CBD and Addiction – Can You Become Addicted to CBD?

While THC–the psychoactive element found in Cannabis–can lead to use disorders in some people, what about CBD?

With the recent growth of the CBD industry, many people are turning to CBD to improve their health and overall wellbeing. But much of the population is still confused about the differences between marijuana and hemp, THC and CBD, and the different effects of these cannabinoids.

One of the questions that people ask when they learn about CBD is, “Is CBD addictive?”

Simply put, the answer is, “No. CBD is not addictive.”

How Addiction Works

We can confidently say that CBD is not addictive because of the difference in how CBD interacts with the body and how addictive substances react with the body.

Addiction is a disease of the brain that causes habitual cravings of a substance. Addiction is considered a disease of the brain because the habitual use of substances can alter and change the structure and chemistry of the brain itself.1

Potentially addictive substances target the brain’s pleasure centers, which create a feeling of happiness or satisfaction. Addictive substances typically overstimulate these area, which leads the desire to repeat the consumption of the addictive substance. Neurotransmitters that addictive substances effect include dopamine, opioid peptides, and corticotropin-releasing factor.2

Eventually, the brain begins to produce less of these neurotransmitters and the pleasurable experience the person first had starts to decline. This can lead the person to seek out more and more of the addictive substance.

CBD is different than potentially addictive substances like THC, nicotine, alcohol, or opiates because of how it interacts with the body.

CBD v. THC and Addiction

First, let’s briefly look at the difference between CBD and THC. CBD and THC are both found in Cannabis. Unlike THC, however, CBD does not have a high-inducing, psychoactive effect.

THC is the cannabinoid element that causes the feeling of being “high”. While it is rare, THC can become addictive to some people.3 THC binds to the cannabinoid-1 receptor and activates the dopamine system.4

Unlike THC, CBD does not bind directly to cannabinoid receptors or activate the dopamine centers of the brain.5 A 2017 report by the World Health Organization “indicates that CBD is not associated with abuse potential.”6

So, How Does CBD Interact With the Body Then?

While CBD’s therapeutic effect at a molecular level is still not fully understood, researchers have begun to learn the basics of CBD’s interaction with the body.7

Once CBD enters the body, it begins to interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), the system in the body that’s responsible for regulating things like appetite, mood, sleep, and more.

While THC attaches itself to the cannabinoid receptors of the ECS, CBD works to influence the ECS differently. Rather than binding to the cannabinoid receptors to exert its influence, CBD encourages body create more of its own natural cannabinoids or mediates the breakdown of other cannabinoids.

CBD does, however, have the ability to bind to other non-cannabinoid receptors throughout the body to help bring about its therapeutic effects. Here are some different examples of how CBD binds to other receptors to bring about its effects:

  • CBD can adhere to serotonin receptors and help bring about relief for a range of biological and neurological processes, including anxiety, addiction, appetite, sleep, pain perception, nausea and vomiting.8
  • CBD directly interacts with various ion channels to bring about a therapeutic effect. TRPV1 receptors, which also function as ion channels, are a good example. TRPV1 is known to mediate pain perception, inflammation and body temperature. When CBD interacts with these particular receptors, it can influence pain perception.9
  • GPR55 receptors are another kind of receptors that CBD interacts with, but in a different fashion than the receptors mentioned before. GPR55 receptors–also known as “orphan receptors”–are responsible for modulating blood pressure, bone density, osteoclast cell function and other physiological processes. When these receptors are overactivated, though, they have been found to contribute to osteoporosis and other illnesses like cancer. CBD is a GPR55 antagonist, as University of Aberdeen scientist Ruth Ross disclosed at the 2010 conference of the International Cannabinoid Research Society in Lund, Sweden. By blocking GPR55 signaling, CBD may act to decrease both bone reabsorption and cancer cell proliferation.10

When CBD interacts with the body, it does so through different cannabinoid receptors and not through the pleasure centers of the brain. If someone were to take CBD and then decide to stop using it cold turkey, there are no known side effects or withdrawals.

In fact, the research is showing that CBD may actually be useful as a potential aid in drug addiction.

The Potential of CBD as an Aid for Actual Drug Addiction

There is a surprising and growing amount of research showing that CBD may be an effective way to help those struggling with drug addiction get out of the vicious cycle and be able to successfully beat their addiction. Other factors like CBD’s anxiolytic properties and its minimal adverse side effects also support its potential viability as a treatment option for a variety of symptoms of drug addiction.11

Many different studies lay out evidence showing that CBD could be helpful in overcoming addictions to things like smoking12, alcohol use disorders13, marijuana addictions14, and could even be an asset in fighting the opioid15 epidemic that is spreading across the country.

From the numerous studies that have been done and collectively reviewed, CBD is thought to modulate various neuronal circuits involved in drug addiction.16

Studies have shown that the ECS is involved in the common neurobiological mechanism underlying drug addiction. The ECS participates in the primary rewarding effects of not only cannabinoids, but also substances like nicotine, alcohol and opioids. It does this through the release of endocannabinoids in the ventral tegmental area of the brain. Endocannabinoids are also involved in the motivation to seek drugs by a dopamine-independent mechanism, demonstrated for psychostimulants and opioids. The endocannabinoid system also participates in the common mechanisms underlying relapse to drug-seeking behavior by mediating the motivational effects of drug-related environmental stimuli and drug re-exposure.17

CBD helps ease addiction by inhibiting the reward-facilitating mechanism of the brain that is triggered by different abusive substances. CBD is essentially blocking the “craving” for certain abusive substances and helping the brain and ECS wean off of these substances.18 Furthermore, CBD has the unique potential to help in the prevention of relapse for the patient, as well.19


The question “Is CBD addictive?” can honestly be answered with a resounding “No”.

With all of the therapeutic benefits that it has to offer and its non-addictive nature, CBD is showing its value for people in all different walks of life. Whether suffering from chronic pain to even working to overcome an addiction, CBD seems to be a very promising.

  1. Nestler, Eric J., and Robert C. Malenka. “The addicted brain.” Scientific American 290.3 (2004): 78-85.
  2. Koob, George F., Pietro Paolo Sanna, and Floyd E. Bloom. “Neuroscience of addiction.” Neuron 21.3 (1998): 467-476.
  3. “Is marijuana addictive?”, National Institute on Drug Abuse, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/marijuana-addictive
  4. Chen, Jianping, et al. “Strain-specific facilitation of dopamine efflux by Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol in the nucleus accumbens of rat: an in vivo microdialysis study.” Neuroscience letters129.1 (1991): 136-140.
  5. Long, Leonora E., Daniel T. Malone, and David A. Taylor. “Cannabidiol reverses MK-801-induced disruption of prepulse inhibition in mice.” Neuropsychopharmacology 31.4 (2006): 795.
  6. World Health Organization. “Cannabidiol (CBD) Pre-Review Report Agenda Item 5.2.” Expert Committee on Drug Dependence Thirty-ninth Meeting, Geneva. 2017.
  7. Iuvone, Teresa, et al. “Cannabidiol: a promising drug for neurodegenerative disorders?.” CNS neuroscience & therapeutics 15.1 (2009): 65-75.
  8. Scopinho, América A., et al. “Cannabidiol inhibits the hyperphagia induced by cannabinoid-1 or serotonin-1A receptor agonists.” Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior98.2 (2011): 268-272.
  9. Costa, Barbara, et al. “Vanilloid TRPV1 receptor mediates the antihyperalgesic effect of the nonpsychoactive cannabinoid, cannabidiol, in a rat model of acute inflammation.” British journal of pharmacology 143.2 (2004): 247-250.
  10. Whyte, Lauren S., et al. “The putative cannabinoid receptor GPR55 affects osteoclast function in vitro and bone mass in vivo.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences106.38 (2009): 16511-16516.
  11. Hurd, Yasmin L., et al. “Early phase in the development of cannabidiol as a treatment for addiction: opioid relapse takes initial center stage.” Neurotherapeutics 12.4 (2015): 807-815.
  12. Morgan, Celia JA, et al. “Cannabidiol reduces cigarette consumption in tobacco smokers: preliminary findings.” Addictive behaviors 38.9 (2013): 2433-2436.
  13. Viudez‐Martínez, Adrián, et al. “Cannabidiol reduces ethanol consumption, motivation and relapse in mice.” Addiction biology 23.1 (2018): 154-164.
  14. Shannon, Scott, and Janet Opila-Lehman. “Cannabidiol oil for decreasing addictive use of marijuana: a case report.” Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal 14.6 (2015): 31.
  15. Hurd, Yasmin L. “Cannabidiol: swinging the marijuana pendulum from ‘weed’to medication to treat the opioid epidemic.” Trends in Neurosciences 40.3 (2017): 124-127.
  16. Prud’homme, Mélissa, Romulus Cata, and Didier Jutras-Aswad. “Cannabidiol as an intervention for addictive behaviors: a systematic review of the evidence.” Substance abuse: research and treatment 9 (2015): SART-S25081.
  17. Maldonado, Rafael, Olga Valverde, and Fernando Berrendero. “Involvement of the endocannabinoid system in drug addiction.” Trends in neurosciences 29.4 (2006): 225-232.
  18. Katsidoni, Vicky, Ilektra Anagnostou, and George Panagis. “Cannabidiol inhibits the reward‐facilitating effect of morphine: involvement of 5‐HT1A receptors in the dorsal raphe nucleus.” Addiction Biology 18.2 (2013): 286-296.
  19. Gonzalez-Cuevas, Gustavo, et al. “Unique treatment potential of cannabidiol for the prevention of relapse to drug use: preclinical proof of principle.” Neuropsychopharmacology43.10 (2018): 2036.