CBD Tolerance and Addiction

October 21, 2022

When it comes to CBD, the topic of tolerance and addiction is an important one. Not only can this impact dosing, it raises a lot of questions about how CBD interacts with our bodies. It’s not uncommon to see people asking questions about the possibility of CBD addiction, while others discuss the potential of CBD to help with substance withdrawal. When looking for information within the CBD community, it’s easy to find anecdotal reports claiming built tolerance, developed addiction, and everything in between. Getting a straight answer can be challenging.

Like most things CBD related, the science is still new. With this in mind, we wanted to take a moment to discuss what we do know so far about CBD and addiction.

If you’re looking for more information about the potential risks associated with CBD use, check out what we wrote here.

From the Authorities

With CBD becoming both more popular and accessible, many health authorities have begun to investigate its safety and addictive potential. Thankfully, while the FDA continues to exercise caution around CBD use, other authorities appear to have more positive outlooks. The World Health Organization, in a report that has now been removed from their website, stated that CBD does not appear to have abuse potential. Additionally, Health Canada recently released a CBD review report, and also concluded that CBD is non-addicting.

Tolerance

There seems to be less scientific discussion around whether or not our bodies can build a tolerance towards CBD. This study found that CBD tolerance didn’t built up over time, while another study found that ‘reverse tolerance’ may be possible. This is when, over time, less of a substance is needed to produce the same results.

The idea that we don’t develop a tolerance towards CBD is largely due the way it interacts with our body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), a series of receptors and transmitters that help keep our bodies in homeostasis, or balance. It turns out that CBD has low binding potential with both our CB1 and CB2 receptors, the main receptor sites in the ECS. While CBD still impacts the ECS and influences these receptors, unlike THC, it’s less likely to connect and latch on to these receptors directly. Ultimately, this means that our bodies are less likely to build tolerance to CBD through repeated receptor binding.

That said, there has been a lot of talk within the community about tolerance, and the idea of ‘CBD breaks’ is a somewhat common one. However, since everyone’s body is different, it can be hard to make any blanket statements about how CBD will impact any one individual. Again, the science isn’t really there yet.

For more information about how CBD interacts with our bodies, check out what we wrote here.

THC

In contrast to CBD, THC affects our ECS differently, meaning that it may have more addictive potential. More specifically, it’s able to bind more effectively to CB1 receptors, which is also one reason why THC can give you that high.

Some forms of CBD, namely Full Spectrum, do contain some levels of THC. One study conducted with rats found that CBD may decrease some of the effects of THC, which may mean it has the potential to decrease any developed tolerance to THC. Additionally, Health Canada have stated that they do not believe that even the maximum levels of THC allowed in a Full Spectrum CBD product have potential for abuse.

That said, more research is needed about the interactions between THC and CBD before we know more about how CBD may impact THC’s more addictive qualities.

Withdrawal Treatment

Not only has CBD been shown to be non-addictive, it’s currently being investigated as a potential treatment for addiction and withdrawal. A literature review found 14 studies (9 of which were conducted on animals) that suggested CBD may have potential to help treat opioid, cocaine, psychostimulant, cannabis, and tobacco addiction. However, it concluded that more research is needed before we can say anything for certain. More specifically, this study, conducted with 42 participants, found that compared to a placebo, CBD use helped minimize symptoms of heroin cravings and anxiety.

That said, others have cautioned against sensationalizing CBD’s potential use as a withdrawal treatment. This is fair, since more research is needed before we know anything for certain. As with the case of CBD and Covid, it’s important not to jump to conclusions simply because a handful of studies seem promising.

TL;DR

Everyone’s body is different, so experiences with CBD can vary from person to person. As such, we don’t want to discredit anyone’s personal experience or the stories they’ve shared about their own journeys with CBD, addiction, and tolerance. However, the research we have right now suggests that CBD is non-addictive and may be difficult to build a tolerance with. Currently, CBD is also being investigated as a potential treatment for addiction and withdrawal.

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