Nowadays, smoking has become a common act, a social gesture, a daily habit. Today, there are 1.1 billion smokers around the world, making up almost 1/7 of the worlds population. However, damages caused by tobacco consumption are well known and broadcasted, for example, increased risk of cancer, stroke, fertility issues, etc… This is why numerous laws have been passed in order to limit the consumption of tobacco such as price increases for cigarettes, implementation of neutral packaging, advertising campaigns more or less aggressive, etc…
And yet, the addiction phenomenon is more important and shows us why it could be so difficult to quit smoking. Thus, during the withdrawal period, a lot of adverse side effects could be felt : irritability, anxiety, mood swings, sleep disorders, lack of appetite, headaches, etc…
Cannabidiol as a solution?
According to a recent study, CBD, or cannabidiol (one of the components of the cannabis plant) could be very effective when trying to reduce smoking and cigarette consumption. Indeed, a 2013 study (1) led by the clinical psychopharmacology unit in the University College London shows how the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is naturally present in our bodies, can play a key role in the regulation of nicotine addiction. Within this double blind study, 24 people, who were willing to quit smoking, were split in two groups. One group had to inhale a placebo while the other group inhaled CBD. The participants had to use the inhalator when they felt the desire to smoke.
After one week of treatment, it has been noticed that smokers inhaling CBD had reduced their consumption by 40%, i.e. they wanted to use the inhalator 40% less than the placebo group.
According to one of the study directors, Dr. Morgan, CBD could help with reducing anxiety which allows smokers who are in withdrawal to be more relax. Indeed, CBD takes action on the ECS, with the cannabinoid receptors which are regulating numerous bodily phenomena. This way, cannabidiol is going to affect the adenosine receptors which allows the person to have a more regular and restorative sleep; and the serotonin receptors which regulate our moods and anxiety.
Moreover, it is known that CBD affects the memorisation process. So according to the members of this study, CBD affects the reconsolidating process. When a smoker sees a person consuming tobacco, his brain is sending signals of pleasure, reward and whole sensation. CBD would be capable of eliminating the reward system produced by our brain when a smoker smokes or sees another person smoking.
This study is promising and leads us to believe that CBD has a great potential regarding its different proprieties and its anti-addiction power regarding nicotine.
CBD to quit cannabis?
CBD could also help when giving up cannabis consumption. Cannabis is an interesting plant because it contains components which are naturally balanced to each other. Indeed, it is known that CBD is the antidote for the side effects of THC. So at certain doses, CBD reduces and sometimes even cancels the side effects of THC, for example, the psychoactive effect. Likewise, cannabidiol could have a positive effect on helping people who are addicted to cannabis to stop ingesting it while reducing the addiction phenomena, which is partly caused by the THC.
The results of a case study lead in 2012, at the Sao Paulo university, are heading in this direction. Cannabis tolerance and withdrawal symptoms are caused by the desensitisation of CB1 receptors excited by THC. Thus, during 10 days, a woman who is used to consuming cannabis in a regular manner and suffering withdrawal symptoms, consumed CBD to get through this period. It has been shown that she felt none of the withdrawal symptoms like hunger, anxiety, sleep disorders and mood swings.
 Morgan CJ et alt. Cannabidiol reduces cigarette consumption in tobacco smokers: preliminary findings. 2013. Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit, University College London, London, UK.
Crippa JA et alt. Cannabidiol for the treatment of cannabis withdrawal syndrome: a case report. 2013. Department of Neuroscience and Behavior, Ribeirão Preto Medical School, University of São Paulo and INCT Translational Medicine (CNPq)-São Paulo, Brazil.