infancy and we don’t quite understand its addiction-breaking action on a neurochemical level; however, numerous positive anecdotal reports are abundantly available online. People seem to be having genuine success with using CBD oil to quit smoking both cigarettes and THC-rich cannabis.
It is important to note that CBD has not been approved by the FDA as a treatment for any condition other than epilepsy. For this reason, dosages and way of intake are not standardized, and need to be determined subjectively.
Ways to Take CBD to Quit Smoking
For many cigarette smokers, switching to CBD joints presents a very natural transition. Aside from the nicotine dependence, a large part of the addition to smoking is the actual process of burning a cigarette and inhaling its warm smoke. It’s almost like a ritual to many.
Although there is no scientific research available on this specific method of smoking cessation, numerous anecdotal reports suggest that smoking CBD joints can lead to diminishing the number of cigarettes smoked, or kicking the habit altogether. You can see some personal accounts if you scroll down to the comment section of this article!
The most common way of CBD intake, however, is by vaporizing CBD oil using a special device called a vaporizer or “vape.” When you consume CBD oil with a vaporizer, it’s not actually burned but heated to just the right temperature for it to start converting into aerosols. This temperature is, naturally, much lower than the temperature needed to convert solid plant material into smoke. Many smokers decide to transition to vaping CBD oil to quit smoking because of these apparently lower health risks and because it’s more convenient to buy and use CBD oil than it is to buy and smoke CBD joints.
Psychologically, vaping as a method that resembles smoking can also potentially help tobacco users drop the habit. A 2014 global survey of over 19,000 cigarette smokers found that 81% of respondents had completely transitioned to e-cigarettes, while the rest cut down on the number of cigarettes smoked while simultaneously vaping. These results imply that vaporizers can act as a psychological substitute for cigarettes; the combination of transitioning to a vaporizer and using the addiction-breaking properties of CBD oil to stop the nicotine cravings should, in theory, eventually lead the user to quit smoking altogether.
It’s necessary to point out, however, that even inhaling the vapor cannot be considered completely safe because it still puts a burden on the lungs. Vaping is a recent invention, so there are few studies showing how harmful it is. The first study of its kind, which looked into the health effects of long-term e-cigarette use, however, found that people who vape are still about 30% more likely to develop chronic lung problems such as asthma or emphysema.
On the one hand, this number is drastically lower compared to the statistics for cigarette smokers reported in the same study, which indicate that they are 250% more likely to develop chronic lung diseases than non-smokers. On the other hand, the data for the study was collected over a period of only three years, so it’s likely to be an underestimation. Still, compared to burning solid plant matter, it’s physically and logically reasonable to assume that lower temperatures will result in much less tissue damage, even in long-term use.
If you’re categorically opposed to vaporizing and/or feel like you should kick the habit of inhaling altogether, there are other ways to ingest CBD. You can take it in capsule form, as a chocolate, or in gummy bear form. The thing is, though, that consuming CBD orally makes it travel through the digestive tract, ultimately arriving to the liver, where it’s metabolized. This means that it takes longer for its effects to start (about 30min to 2h), which is not ideal for quitting smoking – the nicotine cravings don’t really have patience.
An in-between solution is applying CBD tinctures sublingually. Sublingual administration allows the CBD to be relatively rapidly absorbed (in about 5 to 20min).
In conclusion, although CBD has to undergo more scientific verification as a tool for smoking cessation, the results so far, coupled with the myriad anecdotal reports, are quite encouraging. Finally, aside from using CBD oil for quitting smoking, you also stand to benefit from its numerous other medicinal properties. All in all, considering the dangers of smoking and the very low risks involved with using CBD oil, it is definitely worth a try.
Have you tried using CBD oil to stop smoking already? What are your experiences?
If you haven’t, are you considering it? What are your concerns?
Please share them with us in the comments below.
About Xavier Francuski
Born in India, grew up in Serbia, lived and traveled throughout the world, Xavier’s uprooted existence fuels his instinct for exploration. With a masters degree in research psychology, he is a passionate educator on the topic of psychedelics, trying to reconcile the astounding nature of the realms beyond with what sense we can make of them in this one. Currently living in Southeast Asia and working as a staff writer for several major psychedelic websites.
I just quit smoking this past Monday. In the past I had used Chantix, a very powerful drug for stopping tobacco use. Due to my insurance no longer covering Chantix I tried CBD in the flower form. (17%)
I am amazed to say i have had just as easy of a time quiting as I had from the use of Chantix. (But with no apparent side effects using CBD)
The problem with quiting tobacco is not quiting. It is staying a non smoker. (Quiting is just the first step as all smokers know who struggle with quiting)
Once I have quit smoking CBD allows me a substitute for the occasional but powerful urges to pick a cigarette back up. These continue long after quiting smoking.
Can Cbd oil help with the disease als? I was diagnosed in January. Please help me. I am interested in the knowledge that you have.
I have read many conflicting reports about CBD oil, some stating that the effective ingredient that is currently legal to sell is way too low to be effective for any health benefits.
I have smoked for nearly 20 years, tried everything else but none has worked. I am now thinking desperately, as my daughter suggested to try cbd drops. Help me but which one. I am 67, and Want to stop smoking for my health. Its time now.
I have lung cancer I have every thing out there I need to stop .this is the only thing I have not try because i have a CDL this is one thing you do not do with that but my life depend on stop smoking.
I have COPD & really need to quit smoking – can’t wear the patches – they burn my shoulder – is this a one time try to see if it works for you & won’t keep hitting my account?
Thank you & please advise what I should try.
I have struggled over the years to quit many different substances the last two was marijuana and cigarettes. Someone suggested I use CBD oil to help me with the marijuana withdrawals I purchased CBD oil that was about 2 weeks Supply I stopped smoking the marijuana and use the CBD as directed on the package and within 10 or 11 days I was completely off the CBD and the marijuana I have not touched marijuana in a few months now and I’m feeling confident that I want to try to use CBD oil to help me with stopping cigarettes. My biggest complaint about trying to quit a substance is my attitude bitchiness and uneasiness that I feel. I remained very mellow and calm was not angry when I use CBD to quit marijuana. So again I’m going to try CBD to quit smoking cigarettes I’m feeling really confident that it’s going to be helpful.
Hi Karen, were you successful in finding a sample?
[please don’t put your email in comments -administrator]
CBD is a cannabinoid derived from hemp. A recent scientific study suggests that using CBD oil to stop smoking may be highly effective. Read to learn more.
CBD for treating tobacco addiction?
By José Carlos Bouso
José Carlos Bouso is a clinical psychologist and a doctor of pharmacology. His areas of interest are psychopharmacology and the therapeutic properties of entactogens, psychedelics and cannabis. He has conducted therapeutic research with MDMA, pharmacological research with several substances of plant and synthetic origin and has also performed studies on the long-term neuropsychological effects of substances such as cannabis, ayahuasca and cocaine. He is author of the book “Qué son las drogas de síntesis” [What are synthetic drugs?], and co-author of “¿La marihuana como medicamento? Los usos médicos y terapéuticos del cannabis y los cannabinoides” [Marihuana as medicine? The medical and therapeutic uses of cannabis and cannabinoids] and “Ayahuasca y salud” [Ayahuasca and health]. His research has been published in scientific journals. He is currently the director of scientific projects at Fundación ICEERS.
Although cannabis has long been considered as a “drug of abuse”, in recent years an increasing number of studies published in the biomedical literature indicate that either the plant itself or some of its compounds may be of use in treating addictions. For example, a recent review sets out the current evidence on the involvement of the endocannabinoid system in modulating addictive behaviour, looking at the results of research with animals on the potential role of some cannabinoids in treating psychostimulant addiction 1 . More specifically, there is evidence to indicate that pharmaceuticals that are CB2 receptor agonists may be of use in treating cocaine addiction 2 . Certain observational studies have also been published showing that cannabis may be a substitute for more dangerous drugs, including alcohol 3 . Finally, another recent review compiled current studies focusing on the possible properties of CBD (cannabidiol) as an intervention for addictive disorders 4 . This article will review the current evidence for considering cannabis in general, and CBD in particular, as a possible aid for quitting smoking.
Tobacco in figures
According to a report published in 2014 by the World Health Organisation (WHO) 5 , tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemical substances, of which at least 250 are known to be harmful for health and at least 69 are known to cause cancer. According to this report, the spectrum of medical problems that can be caused by smoking include: shortness of breath, exacerbated asthma, respiratory infections, cancer (larynx, oropharynx, oesophagus, trachea, bronchus, lung, acute myeloid leukaemia, stomach, pancreas, kidney, ureter, colon, cervix, and bladder), coronary heart disease, heart attacks, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, osteoporosis, blindness, cataracts, periodontitis, aortic aneurysm, atherosclerotic peripheral vascular disease, hip fractures, infertility and impotence.
According to another WHO study, tobacco continues to be the principal preventable cause of death in the world, killing approximately 6 million people each year and causing economic losses estimated at over half a trillion dollars 6 . The latest report of the Global Tobacco Surveillance System, which gathers data from 22 countries representing nearly 60% of the world’s population, shows that there are approximately 1,300 million smokers in those countries, of whom 205 million had made some attempt to quit smoking in the last 12 months 7 . According to the American Cancer Society, only 4-7% of people are capable of giving up smoking in any given attempt without medicines or other help while around 25% of smokers using medication manage to stay smoke-free for over 6 months. Psychological counselling and other types of emotional support can boost success rates higher than medicines alone 8 .
Nicotine addiction or tobacco habit?
Although the accepted theory on drug addiction appears to be that it is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use, causing a deterioration in control of consumption despite harmful consequences to the addicted individual and to those around him or her 9 , an ever larger number of experts are beginning to challenge this view of addiction as a brain disease 10 . At least two studies have found that the percentage of people who recover from their addiction throughout their lives is, in nearly all cases, over 80% 11 . The results of these studies also indicate that tobacco addiction is the one of the forms of addiction with the lowest cessation rates.
One of these reasons may be the extent to which conventional wisdom in our society ascribes tobacco addiction to the pharmacological effects of nicotine. If attributing addiction to the substance used is a problem for understanding drug addiction in general, in the case of tobacco addiction it becomes especially paradigmatic. The problem with drug addiction in general, and tobacco addiction in particular, is, as we have explained, the problem tends to be attributed to a disorder of the brain caused by a pharmacological agent, when at the base of all addictive behaviour, what is actually introduced is a habit. And this habit is established, not so much by the effects of the substance itself, as by the behaviours involved in seeking and consuming the substance. And it is these habits, as forms of conduct, that are difficult to correct. Indeed, in the specific case of nicotine it is very difficult to train animal models to be addicted to the substance. And as we have seen, the rates of tobacco cessation by pharmacological means (including patches, gum and any other nicotine-based pharmaceutical preparation) are distressingly low 12 . Therefore, of all the reasons for which tobacco proves addictive for so many people, the fact that it contains nicotine is probably the least significant. It is precisely the fact that it is a habit, which is generally established over a long time –in most cases over several years– that makes it so difficult to correct. As humans, we establish our everyday behaviour by means of habits and the more ingrained a habit is, the more difficult it is to change. This is all the more true, insofar as the habit –as in the case of tobacco– offers such versatility for that the individual can indulge it when engaged in an animated conversation, in a state of depression or when waiting for a bus – in short, in nearly every aspect of his or her life, except sleep. This versatility and generalisation make the habit of smoking so especially difficult to correct.
Vaping cannabis as an alternative to smoking tobacco
As cannabis users increasingly become aware of the health dangers of smoking, some of them are trying to replace the smoking of cannabis (which involves combustion) with vaping (which does not). Indeed, it is well known that the risks of smoking derive precisely from the combustion of the material smoked, rather than the products smoked. Even so, surveys on preferred methods of consumption indicate that the immense majority (more than 90%) of cannabis users still prefer smoking, even though they recognise that vaping is the most effective way of reducing the harm 13 . Even in states like California, whose citizens are famous for their worship of healthy lifestyles, the preferred means of consuming cannabis in medicinal marijuana dispensaries is by smoking (86.1% of those interviewed), far ahead of vaping (used by 21.8%) 14 . These results may be somewhat skewed by the fact that so many of those surveyed started out as tobacco consumers who when they subsequently began to use cannabis, also preferred to smoke it. It is also well-known that many consumers manage to give up smoking not only “joints” but also tobacco when they start vaping cannabis. In a recent letter to the journal Addiction, Hindocha et al. set out a series of examples in which vaping cannabis is accompanied by a reduction in tobacco consumption. According to these researchers: “ there could be reason to be optimistic about the potential of vaporizers. If vaporizers can reduce cannabis and tobacco co-administration, the outcome could be a reduction of tobacco use/dependence among cannabis users and a resultant reduction in harms associated with cannabis. Indeed, if vaping cannabis becomes commonplace in the future, the next generation of cannabis users might never be exposed to nicotine or tobacco in the first place” 15 .
Use of CBD in treating the tobacco habit
CBD is in vogue. Whereas in the 1990s seed companies vied to obtain the strain with most THC, they are now competing for more narcotic varieties – in other words, those with the highest CBD content. We don’t know the reason for this change: whether cannabis consumers have grown tired of such a strong high (THC concentrations in Dutch marijuana have been falling by 0.22% per year since 2005 16 ); whether it is a result of the industry’s marketing campaigns attributing the medicinal effects of cannabis to CBD; whether it simply reflects a market in which consumers want a varied product offering different experiences depending on what they are looking for at any specific time, or whether it is combination of all of these factors, or even some other reason. One other possible reason is the fashion for CBD oils which –albeit the labels do no state as much– also contain sufficient quantities of THC to possibly cause a consumer to test positive in a roadside saliva test. Moreover, for reasons we shall not go into here, the legality of these oils is decidedly dubious.
The way CBD acts on the endocannabinoid system is not yet fully understood. Indeed, some articles discuss mechanisms of action that others ignore altogether, and vice versa. I will therefore leave it to readers to search for the mechanism of action of CBD. A recent review on the possible role of CBD as an anti-addictive pharmaceutical, quoted above 17 , after appraising this mechanism of action, concludes that “CBD has been associated with many neural circuits involved in the acquisition of addiction and subsequent drugseeking behaviors, making it an interesting pharmacological candidate to treat substance-use disorders”.
Only one study has researched the role of CBD as a treatment for addiction to tobacco smoking. In a pilot clinical study, the effectiveness of CBD was compared against a placebo in treatment of tobacco addiction. (A pilot study is one with a small number of subjects, used to test a working hypothesis before moving on to a larger, and therefore more economically costly, sample). It was double blind (neither researchers nor subjects knew who received what treatment), randomised (patients were assigned one or other treatment at random) and placebo controlled (the active pharmaceutical was compared with an inactive one). 24 subjects were recruited who smoked more than 10 cigarettes per day and given an inhaler to be used whenever they felt the urge to smoke. Twelve subjects (6 females) received an inhaler containing CBD and the other twelve (6 females) received an inhaler with a placebo. Treatment lasted one week. During this time, they recorded their cravings for tobacco and anxiety on a daily basis. A follow-up interview was conducted 21 days after treatment. Following the treatment week, cigarette consumption in the CBD group had fallen by 40%, a significant contrast with the placebo group, but these differences were not kept up after 21 days. Both groups reported the same reduction in craving and anxiety over the 7 days the treatment lasted, but, again, by day 21 they had returned to the initial conditions. The authors conclude: “the preliminary data presented here suggest that CBD may be effective in reducing cigarette use in tobacco smokers, however larger scale studies, with longer follow-up are warranted to gauge the implications of these findings. These findings add to a growing literature that highlights the importance of the endocannabinoid system in nicotine addiction” 18 .
In their article, the authors of the study offer a series of explanations, based on the effects of CBD on the Endocannabinoid system, which might explain the results. These include the action of CBD on CB1 receptors (as a weak reverse agonist), and its properties as an inhibitor of the enzyme that breaks down the anandamide (FAAH). These actions may be related to a reduction in the boosting properties of nicotine. They also offer some speculation on psychological causes, such as the possible action of CBD in reducing attention on contextual cues that may be involved in maintenance of nicotine consumption.
However, there are doubts that remain to be clarified. As explained, in this study, reported tobacco craving fell by the same amount in the CBD and placebo groups, as did anxiety levels. These scores were taken once a day, but not after the inhaler was used in response to the desire to smoke a cigarette. It is possible that in general terms the placebo is capable of reducing the desire for consumption and anxiety, since the scores had normalised by the 21-day follow-up assessment, when neither group was using the device. Perhaps the CBD, by acting as an anxiolytic 19 , might be a substitute treatment for progressively quitting tobacco, due to the fact that the subject is not as anxious. This study did not assess the possible anxiolytic effect following inhalations. Nonetheless, this pilot study provides more evidence that tobacco addiction is more a habit than a pharmacological effect of nicotine. If tobacco addiction were a matter of nicotine addiction, after a week, when the desire for consumption had already disappeared and where the number of cigarettes –and therefore the nicotine– has been considerably reduced, there would be no reason for the withdrawal symptoms to reappear, inducing subjects to start smoking tobacco again. Finally, as we saw in the previous section, many people quit smoking when they start vaping. It is therefore possible that cannabis and/or CBD inhaled by some means other than smoking might be of use for people who want to quit smoking. As Morgan and collaborators conclude, more studies are necessary in this regard. What does seem clear is that smoking, more than an addiction to a drug (nicotine), is a habit, and like all habits, its interruption causes anxiety. In this regard, replacing tobacco with vaporised cannabis and/or CBD may be a useful substitute measure, although this requires more evidence before it can be confirmed.
Although cannabis has long been considered as a “drug of abuse”, in recent years an increasing number of studies published in the biomedical literature indicate that either the plant itself or some of its compounds may be of use in treating addictions. For example, a recent review sets out the current evidence on the involvement of the endocannabinoid system in modulating