We are all aware of the dangers of smoking. According to NHS statistics, 16% of deaths are attributed to smoking, and there were 484,700 hospital admissions made in 2016/7 . Whilst we are seeing more awareness about the negative impact of smoking on our health, and the numbers are coming down, the NHS statistics still show that just under 15% of the UK are currently classified as a smoker.
It might seem strange that people still want to smoke when the outlook is bleak for their health, but one of the main reasons why fewer have given up smoking than we would expect is because of the immense difficulty of quitting. The act of giving up smoking not only has a physical impact on the body, but also a psychological one, and this combination can make it one of the biggest challenges of people’s lives.
Having said that, people do manage to give up smoking, and a lot of them do it with the help of medication, patches, e-cigarettes, psychological support – or a combination. Thanks to recent research being carried out, there is now something else that could potentially help people to prolong their life by giving up smoking – and that is CBD.
CBD and Smoking
Since scientists began carrying out serious research into CBD – or cannabidiol – and the other compounds of the cannabis plant, we are seeing increasingly compelling evidence of some of the medicinal qualities that the plant has.
Due to legal restrictions, it has only really been very recently that scientists have had the opportunity to properly investigate how cannabis can affect the human body, but one aspect that is looking very promising is in helping people to give up addictions such as smoking.
There is more information about CBD and what it does to the body, here.
One of the main ways that CBD effects the human body is through its impact on the endocannabinoid system. We are now seeing mounting medical research which is suggesting a link between addiction and the endocannabinoid system. This suggests that there is a possibility that CBD can be especially useful in helping people to beat addictions such as smoking.
How can CBD help people give up smoking?
The process of giving up smoking involves tackling two issues – firstly the dependence of nicotine, and secondly, the ‘habit’ of smoking – the routine, the act of buying and smoking and the social aspects to smoking, for example. It requires a two-pronged attack, and many of the ‘conventional’ help that it out there for people to quit smoking only tries to deal with one of them.
Conventional nicotine replacement treatments such as patches and gum are remarkably ineffective at actually helping people to kick the habit for this reason – although they help with the nicotine cravings, they won’t help to change the habit.
One way that is proving to be an effective tool to help people quit smoking is through vaping. Vaping involves the heating up of an e-liquid and then the vapour being inhaled – much like conventional smoking, but much less harmful to the health and socially a lot more acceptable.
One of the important things about vaping is that ‘smokers’ are still able to carry out a similar routine of smoking cigarettes, but without the very dangerous risks that come with smoking. Nicotine can be added to the e-liquid but controlled and gradually reduced as and when the ‘smoker’ feels right to do so.
CBD and nicotine
The most recent research shows that CBD might be able to help with nicotine withdrawal in two ways.
When nicotine is consumed it causes a sharp rise in dopamine in the brain in the reward parts of the brain. Dopamine is a chemical that is found in the brain and is also known as the ‘feel good’ chemical. It is not only linked to feelings of euphoria, motivation and concentration, but it is also a neurotransmitter, meaning that it can help to transmit messages between the body and the brain, helping it to function properly.
Over time, the chemistry changes in the brain, meaning that the body will only accept nicotine to release dopamine.
When somebody tries to quit smoking, the body cannot produce these same dopamine levels, and this is when withdrawal symptoms can occur.
Research shows that CBD can affect the dopamine pathways in a positive way and therefore is showing signs that it could be useful in helping people with a number of addictions . There is, of course, a great deal of research which still needs to be carried out, however.
There are a number of different withdrawal symptoms that people can suffer from, but some of the most common include:
- Weight gain
- Concentration problems
- Sleep problems
- Feeling stressed
Although CBD won’t be able to eliminate the withdrawal systems that can be suffered when someone tries to give up smoking, there is research which shows that it might be able to help to deal with them.
There is research to show that CBD can be effective in helping people who suffer from a number of health issues, such as:
- Weight control 
- Pain relief 
- Depression and anxiety 
- Sleep problems 
- Relaxation 
By suffering severe withdrawal symptoms, many smokers who are trying to give up will find the cravings so bad that they will go back to smoking, ending their quitting attempt. It is hoped, therefore, that CBD might be able to lessen the severity of the withdrawal symptoms, both making their life more comfortable as well as reducing the rate of those who go back to smoking.
There is still very limited research with regards to the use of CBD to help stop smoking specifically – although there is substantial research to show how it can help with some of the individual withdrawal symptoms.
The main piece of research was carried out by the Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit, University College London, London, UK in 2013. In the trial, a double-blind study looked at 24 smokers who wanted to give up. They were given either a CBD or placebo inhaler for one week. The smokers were told to use the inhaler whenever they wanted to smoke.
The study found that during the course of the week, those with the placebo inhaler smoked the same number of cigarettes as before, whereas those with the CBD inhaler reduced their number of cigarettes by 40%.
Some explanations to the study suggest that this happened due to better management of the side effects and therefore reduction in cravings. The anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) properties of CBD could be especially useful for this.
How to do it
So now that you know why CBD might be useful to help give up smoking, how can it be done?
Although there are a number of ways that you can take CBD – including edibles and sublingual drops, probably the most useful way to help quit smoking is by vaping. This is because the action of vaping is similar to smoking and this can, therefore, allow you to first attack the nicotine withdrawal before the habit.
It means that any moment when you might reach for a cigarette, you can replace it with a vape. You can also slowly reduce your nicotine levels by adding it yourself to your e-liquid.
CBD (unlike smoking) is safe and non-addictive. However, you should speak to your doctor first if you are thinking about trying it to quit smoking. This is especially important if you are taking medication and CBD can have an effect on the way that some medications are processed by the body.
Giving up smoking is no mean feat and so anything that makes it easier is always welcome. Although we still need a lot more research to be done, it seems like CBD has great potential to help people to kick the habit and make their life longer and healthier.