CBD can help people stop smoking marijuana if addicted

Millions of people have experienced an addictive dependence to marijuana, according to surveys, so much so that their daily lives are disrupted with symptoms such as restlessness, irritability and out-of-control appetite.

Now, a new study says the drug’s non-intoxicating relative, cannabidiol — better known as CBD — can help alleviate the desire to light up.

CBD is known for treating a number of disorders and diseases, but just how much is needed to help people quit smoking weed was unknown until now, according to the study published Tuesday in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry.

“The results from our trial open up a novel therapeutic strategy for managing problematic cannabis use in clinical settings,” study lead author Dr. Tom Freeman, director of the addiction and mental health group within the department of psychology at the University of Bath in England, said in a news release.

“Whilst it may seem counterintuitive to treat problematic cannabis use with CBD — a constituent part of the cannabis plant — THC and CBD have contrasting effects on our own endogenous cannabinoid system.”

To date, there are no recommended treatments or therapies for people with problematic cannabis use, which affects about 22 million people around the world, according to the researchers.

A dependence on the drug happens when the brain adapts to large amounts of it, reducing its sensitivity to the euphoric “high” triggered by THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. As time goes on, people need more of it to feel the drug’s effects.

Over a month’s time, the team gave 82 people either 200mg, 400mg or 800mg of oral CBD or a placebo to test which dose was the most effective. Only volunteers who said they wanted to quit using cannabis but had failed to do so at least once prior to the experiment were included in the study. Participants were also followed up with six months after treatment.

The researchers found that 200mg was ineffective at alleviating dependence on marijuana, but doses of 400mg and 800mg helped participants last more days without using the drug compared to those on the placebo, according to the study.

People treated with CBD also showed lower levels of cannabis in their urine, the researchers said in the release.

Important to note, however, is that the doses of CBD tested were ”significantly higher than CBD products purchased online,” which is about 25mg per day. Despite the high doses, no increases in side effects were reported, the researchers said.

What is CBD, and what is it good for?

CBD is a naturally occurring ingredient in cannabis, and it comes from the hemp plant, a cousin of the marijuana plant.

Unlike THC, it does not cause a “high,” but rather CBD is used to treat several illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, anxiety and muscular pains, according to WebMD. Past studies have shown that CBD works by preventing the breakdown of a chemical in the brain that affects pain, mood and mental function.

“In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential…. T.o date, there is no evidence of recreational use of CBD or any public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD,” the World Health Organization said.

Its legality depends on a number of factors including where in the country it’s being used, its intended use, and how it’s labeled and marketed, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

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Katie Camero is a McClatchy National Real-Time reporter focusing on science. She graduated from Boston University and has articles in the Wall Street Journal, Science, and The Boston Globe.