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Addiction and Inhibiting the Reward Pathway with CBD

Group Therapy In Rehab, Credit: Stock Photography


According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2014, 21.5 million American adults (aged 12 and older) battled a substance use disorder, and almost 80% of individuals suffering also used alcohol. CBD could be a promising treatment method for people living with addiction, according to Yasmin Hurd, a neuroscientist, and director of the Addiction Institute at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

In this article, we discuss the effect of CBD on the reward pathway or mesolimbic pathway, opioid addiction, and nicotine addiction.

Addiction and Inhibiting the Reward Pathway with CBD

Doctor With Patient, Credit: Stock Photography
Doctor with Patient

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2014, 21.5 million American adults (aged 12 and older) battled a substance use disorder, and almost 80% of individuals suffering also used alcohol.

Can CBD Help With Addiction?

CBD could be a promising treatment method for people living with addiction, according to Yasmin Hurd, a neuroscientist and director of the Addiction Institute at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Hurd and her colleagues conducted clinical CBD studies in animals and in humans to see how it may help with drug addiction. The research yielded positive results in both clinical trials.

“When we looked at CBD … it decreased heroin-seeking behaviors,” Hurd said. They’re now conducting other studies with other people around the world to further test CBD’s efficacy when it comes to treating addiction.

“There’s no miracle drug,” Hurd said. “But this could be helpful for at least some aspects of craving.”

What Is CBD Oil Really Used For?

Brain Diagram, Credit: NIDA
Brain Diagram

The Reward Pathway or Mesolimbic Pathway

The culprit behind addiction is the reward pathway, also known as the mesolimbic pathway. By constantly stimulating the reward pathway, users get hooked.

One pathway important to understanding the effects of drugs on the brain is called the reward pathway. The reward pathway involves several parts of the brain, some of which are highlighted in this image: the ventral tegmental area (VTA), the nucleus accumbens, and the prefrontal cortex. When activated by a rewarding stimulus (e.g., food, water, sex), information travels from the VTA to the nucleus accumbens and then up to the prefrontal cortex.

Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction: What Science Says

Once hooked, the drug use becomes about maintaining an increasingly difficult-to-reach payoff achieved through this specific brain pathway, but what if we could change that?

Stop that pathway from firing, and the withdrawals withers. Stop the reward pathway and addiction subsides, life resumes.

And CBD does just that.

New research shows that it actually inhibits the reward-facilitating effect of not just opiates, but even other addictions like smoking. In fact, since nearly every addictive behavior uses this same neural pathway, CBD has enormous potential to help thousands of people struggling to get monkeys off their back.

For all kinds of withdrawal, cannabidiol may genuinely be the most promising and safest solution we have.

How Cannabidiol (CBD) Can Help Save Lives in the Opioid Epidemic

Early research is already showing just how useful CBD can be in stopping dangerous addictions like opioid addiction and nicotine addiction.

Illicit Drugs, Credit: Stock Photography
Illicit Drugs

CBD and Opioid Addiction

Officially now a national epidemic, opioid addiction has already claimed too many victims, can CBD used to wean addicts off?

Prescriptions for opioids in the US are estimated at over 200 million a year, with pain management a major driver. Methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone have all been shown to be effective for acute severe pain – but the evidence that such pharmaceuticals are effective in treating chronic pain is far less compelling. However, according to a recent paper in Neuron journal, the cost of developing new drugs provides a disincentive to develop new therapeutics, leading to what the authors refer to as “widespread retreat of the pharmaceutical sector”. Could cannabidiol (CBD) fill the void?

Research over the past few years supports the use of cannabis – specifically CBD – for treatment of addiction.

Treating Opioid Addiction with CBD? TBD…

Don’t take my word for it, consider the story of former OxyContin addict.

When he was 34, Che* broke a disc in his back. His doctor prescribed OxyContin for the pain, and Che took it for about a year. But when his doctor suspected Che was abusing the drug, he cancelled his prescription. That led Che to find other ways to access the substance, including stealing money from his family.

“By the time I was 37, I lost my career and my family and I was homeless,” he told “I became a full-on criminal to support my addiction.”

After seven years of opiate addiction, Che began working towards recovery. The withdrawal gave him severe depression and as a result, a friend recommended he smoke marijuana. Weed helped to alleviate his pain, but his cravings for OxyContin persisted. Then, about three years ago, Che tried CBD, or cannabidiol, a compound found in cannabis.

Once Che started taking CBD, he says his cravings diminished. He now takes one 33 mg capsule once a day. “It allows me to do anything I want now,” he told “I can work. I can go out in public without being anxious. It’s as simple as taking $1.50 worth of CBD a day.”

Is Marijuana the Key to Solving the Opioid Crisis?

Man Smoking Cigarette, Credit: Stock Photography
Man Smoking Cigarette

CBD and Nicotine Addiction

Cigarette smoking claims 480,000 lives per year in the United States, and another 41,000 lives are claimed from secondhand smoke exposure. While not officially a national epidemic, treating nicotine addiction is another opportunity for CBD.

In a study published in Addiction in May, researchers at University College London found that CBD can reduce attentional bias to tobacco-related imagery. Attentional bias is when you focus strongly on certain stimuli—called “cues”—while ignoring others. For example, if you’re a smoker and you watch an old French film, all the fumes in the movie can make you crave a cig.

Thirty patients were told to abstain from smoking for 12 hours and given 800 mg of CBD, orally, or a placebo. They were then shown images of ashtrays, lighters, or groups of smokers mixed in with neutral photos, such as a woman applying lipstick instead of putting a cigarette in her mouth.

People who used CBD didn’t notice an impact on cravings or withdrawal, but found cigarette cues less appealing. The study supports the potential to target specific neurocognitive processes associated with nicotine using CBD.

CBD Could Help People Smoke Fewer Cigarettes

In review, CBD may be helpful in treating addiction by inhibiting the reward-facilitating effects of drugs like opioids and nicotine. If you or someone you know is suffering because of addiction, I would continue to monitor the research and talk with my doctor about CBD.

For your safety, when you purchase CBD, always remember to research your vendor and only purchase from a company you can trust, like TheraJoy. We offer purity you can trust, guaranteed, and we are always made with 99% pure CBD derived from medical grade, non-GMO hemp, sourced directly from Switzerland, and we’ve been proudly manufacturing our product in the United States for three years.

Remember, always consult your doctor before you begin taking a supplement or make any changes to your existing medication and supplement routine. This blog post is not intended to be medical advice, but it is information you can use as a conversation-starter with your doctor at your next appointment.

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