The harms associated with tobacco are well-documented. But millions of people in the UK and Ireland continue to smoke desipte the risks.
Public Health England’s annual STOPTOBER campaign provides information and resources for smokers to help them quit smoking for good.
The campaign is built on research showing that smokers who can quit for 28 days are five times more likely to successfully quit.
Most smokers looking to quit either opt for traditional nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT) or e-cigarettes to help them transition towards a smoke-free life.
But could CBD also help?
In 2013, researchers at University of College London (UCL) conducted a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study where they assessed the effectiveness of CBD as a stop-smoking aid.
In the pilot study, 12 smokers were given an inhaler of CBD and 12 smokers were given an inhaler containing a placebo.
The participants were then instructed to use the inhaler whenever they felt the urge to smoke.
Over the course of a week, the researchers recorded no change in the amount of cigarettes consumed in the placebo group.
However, smokers in the CBD group reduced their cigarette consumption by 40%.
The researchers wrote:
“These preliminary data, combined with the strong preclinical rationale for use of this compound, suggest CBD to be a potential treatment for nicotine addiction that warrants further exploration.”
A follow-up study will use brain imaging to assess brain activity patterns to help researchers understand how the CBD works to ease nicotine cravings.
Cutting down with edibles
In a 2018 study published in the journal Addiction, researchers aimed to find out what affect, if any, CBD had on smokers’ ‘attentional bias’.
This is where smokers are distracted by images of smoking which could increase their likelihood of picking up a cigarette.
After a night without tobacco, smokers given an 800mg oral dose of CBD were less likely to smoke after seeing tobacco imagery than the placebo group.
The CBD group also exhibited less pleasure from seeing the tobacco images than the placebo group.
The researchers concluded:
“This study highlights the potential utility of CBD as a treatment for specific neurocognitive components of tobacco use disorder, and suggests that one potential mechanism by which CBD may exert its effects on addiction is via a reduction in the salience of drug cues.
“These results support the growing literature regarding CBD in the treatment of addictive disorders.
So what’s the verdict?
Research into the use of CBD as a stop-smoking aid is in its infancy.
NRT and e-cigarettes have a much greater evidence base demonstrating their effectiveness in keeping people from smoking.
But these early studies and ongoing research into the use of medical cannabis for substance use disorder could help pave the way for a CBD smoking-cessation treatment in the future.