Director of Rehab Clinics Group and Ocean Recovery Centre; John Gillen sat down with Psychiatrist Dr Alexander Lapa to find out whether CBD can be an affective aide against addiction and gather a more in depth understanding of the benefits and draw backs of CBD.

What is the fuss around CBD?

Currently, it appears the world is going through what some deem as a psychedelic renaissance, and psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin mushrooms (magic mushrooms), Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and Cannabis (which is still debated as to whether it is a hallucinogen or not) are being coined as the next breakthrough drugs in order to defeat alcohol and opiate addictions.

Cannabis, or more particularly the chemical; cannabidiol, has received plenty of attention for a number of reported benefits, especially in terms of its anti-inflammatory effects and its reported benefit in the reduction of seizures with those suffering from epilepsy.

The inflammatory element is also very relevant to addiction as it can reduce the medical issues that normally come with excessive drug and alcohol use. There is even some research that implies that inflammation can directly increase addiction risk, so reducing this can only be a good thing.

What are the benefits of CBD in terms of addiction?

The reported benefits are particularly focussed on CBD’s potential in the prevention of relapse. Primarily in its ability to alleviate common symptoms which recovering addicts go through such as anxiety and stress, which can ultimately cause the relapse to happen. This includes its ability to reduce inflammation which research indicates can directly increase the addiction and relapse risk.

When did you first hear of CBD as a treatment for addiction?

I first saw CBD’s benefits in Yasmin Hurds study on recovering heroin addicts which found that the use of CBD reduced the number of cravings in them when exposed to videos designed to trigger the participants. This was quite a remarkable study that shown that CBD reduced the levels of anxiety and cortisol. With that being said, the CBD only alleviates the symptoms of anxiety which often come about during recovery, and there are many different plants that have been found to have similar effects in the reduction of anxiety such as chamomile, however, there is little research in terms of the use of these plants and overcoming addiction.

There are also other methods that we can use to overcome addiction and the anxiety that comes with it. Exercise and meditation are fantastic ways to help alleviate anxiety. However, CBD is not without its faults, as it can have side effects such as lack of appetite, diarrhoea, and fatigue, so in that respect, I would also be cautious about its use in overcoming addiction.

What are the concerns of CBD? 

As humans, we’re always seeking a quick fix solution to modern-day problems like addiction. Recovery from addiction is a very hard process, and with it comes a lot of self-determination, resilience and discipline. My main concern with the use of CBD as a means of reducing the triggers that recovering addicts suffer is that it may not be a long-term solution.

A lot of the stuff we work on here at our clinic is on giving our clients the strength from within, through multiple therapies we can identify triggers and use techniques like mindfulness to help overcome triggers. Our clients are all the better for it as they are able to deal with life’s stresses without seeking a “silver bullet” so to speak.

My main concern here is that we can utilise our current therapies in order to help overcome addiction. I am not opposed to modern methods, however, I believe that using CBD as a way of ridding anxiety is not something that should be recommended for a long term life of abstinence. Ultimately, we cannot fill the void of addiction with the use of another substance. It’s also important to remember that if you do have an addiction, there is a lot of work to do and CBD will not cure-all.

With CBD originating from Cannabis, is this a good way to wean people away from Cannabis addictions? 

My initial response would be no. With our patients who are recovering from alcohol addiction, much to popular belief we actually do not recommend drinking non-alcoholic beers, because quite often they’ll have a small percentage of alcohol in them but the sheer similarities can cause relapse.

Drug addiction is a consequence of impulsivity, and the similarities between CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – which is the addictive compound found in cannabis, may have a psychological effect on cravings. Both of these cannabinoids connect with the CB1 and CB2 receptors, so they act in quite a similar way, there are also some CBD oils that have a small percentage of the addictive THC element.

With this in mind, I would air on the side of caution before prescribing this as a means of overcoming cannabis addiction, however, in terms of opiates, there are clear opportunities here. I think we have a long way to go before we can start prescribing this and believe that more research needs to be done in this field because there is no doubt that there is a lot of research indicating the world of benefits that CBD can offer. However, in order to give psychiatrists and industry leaders confidence, we need more research to show CBD’s benefits to recovering addicts.

John Gillen - Director at Ocean Recovery
John Gillen

John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.