According to Alcohol Change UK [1], there were over 9,214 alcohol-related deaths throughout the UK in 2016 and 7697 alcohol-specific deaths during 2017. Alcohol misuse is also the biggest risk factor for death, disability and ill-health among 15-49 year olds. Although we are beginning to see fewer youngsters attracted lured by alcohol, it still remains a burden; both on society in general and for individuals personally.

Whether you enjoy a glass of wine with a meal or a crazy night out with your friends, alcohol is still a socially acceptable (and legal) substance; what’s the reality, should alcohol be discovered today, would it be legalised or underground and black market product?

Although the majority only drink small quantities, a large number of individuals develop an alcohol dependency, which can lead to mental and physical health issues or worse, fatal.

So, when the link between alcoholism and the bodies endocannabinoid system was discovered, this brought hope that an alternative and safe substance, CBD, may be able to help with addiction cravings and recovery.

The dangers of drinking too much alcohol

The NHS (National Health Service) released guidelines suggesting that adults should not drink more than 14 units per week, over a gradual period. However, the fact is, alcohol consumption is an unhealthy activity.

Heavy drinkers increase the likelihood of developing a range of health problems, including:

  •         Mouth, throat and breast cancers
  •         Heart disease
  •         Brain damage
  •         Stroke
  •         Liver disease
  •         Damage to the nervous system.

Of course, there are also risks involved in being in a drunken state as well.

Quitting Alcohol

To worsen the issue, quitting alcohol instantly through ‘cold turkey’ may also be dangerous, with repercussions possibly lasting for weeks. This is called ‘delirium tremens’, and can be fatal – in fact, it kills an estimated 20% alcoholics attempting to go cold turkey.

Other symptoms which can occur with delirium tremens include:

  • Seizures
  • Insomnia
  • Disorientation
  • Hallucinations
  • Tremulousness
  • Agitation
  • Rapid breathing
  • Racing heart
  • Fever
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Severe anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Sweating
  • Spikes in blood pressure

Usually, the treatment for alcoholism involves going to a detox centre where the person will go through a gradual detox, reducing the alcohol down slowly, supporting them both physically and mentally through the withdrawal process, whilst supporting them to remain alcohol-free upon recovery.

Some of the withdrawal symptoms include nausea, loss of appetite, pain and anxiety. Sometimes medication is given to alleviate these symptoms, but often, detox centres try to stay away from pharmaceuticals.

Despite detox centres being an effective aid in helping addicts rebuild their lives, many do not have access to them for an array of reasons. And this is where CBD has created hope as an alternative solution.

Alcoholism and the Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system is a new discovery in modern medicine. Only discovered in the ’90s when scientists were researching the effect that the cannabis plant had on the human body.

They found that the endocannabinoid system is based on the interaction between cannabinoid receptors (known as CB1 and CB2 receptors) and endocannabinoids – which the body produces naturally. It is responsible for the regulation to a number of bodily systems and functions, making sure that the body is chemically balanced and regulated, whilst maintaining optimum performance.

Sometimes endocannabinoids levels can be depleted, and this is one reason why we may incur health problems.

Researchers say that alcohol consumption can upset the neurochemical balance in the brain, by increasing levels of dopamine (a chemical which makes us feel good) and gamma-aminobutyric acid – or GABA; some of the body’s ‘reward structures’ such as the nucleus accumbens, basal forebrain, amygdala and anterior cingulate cortex, will, instead of promoting self-care when we’re unhappy, be over-ridden to make the body feel happy when alcohol is consumed.

This is why alcohol can be addictive to some people. The endocannabinoids can have a huge impact on these reward structures.

Researchers have also found that alcohol may lower the number of CB1 receptors in the brain. These lower levels of CB1 receptors are present even after a period of abstinence and, most worryingly, can lead to the complete disappearance of them. With low levels or no CB1 receptors, people will see an imbalance of the endocannabinoid system and this will result in an array of health problems.

CBD and Alcoholism

CBD or cannabidiol is a Phyto cannabinoid – cannabinoids are found in plants – most commonly, the cannabis plant. There are over 120 main cannabinoids discovered to date, the two most prominent being CBD and THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) – the better known psychoactive molecule that is found in cannabis.

CBD is safe and not proven to be nonaddictive, with no recorded overdoses or fatalities. CBD is what’s known as biphasic, meaning, its effects differ from one individual to the next, depending on the amount consumed. This also means that after you have identified your optimal dose, there is a chance that you may build up a tolerance level and an increase in dosage may be required.

CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system in ways that are similar to endocannabinoids. It helps to restore depleted, naturally occurring cannabinoids. By replacing these endocannabinoids, the body reduces levels of stress and anxiety, which is usually when the harsh withdrawal symptoms begin to rear their ugly heads.

This is why scientists are becoming increasingly excited about the potential of the cannabinoids from the cannabis plant to be able to help people who are suffering from alcoholism.

CBD can help to deal with withdrawal symptoms

As briefly mentioned, CBD can aid in assisting many uncomfortable side effects that come with alcohol withdrawal. As CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system, CBD helps relieve feelings of nausea, reduce appetite loss, improve your mood and anxiety whilst help to relieve pain.

Taking CBD with alcohol

As opposed to pharmaceuticals, it is safe to consume CBD with alcohol. CBD may possibly enhance the effects of alcohol, suggesting that people could drink less. It is important to remember, that if you are a depressive drunk, it will increase your depression, if you are an excitable drunk it will make you more excitable; you could say that it is a mood enhancer.

If you are currently on medication, you should seek medical advice before trying CBD as it can affect how certain medicines metabolise in the digestive system. This can cause an imbalance of the medication in the blood, altering the suggested expectations of your medication.

CBD affects us all differently due to a unique endocannabinoid systems, so it is important to take this into consideration if you are new to CBD. With ongoing research with cannabinoids and alcoholism, it may not be too long where CBD may be prescribed as not only an alternative but a preferred method of treatment.

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