Research on CBD and Cocaine or Crack Addiction, Withdrawals, and Recovery
Wrapping up our large review of CBD and addiction, cocaine and crack cocaine stand out.
Not in a good way.
They are two of the most intractable addictions with very few options available for recovery.
Alcohol, opioids, and even nicotine have options with varying levels of success.
Not so with cocaine or crack.
We'll look at exactly how they work within the brain towards this end.
More importantly, we'll look at exciting new information on CBD research for cocaine and crack.
Most importantly, specifically for these two since they do stand apart from other addictive drugs in profound ways.
We'll cover these topics:
- How cocaine or crack affect the brain
- Dopamine's metabolites and cocaine or crack
- Cocaine or Crack tolerance
- Cocaine and crack withdrawals
- The process of neurogenesis for cocaine and crack
- CBD and cocaine or crack addiction
- How much CBD for cocaine and crack addiction or withdrawals
- What's the best CBD for cocaine and crack addiction
Let's get started.
How cocaine or crack affect the brain (including dopamine)
First, understand that crack is just a much more concentrated and intense form of cocaine in terms of driving all these mechanisms in the brain.
Where many addictive drugs initially operate on a given pathway with dopamine as a side hustle, cocaine and crack are unique.
Dopamine is their main hustle!
This makes it especially difficult since dopamine is the main driver of our reward circuit.
It operates primarily in a very old (evolutionarily speaking) area of the brain called the limbic system.
In simplest terms, the reward circuit was tasked with promoting activity which improves chances for survival.
It's a way of the brain selecting what to focus on towards this end.
Dopamine rewards stumbling on food, water, sex, or anything that improves our lot in life.
In our more complicated world these days, that can be a good grade, a promotion, or accomplishing some goal.
It's also intimately interwoven with the learning process.
After all, if our ancestors found a great watering hole or source of food, we need to remember how to get there again.
The brain literally remodels and changes to accomplish this and this process (neurogenesis) is key to why cocaine and crack are so hard to "forget".
Most people think of dopamine as a pleasure chemical but that's not entirely true.
Its real effect is more akin to "do that again".
Repetition begets learning and learning leads to better survival.
Unless, of course, we're learning something dangerous.
This is where cocaine and crack hijack our most basic reward agent.
We mentioned that other drugs hit certain pathways and dopamine is the clincher for addiction:
- Benzos - boosts GABA, our brain's "brake pedal"
- SSRIs - boosts serotonin, our "feel good" neurotransmitter
- Alcohol - boosts GABA and serotonin
- Nicotine - glutamate, and choline
As we mentioned, cocaine and crack go right for the jugular of addiction. Dopamine.
We did a full review of CBD and dopamine as part of our addiction suite.
So why does crack and cocaine create such a rush?
Let's look downstream from dopamine for that.
Dopamine's metabolites and cocaine or crack
We mentioned above how dopamine helps the brain decide what to focus on.
Technically, the term is called "salience".
Of all the things coming at you, what's important right now towards your survival and even success?
Dopamine breaks down and drives two key neurotransmitters which get to the heart of the effects of cocaine and crack.
- Epinephrine (Adrenaline)
These are the two taskmasters for dopamine.
Just look at what they do.
In the brain, norepinephrine increases arousal and alertness, promotes vigilance, enhances the formation and retrieval of memory, and focuses attention; it also increases restlessness and anxiety.
Arousal. Alertness. Vigilance. Sound familiar? Also the restlessness and anxiety.
Norepinephrine gets further broken down to adrenalin.
We all know adrenalin.
This is when norepinephrine needs to go into overdrive (survival mode).
It's tied to the physical effects of fight or flight response like increased heart rate, more blood to muscles, enlarged pupils, etc.
So cocaine and crack boost dopamine and as a result, there's a cascade effect along very primitive and powerful arousal channels.
An interesting thing happens with long term use of these drugs.
Cocaine or Crack tolerance
This is key to recovery.
When the brain senses an outside and very unnatural boost to a key system like dopamine, it pushes back.
It will start to downregulate dopamine as an offset.
Literally, dopamine receptors will be reduced and sensitivity will drop.
Let's walk through this.
Dopamine is key to being able to get out of bed in the morning, forget work ethic.
It's part of what makes you feel relevant and actualized (for lack of a better word).
Every success you have feels good because of dopamine. The opposite of every failure.
As the brain keeps downregulating dopamine to offset cocaine or crack, eventually your baseline of dopamine is so low that you're taking the drug just to get even.
Further on, you're taking it just to not feel miserable.
That's the process of tolerance (check out CBD and tolerance).
It's also what makes it so touch initially to stop using.
We'll talk about ways to speed the process of recovering this critical system below in the neurogenesis section.
Tolerance figures strongly into the next topic...withdrawal.
Cocaine and crack withdrawals
The downregulation of dopamine and its breakdown metabolites directly drives withdrawals.
With most other drugs, it's tolerance dopamine and some other key pathway.
For example, with benzos, it's GABA and dopamine.
That's why you can have seizures if stop benzos cold turkey (GABA is turned way down and glutamate is actually boosted).
For cocaine and crack, it's primarily a dopamine show.
Imagine if your verve, arousal, and drive are all knocked down to zero.
Understand that symptoms of very low dopamine are brutal since it's such a workhorse in the brain.
A quick look:
The cocaine user has a strong craving for more cocaine during a crash. Other symptoms include fatigue, lack of pleasure, anxiety, irritability, sleepiness, and sometimes agitation or extreme suspicion or paranoia.
We covered the "wanting" piece at our CBD and cravings article.
The other symptoms make sense in light of what we covered above.
What's the suspicion and paranoia?
Turns out that dopamine imbalance symptoms tied to a brain area called the striatum can lead to these symptoms.
The key to recovery is offsetting these symptoms initially and then rescuing the dopamine system.
Let's look at the life raft.
The process of neurogenesis for cocaine and crack
This is the most important section you're going to read in this whole review!
We need to understand this term because it's at the heart of all the new research for cocaine addiction including psilocybin, NAC, and yes...CBD.
Neurogenesis is the process of repairing, remodeling, and building a new brain.
Technically, the nervous system but we're primarily focused on the brain for addiction.
This is key not only for rescuing the dopamine system above but maybe more importantly, for erasing the now entrenched pathways for cocaine or crack.
This involves the circuit of:
- Cues for cocaine use (dollar bill, locations, people, etc)
- Action - the physical process of taking the drug
- Reward - dopamine hit
There's an interesting piece of the puzzle when it comes to cocaine and crack.
They literally suppress the ability of the brain to "unlearn" this addiction.
These data suggest that the regulation of hippocampal neurogenesis may be involved in the emergence of certain symptoms of cocaine addiction, such as cognitive impairment and behavioral sensitization.
The hippocampus is the brain area tied to memory and mood control (among other things).
Think about it...the intersection between memory (drug cues, feelings, etc) and mood control (euphoria, cravings, etc).
Here's the amazing research that new:
Hippocampal neurogenesis protects against cocaine-primed relapse
Let's breakdown what they did because it's too cool.
They first had rats become addicted to cocaine with self-administration.
A frequency was applied to block neurogenesis within the hippocampus in half of the rats.
The rats then had cocaine access removed and tested for relapse.
The rats that had their neurogenesis blocked were much more likely to relapse.
As the researchers put it:
Cocaine self-administration reduced levels of twenty-four day old BrdU cells and dentate gyrus neurogenesis, which was normalized by extinction.
To translate (this is technical)...the process of avoiding relapse was through building a new brain in the hippocampus!
Cocaine naturally suppresses this. No wonder it's such an addictive drug!
It also speaks to why relapse can happen months or years later.
We have to "unlearn" the addiction by writing over it. That's how the brain works.
It's why you'll forget a language but still remember pieces of it decades later.
We have a whole study on CBD and neurogenesis or brain repair but this is key for recovery.
Maybe the key!
As another review put it:
Experimental reduction of AHN consistently exacerbates vulnerability to cocaine.
AHN is adult hippocampal neurogenesis.
Let's finally get to it. CBD and crack or cocaine.
CBD and cocaine or crack addiction
We'll first look at the studies specific to CBD and cocaine or crack before drilling into the component pieces we looked at above.
We can begin with the animal studies first.
Let's start with this NIH study (don't worry, we'll break it down):
CBD has reversed toxicity and seizures induced by cocaine, behavioral sensitization induced by amphetamines, motivation to self-administer cocaine and METH, context- and stress-induced reinstatement of cocaine, and priming-induced reinstatement of METH seeking behaviors.
The toxicity and seizure effect is important for recovery and getting off cocaine but we're more focused on the addiction side.
First, motivation to self-administer. This is essentially cravings.
Context and stress reinstatement basically means relapse after seeing cues for cocaine or crack use.
It could be seeing a syringe or mirror. Anything that's tied to the "learned" circuit of reward for cocaine or crack.
Stress can also cause relapse so we'll look at CBD's effect on stress below.
Let's break down the component pieces.
First a study on mouse induced cocaine self-treatment:
We show that repeated CBD treatment produces anxiolytic effects in the elevated plus-maze test and attenuates cocaine-induced conditioned place preference.
Anxiolytic just means anti-anxiety which is key for recovery (withdrawal effects).
The second piece, Conditioned placed preference is interesting.
This is the whole "salience" aspect we discussed above.
Remember how dopamine is the instrument to determine what's important of all the things in our mind.
With cocaine addiction, cocaine becomes more important in our mind's eye for SURVIVAL than...jobs, families, marriages, etc.
That's place preference...it is front and center!
CBD was shown to reduce this intense focus with cocaine or crack in the above review.
This is all and good but does it translate in the study?
CBD reduced cocaine voluntary consumption and progressive ratio breaking point in the self-administration paradigm
Most importantly, the study pinpointed what led to this effect:
Moreover, our findings show that CBD has pro-neurogenic effects also in cocaine consuming animals.
Remember neurogenesis? It's KEY to the ability of the brain to rewire and "forget" cocaine addiction pathways (which are well-entrenched by this point).
Other studies looked at the effect on the very reward circuit we discussed above:
In addition, CBD (3-20 mg/kg) dose-dependently attenuated cocaine-enhanced brain-stimulation reward (BSR) in rats.
This means that CBD would reduce the effects of cocaine on reward processing.
They even zoomed into the very brain site directly tied to addiction, the nucleus accumbens:
In vivo microdialysis indicated that pretreatment with CBD (10-20 mg/kg) attenuated cocaine-induced increases in extracellular dopamine (DA) in the nucleus accumbens
Essentially, CBD is calming the surge of dopamine as a result of cocaine.
Other studies looked at reinstatement or relapse which appears to be dependent on dose.
We'll get to that question below.
Look at this review:
It is important to note that following the cessation of treatment with CBD, reinstatement remained attenuated for a long time (≈5 months) despite plasma and brain CBD levels remaining detectable only for 3 days
We need to break this down because it's too important.
How on earth could 3 days of CBD affect the cravings of cocaine for months?
There's only one way...neurogenesis...the process of long term brain remodeling.
See why we're so excited about neurogenesis for addiction?
There's a massive, double-blind study for cocaine addiction and CBD which should have results in the next year or so.
Let's go into some of the pathways behind the results above. We're always curious as to the "why" of how something works.
- CBD and neurogenesis for cocaine and crack addiction
- CBD and dopamine balancing for cocaine and crack addiction
- CBD and reward processing for cocaine and crack addiction
- CBD and the endocannabinoid system for cocaine and crack addiction
Let's get started!
CBD and neurogenesis for cocaine and crack addiction
We'll start with our favorite!
Neurogenesis or the process of remodeling the brain including the cocaine reward "gulley".
Remember how one of the above studies tied the preference for cocaine (cravings) to neuron growth.
CBD has powerful effects here across multiple pathways such as Alzheimer's here:
Cannabidiol Reduces Aβ-Induced Neuroinflammation and Promotes Hippocampal Neurogenesis through PPARγ Involvement
Remember how the hippocampus is so important (intersection of memory and emotional response)?
Stress is the enemy of the hippocampus!
CBD's effect there is pronounced:
Anxiolytic-like effects of repeated CBD were shown in chronically stressed animals and these effects were parallel with increased hippocampal neurogenesis.
CBD and dopamine balancing for cocaine and crack addiction
Dopamine is the key player in any addiction but even more so in cocaine.
What about CBD's effects there?
We did a whole review on CBD and dopamine since this pathway is so important to addiction.
There's no better look than with schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia is a complex disease but it's marked by an imbalance in the dopamine system.
What makes it so difficult is that there is too much dopamine in one area (striatum) which leads to the "positive" symptoms like hallucinations and paranoia (which can be shared with cocaine withdrawal).
While also, there is too little dopamine to another area (prefrontal cortex) which leads to the "negative" symptoms like depression and impaired cognition.
The current class of antipsychotics basically drops dopamine to help with the positive symptoms but this makes the other side worse and even adds on parkinsonism (from a third pathway).
The studies on CBD and schizophrenia are very interesting.
CBD appears to normalize both the high and low with improvements on both fronts.
How is this possible?
It seems too good to be true!
This comes down to how CBD works in the endocannabinoid system.
First, that system is tasked with balancing other key systems:
- Immune system - inflammation response (remember the stress cues for relapse)
- Endocrine system - hormones
- Nervous system - neurotransmitters including...dopamine
Most substances will push these various pathways in one direction.
Cocaine and crack only push upwards on dopamine. Never down.
Benzos only push upwards on GABA. Never down.
And so on and so on.
This is why you can have tolerances and even overdose (see can you overdose on CBD).
CBD works differently.
Technically, it's called an allosteric negative modulator.
This means it acts as a feedback system.
There's no better example of this than with cancer.
CBD can have three different effects depending on the state of the cell:
- Healthy cell with low inflammation - no effect
- Healthy cell with high inflammation - reduces inflammation
- Cancerous or virally infected cell - INCREASES inflammation
The last one makes sense when you realize that our body's primary way to get rid of bad cells is via inflammation and oxidative stress.
The birth/death cycle of cells is under the control of the endocannabinoid system.
The likely pathway for this balancing of dopamine is via serotonin, which controls dopamine levels. Check out CBD and serotonin as well!
If dopamine is the hammer, the hand that swings it is the reward system itself.
Let's go there.
CBD and reward processing for cocaine and crack addiction
Cocaine spikes the reward circuit to encourage (more like demand) more cocaine use.
Studies are showing that CBD helps to neutralize this effect which is key to unwinding the "learned" addiction to cocaine or crack.
For example, this study:
These findings suggest that CBD may have certain therapeutic utility by blunting the acute rewarding effects of cocaine via a DA-dependent mechanism.
Of course, it's via the dopamine pathway.
A study looked at this with rats that were trained to become alcohol-dependent.
The effects were as follows:
CBD attenuated context-induced and stress-induced drug seeking without tolerance, sedative effects, or interference with normal motivated behavior.
This same study looked at reinstatement (the animal model equivalent of craving and relapse) and found a significant drop with the CBD group.
This also continued even when the rats were put through intense stress (a known driver of relapse!).
Other studies on THC addiction (see CBD and THC addiction) found that CBD would calm the rewarding effect of cannabis as well.
This all points to a balancing of dopamine.
One final stop.
CBD and the endocannabinoid system for cocaine and crack addiction
We already touched on this system above but the key role helps to explain how it plays out in addiction.
It's our primary stress response system.
By stress, we mean anything that pushes a given pathway one way or the other.
The role of the endocannabinoid system is to bring it back to baseline.
Just a head's up...your baseline may be higher or lower depending on genes, environment, past stress or trauma, diet, sleep, etc.
This may be why people "self-medicate" with certain drugs to begin with.
Obviously, cocaine or crack will push certain pathways too far one way (such as large surges in dopamine).
The endocannabinoid system is tasked with righting the ship but there's no way it can keep up with levels that are not found naturally.
The net effect:
Experimental models are providing increasing evidence for the pharmacological management of endocannabinoid signaling not only to block the direct reinforcing effects of cannabis, opioids, nicotine, and ethanol but also for preventing relapse to the various drugs of abuse, including opioids, cocaine, nicotine, alcohol, and methamphetamine
This system is written all over addiction people.
All addiction! Not just cocaine and crack.
Studies are showing that CBD operates more through the CB2 receptors (which is really an immune system pathway).
Interestingly, cocaine and methamphetamine may rely more on this than other drugs that are affected by CB1 receptors.
New research is pointing this way:
Activation of CB2R inhibits VTA DA neuronal activities, DA release in the nucleus accumbens, and intravenous cocaine self-administration
This may be the way CBD can dampen the dopamine response when it's too high.
We've covered a lot. Let's look at some practical questions.
How much CBD for cocaine and crack addiction or withdrawals
We can actually look to research for guidance here.
This divides into two separate segments:
- An initial week with withdrawals
- Long term period of brain remodeling
This speaks to two different levels.
Acute issues (such as more serious symptoms), are generally showing at about 600-800 mg in studies.
This could be psychosis (remember the dopamine angle) to panic attacks or even public speaking.
Breaking doses into 3rds would match food intake which helps with absorption. Holding the CBD under the tongue for up to 60 seconds can boost bioavailability by 4x's.
After the initial intense withdrawal periods (2-7 days), research is pointing to 300 mg for maximum neurogenesis.
This is critical to actually remodeling the brain to unwind the learned cocaine circuit.
Remember that the dopamine areas of the brain literally have to remodel.
This can take weeks. Studies on THC addiction show normalization of CB1 receptors by 4 weeks.
Studies on benzos and GABA receptors show normalization after 6-8 weeks.
The best guess till we have the clinical trials are completed is this range for dopamine receptors and pathways.
- Week 1 - 600 mg broken up.
- Week 2-8 - 300 mg
This is the best estimate we have from research.
As we covered in our long term CBD use, there's no downside to this continued dose since it doesn't build tolerance, addiction, or withdrawals.
Finally, what type of CBD?
What's the best CBD for cocaine and crack addiction
There are three main concerns:
- Quality of CBD product
- Type of CBD product
- Cost of CBD product
Let's look at each.
First, quality has key requirements:
- Organically grown in the USA by an FDA registered farm
- CO2 processed (cleanest option)
- 3rd party tested
- No THC (THC actually makes other drugs more pleasurable)
- No Solvents
- No Heavy Metals
- No Pesticides
- No Mold
We actually test IndigoNaturals twice since our whole family uses it.
Secondly, we have the question CBD isolate versus full spectrum.
All the research above and the dozens of NIH studies we reference on our site are based on CBD isolate. All of them.
There's very little research on full spectrum.
More importantly, roughly 40-60% of the population has allergy or histamine issues.
This number goes up as we get older and for women.
Many people will have bad reactions to full-spectrum which go away with CBD isolate. Just look at our reviews to see this effect.
Finally, we have to be able to afford these higher amounts.
The key there is cost per mg of CBD.
We intentionally price our CBD as the lowest on the market before discounts!
Our 6000mg bottle is around 2 cents per mg without any of the discounts we offer.
If we follow research (300-600mg), the cost becomes an issue.
We price it this way for a reason...we suffered through the same process from benzos and SSRIs coming off brutal perimenopause (story is here).
It was very dark and if we can help people navigate this process, costs need to come down.
Many brands are taking advantage of people with costs at multiples of ours per mg of CBD.
Be well. Take care of each other. Reach out with any questions.
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.