Updated Research on CBD and Dabbing THC or Cannabis Addiction, Withdrawals, and Tolerance
We've gone pretty deep into how THC by itself works in the body in our comparison of CBD and THC here.
Today's cannabis product is very different from a few decades ago and not where is this more apparent than the new world of dabbing.
This move towards higher THC was also addressed in our review, Lawyer Up, Sellers of High THC.
When the research comes out, you can expect more regulation in States where cannabis is legal for high content THC products.
Or lawsuits...whichever comes first.
Essentially, dabbing is the electronic delivery of very high THC.
We'll explain below why this is an issue and we'll also look at CBD's role in offsetting this effect.
CBD is a must if you use cannabis or dab!
We'll go into the research along with these topics:
- A quick introduction to THC from dabbing in the brain
- The process of dabbing addiction
- Does dabbing build tolerance?
- What causes dabbing withdrawals symptoms
- Research on CBD and dabbing
- How much CBD to use with dabbing
- What's the best CBD for dabbing
It's very interesting what we know now about THC by itself and we'll get into that first.
A quick introduction to THC from dabbing in the brain
THC is fascinating. It acts as a substitute for anandamide, our brain's primary endocannabinoid.
Anandamide is named after the Hindu Goddess of Bliss, Anand so you get the picture.
Essentially, anandamide (and by default THC), act as wet blankets on the brain and nervous system activity.
Anandamide's role is our primary stress response buffer.
When things rev too high due to inflammation, stress, immune response, etc, anandamide is made on-demand to counter this effect.
All of these elements are "excitatory" and anandamide is "inhibitory".
It's an emergency brake when our primary brake, GABA, is pushed too far. See CBD and GABA for that info.
Interestingly, the "gas" pedal is glutamate.
After looking at hours of NIH research, we're starting to wonder if THC speaks to people whose glutamate systems are running too hot.
Think of anxiety, ADHD, depression, and a host of different mental health results from excessive glutamate.
In fact, almost every mental health issue incorporates glutamate including...addiction!
Check out our master review of CBD and glutamate for mental health and addiction.
Why can some people use THC products or dabs and never go back while others are drawn to daily or chronic use?
This glutamate "gas" pedal angle is a likely suspect.
In The King of Staten Island, Pete Davidson explained that he uses pot to slow things down.
This mirrors what we see with other people we know.
Repetitive thoughts. OCD. Racing or negative thoughts. Too much gas pedal (generally).
Also, the mood control unit in the brain called the hippocampus may be impaired from past insults (infection, chronic stress, trauma, etc).
Unfortunately, THC is shown in research to further this deterioration of the hippocampus.
Wait till you see the effects of CBD on this below.
So...THC is a big throttle down by imitating Anandamide.
To people with excessive glutamate or not enough GABA, this may feel more like medicine than just recreational use.
Dabbing will intensify this effect since the THC levels are so high.
Let's see where this becomes a problem.
The process of dabbing addiction
There are really two components needed for true addiction.
- The drug must spike dopamine, our key "reward circuit" player
- The drug must build tolerance
Let's first focus on dopamine.
Dopamine is the shaper of what's important to you and what you're going to act on.
It's really geared towards seeking and remembering how to get food, water, and sex...anything that promotes survival and success.
The "remembering" part is key to addiction as a given addiction literally gets locked into the physical structure of a brain.
We'll talk about how to "unwind this".
We did a full review of CBD and dopamine for addiction since it's so interesting.
As for THC…
Acute THC causes increased dopamine release and neuron activity, whilst long-term use is associated with blunting of the dopamine system.
That blunting effect is the other part. Tolerance.
Let's go there now.
Does dabbing build tolerance?
Here's the deal...THC doesn't work EXACTLY like anandamide.
Anandamide is made as needed and almost immediately broken down.
An enzyme called FAAH breaks it down right away.
THC doesn't have this breakdown mechanism.
It stays in the brain at higher levels and for longer than anandamide.
The brain panics. Something's out of balance (it thinks it's anandamide).
The brain will start to downregulate the entire anandamide complex that naturally occurs in our brain.
Anandamide and THC primarily operate via the CB1 receptors. The brain will decrease both the numbers and sensitivity of the CB1 receptors to offset this surge in discount anandamide (THC).
So...if we were low, to begin with (hence THC really hit the spot and dabbing was a huge dose of that), our natural safety net for stress response is pushed even lower when the dab wears off.
Rinse repeat. Chronic use gets us to a point where we're using the dab to just not feel terrible!
After all, check out the article on the woman who can't feel pain, anxiety, or depression because she has too much anandamide.
Now, picture the opposite.
That's tolerance and it's a big reason people can't stop dabbing. It's now a lifeline instead of support to the stress response.
What happens when our system is now depressed and the dab THC wears off?
What causes dabbing withdrawals symptoms
So...two critical pathways that we need to function have been suppressed as a knee-jerk reaction to the high THC in dabbing.
- Anandamide - our stress response buffer
- Dopamine - our motivational driver
We're talking about a critical piece of brain chemistry that is intertwined with every system.
No wonder withdrawals are so brutal.
The most common symptoms fit right into these missing players:
- Mood imbalance and depression
Rip away your stress response system (anandamide) and also take out your reward driver.
No wonder it feels so bad.
There are two issues we need to address.
- First, we need to calm these symptoms so we can get through to the other side (first few days to week)
- Secondly, we need to speed the process of recovery our anandamide and dopamine systems which have been put in reverse
The latter requires a process called neurogenesis...literally making new brain and connections.
That's the key to addiction and maybe the most important part of this entire article.
We'll get into CBD's effect there next.
Finally, let's go there.
Research on CBD and dabbing
We have lots of research on how CBD counters the effects of THC with dabbing just being an accelerated version of this
Let's hit some highlights but then focus on using CBD to stop using THC dabs.
In almost every pathway, CBD has nearly opposite effects to THC.
Where THC directly drives CB1 activity, CBD works as a feedback mechanism.
It sends a message backward and the net effect of this is balance in key pathways such as serotonin (see CBD and serotonin).
Serotonin governs dopamine so that's one piece of the puzzle.
Here's an important difference...you can't overdose on CBD where you can definitely overdose on THC (in terms of psychosis, etc).
Psychosis is a perfect example. Too much THC can trigger a psychotic break where CBD is showing powerful effects to offset this not only from THC but from schizophrenia (see CBD and schizophrenia or CBD and greening out).
This is especially true for dabbing which accounts for the vast majority of reported issues due to the high THC content.
As for the laundry list:
Cannabis use leads to undesirable effects: cognitive impairment, anxiety, paranoia, and increased risks of developing chronic psychosis or drug addiction. Studies examining the protective effects of CBD have shown that CBD can counteract the negative effects of THC.
We're more focused on the addiction and withdrawal side though with dabbing THC.
Let's go there now:
CBD for dabbing THC addiction
So...we have to unwind the effects to dopamine and anandamide.
But also, we need to support these pathways as we may have been low, to begin with (hence the immediate and daily attraction to dabbing).
Let's first get right into the studies on CBD and THC since dabbing is just concentrated THC.
Studies are pointing to CBD as being helpful with THC addiction.
Studies on cannabis ratios of CBD to THC were the initial clue:
Research in cannabis users demonstrates that cannabis with low CBD content produces stronger reinforcing effects and higher ratings of liking and wanting the drug, which could potentially make low-CBD cannabis more addictive.
We can drill down further to understand what's going on.
We have to introduce a term called salience. It's a technical term for what your brain determines is important right now.
Guess what neurotransmitter guides this.
Think of dopamine as attention tunnel vision.
What was CBD's effect on dabbing or THC addiction?
In combination, low doses of CBD (1, 10 mg/kg) reversed the conditioned place aversion induced by THC (10 mg/kg).
If you read the full review of CBD and addiction, this may be CBD's secret weapon.
In the thick of dabbing addition, your whole system is tuned to focus on dabbing THC as if your survival depended on it.
This is the process of dopamine imbalance over time after exposure to THC.
Your brain has "learned" to focus on cues tied to dabbing (smells, places, people, etc) that then trigger wanting.
The "conditioned place period" above just means that dabbing has front and center in your mind's attention.
CBD reduced this ranking which means it's remodeling your dopamine pathway.
The better way to think of it is that it's making it more flexible and changeable.
This is all via neurogenesis or the ability to make new brain and brain connections.
Another study found this effect for both THC and other stimuli like food:
When intoxicated, smokers of high CBD: THC strains showed a reduced attentional bias to drug and food stimuli compared with smokers of low CBD: THC. Those smoking higher CBD: THC strains also showed lower self-rated liking of cannabis stimuli on both test days.
It turns out that THC like from dabbing and CBD have opposite effects in the parts of the brain tied to this "wanting" or "craving".
Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol and CBD differentially modulate prefrontal, striatal, and hippocampal function during attentional salience processing.
Does this actually translate to beating addiction to dabbing?
Lots of small studies reflect this for THC:
Daily symptom assessments demonstrated the absence of significant withdrawal, anxiety, and dissociative symptoms during the treatment.
And this one…
With the use of the CBD oil, the patient reported being less anxious, as well as for settling into a regular pattern of sleep. He also indicated that he had not used any marijuana since starting the CBD oil.
A larger study of 82 people looked at CBD for THC use such as you would find with dabbing:
After six months it halved the amount of cannabis people used compared with placebo, as shown by tests for THC in their urine.
Just by adding CBD to THC in a 1:1 ratio had a significant impact:
For the primary end point, the placebo group reported significantly more days using cannabis during the 12 weeks (mean [SD], 53.1 [33.0] days) than the nabiximols group (mean [SD], 35.0 [32.4] days; estimated difference, 18.6 days; 95% CI, 3.5-33.7 days; P = .02).
In fact, the biggest issue with dabbing is that it's all THC. No CBD to offset the addictive effects of THC.
Currently, bigger studies are being carried out for CBD and high THC addiction like dabbing.
Let's get to a practical question.
CBD for dabbing THC withdrawals
We have to survive the withdrawals.
There are interesting studies on this front from other areas such as opioids.
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.
That was double-blind with a placebo. One of two big studies on opioid withdrawals.
Interestingly, the effect lasted 7 days after a 3-day course.
This speaks to neurogenesis or brain remodeling which is key to not only getting past withdrawals but potentially supporting the reason we were attracted to THC to begin with (the glutamate angle).
Anxiety is a serious withdrawal symptom of dabbing use.
Here's another study with alcohol and cocaine addiction:
Another study looked at CBD's effect of alcohol and cocaine withdrawal (specifically the anxiety):
CBD also reduced experimental anxiety and prevented the development of high impulsivity in rats with an alcohol dependence history.
Check out CBD for alcohol addiction and CBD for cocaine addiction.
Remember how anandamide (which THC substitutes for) is our stress response buffer?
It may be why we're drawn to dabbing (until the addiction kicks in with tolerance and dopamine) to begin with.
Dysregulation of the HPA‐axis may cause the blunted stress response to negative emotional stimuli 118 and stress‐related withdrawal symptoms such as dysphoria, anxiety, and irritability 55, 118 observed in CUD.
CUD is a cannabis use disorder.
The net effect of CBD on this stress-response withdrawal pathway?:
Daily symptom assessments demonstrated the absence of significant withdrawal, anxiety, and dissociative symptoms during the treatment.
The initial withdrawal symptoms generally last 2-7 days.
After that, the process of neurogenesis is critical.
This figures into reversing the effects of tolerance.
This is all about rescuing both anandamide (CB1 receptors) and dopamine.
Let's go there.
CBD for dabbing THC tolerance
We know from above that the brain will downregulate natural pathways for anandamide and dopamine after longer-term dabbing.
In fact, these being low may be why some people are so drawn to high levels of THC like dabbing, to begin with.
Let's start with dopamine since it's critical to addiction and getting out of bed in the morning!
We saw how CBD would shift the focus off of THC which is right in the wheelhouse of dopamine.
We'll go further.
Stay with us as this is interesting.
Schizophrenia is partially an illness of dopamine.
In fact, the major anti-psychotics drop dopamine function across the brain.
The problem is that schizophrenia can have two components:
- Positive symptoms - hallucinations, paranoia, etc
- Negative symptoms - depression, social withdrawal, low effect, etc
Interestingly, they are driven by totally different dopamine function to separate areas of the brain.
- Too much dopamine to the striatum - positive symptoms
- Too little dopamine to the prefrontal cortex - negative symptoms
The problem is that the meds just drop dopamine across the board so they generally only help with the positive symptoms while adding layers of other issues (such as parkinsonism - yet a third pathway for movement).
The studies on CBD and schizophrenia are very interesting. We have a full review here.
They showed positive effects for BOTH suites of symptoms.
We have to go upstream to understand how this is possible.
Serotonin is a master regulator of all behavior and it directly manages dopamine.
CBD's effect on serotonin is profound and maybe its greatest trick.
Look...this one study of many when researchers used an injury to measure CBD's effect on righting the ship:
Seven days of treatment with CBD reduced mechanical allodynia, decreased anxiety-like behavior, and normalized 5-HT activity.
Allodynia is increased pain sensitivity (under serotonin's control). Anxiety - we know all too well.
"Normalized" 5-HT. 5-HT is serotonin.
The review summarizes that CBD "rescued" serotonin function which gets significantly reduced after chronic pain. Exhausted really.
Ever wonder why pain goes along with depression?
Dopamine is so important to addiction and recovery that we have a full review of CBD and dopamine for addiction.
- We just wanted to pull back the curtains a bit to show serotonin in the background.
- As for anandamide, CBD has been shown to reduce FAAH which leads to more anandamide.
The body doesn't build a tolerance to its effect though due to how it works.
THC pushed CB1 activity in one direction. Up!
CBD is technically called a allosteric negative modulator.
This means it sends a signal backwards!
CBD works like a feedback mechanism which is why we don't see overdoses on it at very high levels.
Rescuing the skewed anandamide and dopamine pathways are key to recovery. Actual recovery.
Let's go there now with some actual guidance on timing based on research.
CBD for dabbing THC recovery
Surviving the withdrawal symptoms is the first and immediate concern.
That's generally 2-7 days depending on how long dabbing occurred and the state of your system.
Beyond that, we need to rescue and maybe even prop up (the reason why dabbing THC was so attractive, to begin with) anandamide and dopamine pathways.
This is where neurogenesis comes into play.
Studies on GABA receptor rescue after benzos showed that they normalized in about 30 days.
This means the actual numbers of receptors came back and their sensitivity improved.
Generally, the system returned to normal by 6-8 weeks.
Remember that genes need to be turned back on to make the proteins that form the actual receptors.
This takes some time.
Also, keep in mind that you may have had a depressed anandamide function, to begin with.
Anandamide slows things down and some people run hot due to high glutamate, inflammation, oxidative stress, or hyperactive immune response.
To this end, look at NAC (N-acetyl cysteine) alongside CBD during recovery. Check out the research on NAC for THC addiction.
NAC and CBD together could be powerful tools in recovery from dabbing THC.
This may also help support the original anandamide and glutamate systems of the brain.
For the neurogenesis effect, this can be ongoing and we have specific information on dosage for this.
We covered this in-depth at our CBD and brain repair for mental health and addiction here.
One note...exercise and mindful meditation (check out the Calm app) both drive this effect for recovery as well. Check out CBD, meditation, and exercise for neurogenesis.
Let's look at the dosage side.
How much CBD to use with dabbing
Again, there are two distinct periods.
- Week 1 - withdrawal period
- Week 2- 8 - recovery period
The first week may require higher amounts.
Studies on more severe issues from public speaking with social anxiety to psychosis tested at 600-800 mg per day.
This can be broken into separate doses.
Every person is different so test how you feel and adjust accordingly.
The key point is that we have safety research up to 1500mg with the studies generally between 600-800 mg for fixed periods of time.
Beyond the withdrawal period, we have studied for long term neurogenesis.
Peak neurogenesis occurs around 300 mg per day in research.
This is our goal for recovering receptor activity and rewiring the dopamine reward circuit which has been molded around THC cues and use.
These pathways have to be re-written or allowed to wither.
300 mg long term is the peak level for this second phase.
Let's look at the type of CBD.
What's the best CBD for dabbing
There are some basic requirements:
- Organically grown in the US at an FDA registered farm
- 3rd Party Tested
- CO2 processed
- No THC - remember, this is what we're trying to unwind
- No solvents
- No heavy metals
- No pesticides
- No bacteria
- No mold
We test our CBD twice since our whole family uses it.
Then there's the question of full-spectrum versus CBD isolate.
We reference dozens of NIH studies on CBD and they all have one thing in common.
It's based on CBD isolate. CBD by itself.
The bigger issue is this...roughly 40-60% of people have allergy or histamine issues.
All that plant material from full-spectrum is likely not going to feel great for this large group of people.
We see it all the time with people who have side effects from full-spectrum which go away when they try to isolate.
Check out the reviews for example.
Finally, there's the cost.
Research is pointing to between 300 mg to 800 mg for actual results.
Cost per mg of CBD becomes critical.
In fact, that's the only way to measure cost.
We have an entire CBD cost comparison review here but our 6000mg bottles are consistently priced around 2 cents per mg of CBD...the best on the market (we can find) for legitimate CBD with 3rd party testing.
That's before our discounts which can go up to 30%.
We've been there (with SSRIs and benzos) so if we can help people recover from dabbing addiction, it's well worth it.
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.