CBD is attracting attention due to its lack of potential for abuse, its safety profile and the potential it appears to have to reduce anxiety and stress. Many people have gravitated to its use as an alternative to prescription drugs or alcohol because they appreciate the fact that it has few to no side effects and is not addictive.
Recently, the possible use of CBD in the treatment of substance abuse is receiving attention. Let us first take a brief look at CBD.
Why people drink alcohol
For many years, researchers have tried to figure out why some people can enjoy a drink without going further and others become dependent upon or addicted to alcohol. The reasons for alcohol use are often due to a desire to avoid painful feelings or to have good feelings.
For example, a person with social anxiety may drink at a party to feel more relaxed. A person suffering from depression may drink to numb feelings of despair. People experiencing severe pain may drink to cope.
The pleasure-reward circuit in humans creates positive feelings related to certain behaviors and so people repeat them again and again. Certain substances, like alcohol, increase the production of “feel-good” brain chemicals, like dopamine and serotonin, and suppress other balancing neurotransmitters.
Alcohol use disorder (AUD)
As soon as drinking spirals out of control, people have a risk of developing alcohol use disorder. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is an addictive disorder where individuals progressively lose control of their use of alcohol. It causes millions of deaths every year and as alcohol is essentially a neurotoxin, it causes brain cells to shrink and damages the cells in organs like the liver.
Why CBD could help with AUD
Scientists are only recently beginning to understand the role of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which has receptors all over the human body. This system helps to regulate bodily functions, such as sleep, appetite and immunity.
It maintains a balance or homeostasis in the body. It appears that endocannabinoids can be depleted by heavy drinking and there is evidence to suggest that CBD is able to help the endocannabinoid system to produce more of its own endocannabinoids.
Studies on AUD and CBD use to treat it
The areas of the brain affected by alcohol are those responsible for attention, memory, learning, problem-solving and behavior control. There are clear signs in people with AUD of permanent brain deficits. Some preclinical trials indicate that CBD may be able to help reduce withdrawal symptoms and protect the brain from damage related to alcohol use over the short and long term.
Alcohol can cause fats to accumulate in the liver, which can affect how it functions and cause inflammation. This can eventually lead to liver diseases. Studies done on mice found that CBD can reduce oxidative stress levels in the liver.
In a 2019 review of 26 original studies on the use of CBD to treat alcohol use disorder (AUD), it was found that CBD reduces the overall level of drinking and helps to prevent liver and brain damage. However, these findings only come from animal studies and no human studies have been done yet. A human study is currently being conducted in the U.S. into the use of CBD to reduce overall levels of drinking.
Another human trial found that CBD reduced blood alcohol levels when CBD and an alcoholic beverage were consumed together.
There may be a lack of human trials but CBD has been found to curb addictive behaviors in other clinical trials related to marijuana and opioid use. Scientists agree that CBD appears to have beneficial effects in treating addiction that could also apply to alcohol use disorder.
It is common for people to rely on a glass of red wine to relax after a hard day at work. However, many are now drinking CBD tea as an alternative.
Drinking CBD tea is a calming ritual that may help quiet the mind, relax the body and prepare someone for sleep. A glass of wine may be helpful as a sedative, but too much alcohol can disrupt sleep, whereas CBD helps people to relax and improves sleep.
CBD-infused alcoholic beverages
Consumers want less alcohol in their beverages and so many brands are working on creating convincing low alcohol products. They are trying to mimic the warming sensation of alcohol in various ways, such as using small amounts of chili or pepper-based extracts.
Consumers are also looking for quality, artisanal processes and ingredients. Brands are using unusual botanicals to offer them unique tastes and re-inventing the way common botanicals are used.
CBD-infused alcoholic beverages are new territory but alcohol producers are betting CBD-infused alcoholic beverages are going to become a huge trend. This could be interesting considering that consuming CBD with alcohol could help lower how much alcohol enters the bloodstream. The idea of adding CBD to low alcohol drinks is to give consumers a chance to unwind without the setbacks of consuming too much alcohol.
A final word
CBD appears to have great potential as a healthy alternative to drinking alcohol. It also appears to be able to decrease the motivation to drink, reduce the uncontrollable urge to drink more and how much a person drinks in one sitting.
It even appears to help deal with underlying conditions that lead people to self-medicate before they reach the stage of addiction. For people who have alcohol use disorder, it may help to reduce overall levels of drinking and reduce damage to the brain and liver.
Comparison of Cannabidiol, Antioxidants, and Diuretics in Reversing Binge Ethanol-Induced Neurotoxicity https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4183207/
Cytochrome P4502E1, oxidative stress, JNK, and autophagy in acute alcohol-induced fatty liver https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22749809/
Therapeutic Prospects of Cannabidiol for Alcohol Use Disorder and Alcohol-Related Damages on the Liver and the Brain https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6554654/
Interaction of cannabidiol and alcohol in humans https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/120541/
Effects of Cannabidiol in Alcohol Use Disorder https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03252756