According to data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, over 85% of Americans aged 18+ have drunk alcohol at some point in their lives. Disturbingly, over 14 million people aged 12+ in the United States have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Moreover, approximately 95,000 people die from alcohol-related causes each year, making the substance the third biggest cause of preventable death in the U.S.
Given the harm caused by alcohol consumption, it is strange to see it as an ‘acceptable’ recreational drug. In contrast, marijuana remains a controlled substance in the United States. Indeed, only recently did low-THC hemp become legal to cultivate in the country. Many companies extract CBD, a non-intoxicating cannabinoid, from the hemp plant.
This interesting compound is linked with a variety of health benefits. Ironically, given that it isn’t a federally legal substance (though it is tolerated in most states), many people have started trying CBD for alcoholism. Let’s check out this phenomenon and see if there is any science behind the claims.
What Are the Symptoms of AUD?
Before we look into the possible benefits of CBD for alcoholism, let’s learn a little more about AUD. Alcohol use disorder is classified as a medical condition. Someone with an AUD can’t control their rate of alcohol consumption regardless of how it negatively impacts their lives. Medical experts consider it a brain disorder that can be severe, moderate, or mild.
Risk factors for AUD include:
- A history of alcohol problems within the family
- Drinking alcohol from a young age (those who begin before age 15 are over five times likelier to report an AUD than those who didn’t start drinking until they were 21+)
- Mental health conditions including PTSD and ADHD
Medical professionals use a special test to determine whether someone has AUD and also to determine the severity. It involves getting the person to answer questions relating to their alcohol use in the last 12 months.
These days, there are numerous treatment options, including non-addictive medication, support groups, and talk therapy. However, CBD for alcoholism is gaining prominence as a viable alternative.
How Does CBD Impact AUD?
CBD has an impact on the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which plays a role in regulating various functions, including sleep, memory, mood, and appetite. The ECS contains many CB1 and CB2 receptors.
The brain’s reward structures, such as the basal forebrain and amygdala, consist of a high density of CB1 receptors, which are involved in implementing feelings of satisfaction, reward, and well-being.
One study analyzed CB1 receptor density in social and abusive drinkers. It found that people with AUDs have a far lower density of CB1 receptors, even when they steer clear of alcohol for long periods every now and then. After similar periods without alcohol consumption, social drinkers showcased a much healthier supply of CB1 receptors.
Could CBD Lead to a Decrease in Alcohol Consumption?
A study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology in 2019 aimed to answer this question. The researchers analyzed a number of studies and concluded that CBD decreased the overall level of alcohol consumption in animal models of AUD. These studies found that CBD helped reduce ethanol intake and decreased motivation for ethanol consumption while decreasing the likelihood of relapse.
Additionally, CBD helped reduce alcohol-related steatosis and fibrosis in the liver by modulating inflammation, decreasing lipid accumulation, and reducing oxidative stress.
Although these are exciting findings, it is worth remembering that the research relates to animals. It is imperative that scientists perform similar studies with humans so we can discover whether CBD for alcoholism is genuinely effective.
CBD for Alcoholism: The Takeaway
Hopefully, research can help provide a more definitive answer for whether CBD for alcoholism has merit. Yet, already, a significant number of people are taking a chance on CBD in the hope that it can help with AUDs.
When buying cannabidiol, please ensure you use only brands with a reputation for excellence. It is a poorly regulated industry that allows low-grade products to flood the market with no oversight. Performing detailed research before making a purchase is a logical step. Otherwise, you could be putting something into your body that’s even more harmful than alcohol.