By Emily Ledger
Smoking is considered the most preventable cause of death in the world, with six million people dying each year due to smoking-related illness. When considered that cigarettes are at least as difficult to give up as Heroin (an extremely addictive opioid), it isn’t surprising that only 4-7% of smokers are able to quit without the help of medication.
However, with increasing evidence of the Endocannabinoid System’s role in addictive behaviour, Cannabinoids are being considered as treatments for addiction.
The ECS and Nicotine
When Nicotine is taken into the body, there is an increase in the release of Dopamine. Dopamine is a significant chemical in the process of addiction. The release of Dopamine is largely associated with the sense of accomplishment or relief we feel after having reached a goal.
Increased levels of Dopamine following Nicotine intake, is largely what peddles smoking addiction. However, study is increasing knowledge around the regulatory function of the Endocannabinoid System and the processing of Dopamine in the brain regions.
CBD and Smoking
There are two theories of how CBD can effectively help smokers to quit. The first is to do with the Endocannabinoid System, and the second to do with breaking habit.
Although the connection between Nicotine and the ECB is complicated and still not fully understood, it is considered that CBD can interfere with the way in which Nicotine-induced Dopamine is processed. This is because CBD, as a weak antagonist of CB1 receptors, changes the way in which the receptors interact with it’s agonists.
The other theory considers CBD’s anxiolytic effects. Smoking becomes as habit as much as an addiction, and when a habit is broken, it can cause anxiety. This is where CBD can help on another level. CBD is thought to inhibit serotonin (a chemical known to regulate mood). This causes serotonin production to increase, and as a result, feelings of anxiety are reduced.
Is there any Evidence?
There hasn’t yet been enough research into the relationship between the ECS, Cannabinoids and smoking to draw full conclusions. However, a pilot study has highlighted the possible positive effects of CBD on smokers trying to quit. In this study, 24 people were given either a CBD inhaler (12 people) or a placebo inhaler (12 people). Participants were asked to use the inhaler when they felt the urge to smoke. The results showed that cigarette consumption had fallen by 40% in the CBD group after a week of treatment. This was significantly higher than in the placebo group.
More evidence is needed before legitimate claims can be made. However, CBD is a possible option to help quit smoking, which bears little side effects.