Cannabinoid abuse and addiction

CBD OilCannabidiol, commonly abbreviated as CBD, is a naturally occurring chemical compound found in the cannabis sativa plant. It is believed by cannabis product users and by a growing body of researchers to have wide-ranging medicinal benefits, though it is currently approved by United States Food and Drug Administration only for the treatment of certain rare types of childhood seizures.

CBD belongs to a large family of chemical compounds called cannabinoids, which closely resemble compounds naturally produced in the human body and which have a variety of effects. It is consumed by smoking dried cannabis buds, inhaling vaporized or aerosolized particles of those buds, absorbing aerosolized particles through the cheek’s mucous membranes, by cooking cannabis or CBD extract in foods, and by distilling CBD into a tincture or concentrated oil. CBD is the second most well-known cannabinoid after tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the compound that induces a euphoric “high” in cannabis users. However, unlike THC, CBD is generally considered to be non-psychoactive and does not produce a euphoric effect.

Cannabis Plant-derived Products

You’ve likely heard of CBD, especially if you live in a state that legally allows medicinal or recreational marijuana use. Commercial CBD products are becoming increasingly available in the U.S. Many formulations are based on varying concentrations of CBD, or on the ratio of CBD to THC concentrations, to produce desired effects. In higher concentrations, CBD is believed to have anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects. And it is being studied for its potential to curb addictive cravings, among other uses.

Even if you use them, you may find that terms for cannabis plant-derived products can be confusing. As you consider your relationship with these products, the following short glossary of terms may be helpful:

  • Cannabis sativa: a widely cultivated flowering plant with various industrial, recreational and medicinal uses. “Cannabis plant” is a synonym for cannabis sativa.
  • Cannabinoids: chemical compounds that naturally occur in the cannabis plant, which  mimic or act similarly to those produced in the human body.
  • Marijuana: a psychoactive drug derived from the cannabis sativa plant, for which THC is the main active ingredient. The single word “cannabis” is usually a synonym for marijuana, whereas “cannabis plant” refers to cannabis sativa.
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): a cannabinoid in cannabis that is primarily responsible for its psychoactive and intoxicating effects.
  • Hemp: a type of cannabis sativa plant that is low in THC concentration and thus not psychoactive, with a wide variety of industrial uses.
  • Cannabidiol (CBD): another cannabinoid that is not psychoactive or intoxicating but is believed to have a variety of medicinal effects. The oils of CBD are often extracted from hemp plants.
  • Endocannabinoids: cannabinoids naturally produced by the human body with many effects on regulation of mood, appetite and inflammation, among other functions.
  • Cannabinoid receptors: access sites within the body’s cells and tissues for cannabinoids to activate their effects.

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CBD Usage Within Your Body

While the exact mechanisms for the effects of CBD are still being studied, several facts have been established. Your brain’s predominant cannabinoid receptors, called CB1 receptors, help activate endocannabinoids like anandamine, which can cause euphoria, improved mood, heightened senses and increased appetite, among other effects (the word “anand” means “bliss” in Hindi). Whereas THC is very active at these CB1 receptors and thus promotes these effects. CBD limits this activity at these receptor sites and only indirectly so. It appears that CBD can “cap” the runaway effects of these endocannabinoids, or of THC intake. This limiting action is thought to be responsible for CBD’s purported anti-psychotic and anti-seizure properties.

CBD has a similar limiting effect on the activity of CB2 receptors. Which is also present in the brain but predominate in the peripheral nervous system. CB2 activity is thought to regulate many disease processes, including the disease of addiction, and the ability of CBD to regulate CB2 activity has led to its consideration as an anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-addiction agent.

CBD’s most activating effects appear to help it regulate serotonin. A chemical messenger for nerve cells with wide distribution in the brain and digestive tract that is responsible for mood and anxiety regulation. The action of CBD at a particular serotonin receptor called 5HT1A is believed to confer antidepressant and antianxiety effects. The medications buspirone and aripiprazole, which are commonly added to standard antidepressants to augment their effect, also display activity at this receptor.

Finally, CBD increases the availability of adenosine. An important biological chemical with many functions, including regulation of inflammation, cardiovascular function and sleep induction. Adenosine promotes the release of dopamine and glutamate in the brain’s reward center. Some of the anti-inflammatory activity and reported pro-sleep activity of CBD is likely due to this relationship with adenosine.

Can CBD Usage Ever Become a Problem?

Some potential side effects of CBD are nausea, headache, decreased appetite, fatigue and diarrhea.

CBD does not cause euphoria, intoxication or withdrawal and is not “addictive” in the traditional sense of the word. However, it can exert powerful influence on the brain due to its antidepressant, anti-anxiety and pain relieving effects. These effects, of course, are useful for the person who suffers from medical conditions. But there is some potential for the effects to be harmful. Some signs that CBD usage could be harmful might include:

  • Engaging in increasingly riskier behavior to obtain CBD
  • Hiding or lying about CBD usage
  • Unsuccessful attempts to stop using CBD
  • Continuing to use CBD despite clear negative consequences
  • Inability to cope with normal life stressors without the use of CBD

If you have faced any of these situations, you should know that CBD itself is probably not the problem, but the behavior around it can be. The human psyche can be tricky. Even substances and processes that can seem harmless can produce unhealthy behavior and coping strategies.

At Transformations Treatment Center, our goal is to help you to develop adaptive, healthy behavior patterns, and we use a holistic and evidence-based approach to treating substance use disorders. We will actively listen, support you and work with you to re-establish your sense of balance. If you believe that you may be experiencing a problem with CBD usage, or with a similar substance, contact us and tell us your story.