How Can CBD Oil Help You to Quit Smoking Cigarettes?

an illustration of breaking a cigarette stick
Written by Nina Julia | Last updated: July 29, 2021

Although tobacco addiction isn’t contagious, it causes millions of deaths worldwide. It’s also one of the most addictive substances on Earth. Each year, more than 7 million people die from tobacco-related diseases.

In the United States, over 40 million adults struggle with nicotine addiction. Worse yet, conventional treatments seem to fail to help those people quit smoking cigarettes.

Fortunately, many promising “novel” therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, can be enhanced with natural remedies that can mitigate withdrawal symptoms. Recently, CBD (cannabidiol) has been making big headlines in research journals for its ability to help with tobacco addiction.

Does using CBD oil to quit smoking cigarettes make sense?

Continue reading to find out.

Can You Use CBD Oil to Quit Smoking Cigarettes?

Understanding how nicotine addiction works is paramount if you want to find an effective solution. Aside from the obvious physical addiction, smoking cigarettes is habit-forming and thus can trigger behavioral addiction.

With a physical addiction, all you need to do is endure the time your body needs to flush nicotine out of your system and bring your body back to normal functioning.

Behavioral addictions are more complex because the brain of an addicted person is wired to certain processes that often lead to the pleasurable sensation associated with inhaling cigarette smoke.

That’s why nicotine replacement therapies such as nicotine gums or patches demonstrate low cessation success rates. 

Imagine engaging in a particular activity 20 to 40 times a day for 10 to 20 years; won’t it be hard to quit that habit regardless of the activity?

The surge of dopamine combined with an effortless way to experience it — as is the case with smoking cigarettes — further reinforces the habit, making it more difficult to go cold turkey.

Below we explain how CBD may help you curb cigarette cravings, dampen withdrawal symptoms, and rewire your brain so that it no longer associates smoking cigarettes with a priority.

How CBD Oil May Help You Quit Smoking Cigarettes

CBD has a versatile therapeutic profile. People use it to relieve a wide range of conditions and symptoms, including pain, muscle spasms, tremors, seizures, sleeplessness, autoimmune conditions, neurodegeneration and dementia, and more.

Recently, CBD has garnered the attention of psychiatrists and addiction experts for its potential in dealing with tobacco addiction.

Here we explain how using CBD oil can help you quit smoking cigarettes.

1. CBD Alleviates Withdrawal Symptoms After Quitting Cigarettes

Nicotine is strongly addictive, similar to hard drugs like cocaine, hence quitting smoking cigarettes. At some points, most users face a barrier of withdrawal symptoms that is almost impossible to overcome.

Physical addiction to tobacco reaches far beyond the urge for another cigarette. Withdrawal symptoms develop within a few days and involve irritability, anxiety, difficulty falling asleep, high blood pressure, headaches, and depression.

They may linger for up to several weeks. If the period of withdrawal were easy to overcome, smoking addiction wouldn’t become a global health problem.

CBD interacts with the human endocannabinoid system (ECS), which maintains homeostasis throughout the body. The ECS controls essential bodily functions, including sleep cycles, stress response, blood pressure, body temperature, mood, memory, pain perception, and more.

CBD is a potent inhibitor of FAAH — an enzyme that breaks down the body’s natural endocannabinoids. These endocannabinoids bind to cannabinoid receptors in the brain (CB1) that can influence mood, pain, sleep, and reward regions in your brain. Supplementing CBD oil helps you maintain a sufficient level of your own cannabinoids and thus reduces the dysfunction of the aforementioned processes.

2. CBD Curbs Tobacco Cravings

A 2018 study that came out of the UK in May 2018 investigated the potential benefits of CBD on smoking-related behavior. This double-blind, randomized study included a sample of 30 addicted smokers. Each of the participants was taking 800 mg of CBD orally or an equivalent dose of a placebo.

Then the subjects were shown “pictorial tobacco cues” such as drinking, parties, other people smoking, etc., and were analyzed for heart rate, cravings, blood pressure, and withdrawal symptoms.

The authors concluded that a single 800 mg dose of CBD could help to reduce the “pleasantness” of images associated with smoking cigarettes compared to the placebo group, especially for the participants who only went through one day of cessation for the study.

3. CBD Eases Anxiety After Quitting Cigarettes

On top of regulating the ECS, CBD uses over 60 molecular targets to interact with the body, which explains its therapeutic versatility.

One of these targets involves the modulation of the GABA receptor to balance the levels of two neurotransmitters: glutamate (excitatory) and gamma-aminobutyric acid (inhibitory). High levels of glutamate and low levels of GABA are associated with the hyperactivity of the brain and increased feelings of anxiety. By modulating the GABA receptor, CBD helps to maintain equilibrium in your nervous system, preventing bouts of anxiety, improving stress response, and enhancing focus.

CBD also acts on the serotonin receptor. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter responsible for mood and emotions, whose low levels are linked to anxiety and depression. In contrast, excess serotonin levels in the brain can induce muscle spasms, overactive reflexes, shivering, clumsiness, and tremor.

Although CBD doesn’t directly boost your serotonin levels, it blocks its reuptake by interacting with the 5-1HTA serotonin receptor so that your brain can use it more effectively. This, in turn, translates into the proper functioning of brain cells and lowers the incidence of anxiety and depression.

4. CBD Reduces Cigarette Consumption

One study examined smokers who wanted to quit smoking cigarettes. Each smoker was taking an inhaler with either CBD or a placebo vaping cartridge. The participants were asked to use the inhalers every time they felt the urge to smoke. At the end of this week-long study, the CBD group showed a 40% reduction in cigarette consumption while the placebo group didn’t report a significant difference in the number of cigarettes smoked.

The study authors concluded that this effect could be attributed to CBD’s indirect interactions with CB1 receptors. Not only does CBD increase the natural level of anandamide — one of the two major endocannabinoids known as “the bliss molecule,” but it can also mitigate the boosting properties of nicotine.

In a research paper posted in the journal Addiction, Hindocha et al. went on a series of experiments in which vaping cannabis was associated with reduced tobacco consumption. The research team hypothesized that:

There could be a reason to be optimistic about the potential of vaporizers. If vaporizers can reduce cannabis and tobacco co-administration, the outcome could be reducing tobacco use/dependence among cannabis users and a resultant reduction in harms associated with cannabis/tobacco. Indeed, if vaping cannabis becomes commonplace in the future, the next generation of cannabis users might never be exposed to nicotine or tobacco in the first place.”

Benefits of Smoking CBD Instead of Cigarettes

a vape pen, hemp buds on a container, and a bottle of CBD Oil extract with hemp leaf on top

For some people, the problem of quitting cigarettes is more about habitual use rather than the actual physical addiction. 

You pull out a cigarette, light it up, and take a steady draw — day after day, month after month, year after year.

Imagine stopping this in the blink of an eye — leaving away a part of your identity takes strong will and determination.

By smoking CBD instead of regular cigarettes, you can maintain your habit of smoking a cigarette without physically addictive content. Of course, smoking a CBD joint still delivers tar and other harmful substances to your system, but it can help you get off the nicotine and then gradually transition to vaping CBD — either as flowers or in the form of vape liquid.

How to Use CBD to Stop Smoking

As you can see, CBD can do a lot to help you quit smoking cigarettes. But how do you take CBD to get the best results for your nicotine addiction? Here are a few tips that can make it easier:

Buy High-Quality Products

The source of your CBD oil can make or break your experience with using CBD to quit smoking cigarettes. There’s a universal rule for buying CBD oil in an unregulated market like the one we have in the USA — purchase only from reputable brands.

For this, make sure the brand you’re looking at ticks off the following points:

  • The hemp source: prioritize brands with in-house organic hemp fields in the US and Western Europe. Avoid products sourced from mass-produced hemp imported from overseas, as this kind of hemp is often contaminated with pesticides, heavy metals, and synthetic fertilizers.
  • The THC content: the concentration of THC in your CBD oil must be less than 0.3% to be considered legal on a federal level. Any product with a higher THC content is treated by federal law as marijuana and thus prohibited unless your state has legalized marijuana for recreational use.
  • Lab reports: it’s always better to choose a company that provides certificates of analysis (COAs) for their products. These certificates give you insight into the product’s phytochemical profile, including the THC content and purity levels.

Start with a Low Dose

If you’re looking for a straight answer, we don’t have good news for you. Since CBD hasn’t been yet clinically tested for tobacco addiction, there are no established dosage guidelines on this subject; you can get a quick point of reference by looking at the studies that have examined the efficacy of different doses of CBD for quitting cigarettes.

Another reason why dosing CBD in humans isn’t that obvious is the number of individual factors at play. The list includes an individual’s weight, metabolism, unique body chemistry, the severity of addiction and withdrawal symptoms, and the potency of your CBD product.

Consulting a medical practitioner experienced in using CBD for addiction should help you establish the optimal starting dosage. We recommend starting with a low dose, like 10-15 mg per day to see how your body responds to cannabidiol. If this works for you, you can begin taking more to assess what amount reduces the salience of tobacco stimuli.

To learn more about the general dosage guideline, read our post here.

Opt for Full-spectrum CBD Oil

Full-spectrum CBD oil contains all beneficial compounds that naturally occur in hemp plants, including CBD, adjunctive cannabinoids, terpenes, and trace amounts of THC. These ingredients work together to amplify each other’s health benefits while mitigating potentially unwanted reactions (e.g., in a way, CBD counteracts the psychotropic effects of THC).

This phenomenon is known as the entourage effect — the reason why full-spectrum CBD products are the most desired type of CBD. Several studies have found that full-spectrum CBD oils overcome the bell-shaped dose-response when people take pure cannabidiol — meaning that dosing is more predictable with such products.

If you’re concerned about the trace amounts of THC, you can choose a broad-spectrum extract, which only contains CBD, terpenes, and adjunctive cannabinoids — but without the intoxicating compound.

Is CBD Addictive?

While smoking marijuana can be habit-forming and thus carries a risk of developing behavioral addiction, CBD isn’t addictive in any way. Cannabidiol belongs to non-intoxicating ingredients, meaning it doesn’t change the way your brain functions. The WHO has acknowledged that the abuse potential of CBD is similar to placebo. In addition, case studies are indicating that CBD can help reduce cravings associated with a behavioral addiction.

Nicotine Addiction And Its Toll on Society

Tobacco use is the number one preventable cause of death and one of the hardest addictions for consumers to quit. As reported by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 14% of people over the age of 18 smoke cigarettes. This makes for a whopping 34.3 million people who use tobacco regularly. Over 8 million uses smokeless forms, such as nicotine E-liquids.

Smoking can lead to heart disease, compromised lung function, cancer, and an array of comorbid conditions. Once again, smoking is THE MOST PREVENTABLE cause of death in the United States. People know all the risks; it’s all conveyed in social campaigns and written on the labels of cigarettes (oh, irony). That being said, quitting smoking cigarettes is a challenging thing to accomplish.

Especially when you consider its withdrawal symptoms.

Common Withdrawal Symptoms After Quitting Cigarettes

man hand smashing cigarettes on a concrete floor

The withdrawal symptoms of quitting cigarettes vary depending on the severity of your addiction and your body’s dependence on nicotine. Some of the more common withdrawals include:

  • Irritation
  • Thinking problems
  • Depressive mood
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea and abdominal cramping
  • Headaches
  • Constipation
  • Restlessness
  • Slowed heart rate

The physical withdrawal symptoms can be accompanied by psychological, such as:

  • A strong desire to light up
  • Feelings of frustration
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low mood
  • Anxiety
  • Poor response to stress
  • Mood swings

Managing these withdrawal symptoms is one of the most important elements of quitting smoking cigarettes — and CBD seems to fit here like a glove.

Unfortunately, using CBD oil to quit smoking cigarettes isn’t the first-choice treatment among doctors.

How Is Nicotine Addiction Usually Treated?

Pharmaceutical corporations have responded with nicotine gums and patches as a means of fighting tobacco addiction. However, these cessation devices are actually more of a tool for damage control rather than an effective solution to the problem.

The above protocols cut off the smoking part because they aim to deliver nicotine in concentrations high enough to stop cigarette cravings. However, what these protocols ignore is the behavioral aspect of addiction. Some people just want to partake in their rituals and don’t care about nicotine, which explains why substituting nicotine vapes with tobacco vapes successfully reduced nicotine use among those addicted to smoking.

While nicotine isn’t the primary cause of tobacco-related diseases, it is incredibly addictive and may cause severe withdrawal symptoms upon abrupt cessation.

If you’re looking for an effective way to quit smoking cigarettes, consult a behavioral therapist and ask them about using cognitive behavioral therapy in conjunction with CBD oil as a way to manage withdrawal symptoms and rewire your brain so that it becomes resistant to tobacco cues.

Summarizing the Benefits of Using CBD Oil Once You Quit Smoking Cigarettes

Cigarette quitters can use CBD oil as a viable solution for kicking the habit. First, cannabidiol can control tobacco withdrawal symptoms like headaches, anxiety, insomnia, and difficulty concentrating. Second, it helps you ignore cigarette cravings by making you less susceptible to cigarette cues. Last but not least, you can smoke CBD joints or vape CBD liquid as a temporary alternative to cigarettes on your way to overcoming addiction.

Just make sure your CBD oil comes from a trustworthy source that uses organic hemp, makes full-spectrum products, and tests them in an independent laboratory for their CBD content and the presence of potential contaminants.

Stay strong on your way to smoking cessation!

 Reference Links:

  1. Leweke, F. M., Piomelli, D., Pahlisch, F., Muhl, D., Gerth, C. W., Hoyer, C., Klosterkötter, J., Hellmich, M., & Koethe, D. (2012). Cannabidiol enhances anandamide signaling and alleviates psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia. Translational psychiatry, 2(3), e94. 
  2. Hindocha, C., Freeman, T. P., Grabski, M., Stroud, J. B., Crudgington, H., Davies, A. C., Das, R. K., Lawn, W., Morgan, C., & Curran, H. V. (2018). Cannabidiol reverses attentional bias to cigarette cues in a human experimental model of tobacco withdrawal. Addiction (Abingdon, England), 113(9), 1696–1705. Advance online publication. [1]
  3. Blessing, E. M., Steenkamp, M. M., Manzanares, J., & Marmar, C. R. (2015). Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics: the journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics, 12(4), 825–836. [2]
  4. Morgan, C. J., Das, R. K., Joye, A., Curran, H. V., & Kamboj, S. K. (2013). Cannabidiol reduces cigarette consumption in tobacco smokers: preliminary findings. Addictive behaviors, 38(9), 2433–2436. [3]
  5. Schlag, A. K., Hindocha, C., Zafar, R., Nutt, D. J., & Curran, H. V. (2021). Cannabis-based medicines and cannabis dependence: A critical review of issues and evidence. Journal of psychopharmacology (Oxford, England), 35(7), 773–785. [4]

Nina created CFAH.org following the birth of her second child. She was a science and math teacher for 6 years prior to becoming a parent — teaching in schools in White Plains, New York and later in Paterson, New Jersey.

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