Cannabidiol & nicotine addiction: can cbd help you quit smoking tobacco?

Cannabidiol & nicotine addiction: can cbd help you quit smoking tobacco?
Max Sargent

Research suggests that CBD, and active compound found in cannabis, may help treat addictive behaviour like smoking cigarettes. More at CannaConnection!

Smoking is a habit that is directly involved in the deaths of 8 million people per year worldwide, with 7 million of those being smokers and the additional 1 million being those exposed to second-hand smoke. As one of the leading causes of death, smoking tobacco kills almost half of those who do it.

Considering such statistics, it’s hard to reason as to why anybody would partake in such a deadly act. The reason they do is quite simple. Because it feels great, in the short-term at least. The deep inhalation and exhalation involved in the activity seems to slam the brakes on a stressful day, a sensation that is amplified by an alcoholic beverage or two. This slight euphoria is sparked as the nicotine molecules in the tobacco smoke ride the bloodstream up to the blood-brain barrier and penetrate this semipermeable membrane.

Once entry has been gained, nicotine activates certain receptors within the brain and catalyses the subsequent release of pleasure-inducing endorphins, namely the neurotransmitter dopamine. We’ve all heard of dopamine. It’s the chemical involved in the reward pathways of the brain.

Dopamine’s release into these circuits establishes a correlation between a specific behavior and a neurochemical reward in the form of increased mood. Eventually, constant triggering of this pathway can lead to shifts in neurotransmission involved in stress and self-control. This is how addiction slowly but surely laces its tendrils around tobacco users, making it hard to quit the damaging habit.

So, with the reward circuitry of the brain so intimately involved in tobacco addiction, how do smokers go about quitting?


There are anecdotes of some smokers suddenly throwing all of their cigarettes into the bin and quitting for the rest of their lives after a period of going cold turkey, so to speak. Others find tobacco incredibly hard to quit and try out numerous methods to help them wean off smoking.

Many users convert to placing nicotine patches on their skin or chewing nicotine gum as a way to phase cigarettes out. Although these methods are still delivering the addictive molecule into the brain, it’s a good way to gradually reduce the dose and remove the carcinogenic act of smoking from the equation.

Others choose to make the switch to e-cigarettes and vaporizers, devices that are allegedly healthier than smoking due to the lack of combustion. The e-liquids used in these devices hold a certain volume of nicotine that can be gradually reduced for an individual to wean off the molecule.

The act of changing the source of nicotine is known as nicotine replacement therapy. Although the technique does aid some in quitting smoking, research has found it’s associated with a relatively large relapse rate.

Regardless of the method used, and whether it involves immediately quitting or bringing down the dose of nicotine over time, the user may still experience withdrawal symptoms. The regular use of nicotine means a person is constantly experiencing effects such as increased mood, reduced irritability, and a sense of well-being.

Upon quitting, the receptors in the brain to which nicotine binds (which have become very accustomed to frequent doses of the molecule) will become demanding for the drug. Due to its lack, users can experience withdrawal symptoms such as sweating, headaches, sore throat, anxiety, depression, weight gain, and so on.


CBD (cannabidiol) is showing promise as another means of helping users quit smoking. The cannabinoid, derived from the cannabis plant, might provide helpful effects in part by interfacing with the endocannabinoid system, a network of cell receptors in the body that respond to internal and external cannabinoids.

A research paper published in the journal Addictive Behaviors found that CBD use helped reduce cigarette consumption over a period of one week, and states that drugs capable of altering the endocannabinoid system may be effective treatments for nicotine addiction.

The paper documents a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled pilot study that involved 24 smokers with a desire to quit. The subjects were divided into two groups of 12, with one group set to receive a CBD inhaler and the other a placebo. Over the course of one week, the subjects were instructed to use the inhaler every time they felt the urge to smoke.

It was found that CBD considerably reduced the number of cigarettes smoked over the week that the study took place. Consumption was reduced by approximately 40% in the group inhaling the cannabinoid. A follow-up after the study also reported some maintenance of this effect. The researchers concluded that CBD has potential in treating nicotine addiction, and that further investigation is required.

Further research published in the journal Addiction found that CBD reverses attentional bias to cigarettes cues, meaning the cannabinoid helps to reduce the cognitive process involved in propelling individuals to smoke. The authors of the research paper explain that CBD may be a promising treatment during attempts to quit smoking because of its anti-anxiety effects and ability to reduce these cues.

The study documented in the paper investigated whether CBD could reduce attentional bias and pleasantness of cigarette-related stimuli, craving, and withdrawal. Compared to placebo, a single 800mg oral dose of CBD reduced the salience and pleasantness of cigarette cues. However, no influence over tobacco craving or withdrawal was reported.


CBD definitely shows promise in the treatment of nicotine addiction. There are many different ways to introduce the cannabinoid into the body, but it’s important to realize that CBD can interact with certain medications. Always discuss this option with your physician to ensure it’s the right course of action for you.

One of the easiest ways to consume the cannabinoid is via CBD oil. These products often arrive in a dropper bottle and can be added to teas and juices, or simply dropped under the tongue for rapid sublingual absorption.

CBD can also be vaped in the form of e-liquids, flowers, and extracts. As well as providing substantial levels of the cannabinoid, this method may also help those seeking to quit by mimicking the ritual and visceral feelings involved in smoking.

CBD can also be infused into food and taken in edible form. Users can make extracts such as CBD butter or add CBD isolates into many different dishes.

Max Sargent
Max Sargent

Max has been writing about cannabis and psychedelics for several years now. With a strong belief that an open, honest attitude toward drugs and drug policy can improve the lives of many, he seeks to offer insightful and developed opinions on the subject.