CBD is developing a good reputation for helping to combat addiction – Whether that be giving up smoking, cutting down on your alcohol intake, or sticking to a healthy diet. The supporting “halo” effect of CBD in this context, ranges from helping you get a good night’s sleep, to its anti-depressant and anti-anxiety qualities. All factors that contribute to better mental health and a more positive attitude – which can only be a good thing when trying to kick a longstanding habit. You can read more about CBD and addiction in general here.
In this post we are specifically going to explore alcohol withdrawal symptoms – a frightening but necessary process for anyone breaking a dependency on alcohol, and whether CBD might play a role in minimising those symptoms and helping us to manage them.
We should stress at this point, that alcohol withdrawal is serious, and can be dangerous. If you are planning to cut down or give up alcohol, and worried about withdrawal symptoms, you should consult with your GP or pharmacist - particularly if you are taking medication for pre-existing conditions.
At the lower end of the spectrum, there are many of us today who are dependant on alcohol and don’t even realise it (we may have old fashioned notions of alcoholism - we manage to get through the working day without a drink – so we’re ok, right?). Within this demographic, some of us can experience relatively minor withdrawal symptoms when cutting back – which can at best deter us from trying to quit, and at worst give us real scare.
Many of our customers ask us about whether it’s safe to take CBD whilst drinking alcohol – If this is what you’re looking for, head over to our post about alcohol and CBD.
What is Alcohol Withdrawal?
Alcohol abuse is a series issue, and there are a many great resources and support networks out there to help, such as AA. What we’re talking about today is not intended to replace any therapy or medical treatment (controlled detox in a rehabilitation centre under medical supervision is the safest way to quit), we are looking at what the research tells us about how CBD might be part of our armoury when managing withdrawal symptoms.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are both mental and physical. Our bodies become both emotionally and tangibly so reliant on alcohol that we cannot function correctly without it – which is what makes it so difficult to stop. These symptoms range from mild to moderate.
Many people use alcohol to relax and relieve stress, alcohol aids this by maximising the effects of neurotransmitters in our brains responsible for calm and euphoria. It also dampens the effect of glutamate, which creates excitability. When your body is used to alcohol taking care of these functions for us, it stops creating the right balance itself – hence when we remove the alcohol, we experience withdrawal as our body is out of kilter, and fighting to achieve the right balance.
Common withdrawal symptoms include;
- Sleep disturbance
- Night terrors / nightmares
- Lack of concentration
- Headaches and migraines
- Increased heart rate
- Tremors / shakes
These symptoms may present in various forms, and at varying times as you reduce / cut out your alcohol intake. More severe systems include delirium tremors, known as “the DTs”. This is an extreme withdrawal symptom requiring medical attention, and includes; high temperature, extreme anxiety, seizures, hallucinations to name but a few.
How might CBD help manage these symptoms?
Many report CBD can be effective in helping to reduce your alcohol intake, or “cut down”. This is because of its anti-anxiety, anti-depressant and sleep promoting qualities. CBD also helps reduce and repair the cell damage done to your body by alcohol. In that way, it could be an effective tool at the beginning of your journey to quit or substantially reduce drinking.
In terms of specific symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, there are many ways CBD is understood to help:
- Anxiety - It is widely accepted that serotonin plays an important role in wellbeing and mental health, and is the function of many prescribed anti-anxiety drugs – This is what is leading people to CBD as a good suitable alternative option, to help with anxiety symptoms.Read more here.
- Depression - Brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in animal testing has shown that CBD increases BDNF levels in the Hippocampus, while simultaneously reducing its depressive symptoms. Read more here.
- Sleep - Many researchers believe that CBD helps us sleep by tackling the root causes of insomnia. This is a valid argument, as CBD has been shown to ease many of the most common causes of disordered sleeping. Read more here.
- Night Terrors - In an experimental study on the effects of CBD on night terrors, dozens attested that they could finally sleep soundly, and their anxiety was reduced. Read more here.
- Focus & Concentration - With several theoretical studies on CBD proposing its cognitive function, there are many who believe it can form part of a nootropic treatment – A compound that can boost focus and concentration. Read more here.
- Headaches & Migraines - CBD is a promising compound for headache and migraine relief owing to its Analgesic Anti-Pain effects and potential to provide stress and anxiety relief. Read more here.
- Nausea - CBD has been highlighted in medical research as an effective treatment for all-cause nausea, meaning that regardless of the cause of nausea, it can potentially help treat the feeling of nausea itself. Read more here.
There are also a couple of very specific ways CBD could help with alcohol withdrawal. Firstly reducing glutamate toxicity – As we mentioned, your body creates an excess of this when alcohol is removed. And secondly reducing cravings, recent research by scientists in the US Recovery Research Institute, indicates that the CBD is efficient in reducing the craving and anxiety for drugs in individuals that recently abstained from the use of hard drugs (i.e. heroin). Read more here.
In summary, CBD could form part of your armoury in tacking alcohol withdrawal – the results will vary from person to person, and currently most evidence to support this is anecdotal. You should seek medical advice if you are concerned about, or experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms. And if you are taking any existing medication, you should seek professional advice before taking CBD because it could interact with prescription drugs.
More about CBD
CBD, or Cannabidiol, is one of the many Cannabinoids found in Hemp Plants.
Used for many centuries for its healing and homeostasis-inducing properties, CBD is becoming ever more popular day by day. CBD is derived from the Hemp Plant, along with other Cannabinoids, and combined with oils or topical ointments or cosmetic creams to make the CBD products available today. Read more about The Endocannabinoid System here.