Cigarette addiction is one of the toughest addictions to kick. It’s even jokingly compared to trying to quit heroine! Many try, succeed for a few months, then simply relapse back into their smoking routine. Studies show that many smokers make repeated unsuccessful attempts to quit. Other research is even more grim, showing some smokers need as many as 30 attempts to quit smoking for good. As there are hundreds of millions of smokers worldwide, this represents a very real and difficult struggle for an extraordinary number of people.
However, that challenge may be getting easier now with CBD. CBD is now gaining recognition as a tool for helping smokers quit a difficult addiction. Promisingly, recent research indicates that CBD oil may be able to help smokers quit—even those who tried to quit cigarettes using other methods and failed.
Here’s what you need to know about CBD and quitting smoking
While people kid that quitting smoking is as hard as quitting heroine, scientific research actually backs that notion up with evidence. No joke. The US CDC found that more people in the United States are addicted to nicotine than any other drug. What’s more, the research seems to indicate that nicotine may be as addictive as cocaine or heroin.
In fact, the American Cancer Society, found only 4-7% of people were capable of giving up smoking in any given attempt without medicines, or some other form of assistance.
Quitting smoking is no easy feat, common nicotine withdrawal symptoms include:
- Intense Cravings
- Sore throat
- Nausea and abdominal cramping
- Depressive feelings
- Slowed heart rate
- Thinking problems
In addition to the physical withdrawal symptoms, the psychological symptoms of nicotine withdrawal include:
- Low mood
- A strong desire or craving for nicotine
- Irritability or frustration
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased stress
- Mood swings
Quiting smoking can be stressful, demoralizing and seriously demanding of one’s reserves of personal strength and determination. Fortunately, it looks like CBD can help.
How Effective is a CBD vape for quitting smoking?
Part of the way we create routines and pattern behavior is through habits. We are, as they say, creatures of habit. One of the very simple reasons vaping CBD can help break a smoking habit is that vaping easily replaces the routine physical act of smoking – it’s a like for like replacement which doesn’t require learning any new behaviors yet helps curb desire.
CBD also helps by diminishing stress-induced cigarette cravings. Smoking is often used as a stress reliever, but stress relief is one of CBD’s strong suits. In fact, it’s one of CBD’s most common uses, which is why CBD can help in curbing stress-induced desire for nicotine. CBD also promotes the release of seratonin—the same chemical released by nicotine—which creates feelings of calm and contentedness. With CBD, you get the bonus of replacing the physical habit plus removing the stress trigger.
Vaping CBD may also reduce some of the physical discomforts that come with nicotine withdrawal symptoms. As CBD is a powerful anti-inflammatory, it may help reduce headaches and other pains.
For many, nicotine withdrawal also makes it difficult to sleep. CBD can also have very beneficial effects on the sleep cycle. CBD taken at night before bed can improve sleep quality, helping people experience more refreshing, restorative sleep. A small dose of CBD in the morning can promote wakefulness and focus – obviating the need for the morning coffee and cigarette. Read more about that in our article CBD for Sleep.
Recent studies on CBD for quitting smoking
In a 2013, researchers in London conducted a study to test the efficacy of inhaled cannabidiol (CBD) on smokers who wanted to overcome their nicotine addictions. In the one-week study on 24 participants, 12 were given CBD and 12 were given placebos. Those given CBD inhalants reduced the number of cigarettes they smoked by around 40%. while the placebo group saw no reduction in the number cigarettes smoked. The researchers conclude in their abstract that “These preliminary data, combined with the strong preclinical rationale for use of this compound, suggest CBD to be a potential treatment for nicotine addiction that warrants further exploration.”
In the resulting paper, these researchers found that CBD interactions with CB1 receptors could cause a reduction in the overall effects of nicotine. CBD could act as a “weak reverse” against CB1 receptors in the brain and spinal cord associated to pain and memory as well as inhibit FAAH — an enzyme that breaks down the “bliss” molecule, anandamide.
In a 2018 study, researchers focused on the effects of CBD for quitting smoking. The randomized, double-blind cross-over study involved 30 non-treatment seeking smokers. Some were given 800mg of CBD orally, the others a placebo in the morning after not smoking overnight. Participants were then shown pictures of tobacco “cues” where withdrawal, craving, side effects, heart rate, and blood pressure could all be measured repeatedly.
The cues were meant to invoke an urge to smoke from things like the typical morning cup of coffee and first cigarette of the day, situations involving drinks with friends, being in the presence of other smokers, talking on the phone, and other activities smokers routinely associate with smoking cigarettes.
The researchers found that the 800mg dose of the cannabinoid reduced the appeal of the cues in participants given the dose compared with the group that received the placebo.
“These findings suggest that cannabidiol has promise as a novel treatment for tobacco addiction,” commented Dr. Tom Freeman, a Kings College London Senior Academic Fellow who worked on the study,
“It might be particularly effective when abstinent smokers are exposed to cues that trigger relapse, such as when they are with a friend who lights a cigarette or in a particular place they associate with smoking.”
Researchers believe CBD may also act to help break addictions to cocaine and morphine by diminishing the impact of “habitual triggers” like memories and places. A 2017 animal study found that “CBD impaired the reconsolidation of preference for the environment previously paired with both morphine and cocaine,” as stated in the study abstract.
Researchers in that study remarked on CBD’s significant “therapeutic potential” to break the cycle of addiction and relapse where addictive impulses are amplified by contexts such as certain memories, environments, or situations.
Another study on alcohol addiction in rats found that “CBD attenuated context-induced and stress-induced drug seeking without tolerance, sedative effects, or interference with normal motivated behavior.” Although the study did not target quitting cigarettes specifically, it is yet more evidence that CBD can diminish the pain and difficulty of breaking addictions in general.
Is Vaping CBD Safe?
CBD is generally regarded as safe and well-tolerated in people, even in large doses. Side effects from extremely large doses are generally mild and can include diarrhea, appetite changes, and fatigue.
One thing that is important to note is that CBD can prevent other medications from being metabolized—similar to how grapefruit interferes with some drugs, so if you are on any prescription medications or drugs of any kind, you should talk to your doctor about taking CBD to make sure you don’t experience any unwanted drug interactions.
The FDA strongly advises against using CBD if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
One thing to be careful about when selecting a CBD vape product is the carrier fluid as well as certain ingredients that can cause discomfort or possible medical complications. When buying a vape look for something that has either a terpene or MCT oil base and avoid those with a propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin base (these produce carcinogenic byproducts when heated). Also avoid products with ingredients like:
The CDC has identified vitamin E acetate as a chemical of concern among people with vaping related lung injuries (EVALI). Vitamin E acetate is a thickening agent often used in THC vaping products, and it was found in all lung fluid samples of EVALI patients examined by the CDC.
Though some essential oils are popular to vape, some may be toxic and there is no scientific research showing vaping essential oils to be safe. Do not vape an essential oil unless you know it is safe to inhale and has been produced by a trusted supplier.
Terpene and MCT oil based vape pens are the safest.
What’s the right way to vape CBD?
As with all CBD, the general rule for dosage is “start low, go slow.” Each person’s response to CBD will be a bit different and their tolerances may differ significantly if they are regular cannabis users and have a high tolerance for cannabinoids. With vaping, start small, 1-3 draws from your CBD vape in the mornings before your first cigarette of the day may help reduce your cigarette cravings. You can learn more about dosage in our article on CBD oil dosage.
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Canada’s Dani Gordon specializes in Cannabis medicine. Her YouTube channel is highly informative for those seeking education about the benefits of CBD oil in Canada.