This is the story of two plants. One of them is addictive and corresponds to serious health complications including cancer, respiratory illness, and heart disease. The other has recently become kinda-sorta legal for adults over 21 in some states, and may actually help people break their addiction to the first plant.
A couple of recent studies point to cannabidiol (CBD) as a possible aid to quit (or at least) reduce smoking cigarettes. In the first of these, smokers were given an inhaler loaded with CBD. Compared to test subjects using a placebo inhaler, the CBD users reduced their number of cigarettes smoked by roughly 40% during treatment with “some maintenance of this effect at follow-up.”
The study was promising, but small, using only 24 subjects, suggesting modestly that CBD could “be a potential treatment for nicotine addiction that warrants further exploration.” And further explored it was. Years later, Chandni Hindocha, a doctoral student at the Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit of University College London, took a different angle on the relationship between the two plants.
This study looked not at whether CBD use led to a reduction of smoking, but if CBD use made a person less interested in cigarettes. Hindocha told PsyPost that the study was based on a hunch that CBD use could offer “a modulation of the salience (or attentional grabbing) properties of drug cues…”
Participants in Hindocha’s study were smokers who were deprived of nicotine. After a night of nicotine abstinence, they were shown images of people smoking, and tested on whether these images made them want to smoke more or made their withdrawal symptoms worsen. The subjects who took 800 mg of CBD showed no increase in what’s called “attentional bias,” but the subjects who took a placebo did.
More testing needs to be done, and it’s important to remember that these are two small studies which used higher quality and purity CBD extract then you’ll find at many dispensaries or health food shops. But there is still an important takeaway. As Hindocha says, “Cannabis, and the brain system which it acts upon, the endocannabinoid system, is highly associated with tobacco use.” So maybe after some more research we can get some people to switch from using one plant to the other.