Health & Wellness

CBD and Smoking Cessation—What Science Says

By Kristina Parren

Quitting is hard. But 2019 is the “Year of Cessation,” according to the CDC’s Office of Smoking and Health.

Smoking currently accounts for one in five deaths in the United States despite the decline in smoking over the last decade. Over 30 million Americans still smoke cigarettes. As vaping continues to trend among current and ex-smokers, more Americans are replacing cigarettes with e-cigarettes and cannabis—both considered safer options than tobacco.

Now, researchers are looking at cannabidiol, or CBD, for smoking cessation. Could 2019 be the “Year of CBD”?

[Read more about CBD]

Why is Quitting Smoking So Hard?

Smoking cessation comes with many temptations, such as addictive urges, oral fixation, stress, and social pressure from other smokers. Sometimes temptation comes from the simple fact that cigarettes are visible behind the cashier. It’s no mystery why so many smokers have multiple cessation attempts over time.

Efficacy of Current Smoking Cessation Methods

Just how effective are current cessation treatments? And can CBD rival traditional treatments?

There are several cessation treatments recommended by doctors:

  • Nicotine replacement therapy (e.g. patches, gum, etc.)
  • Medications (e.g. bupropion, varenicline, cytisine, etc.)
  • Antidepressants (e.g. nortiptyline)
  • Counseling and therapy

A combination of long-term medication and short-term nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), such as a nicotine patch or gum, are considered effective. One study showed positive results in varenicline users over other cessation treatments, including NRT, among 11,968 participants.

Cessation medications, antidepressants, and gum are not for everyone, however. Some smokers may prefer to go a more natural route, and some smokers may not respond well to certain medications. Certain medications may have contraindications, such as cardiovascular or neurological effects, drug interactions, or negative effects on pregnant women.

In a 2017 questionnaire of 180 participants in Winnipeg, Canada, researchers reported the following data:

  • Only 6.4% of respondents felt their health care practitioners’ advice had an impact.
  • 80% of respondents had no insurance coverage for their smoking cessation products.
  • Almost one-third of respondents had more than 5 previous cessation attempts.
  • Nicotine gum (33.3%) and patches (24.4.%) had less efficacy than e-cigarettes (97.9%) and varenicline (70.6%).

It’s clear that lower efficacy of NRT treatments, as well as insurance barriers, can affect cessation success. In the United States, insurance barriers could be an even greater concern.

Is CBD Safer and More Effective for Quitting Smoking?

One of the main concerns with e-cigarettes as an alternative to cigarettes is nicotine addiction. While many e-cigarettes contain nicotine, vaping or consuming CBD does not require nicotine. CBD also lacks THC’s psychoactive properties.

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CBD has few side effects, which include diarrhea, dry mouth, nausea, fatigue, and low blood pressure. Overall, CBD’s side effects seem to be less serious than some medications on the market. Additionally, CBD does not contain the 70 carcinogenic chemicals found in tobacco cigarettes.

What Do the Researchers Say?

The Beckley Foundation, an organization at the front of drug policy, conducted a double-blind study through the Beckley/Exeter Research Programme. A group of 24 smokers were randomized, receiving an inhaler with either CBD or a placebo. They were instructed to use the inhaler any time they felt an urge to smoke. The study lasted a week, and the participants using a CBD inhaler reduced the number of cigarettes smoked by 40 percent. Those with a placebo-filled inhaler showed no difference.

Why might CBD affect the urge to smoke? Clinical Psychologist and Doctor of Pharmacology, José Carlos Buoso, explains CBD’s effects on the body’s Endocannabinoid system:

“These [effects] 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.”

Anandamide plays a role in appetite, pain and depression, and based on this theory, may have a relation to nicotine addiction.

[Read more about CBD and addiction ]

Buoso’s statements on CBD and psychological causes may also be supported by a second study. In the study, 30 participants were given either a placebo or 800 mg oral dose of CBD over the course of two overnight abstinent sessions. The study concluded that one 800 mg dose of CBD successfully reduced the “pleasantness” of pictorial tobacco cues, thereby reversing attentional bias to images that would induce an automatic response.

A case study also found that a male patient who received CBD treatments was able to reverse his marijuana addiction. Perhaps this means that CBD could be a cessation treatment for marijuana smokers as well as tobacco smokers.

Can I Use CBD to Quit Now?

Before you commit to any smoking cessation treatment, you should consult your physician to discuss what is right for you. More research is necessary to definitively conclude CBD as an effective treatment for smokers.

You should also research the laws in your state to determine if CBD products are legal. Though hemp-derived products are now legal on the federal level, some CBD products may not fall under this category.

Either way, vaping CBD oil or consuming CBD in any way, should be on your radar as research related to smoking develops. All methods of cessation should be examined, because there is no healthy form of tobacco.

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