Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of over 110 cannabinoids occurring in hemp.

The use of CBD has become a natural and safer alternative to conventional products for improving overall wellness. While researchers have reported that frequent cannabis use may further develop into a habit for some people, this is due to the high THC content in such cannabis strains.

CBD by itself is not addictive, and hemp-derived CBD oil contains only 0.3% of THC or less — which is nowhere near to get you high.

Today, we elaborate on the subject of CBD and addiction; first, let’s take a look at how CBD interacts with your brain.

How Does CBD Work In Your Brain?

When it comes to the neurological effects of CBD oil, they’re mediated by the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS contains endocannabinoids, which are naturally produced ligands that bind to cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2). CB1 and CB2 are considered to be the main cannabinoid receptors, although many researchers believe that there are more than just the two aforementioned.

The CB1 receptors help regulate coordination, mood, and other bodily functions since they are found primarily in the central nervous system. On the other hand, the CB2 receptors affect inflammation and pain and are located in the immune system. Based on these receptors, the ECS is responsible for regulating processes such as appetite, pain, and memory.

CBD has a less significant effect on ECS’s receptors as it doesn’t have a direct affinity to the CB1 receptor. Instead, it can indirectly boost endocannabinoid levels and improve the functioning of this receptor through signaling the ECS to produce more anandamide — one of the two major endocannabinoids. CBD also slows down its breakdown, ensuring higher daily concentrations of anandamide in your circulatory system.

In addition, CBD can target the serotonin 1A receptor. This way, it can target mechanisms responsible for mood stabilization and emotional control.

CBD’s effect on CB2 receptors can also help in reducing oxidative stress. Oxidative stress refers to the disturbance in the balance between the productions of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and antioxidant defenses.

It was proven in a 2014 study that long-term use of CBD treatment can provide anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects. The study showed that CBD had a subtle impact on neuroinflammation, cholesterol, dietary phytosterol retention, and oxidative damage.

According to a 2020 review on the impact of CBD on human brain function, some “neuroimaging studies have shown that acute CBD induces significant alteration in brain activity and connectivity patterns during resting state and performance of cognitive tasks.”[1]

This was observed in both healthy volunteers and patients with psychiatric disorders. In spite of this evidence, future studies must also consider assessing the safety profile of CBD in terms of longer-term treatment.

CBD and Addiction: Is CBD Addictive?

According to the World Health Organization, current evidence from human experimental research showed that CBD doesn’t have the potential to be addictive.

It was revealed in both animal and human experiments that CBD exhibits no effects that may lead to abuse or dependence.

As of now, there have been no case reports of addiction that may be attributed to the use of CBD. The WHO also doesn’t have any statistics pointing to such problems.

Is CBD Oil Safe? What are the Side Effects?

CBD Chemical Structure with Hemp Plant Background

CBD is safe and well-tolerated in humans and animals. Studies have concluded that CBD can be administered in doses as high as 1,500 mg for several weeks without any dangerous side effects.

That being said, consuming too much CBD at a time can trigger the following reactions:

  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Changes in appetite

Learn More: What Are the Side Effects of CBD? 

Understanding How Addiction Works

Now that you know that CBD is safe and non-addictive, let’s make sure you know how addiction works.

In short, addiction holds a very powerful influence on the brain, which typically occurs in three ways: intensely craving for something, loss of control over its use, and continuing involvement with it despite the consequences.

  • Pleasure Triggers

Pleasure is being registered in the brain the same way no matter where it came from (narcotic drugs, monetary reward, sexual encounter, etc.). The way pleasure takes place is distinct where it triggers the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. The nucleus accumbens is a cluster of nerve cells that can be found below the cerebral cortex.

A huge surge of dopamine can be easily triggered by abusive drugs. As stated in a Harvard Health article, “the likelihood that the use of a drug or participation in a rewarding activity will lead to addiction is directly linked to the speed with which it promotes dopamine release, the intensity of that release, and the reliability of that release.” [2]

Once a drug has been ingested, it cuts down to the brain’s reward system and floods the nucleus accumbens with dopamine. As the hippocampus remembers this rapid sense of satisfaction, the amygdala then develops a conditioned response to that activity.

  • Learned Behavior

When a conditioned response develops, dopamine does not only help in triggering the feeling of pleasure, but it also contributes to learning and memory functions. In a recent theory about addiction, dopamine has been proven to take over the reward system of the brain by interacting with another neurotransmitter called glutamate. This specific type of brain’s system is important in sustaining life since it connects activities for human survival with pleasure and reward.

Developing a behavior occurs when there is continuous exposure to the desired addictive substance. This causes nerve cells in the nucleus accumbens to communicate with the prefrontal cortex in a way that the brain starts to crave the substance. This, in turn, motivates the user to go further down the rabbit hole.

  • Prolonged Exposure to Certain Substances

Addiction may also develop upon prolonged exposure to a particular substance. As time goes by, people with addiction often lose the pleasure they feel in their desired substances. To compensate, they take more to increase the dopamine since their brains have adapted.

At this point, the motivation is no longer about getting the expected effects, but rather about getting in contact with the substance at all. For example, they will start seeking activities or features that resemble their addiction so they can continue sinking into their destructive habit.

The memories help in remembering the conditioned response whenever these specific environmental cues occur.

This overall process on how addiction develops may also explain why some people relapse after years of quitting the desired substances. For example, a person who used to be an alcoholic has the tendency to go back to drinking if they see or smell a glass of brandy.

So… Is CBD Addictive?

While current scientific evidence suggests that heavy and continuous use of cannabis may increase the risk of dependence in some people, recent studies have shown that CBD by itself does not appear to be addictive. However, the long-term effects of CBD oil are still unverified since the studies on this matter are in their early stages. It is also recommendable for future studies to aim for large-scale tests to get a general safety evaluation from a larger population.

Do you know anybody who’s using CBD for addiction? Share your success stories in the comments below!