CBD and Alcoholism Treatment?  Can it help?

CBD and Alcoholism Treatment?  Can it help?

CBD, the broadly accessible wonder extract from the hemp plant, is being touted as the cure for everything. There was something we did not see on most lists, and that made us wonder. Can CBD help with treatment and relapse prevention for alcohol use disorder?

CBD, the broadly accessible wonder extract from the hemp plant, is being touted as the cure for everything. 

  1. Got anxiety? - CBD tinctures will fix that.
  2. Pain? - No problem, just rub some CBD on it.
  3. Can’t sleep? - Take this CBD gummy.

You get the point. 

Medical Doctors Desk  

The fact is, with the meteoric rise in popularity of CBD, studies to prove those claims are just getting started.  There’s currently only one FDA approved CBD treatment. 

The drug Epidolex was approved by the Food and Drug administration in June 2018 to treat two forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. 

We are not saying that CBD does not help with anxiety, pain, sleep, inflammation, you name it.  It has helped our team members with various conditions and dramatically so. 

We’re simply saying be careful with reading too much into the claims of some manufacturers who state their “formulas” are a miraculous treatment for all your ailments. 

CBD is still not a regulated extract/supplement, so none of their statements can be proven.  Your best bet is to find a reputable brand and try it for yourself. 

Start with a low dose, and after about 5 days increase as you see and measure your body’s response and tolerance. 

Make sure you also pick the CBD variety that is right for you.  There are 3 main types of CBD for sale:

  1. Full Spectrum CBD
  2. Broad Spectrum CBD
  3. CBD Isolate

You can read up on the differences between them in our previous blogs.

All these claims and uses got us wondering if CBD could possibly help in dealing with one of our society’s biggest killers - Alcoholism.  Or, to put it correctly in a way that is acceptable by the medical community today, Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).

A hospital patient stares out the window 

The facts and statistics surrounding AUD in the United States are mind blowing.  According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:

  • 14 million adults ages 18 and older had some sort of AUD (9.2 million men and 5.3 million women).
  • Only about 7.9% of adults who had AUD in the past year received treatment.
  • An estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually. That makes AUD the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States, behind tobacco and poor diet and physical inactivity.
  • In 2010, alcohol misuse cost the United States $249.0 billion.

It’s very hard to wrap your head around those stats.  Especially since every single person in the US either directly or indirectly knows someone that has struggled with alcohol. 

How is this not on the front page of every newspaper?  How are we not finding new ways to help, and move away from stigmatizing this disease?

Woman lays head on hospital bed

CBD and Alcohol Use Disorder

According to a recent study review, published in Frontiers in Pharmacology, there’s some promise:

Results: Experimental studies find that CBD reduces the overall level of alcohol drinking in animal models of AUD by reducing ethanol intake, motivation for ethanol, relapse, anxiety, and impulsivity. Moreover, CBD reduces alcohol-related steatosis and fibrosis in the liver by reducing lipid accumulation, stimulating autophagy, modulating inflammation, reducing oxidative stress, and by inducing death of activated hepatic stellate cells. Finally, CBD reduces alcohol-related brain damage, preventing neuronal loss by its antioxidant and immunomodulatory properties.” 

You can find the full article here.

OK read that statement again.

Spa tools and decorations

Not only does CBD seem to reduce the level of drinking, reduce relapse, anxiety, and impulsivity, it also seems to help in protecting the brain and liver from alcohol damage! 

That is astonishing.  

There are many more studies, including long term studies that need to be done, but the promise of this wonder cannabinoid continues to amaze.

So why are we not hearing more about CBD helping with Alcohol Use Disorder?

The answer is more complex than it seems. 

On one hand, there’s a stigma for people in recovery who use a “Marijuana Maintenance Plan.” 

Primarily, most people who consider themselves sober or clean, have sworn themselves completely free of any mind-altering substances, not just alcohol.  Marijuana is perhaps the most common of them. 

While CBD doesn’t actually get you high, some consider its effects to be that of a mind-altering substance.  Therefore, in some recovery circles using CBD is likened to smoking weed, and considered a "no no."

There’s also the stigma that still surrounds CBD.  Unfortunately, many people consider it to be marijuana, which is illegal in many States.  They believe it will get them high. 

Cloudy sky from above

The truth is that the CBD that is readily available in stores and online comes from hemp.  Hemp is still a cannabis plant, but it gets its’ classification because the THC content is 0.3% or less.  Anything above that, and it is a marijuana plant, not hemp. 

CBD from hemp currently comes in 3 varieties, differences in which we discussed previously.  When it comes to the THC content, the differences are listed below.

You can still get CBD from a marijuana plant, but the THC content is much higher, and it will only be available from a medical dispensary or recreational dispensary (where legal). It will not be sold at your local Whole Foods.

Bottom Line on CBD and AUD 

There’s a ton of promise when it comes to CBD and the treatment or prevention of alcohol abuse.  While the studies being done/reviewed show promise, we are in the early stages of learning exactly what the hemp plant and its extracts are actually capable of doing. 

No one should jump to any conclusions just yet - in either direction.

Recovery is a very personal thing.  Whether you choose to do it with a 12 Step Program, listening to recovery podcasts, or reading many of the wildly popular recovery books or blogs, that should be your decision.  No one else should tell you what to do or how to do it. 

If you choose to give CBD a try to see if and how it can help you, that is no one else's business.  We should support people in recovery and not stigmatize them. 

When it comes to stopping or helping to prevent the many pointless deaths caused by Alcohol Use Disorder, we should use every tool we have available.  That includes CBD, the magic unicorn of 2020.   

If you are currently struggling with AUD, or having a difficult time in your recovery, consider all your options.  Be sure to pick the one that's right for YOU.

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