This is a great question and by the end of this review, you'll see it in an entirely different light.
We've covered CBD's effects on addiction in detail.
We're going to cover the long term impacts of CBD on the brain as it pertains to sobriety.
The tricky part with addiction is that there is actual structural change in the brain from long-term use which has to be unwound and overwritten.
That requires a deep dive into neurogenesis which we'll get into below.
In fact, research below points to the two key determinants of relapse….both of which, we can directly affect.
All the research points to CBD having a beneficial effect on addiction, sobriety, and maybe more importantly...addressing the underlying issue (neurotransmitter imbalance).
Here are the topics we'll discuss:
- CBD and sobriety
- CBD and neurogenesis for sobriety
- CBD and neurotransmitter imbalance for sobriety
- CBD and stress response for sobriety
- Will CBD ruin my sobriety
- How much CBD for sobriety
- What's the best CBD for sobriety
Let's get started.
CBD and sobriety
First, let's cover the basics of what research shows for sobriety and relapse.
We first want to make sure CBD itself is not addictive.
Research is showing the following:
- CBD does not normalize
- CBD is not hedonic (cause pleasure)
- CBD does not pump up dopamine
- CBD does not have withdrawal symptoms (really comes from the normalization piece)
Those are the key determining factors of whether something is addictive.
Check out Why is CBD not habit-forming here.
Interestingly, THC has opposite effects in almost every pathway.
In fact, THC tends to make other drugs more pleasurable so it's a definite no-no.
CBD does not have this effect.
The normalizing piece is really important.
All addictive drugs will push a given pathway one way or another...in one direction.
The brain sees this and pushes back the other way by reducing receptors and/or activity.
This is why you need more and more of a drug to have the same effect.
It's also why you feel so bad when the drug wears off...you're now worse off than before you started.
Research is showing that extreme withdrawals can last 2-10 days with a longer duration of pathway recovery lasting 6-8 weeks and even years.
This longer-term aspect speaks to an important factor.
The brain will literally change structurally after prolonged periods of drug use to strengthen the pathway of addiction.
After all, neurons that fire together, wire together is the old adage in brain science.
That's why cravings can pop up years later in sobriety.
Let's turn our attention to neurogenesis.
CBD and neurogenesis for sobriety
Neurogenesis is the process of repairing or building new neurons and brain connections.
It's critical to any kind of change or learning and sobriety is a form of "learning" as far as the brain sees it.
Old pathways that once flowed strong (cue - drug use - reward) need to wither and die.
To get rid of the river (hopefully a stream by now), we need neurogenesis to over-write these pathways.
Some addictive drugs have been shown to impair the ability of the brain to change which makes them even harder to break away from.
Evidence accumulated in the last decade indicating that psychoactive substances negatively influence neurogenesis in the adult hippocampus has provided new insights into the neurobiology of drug addiction.
It's not just psychostimulant drugs like meth, cocaine, and nicotine….alcohol is also front and center in this regard.
Just look at opioids:
Chronic administration of morphine decreased neurogenesis by 42% in the adult rat hippocampal granule cell layer.
Really check out the CBD and addiction review to dig deep into how neurogenesis works.
Exercise and mindful meditation also boost in the body. Also see the review on CBD and BDNF
There's a range of studies that look at how impaired neurogenesis may cause an increased risk for both addiction to start and relapse.
Look at this result:
Among biological measures, endocrine measures such as cortisol and cortisol/corticotropin (ACTH) ratio as a measure of adrenal sensitivity and serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor were also predictive of future relapse risk.
Researchers were looking at the most significant determining factors for relapse.
Stress hormones (we'll cover below)
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF This is going to be your new best friend!
BDNF is the brain's fertilizer. It does the heavy lifting of neurogenesis.
Interestingly, serotonin, our powerful master regulator, promotes BDNF.
Estrogen promotes serotonin!
In fact, when BDNF is blocked, SSRIs (antidepressants which boost serotonin) lose their effects.
Check out how SSRIs really work.
What about CBD there?
Cannabidiol Induces Rapid and Sustained Antidepressant-Like Effects Through Increased BDNF Signaling and Synaptogenesis in the Prefrontal Cortex
Goodness. Synaptogenesis refers to building new connections.
The area they were looking at is critical for sobriety. The prefrontal cortex.
This is the brain area tasked with keeping impulses, anxiety, and our more primitive motivations at bay.
We did a full review of CBD and brain repair here.
It's critical for long term sobriety.
We did a full review of CBD and cravings as well.
Let's turn our attention to what might have led to addiction to begin with.
CBD and neurotransmitter imbalance for sobriety
A big part of success at sobriety is understanding why our drug of choice felt so right to begin with.
Why do most people try cannabis and use it occasionally or not at all while roughly 10% become addicts?
THC mimics anandamide, our naturally occurring endocannabinoid.
If a person is running low on anandamide, THC is going fill a hole.
Look at the other drugs in this context:
- Benzos - GABA, our brain's "brake pedal"
- Alcohol - GABA and serotonin
- Nicotine - acetylcholine - our alert AND calm neurotransmitter (read review here - very fascinating)
- Stimulants - glutamate, our brain's "gas pedal" and acetylcholine
- Opioids - an entire opioid system, some of which deal with emotional pain (dynorphin)
Again, if you're running low in any of these naturally, that drug is going to feel "right."
You've been fighting the tide in this regard.
What can cause this deficit?
- Genes - half the equation is always genes - serotonin transporters, GABA genes, BDNF genes, etc
- Stress and stress response - You say above how stress hormones were the other significant determining factor
- Trauma - this can prime the system for heightened stress response and reduced pathways
- Infection - especially in utero or during critical periods of brain development
Addictive drugs all have a side gig, though, which is key to addiction.
Dopamine - the key player in our reward circuit.
Check out CBD and dopamine - it's so interesting.
Dopamine is the chemical that's converts use into learning. Learning is the hard-wired process we described above via neurogenesis.
Like riding a bike, it's hard to forget addiction unless our neurogenesis pathway is running at full speed.
The key to sobriety is not just to over-write the addiction pathway but to address the original sin - the deficit in neurotransmitters or reduction in repair mechanisms.
So why does this matter with CBD?
CBD is technically a feedback mechanism in key pathways.
Where all the drugs above push in one direction, CBD works completely differently.
It's called a negative allosteric modulator.
This is fancy talk for feedback….a balancing agent in key pathways.
The big ones are:
- Serotonin - our master regulator which has control over dopamine
- GABA - the brake pedal which offsets glutamate
- Opioid - key to pain, both physical and emotional
Those are three giant players in how we feel!
Read the reviews here to really get into it:
Let's turn to the damage side of things for sobriety. Stress.
CBD and stress response for sobriety
Remember how the two big determinants for sobriety success in terms of what's going on in our body were stress response and BDNF (brain repair)?
Cortisol and corticotrophin-releasing factor are the main stress hormones.
The latter starts the ball rolling and cortisol speeds this response throughout the body.
Stress response systems are key to sobriety as we all known when people are most likely to relapse.
Let's turn our attention back to serotonin and anandamide.
Serotonin works like a stress response buffer. Check out our review on tryptophan (which serotonin is made from) as a stress response buffer.
You can take tryptophan as needed (or stressed) away from other protein and SSRIs.
As for CBD:
CBD has been shown to be an agonist of 5-HT1a serotoninergic receptors and to regulate stress response and compulsive behaviors
It boosts serotonin but when it's depleted!
We don't' want too much serotonin or that can be just as bad (even dangerous).
Remarkably, we don't see serotonin syndrome with CBD use at high levels but again, it's a feedback agent.
Check out CBD and serotonin syndrome.
Also, we dove deep into CBD and anger or irritability (a serotonin angle) which is fascinating.
In a study where injury exhausts serotonin (since serotonin manages pain sensitivity), look at what CBD did:
repeated treatment with low-dose CBD induces analgesia predominantly through TRPV1 activation, reduces anxiety through 5-HT1A receptor activation, and rescues impaired 5-HT neurotransmission under neuropathic pain conditions.
Let's break that down.
5HT is serotonin. The keyword there is "rescues". It also brought down pain sensitivity and reduced anxiety as a result of the injury.
Then there's anandamide.
Anandamide works like a wet blanket on brain activity. It's named after the Hindu goddess of bliss, Anand.
We even looked at whether people chronically use cannabis in order to slow down activity by reducing glutamate.
Anandamide's effect on stress is pretty well-established now:
Collectively, these data suggest that AEA signaling can temper aspects of the stress response and that FAAH inhibition may aid the treatment for stress-related psychiatric disorders, such as PTSD.
FAAH is the enzyme that breaks down anandamide. Check out the review on the woman who can't feel pain, anxiety, or depression due to a gene where she doesn't make FAAH.
Hence, she has high levels of anandamide!
What about CBD and anandamide?
Cannabidiol enhances anandamide signaling and alleviates psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia.
Check out CBD and schizophrenia.
Let's get right to the question at hand.
Will CBD ruin my sobriety
Will CBD cause relapse?
The research points to the opposite.
We break down all the components relative to this question in those reviews.
Let's take example from each.
CBD and cravings for sobriety
One study on alcohol and cocaine cravings:
CBD attenuated context-induced and stress-induced drug seeking without tolerance, sedative effects, or interference with normal motivated behavior.
The key there is "stress-induced." This was done on animals who had self-administration histories.
CBD reduced the cue and stress effects for relapse.
That's one example from CBD and cravings.
This is the most critical piece for sobriety once we get past the withdrawal phase.
What about withdrawal symptoms?
Let's turn to one of the most severe with opioid withdrawal.
Acute CBD administration, in contrast to placebo, significantly reduced both craving and anxiety induced by the presentation of salient drug cues compared with neutral cues.
Again, check CBD and opioid addiction here.
Reducing cravings is key to unwinding the learned pathway of addiction.
So...research is showing that CBD may support sobriety by the following:
- Reducing cravings due to stress and drug cues
- Reducing withdrawal symptoms
- Balancing key pathways (serotonin, GABA, glutamate, dopamine, opioid) that likely drove addiction to begin with
- Reducing stress response
- Boosting neurogenesis to "learn new tricks"
Check out the study on psilocybin which will likely revolutionize the addiction world.
Its main effect?
A massive boost in BDNF or neurogenesis.
This actually factors into the next question for supporting sobriety.
How much CBD for sobriety
In our reviews of addiction, two different phases were apparent.
First, the more severe initial phase of withdrawal.
Secondly, the longer-term repair and rewrite process of neurogenesis and long term sobriety.
The first generally reflected higher levels of CBD in research - 600-800 mg for 2-10 days depending.
The second phase points to 300 mg daily for peak neurogenesis.
As amounts go higher, neurogenesis actually slowed down.
As we say above, BDNF and neurogenesis were they determinants for relapse so that would likely be our focus.
This then brings up another key question...what type of CBD.
What's the best CBD for sobriety
First, some basic requirements:
- Organically grown in the US at an FDA registered farm
- 3rd party tested
- No THC (THC may adversely affect hippocampus neurogenesis and it increases drug cue effects)
- No pesticides
- No solvents
- No heavy metals
- No mold
- No bacteria
We actually test our oils twice since our whole family uses them.
The "no THC" point is critical since it normalizes, has withdrawals, and can affect cravings for food and other drugs.
Then there's CBD isolate versus full spectrum.
All the research above and the dozens of NIH studies throughout our addiction reviews are based on CBD isolate. CBD by itself.
The bigger issue is that 40-60% of the population has histamine issues and the side effect profile for full spectrum can be much worse for those people.
This number goes up for women and as we get older.
Check out the reviews for how side effects go away with isolate.
Histamine is excitatory in the brain...think of it like a kind of stress.
Just look at this:
Studies on both rats and mice indicate that histamine H3 receptor antagonists decrease alcohol drinking in several models, like operant alcohol administration and drinking in the dark paradigm. Alcohol-induced place preference is also affected by these drugs.
We don't want a source of inflammatory response like histamine.
Finally, there's cost.
So much of the market is outrageously priced.
The key metric is cost per mg of CBD.
We purposely price our 6000 mg bottles at about 2-3 cents per mg of CBD before discounts up to 30%.
This is due to the fact that we used CBD to wean off benzos and SSRIs so we've been there. That story of a brutal perimenopause and the resulting failure by multiple doctors and medications is here.
Be well and take care of each other!
Always work with a doctor or naturopath with any supplement!
The information provided here is not intended to treat an illness or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.