CBD and Alcohol
Cannabinoid (CBD) is becoming increasingly popular and there are now a variety of products that are infused with CBD. It can be found in oils, body creams, lip balms, bath soaps, and other products. CBD is extracted from the cannabis plant, mostly from the flowers and buds of marijuana and hemp plants. Significant research has been done about CBD and how it interacts with the human body’s endocannabinoid system. It was found to modulate the immune system, helping with chronic pain and preventing inflammation.
As the popularity of CBD rose, it also started to get infused in shots, beers, and other alcoholic beverages. Among its effects, alcohol is known for its ability to reduce inhibitions and promote feelings of relaxation. CBD can have similar effects on the body, mainly reducing anxiety. The sedating effects of both CBD and alcohol are also similar. When combined together, the effects could be potentially amplified, making them more intense.
According to several studies, ethanol exposure alters endocannabinoid levels in different regions of the brain. Endocannabinoids are depleted in direct proportion of the amount of ethanol consumed.
CBD and its effect with Alcohol Drinking
In a study by the journal Psychopharmacology in 1979, participants were given alcohol and the alcohol-CBD combinations. They found that those participants that took alcohol and CBD together had significantly lower blood alcohol levels, although no significant differences in the level of impairment between the two groups. However, the impairment in motor performance and the perception of time was significant when alcohol and CBD were combined. The participants did not experience the same impairment when they took CBD alone.
Effect of CBD on Alcohol-Induced Liver Damage
A recent study in 2014 by Yang et al showed that CBD has a positive effect on alcohol-induced hepatic steatosis, or fatty liver disease. Fatty liver disease is when there is too much fat build-up in liver cells and it can be caused by heavy drinking alcohol. The fat deposits usually disappear once you stop drinking alcohol. However, it can lead to enlarged liver, hepatitis, and ultimately cirrhosis if you keep drinking.
The study found that CBD has a preventative effect in alcohol-induced liver injury and this is in line with the lowering of the blood alcohol levels from earlier studies. It works by preventing the increase in oxidative stress and increases the autophagy induced by alcohol which leads to healthier liver cells.
Effect of CBD on Alcohol-Induced Brain Damage
In another study, they examined the brains of rats who binged on alcohol and then given CBD. Chronic heavy alcohol use is responsible for neuronal damage in specific areas of the brain, mainly the frontal lobe. Alcohol can also induce multiple cognitive deficits, including memory dysfunction. When these rats were given CBD, they found that these rats have lost “significantly” fewer brain cells in the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex. CBD has an antioxidant effect that can prevent neuronal loss, reducing the brain damage caused by alcohol. It acts as a neuroprotective antioxidant and it is possibly through the its immunomodulatory properties. CBD is also associated with significant improvement in cognitive functions of subjects with impairments from consuming alcohol.
CBD and its effect on Alcohol Withdrawal
According to another study in 2016 in the journal Neurotoxicity Research, CBD may reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms and help patients reduce their alcohol consumption. Administration of CBD decreased the convulsions associated with alcohol withdrawal. It works by CBD binding to CB1 receptors, restoring some of the naturally-occurring endocannabinoids that were depleted due to excessive alcohol consumption. However, it would need several months before the effects are felt and fully restore the endocannabinoids.
CBD as a potential cure for Alcoholism
Several studies showed that CBD can reduce alcohol consumption. Researchers in France and Belgium reviewed 26 studies published between 1974 and June 2018 that explored the effects of CBD on animal subjects dosed with ethanol. The results of the study showed that mice administered CBD were less motivated to work for access to a liquid solution that included 8% of ethanol. This means that CBD reduces the craving for alcohol and this could play a role in alcohol addiction.
Furthermore, in a recent study by the Scripps Research Institute, a team of scientists led by Friedbert Weiss conducted research to determine the effect of CBD on rats addicted to cocaine and alcohol. A gel containing CBD was applied to the skin of rats daily for seven days. Various tests were then performed to see how these rats reacted to stressful and anxiety-provoking situations. They tested their impulsivity, which has a correlation to drug addiction. The researchers found that CBD effectively reduced stress relapse along with reducing anxiety and impulsivity.
CBD could have a significant action on drinking levels in human subjects with alcohol use disorders. It appears that CBD has a positive effect in decreasing both the physical and mental triggers that result in alcohol cravings and addiction.
CBD reduces the overall level of alcohol drinking in animal models by reducing ethanol intake, motivation for ethanol, relapse, and by decreasing anxiety and impulsivity.
There is still research needed on whether taking CBD and alcohol together can cause adverse health effects. The effects of CBD vary between individuals so the effects of combining alcohol and CBD affect each person differently. Most of the current research focused on the effects of CBD in alcohol addiction and consuming large amounts of alcohol and this might not correlate to the more often usage of CBD-infused alcohols which are taken moderately by most consumers.
It is always recommended to talk to your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about combining CBD and alcohol. If you do decide to mix them, it would be advisable to use small amounts so to lower your risk of adverse health effects.
Turna, J., Syan, S.K., Frey, B.N., Rush, B., Costello, M.J., Weiss, M. and MacKillop, J. (2019), Cannabidiol as a Novel Candidate Alcohol Use Disorder Pharmacotherapy: A Systematic Review. Alcohol Clin Exp Re, 43: 550-563. doi:10.1111/acer.13964
Springer. “Non-psychoactive cannabis ingredient could help addicts stay clean: Preclinical study using rats shows that Cannabidiol can reduce the risk of relapse.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 March 2018.
Yang, Lili et al. “Cannabidiol protects liver from binge alcohol-induced steatosis by mechanisms including inhibition of oxidative stress and increase in autophagy.” Free radical biology & medicine vol. 68 (2014): 260-7. doi:10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2013.12.026
De Ternay, Julia et al. “Therapeutic Prospects of Cannabidiol for Alcohol Use Disorder and Alcohol-Related Damages on the Liver and the Brain.” Frontiers in pharmacology vol. 10 627. 31 May. 2019, doi:10.3389/fphar.2019.00627