The image of the cannabis plant is often associated with social representations of the drug. For the most part, the word “drug” can be scary, being linked to the notion of addiction, drug addiction or even marginality. A question that comes up very frequently among new cannabis users: can CBD consumption make you addicted?
To answer them, it is important to redefine the notions of dependence, physical and psychological. According to the WHO (World Health Organization), addiction syndrome is: “a set of behavioural, cognitive and physiological phenomena in which the use of a specific psychoactive substance or a category of substances leads to a disinvestment progressive from other activities.
Psychological or psychological dependence refers to the uncontrolled consumption of alcohol or psychoactive substances, while physiological or physical dependence concerns tolerance and withdrawal symptoms. ”
What Is Cannabis Addiction?
You have to differentiate between cannabis addiction and CBD addiction. Indeed, the plant contains more than a hundred different molecules, including phytocannabinoids, terpenes, terpenoids and flavonoids. CBD (cannabidiol) is one of many phytocannabinoids, along with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) or CBG (cannabigerol). But only THC has an adaptogenic potential.
This is because THC acts on the reward and motivation circuit, directly linked to addiction, due to the increased concentrations of dopamine (a neurotransmitter) in the mesolimbic courses. The NERSC study has scientifically evaluated this adaptogenic potential. (Ireland, 2011) at 8.9%. According to this same classification, tobacco presents a risk of 67.5% and alcohol at 22.7%.
The notion of dependence is also linked to the mode of consumption. Combustion is the most common mode (1.4 million out of the 1.5 million regular consumers, i.e. 1 to 10 times per month) and the use of tobacco mixed with cannabis flowers. (1.3 million). Knowing that tobacco is a very addictive substance, it is therefore not surprising that these consumers observe cannabis dependence; consumption then qualified as problematic. It is more linked to tobacco itself than to cannabis.
Reducing or even stopping tobacco consumption would, therefore, drastically limit cannabis dependence.
The notion of dependence on any substance, including cannabis, is also closely related to quantity. Excessive consumption will logically present a greater risk of developing an addiction. Likewise, the age of primary consumption (age of the very first use) is a criterion that can also influence whether or not to develop an addiction. Indeed, a first-time consumption before the end of brain growth would promote the risk of dependence (estimated at eight times higher than a first-time consumption after brain development).
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CBD Doesn’t Make You Dependent, On The Opposite
As explained above, since CBD does not affect dopamine levels, it cannot be addictive. Conversely, it can be particularly useful in the treatment of addictions. Indeed, it would present an anti-craving potential: it could limit the symptoms of withdrawal (hallucinations, hyperthermia, nausea and vomiting, tremors, sensitivity to light, diarrhoea. And craving (irrepressible need to consume a substance). More simply, CBD would limit the desire to consume addictive substances (tobacco, alcohol …) and thus limit any risk of relapse.
A study published in 2019 reports very positive results on the use of CBD in opioid users. “Immediate administration of CBD, unlike a placebo, significantly reduced both craving and anxiety [related to withdrawal syndrome] … Finally, CBD reduced physiological measures of heart rate and salivary cortisol levels induced by opioid substances. […] No serious adverse effects were observed.”
Another particularly promising study is currently taking place in France. This is the CARAMEL study, carried out at the Croix-Rousse hospital in Lyon by the teams of addictologist Benjamin Rolland. It aims to test the effectiveness of CBD compared to that of a placebo in 76 subjects with an alcohol use disorder and heavy drinking (more than 12 drinks per day). The medical profession eagerly awaits the results of this study.
In conclusion, CBD poses no risk of addiction if consumed without THC and tobacco combustion, as is the case in CBD oils. It might even be useful in the treatment of addictive behaviour and substance withdrawal.
In a context where addictions, especially to opioids, are becoming a public health problem, France is now suffering from a marked increase in deaths due to an opioid overdose (+ 146% between 2005 and 2016). Therefore, CBD and its therapeutic potential could prove to be one of the solutions in managing addictions in the coming years.
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