Here at Leaf Sciences some questions we’re frequently asked are ‘is cannabidiol addictive?’ and ‘is CBD oil addictive?’
Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is one of more than 100 different chemical compounds, or cannabinoids, found in the Cannabis sativa plant.
CBD-based retail products are created via a lengthy process, requiring licensed grown industrial hemp at the outset. Eventual products can include cosmetics, capsules or edibles, drinks, tinctures, oils and more.
CBD oil specifically is extracted from hemp plants, usually with supercritical CO2 extraction processes, then diffused into a carrier such as hemp seed oil or olive oil.
More than 1.6 million people in the UK say they’re regular cannabidiol consumers, according to ACI. Not only that, but Global Market Insights forecasts the European market value will reach $28.7bn (£21.7bn) by 2027.
However, is cannabidiol addictive? Or is CBD oil addictive?
In fact, what does addictiveness really mean? That’s actually the best place to start.
It’s a brain disorder, manifested by compulsive behaviour to seek a perceived reward in spite of the adverse end result.
Character traits of addicts include lacking self-control, strong desires for specific behaviours or substances, and feeling unable to stop themselves from doing what they want to do.
Addiction is the result of complex psychosocial and also neurobiological causes. It’s very difficult to treat, often only possible by undergoing long-term psychotherapy.
One notable addiction type is cannabis use disorder, caused by frequent consumption of marijuana.
Symptoms can include a dependency on THC, also known as tetrahydrocannabinol, which is another cannabinoid from the Cannabis sativa plant and the one with psychoactive effects, causing a ‘high’.
Other frequent symptoms are withdrawal signs including:
- Disturbed sleep
- Loss of appetite
In the case of cannabis use disorder, it’s the presence of THC which causes the addiction. THC is a controlled substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, meaning that it is illegal to produce, possess or distribute a product containing it.
Does cannabidiol contain THC?
Cannabidiol providers can ensure their products consistently adhere to this restriction by obtaining verification from an accredited laboratory with a detection limit of 0.01%.
There are some cannabidiol products which are guaranteed not to have even trace elements of THC in them. These are CBD isolate products, containing no compounds or substances other than pure cannabidiol in the form of a crystalline solid or powder.
Since CBD products do not contain more than 1mg of THC per pack, they cannot make you feel ‘high’.
However, an important caveat is that it’s vital to only buy from reputable companies, since some cannabidiol products have been mislabelled in the past.
Watch out for any CBD products claiming to ‘only’ have 0.2% THC content – that’s actually too much, by law. The 0.2% limit just applies to what’s permitted during the cultivation of industrial hemp, not what’s allowed in commercial product form.
CBD consumers are advised to research any company they make a purchase from, check the ingredient list and read customer reviews to make sure they’re buying only quality items.
In the UK, cannabidiol products are only allowed to be sold once they have their novel food application validated by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
Is cannabidiol addictive?
Cannabidiol is not addictive. The absence of THC means that no addictive substances are present in CBD, so you cannot be addicted to CBD.
What about specific products though – is CBD oil addictive? No – neither CBD oil, nor any other kind of cannabidiol product is addictive.
To explain this, it’s good to understand what effects CBD, as well as THC, have on the human body. Cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in different ways.
The ECS produces natural endocannabinoids to help balance functions including sleep, mood, memory, appetite, digestion, temperature and inflammation. These endocannabinoids bind with receptors, such as CB1 in the central nervous system and CB2 in the peripheral nervous system.
THC has much stronger – and ultimately for some people, addictive – effects since it binds to both the CB1 and CB2 receptors, producing wide-ranging results. However, these can also include adverse side effects like paranoia, memory loss and anxiety.
In contrast, we know that CBD prevents some endocannabinoids from breaking down, thus helping them in their mission to balance functions in the human body.
Research is ongoing into exactly how cannabidiol works with the ECS, but it’s completely different to the way THC interacts with it.
Could cannabidiol potentially help fight addiction?
There is also some preliminary research suggesting that CBD could potentially play a role in helping to treat certain types of addiction:
- A 2015 review of 14 preclinical and clinical studies found that cannabidiol might have therapeutic potential for opioid, cocaine, psychostimulant, cannabis and tobacco addictions
- A 2019 review concluded that CBD could potentially help limit cravings, impulsivity, paranoia and withdrawal symptoms connected to cocaine addiction
It is too early to say for sure though and much more comprehensive research is needed before we’ll know whether cannabidiol could help to fight cannabis addiction or any others.
Summary: is cannabidiol addictive?
So in short, to answer the common question ‘is cannabidiol addictive?’, the answer is no. None of its associated products are either, such as CBD oil.
To be permitted for sale, cannabidiol should not contain THC – which is the cannabinoid from the Cannabis sativa plant that has addictive properties.
For more information about licensing requirements around the sale of CBD in the UK, we’ve recently written a full guide.