LET’S LOOK AT WHY WE DRINK AND HOW WE CAN MAKE ABSTINENCE EASIER
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Whether you’re committing to a month of alcohol abstinence or you’d like to reduce your lockdown-induced drinking habit, it’s worth a read of this blog where we offer tips from a hypnotherapist and look at why we turn to drink and how CBD can help.
Despite the fact that a mix cannabis and alcohol might normally set you up for a pretty terrible time (I think most people have experienced the dreaded ‘whitey’ at some point in their lives) CBD is a whole other story. One which, as a variety of studies are now suggesting, may ease the harmful side effects of drinking alcohol, reduce the risk of a shocking hangover and even help with substance addiction – something perhaps more important to recognise than usual during Sober October.
Yes, CBD is cannabis derived. And yes, you can even buy full spectrum CBD products which contain THC. But the effect is not the same as smoking up a huge amount of weed on an alcohol filled system. Not even close. The main reason for this is the incredibly low levels of THC present in UK CBD oils – if there’s any present at all. And the slow and steady pace you can absorb these cannabinoids into your bloodstream.
Incredibly, many researchers are beginning to find that CBD and alcohol can actually be an extremely good combination.
So why do we drink if we know of the adverse health benefits?
In most western cultures and countries, alcohol is socially accepted, which means it is easier to turn to when celebrating, commiserating or using to ‘self soothe’ as it can calm the nervous system. Some drink to distract or numb feelings we don’t want to confront like guilt, shame or fear. This is when it can become a cycle of dependency.
I asked Meabh, director of Mindshift Hypnotherapy if addiction discriminates, “It can affect anyone, regardless of their personality. There is no evidence to suggest people with traits of impulsiveness, thrill seekers, those seen as having ‘addictive personalities’ have a higher risk of addiction”.
CBD & Addiction
The first and foremost point to note here is that CBD is not considered to be an addictive substance and has very limited abuse potential. Unlike taking benzodiazepines, which are commonly used to treat alcohol withdrawal, you won’t be giving up one problem for another. In fact, CBD is being repeatedly shown in studies to effectively combat existing addictive behaviours.
Researchers in France and Belgium peer reviewed 26 studies spanning 44 years exploring the effect CBD had on animals who had been administered ethanol via a ‘self serve’ push lever. Overall, the results showed that the test subjects reduced alcohol consumption and were also less likely to relapse when treated with regular doses of CBD, even under stress.
Further to this, one 2013 study was published in the Addictive Behaviours, looking into the effects of using CBD to replace cigarettes. The results revealed that those given a CBD inhaler to use every time they felt the need to smoke reduced their number of cigarettes by 40%, while those with the placebo showed no difference. And in 2019 the American Journal of Psychiatry observed positive effects of treating long-term heroin users with CBD, who experienced significantly less cravings and anxiety induced by the drug cues as a result of taking a regular dose of CBD.
And the list goes on. But how does CBD have this effect?
How does CBD help with addiction?
As with every aspect of CBD, one of the best understood molecules in the cannabis sativa plant, there is still so much to learn so there are no official answers to this question yet. But there are some good theories that are being investigated further.
In the studies into CBD and alcoholism, mentioned above, the results showed that CBD effectively reduced stress relapse along with reducing anxiety and impulsivity. So far, researchers are considering the most likely reason for this to be the regulation of cortisol release, which comes partly as a result of endocannabinoid anandamide being allowed to flow and build up in the body and brain as CBD inhibits the enzyme which would ordinarily break it down.
On top of this, there’s also evidence to suggest that the CBD molecule directly activates both serotonin (5-HT1A hydroxytryptamine) receptors and opioid receptors, which is a fundamental point given the role both of these neurotransmitters are thought to play in alcohol-induced dysregulation of neuronal function and behaviour.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina have been exploring the hypothesis that ‘alcohol exposure modifies function in brain regions critical for regulation of emotion, and that these changes underlie the persistent alterations in behaviour’.
According to the paper published in the National Institutes of Health, the 5HT serotonin system CBD activates is proposed to be involved in the development of alcoholism, and has been suggested to contribute to cravings and relapses as well as the increased negative affect, manifested as increased anxiety-like behaviour and dysphoria, that is associated with alcohol abuse. Because of this, the regulating and balancing ability the CBD molecule is thought to hold is of great interest to those looking for new, safe ways to treat alcoholism.
In addition to this, CBD also directly activates dopamine receptors. When drinking heavily, the brain becomes overloaded with dopamine, so when you stop, these levels come crashing down, bringing with it feelings of sadness and depression. As CBD activates these receptors, this may well be able to help ease this transition and reduce this particularly difficult form of mood swing.
It all comes down to balance
The thing CBD is really best known for is bringing the body into balance. It’s regarded as a pleiotropic (something which produces multiple effects via many different molecular pathways) and although not officially classified as one, it appears to work much like an adaptogen – going where your body needs it and helping the body adapt to return to homeostasis.
Addiction, of any sort, throws your body out of balance in lots of different ways – emotionally, physically and mentally. The hope is that CBD can help with that.
Meabh, of Mindshift Hypnotherapy, has some invaluable tips;
- If you are planning to partake in Sober October or drink heavily and would like to stop, do it gradually. Decrease your intake over time rather than just stopping.
- Go to your GP and seek advice. Not just about helping you stop, but to also look into any damage that may have already been done. Liver damage, in particular, can get to a detrimental level, before any noticeable issues arise to alert you.
- Try CBD – research has proved it can help with addictive tendencies, as well as lift mood which can be a factor in making you want to drink
- Implement a Harm Reduction Strategy – this could be; to eat before you drink, if you like a 4pm drink, perhaps start later in the evening, up your Vitamin B intake as alcohol depletes your Vit B levels and choose drinks with a lower alcohol content than you usually drink
- Milk Thistle is also a great supplement to support liver function
- Avoid high risk situations, those scenarios which encourage drinking
Meabh adds, “An important thing to note, as well as decreasing your drinking gradually, is to replace this habit with another, healthier alternative like running, yoga, bike ride, meditation and become mindful of your cravings – what’s the trigger, when does it happen, plan around it to avoid it.”
“The opposite to addiction is connection. We all need something to connect with and if we’re not getting that connection with people, we’ll get it with a substance”.
Research reference links and useful articles below;