CBD Withdrawal—What Does the Research Say?

Any substance that is either psychologically or biochemically addictive can cause symptoms of withdrawal when you stop using it. With THC withdrawal becoming an increasingly recognized negative effect of using this intoxicating cannabinoid, is it also possible to experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop using CBD?

What are withdrawals?

Verywell Mind defines withdrawal as “the combination of physical and mental effects that a person experiences after they stop using or reduce their intake of a substance.” Withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to cripplingly intense.

Withdrawal symptoms usually occur when you stop using a substance that is physically or biochemically addictive. As a result of repeated use, your body adapts to physically addictive substances over time, causing symptoms of tolerance and withdrawal.

Tolerance to a substance is when your body needs more of a substance to experience the same effects. In the context of physically addictive substances, withdrawal is related to tolerance since the more of an addictive substance your body needs, the stronger your withdrawal symptoms will be if you cease using the substance.

Examples of withdrawal symptoms

The symptoms of withdrawal vary depending on the substance a person has become addicted to. Very generally, however, here are some examples of common withdrawal symptoms:

  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Shakiness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Mood changes
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Muscle pain

Severe withdrawals may be accompanied by seizures or hallucinations. The intensity of withdrawal symptoms is affected by:

  • How long you’ve been taking a drug
  • The dosage of the drug you were using
  • The type of drug you’ve become addicted to

Symptoms of THC withdrawal

THC, the primary active component in most types of recreational and medical marijuana, can be both physically and psychologically addictive. Addiction researchers have coined the phrase cannabis use disorder (CUD) in reference to instances in which THC becomes habit-forming.

Like other physically habit-forming substances, THC can cause withdrawal symptoms upon cessation of use. According to Healthline, common symptoms of THC withdrawal include:

  • Reduced appetite
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Cold sweats
  • Chills
  • Depression
  • Digestive issues

THC withdrawal symptoms are generally only experienced by individuals who have developed CUD. Taken by surprise by the potential of THC to cause withdrawals, however, consumers want to know if other cannabinoids can cause similar effects.

Can you experience withdrawal symptoms with CBD?

There are no recorded cases of CBD causing severe withdrawal symptoms. Our understanding of the way CBD affects the body suggests that this cannabinoid is incapable of causing physical withdrawals. 

A 2020 clinical study concluded that “no evidence of withdrawal syndrome was found with abrupt discontinuation of short-term treatment with CBD,” providing the first hard evidence that at least short-term CBD use does not cause severe withdrawal symptoms. In this study, the most common symptoms of CBD withdrawal were diarrhea and mild headaches.

CBD and physical addiction

Severe withdrawal symptoms are most commonly associated with substances that are physically addictive. Cannabidiol’s lack of severe withdrawal symptoms is associated with this cannabinoid’s lack of physically addictive properties.

Substances can become physically addictive for a variety of reasons. The most common biochemical driver behind physical addiction, however, is dopamine stimulation.

A healthy brain uses dopamine to reward you for completing important tasks. Physical addiction, however, hijacks dopamine production, driving withdrawal symptoms when the addict ceases use of the addictive substance.

THC provides feelings of euphoria and pleasure by stimulating the CB1 receptors in your nervous system, which leads to increased dopamine generation. CBD does not cause dopamine stimulation, which, theoretically, could be the reason that this cannabinoid does not appear to exhibit any signs of being physically addictive.

CBD and psychological addiction

Addiction is more complicated than mere physical dependence. Specialists struggle to define addiction due to the intermeshing of physical and psychological symptoms that appears to be at play in the development of this disorder.

Even if it does not directly affect the way that your brain operates, a substance can be psychologically addictive if you perceive that it has changed your life for the better. Even placebos can become psychologically addictive if a person strongly believes that a placebo has had a positive impact.

The good news is that withdrawal symptoms associated with psychological dependence do not have any biochemical underpinning. While withdrawal symptoms associated with physical addiction can be remarkably difficult to treat since physically addictive substances rewire your nervous system, overcoming withdrawal symptoms associated with psychological addiction simply requires a shift in mindset.

Psychological addiction withdrawal symptoms and CBD

There is no evidence that CBD is habit-forming in any way. It’s certainly possible, however, to feel like you need this substance even if your body has not become physically dependent on CBD.

As a result, people who have relied on CBD for a long time might feel depressed or anxious when they stop using this cannabinoid. The conditions for which they used CBD might resurge.

These symptoms are not, however, results of the physical properties of CBD. They’re the result of the psychological relationship that CBD users have built with the benefits of this cannabinoid over time.

Can using CBD for a long time cause withdrawal symptoms?

The only research that’s been conducted into CBD and withdrawal symptoms has focused on short-term use of this cannabinoid. It is, therefore, reasonable to wonder if long-term use of CBD could cause withdrawal symptoms upon cessation even if no symptoms are noted in the context of short-term use.

As we’ve discussed, however, CBD does not appear to have any potential for physical addiction. It doesn’t matter how long you use this cannabinoid; CBD inherently does not have any physically addictive properties, and this attribute will not change regardless of how long you use CBD. As a result, CBD will not become more likely to cause severe withdrawal symptoms even if you use it for a long time.

CBD withdrawals by product type

Some types of CBD products might be more likely to cause psychological withdrawal symptoms than others. Additionally, the types of symptoms experienced might vary based on product type.

Topical CBD products

People don’t use topical CBD products to change their mood or help with anxiety and depression. They most commonly use topical CBD for localized pain.

As a result, cessation of topical CBD use is not likely to cause any psychological symptoms. Instead, the localized conditions for which CBD was used might resurge.

Oral CBD products

CBD products that are ingested orally have low bioavailability, so they don’t offer very strong effects. Over time, however, CBD users might become accustomed to the effects that oral ingestion of this cannabinoid provides, causing adverse psychological changes upon cessation of use.

Inhaled CBD products

Out of all the available CBD ingestion methods, inhaled CBD products provide the strongest effects. CBD will not be physically addictive regardless of the ingestion method you choose. Cessation of use of inhaled CBD products is, however, more likely to cause adverse psychological changes than use cessation of CBD products with lower bioavailability.

Should you be concerned about withdrawals when you use CBD?

There is no evidence that CBD users should be concerned about withdrawals. Regardless of which type of CBD product you use, severe withdrawal symptoms have not been noted in association with this non-intoxicating cannabinoid.

Users of products that combine CBD and THC, however, should be cautious. While it’s possible that CBD might mitigate the intoxicating effects of THC by altering the shape of the nervous system’s CB1 receptors, this attribute would not entirely remove the dopamine-stimulating properties of THC.

In concentrations of 0.3% or less, THC is very unlikely to cause any symptoms of physical dependence or withdrawal. CBD products purchased in recreational or medical dispensaries, however, often contain much higher concentrations of THC, increasing the risk of THC withdrawal symptoms.

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