Can CBD help you quit smoking?

With its potential to affect the intensity of the connection between nicotine and its pleasure triggers in the brain, as well as promote relaxation to help combat stress, CBD is fast becoming a good solution to stamping out your smoking habit for good.

In 2023, we have all become acutely aware of our health so perhaps now is as good a time as any to quit some of our less healthy habits. Smokers, we’re talking to you.

From nicotine patches and gum to e-cigarettes, there are myriad ways to kick the habit, but if you’ve tried them all with little success, you may be wondering what’s next?

CBD to quit smoking

While studies are limited, existing research points to cannabidiol (CBD) as a promising solution to stamping out your smoking habit for good.

Nicotine, like many substances, affects brain chemistry by activating the pleasure-reward pathway. Every time you light up, receptors in the brain that release the feel-good chemicals serotonin and dopamine are activated. If you smoke often, your body eventually becomes dependent on nicotine to produce these chemicals. Unsurprising, the moment you stop, your serotonin levels drop – and so does your mood.

CBD can help to counter this by working with the endocannabinoid system, which assists in restoring balance in the body. This includes restoring imbalances in brain chemistry that are responsible for mood disorders like anxiety and depression – and often addiction too.

Believed to boost the production of a natural cannabinoid called anandamide, which boasts mood-enhancing properties, CBD can help to support the serotonin-dopamine pathway in your brain. Some research even suggests that when taking it in high enough dosages, CBD can also activate the receptor in your brain which increases serotonin levels naturally. Add to that its benefits on sleep and stress, and it’s little wonder smokers are looking to CBD to support their bid to quit nicotine.  

But your instinct to reach for that cigarette at the end of a long day isn’t born solely out of physical dependency – it’s a habit too. For smokers, half the battle when it comes to quitting is learning to manage the environmental triggers that spark their desire to smoke. These may be social events, your mid-morning coffee or evening cocktail, or possibly a place you associate strongly with smoking be it the office balcony or your back porch.

CBD inhaler to quit smoking

Again, CBD to the rescue. In a study by the University College of London published in the journal Addiction, CBD was shown to affect the brain’s response to some of these triggers. The study observed a group of smokers, some of whom were given a CBD inhaler to use every time they felt the urge to smoke and others who were given a placebo.

After one week, the participants who were given CBD were smoking 40% fewer cigarettes – significantly less than the other group. So what’s the biggest takeout? CBD helped to lower the intensity of the connection between nicotine and its pleasure triggers in the brain. Simply put, the participants with the CBD inhaler didn’t respond as strongly to those external cues as the group who were given the placebo inhaler.  

While more research needs to be done to explore the potential of CBD in assisting with nicotine withdrawals and cravings, these early findings are certainly encouraging. And with the ban on cigarette sales still in place here in South Africa, there really is no better time to ditch cigarettes altogether and trial a CBD vape instead.