How Can CBD Help with Addiction?

Addiction is an incredibly complex issue both for those experiencing it first-hand, and for their health care team.  It is commonly misunderstood, and quite often stigmatized.  Dr. Gabor Mate, leading expert and author, describes addiction as “any repeated behavior, substance-related or not, in which a person feels compelled to persist, regardless of its negative impact on his life and the lives of others.”

It involves:

  • Compulsive engagement with and preoccupation with behavior or substance
  • Impaired control over the behavior
  • Persistence or relapse despite evidence of harm
  • Dissatisfaction, irritability, or intense craving when the object – be it a drug, activity, or other goal – is not immediately available


It often feels like there is no satisfying approach to treating addiction medically, because there is still so much to learn about how it works.  There are a myriad of theories and schools of thought about the best approach, but so far the most clarity we have is that it affects people in an individual way, regardless of the substances involved.

CBD is a compelling component of a new conversation in the medical community about how we approach addiction recovery through the lens of a concept called “harm reduction”.  Harm reduction means that even though it’s heartbreaking to witness the devastating effects that addiction can have on people’s lives, allowing them to engage in those addictive behaviors with the maximum level of safety is of the utmost importance.  In this way, we can leave behind the antiquated idea that addiction is a moral failing, and  begin to treat addiction as an illness. 

Because CBD has no psychoactive effects, it can be a useful tool to manage uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol, cocaine, opiates, cigarettes and potentially even recreational marijuana.  It has the potential to be beneficial in quelling anxiety and impulsive behavior to help prevent relapse.  The medical community is starting to consider cannabis an “exit drug”, rather than only a “gateway drug”.

Each person’s experience of addiction psychologically and medically is unique, and cannabis does interact with a variety of pharmaceutical drugs which change the way medications  act in your body.  It’s important to work closely with a health care provider you trust to know if using CBD in overcoming an addiction is right for you. 

About the Author

Dr. Jayne DuBois is a naturopathic physician practicing at Full Circle Natural Medicine in the Green Lake area of Seattle. She practices primary care medicine with a focus on mental health, substance abuse and eating disorders. She has additional training in IV nutrient therapy, craniosacral therapy and clinical hypnotherapy. She is currently accepting new patients and is contracted with Premera, Regence and First Choice insurance networks. You can find out more about Dr. Jayne here:


Gonzalez-Cuevas, Gustavo, et al. “Unique Treatment Potential of Cannabidiol for the Prevention of Relapse to Drug Use: Preclinical Proof of Principle.” Neuropsychopharmacology : Official Publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, Springer International Publishing, Sept. 2018, 

Hindocha, Chandni, et al. “Cannabidiol Reverses Attentional Bias to Cigarette Cues in a Human Experimental Model of Tobacco Withdrawal.” Addiction (Abingdon, England), John Wiley and Sons Inc., 1 May 2018, 

Maté Gabor, and Peter Levine. In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction. North Atlantic Books, 2020.

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