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.
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.