It's a common question.
The last thing we want to do is trade one back response for another.
Many people are actually looking at CBD as an alternative for commonly prescribed drugs that are addictive.
- SSRIs (technically they call it SSRI discontinuation syndrome but we get the point)
There's an explosion of prescriptions along these lines following the pandemic scare.
They can share pretty similar withdrawal symptoms when trying to get off.
In fact, that's how we found CBD to begin with.
Brutal perimenopause took me to benzos and SSRIs which I had to get off.
We compare CBD versus both in detail within links from those pages but what about withdrawal?
Does CBD cause its own withdrawal?
Let's get into it.
We'll cover these topics:
- What causes withdrawals
- Does CBD have withdrawal symptoms
- How long do CBD withdrawal symptoms last
- How does CBD work in the body
- Can CBD help with other withdrawals
Let's get started!
What causes withdrawals
We need to first understand why certain drugs can cause withdrawals.
It's all about the brain pushing back.
We have critical pathways in our nervous system that are constantly balanced (ideally).
When they are not, we generally feel terrible.
The neurotransmitters are perfect examples of such pathways.
Some of the big ones are:
- GABA - the brain's "brake pedal" - target for benzos, alcohol
- Glutamate - the brain's "gas pedal" - target for stimulants
- Serotonin - the brains master orchestra leader - target for SSRIs, antidepressants
- Choline - the brains learning and focus driver - target for nicotine
- Anandamide - brain's stress response buffer - target of THC
- Dopamine - the brain's reward circuit - target for cocaine, meth, etc
The latter one has a special side role in withdrawals.
We did a full review on CBD and dopamine since it's so important to addiction.
Basically, most addictive drugs cause withdrawals along these pathways.
Essentially, these drugs create large surges in the given pathway that is not normally found in nature.
The brain panics and actually works to offset this effect.
This may not happen after one use but with more exposure, it builds and builds.
For example, if benzos like Ativan, Xanax, and Valium increase GABA in the brain, a curious thing starts to happen.
The brain will actually start to decrease GABA receptor numbers and sensitivity.
It will even go so far as to increase glutamate (the opposing force to GABA) over time.
This is why people can get seizures if they stop benzos cold turkey.
Glutamate is our revved up and there's no brake pedal for brain activity!
The same thing happens along different pathways for every drug that causes withdrawals.
On top of this, they all have a side hustle. Dopamine.
Dopamine is really the key to addiction since it's the key driver of the reward circuit.
This is the process of rewarding certain activities that in theory, increase our chances of success.
That good feeling you have when you get a good grade or complete a task? Hello Dopamine!
Originally, it was geared to remember a great watering hole or a good source of food.
We've repurposed it these days for accomplishing a workout (no small task).
The same tolerance effect we described above works for dopamine as well.
If we stop an addictive drug, we may have a suppressed level for our naturally occurring dopamine.
That feels horrible. Like, can't get out of bed horrible.
Dopamine is the driver of action after all. Both literally (initiates physical motion) and figuratively (the root of motivation).
The effect of losing the temporary boost to a core pathway (say GABA) and dopamine feels horrible.
At some point, we're using the drug not to feel good but just to avoid feeling horribly as a result of the constant ratcheting down due to tolerance.
Check out CBD and tolerance to dig deeper into this process.
What about CBD? Does it cause tolerance and withdrawal symptoms?
Does CBD cause withdrawals
First, the question of tolerance since it drives withdrawals:
Bergamaschi et al. list an impressive number of acute and chronic studies in humans, showing CBD safety for a wide array of side effects.1 They also conclude from their survey, that none of the studies reported tolerance to CBD.
Again, this means that the body doesn't try to offset the addition of CBD by pushing back the other way.
We'll explain why this is the case below as it's key to why CBD is so impressive.
What about withdrawals:
In healthy volunteers, no evidence of withdrawal syndrome was found with abrupt discontinuation of short-term treatment with CBD.
No study we came across found evidence of tolerance or withdrawal symptoms.
So...to answer the question.
How Long do CBD Withdrawal Symptoms Last?
Hopefully, we've addressed the key question.
CBD doesn't have withdrawal symptoms!
Is there any effect when CBD wears off?
Perhaps if the underlying pathway is still impaired.
Meaning...if your GABA system is not functioning at full clip, you may have anxiety or insomnia.
Peak CBD is around 4-6 hours with a duration of about 18-24 hours.
This is the short term effect of CBD.
The longer-term effect is more exciting in our view.
Read up on CBD and neurogenesis or brain repair to get the heart of why research is pointing to long term changes in the brain as a key driver of CBD's effect.
In fact, some studies have shown effects days and even weeks after short durations of CBD.
Check out can you take CBD long term to get more info.
CBD does not cause rebound anxiety or symptoms but it's key to address the underlying issues.
So...if CBD doesn't cause withdrawal symptoms, how does it work in the body?
How does CBD work in the body
There are many mechanisms but primarily CBD works as a feedback agent in our endocannabinoid system.
Our endocannabinoid system is roughly 600 million years olds and all living animals have one.
It's tasked with balancing other key systems:
- Endocrine system - hormones
- Immune system - inflammatory pathways
- Nervous system - neurotransmitters like GABA, glutamate, and dopamine!
That last one might be important!
CBD can send a message backwards from a neuron to another neuron as a feedback source.
This is why people don't overdose on CBD (see Can you overdose on CBD).
It's a constraint! It doesn't just boost in one direction like the various drugs we mentioned earlier.
Check out CBD and dopamine to really understand this balancing act as a key driver of withdrawal symptoms.
This begs the question…
Can CBD help with other withdrawals
Yes. We've covered this in various articles:
- CBD and THC withdrawals
- CBD and alcohol withdrawals
- CBD and opioid withdrawals
- CBD and benzo withdrawals
- CBD and SSRIs withdrawals
- CBD and cocaine or crack withdrawals
CBD has been shown in research to balance key pathways including glutamate, GABA, serotonin, and dopamine.
We've covered each of these in full reviews since they're so important.
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.