Trying to quit smoking marijuana? This study finds that CBD might be able to help

A newly released randomized and double-blind study published in the Lancet Psychiatry found that prescription CBD may be able to help those who suffer from cannabis use disorder wane off their usage of the plant.

The study, published on July 28th, found that the non-psychoactive and non-intoxicating ingredient in the industrial hemp plant, CBD, was more effective than the placebo control in getting the volunteers, who were motivated to quit using marijuana but had previously failed to do so, to kick the habit.

This was the first clinical trial to study the effectiveness of CBD for reducing cannabis usage. As CBD and marijuana are often themselves confused, we’re first going to break down what CBD is and how it can be consumed, what cannabis us disorder is, what the researchers found and what may have been flawed in the study. Finally , we’ll look at what some next steps are for further proving out this theory.

What is CBD?

CBD (Cannabidiol) is a natural compound that is found in the cannabis plant. It’s one of the 114 known cannabinoids found inside the cannabis plant; CBD, CBG CBN and THC are all cannabinoids. Generally, when someone is trying to curb their use of cannabis, they’re trying to reduce the amount of high-THC cannabis that they’re using. THC is the intoxicating part of the plant that gives a user the traditional “high” feeling.

CBD will definitely not get you the ‘high feeling,’ but it will affect the mind. It has been used in clinical trials for treating seizure disorders, PTSD, anxiety, depression and a host of other ailments. CBD does affect the mind, but in a positive, healthy and rejuvenating manner. You can experience all the touted public benefits of marijuana without the ‘high feeling.’ 

CBD generally comes from the industrial hemp plant rather than the marijuana plant, both of which are derived from cannabis.

The difference between Hemp (CBD) and Marijuana, provided by Hemp Crate Co.

CBD can be taken in a variety of manners including ingestion via edibles, topical application via a cream or lotion and sublingual consumption (aka absorption) via the glands in the mouth. Additionally, one of the most effective ways to consume CBD is by smoking or vaping which is a similar method of consumption to how traditional high-THC marijuana is consumed.

What is cannabis use disorder?

Quite simply, cannabis use disorder is a medically reviewed diagnosis that is given for “problematic marijuana use.” This terminology might come as a surprise to many as THC-heavy marijuana has long been considered a drug that is non-addictive. The scientists classifying the disorder understand that the terminology can be confusing at best and misleading at worst.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, “Marijuana use disorders are often associated with dependence—in which a person feels withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug. People who use marijuana frequently often report irritability, mood and sleep difficulties, decreased appetite, cravings, restlessness, and/or various forms of physical discomfort that peak within the first week after quitting and last up to two weeks. Marijuana dependence occurs when the brain adapts to large amounts of the drug by reducing production of and sensitivity to its own endocannabinoid neurotransmitters.”

We recognize that the drug itself is likely not addicting but the circumstances surrounding its consumption can, in fact, create addictive habits. Again, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2015, about 4.0 million people in the United States met the diagnostic criteria for a marijuana use disorder; 138,000 voluntarily sought treatment for their marijuana use.

As has been discussed before, weed is becoming increasingly more potent. recent federal study found that “the potency of illicit cannabis plant material has consistently risen over time since 1995 from approximately 4% in 1995 to approximately 12% in 2014.” The marijuana that today’s users are consuming is three times (3x) more potent than that was being consumed just two decades ago. For this reason, the effects of marijuana, both positive AND negative, will need to be continually studied.

How can CBD help those suffering from cannabis use disorder?

Taken with credit to Hemp Crate Co

The hypothesis of the researchers from the Lancet Psychiatry states:

“A substantial and unmet clinical need exists for pharmacological treatment of cannabis use disorders. Cannabidiol could offer a novel treatment, but it is unclear which doses might be efficacious or safe. Therefore, we aimed to identify efficacious doses and eliminate inefficacious doses in a phase 2a trial using an adaptive Bayesian design.” They went on to conclude “In the first randomized clinical trial of cannabidiol for cannabis use disorder, cannabidiol 400 mg and 800 mg were safe and more efficacious than placebo at reducing cannabis use.”

Researchers for the Lancet Psychiatry

Let’s break down how the study took place:

  • 82 volunteers participated in the study in total
  • The study was broken into two stages where participants were given treatment for four weeks and were analyzed for six months following treatment
  • The study took place over four years
  • In the first stage of the trial, 48 volunteers received either placebo or CBD at doses of 200mg, 400mg, or 800mg.
  • In the second stage of the trial, the researchers recruited an additional 34 volunteers to receive either placebo, 400mg, or 800mg CBD. At the end of the trial, they found consistent evidence that CBD at 400mg or 800mg was more effective than placebo at reducing cannabis use.
  • The researcher’s results showed that study participants that were treated with CBD showed lower levels of cannabis in their urine and showed more days where they abstained from cannabis use altogether when compared to their placebo counterparts

It’s important to note a few things about this study when considering its conclusions. The first is that the studied analyzed an extremely small sample size of patients. While the results were found to be statistically significant at a 95% confidence interval, we would like to see studies with larger sample sizes performed. Additionally, we’d be interested to see how the use of CBD compares to other “harm-reduction” techniques that have been used to curtail the use of tobacco smokers.

The second point we’d like to bring up is that the levels of CBD given to participants in the study were prescribed levels of CBD. These levels of CBD, which were up to 800mg, were in excess of what you can find in most single bottles of CBD, let alone a single dose. While there is currently only one FDA approved drug that includes CBD, it’s clear that prescription levels of CBD will far exceed what the public is currently used to. Which is why it’s great to see CBD prices to the consumer continuing to fall.

The Wrap

While this study highlights the effectiveness of an interesting alternative for those wishing to curtail their marijuana usage, it certainly has its own problems. Additionally, we want to make sure there is sufficient research that goes into cannabis use disorder that analyzes how harmful, or not, the disorder truly is. The recent resurgence in harm-reduction techniques where tobacco and marijuana are concerned is great to see.

Regardless, it’s clear that the use of CBD has many benefits and finding the right CBD product for you is important whether you’re looking to curtail your marijuana use or just looking for a good night’s sleep.

-Hemp Crate Co.

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