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Clinical Trials of Cannabidiol for Substance Use Disorders

The human brain loves things that make it feel good, and so it goes without saying that addiction is highly common. In fact, about 35 million people across the planet are affected by substance use disorders. While substance use disorders are highly treatable, many individuals struggle to pull themselves free from the addiction’s grasp. Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is said to do wonders for a lot of people. The truth is that there is still a lot of research required before the usefulness of CBD is determined, but what do clinical trials of cannabidiol for substance use disorders say?


Can CBD help people overcome addictions and withdrawal? Here is what science tells us.


What is Cannabidiol?

You are probably already aware of the compounds found in the cannabis sativa plant called cannabinoids. The most well known one is tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. The second major cannabinoid is cannabidiol, or CBD. What makes THC and CBD different? For starters, CBD does not induce a high. Low or high doses, CBD tends to be more calming than euphoric. That reason alone may drive some people struggling with addiction to try CBD.


How Does Cannabidiol Work?

Since the discovery of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in 1990, research on CBD has yet to fully comprehend what it does and how it interacts with the body [1]. Even the endocannabinoid system is a mystery, but scientists have learned that it plays a major role in regulatory functions. When you ingest cannabidiol, it interacts with the ECS, either by attaching to specific receptors or by causing natural endocannabinoids to be released.


Interestingly, the ECS is also involved in the reward circuitry of the brain, according to multiple studies. One of the receptors that CBD binds to—CB1R—plays a role in motivation and reinforcement when rewards are received [1]. Some research even suggests that the ECS is responsible for establishing the routines that develop into substance abuse, including those with addictions to alcohol and cannabis [2].


Thus, that raises the question of whether CBD can inhibit the functions within the ECS that prompt addiction.


What is a Substance Use Disorder?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), substance abuse disorders (SUDs), or addictions, are when “the recurrent use of alcohol and/or drugs causes clinically significant impairment, including health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home” [3]. Often, substance abuse disorders develop over a long period and involve a reliance on and withdrawal from the substance in question. The common substance use disorders including any of the following substances:


  • Alcohol
  • Stimulants
  • Opioids
  • Cannabis
  • Tobacco
  • Hallucinogens


Some individuals who suffer from SUDs also have mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, that affect their ability to function normally. These conditions can cause a reliance on substances that are unhealthy.


Can Cannabidiol Be Used For Substance Use Disorders?

A number of CBD studies have concluded with evidence suggesting that cannabidiol may be effective for a wide variety of neurological, mental, and physical conditions. However, trials on CBD as a treatment for SUDs is still relatively new, and the results tend to contrast.


One study from John Hopkins University School of Medicine looked at the potential of using cannabis to improve the symptoms of opiate withdrawal [4]. 125 participants were asked if their cannabis use eased their withdrawal. 72% stated that it helped. Another 22.4% claimed that they had mixed results.


Research published in the American Journal of Psychiatry tested the usefulness of CBD for heroin use disorder [5]. The results of the double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial found two things. First, CBD reduced the participants’ overall anxiety. Second, their cravings for heroin were reduced.


Some results, however, are not so optimistic. A 2021 meta-analysis reviewed over 207 published studies to look at the efficacy of both THC-CBD and straight CBD [6]. Many of the studies reported no significant differences for substances like amphetamines and alcohol when patients used CBD to reduce their cravings or withdrawal symptoms. The researchers also noted that CBD had little to no effect on those recovering from cannabis use disorder, though the analyzed studies were selected from a very small pool.


Presently, one clinical trial for the effectiveness of CBD for the treatment of alcohol use disorder is recruiting participants [7]. The clinical trial will look at both full spectrum and broad spectrum CBD when compared to a placebo. Every participant will have been diagnosed with moderate alcohol use disorder. The study will be finished in 2023, and hopefully will show positive results.


The Bottom Line on CBD for SUDs

Clinical trials on cannabidiol as a complementary therapy for substance use disorders are ongoing, but the published results look promising overall. CBD may help you or someone you know reduce their use of potentially harmful substances or by coping with recovery. Keep in mind, however, that CBD is not without risks—and it is not right for everyone. Because it is not regulated by the FDA, it is important to find reputable sellers who have their products analyzed in certified labs. Also, speak with a medical professional before trying CBD for the first time.


Looking for high quality CBD products that are as close to farm-to-table as you can get? Sugar Bottom Hemp offers a full range of CBD products for people and pets that use only the finest ingredients. Get in touch with us today to learn more about what we offer.


If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, help is available right now. Please call SAMHSA’s helpline at 1-800-662-4357 to learn more about local resources.






  1. Chye, Y., Christensen, E., Solowij, N., & Yücel, M. (2019, February 19). The Endocannabinoid System and Cannabidiol’s Promise for the Treatment of Substance Use Disorder. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 10.


  1. Lupica, C. R., Riegel, A. C., & Hoffman, A. F. (2004, September). Marijuana and cannabinoid regulation of brain reward circuits. British Journal of Pharmacology, 143(2), 227–234.


  1. Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders. (2022, April). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Retrieved October 20, 2022, from


  1. Bergeria, C. L., Huhn, A. S., & Dunn, K. E. (2020, June). The impact of naturalistic cannabis use on self-reported opioid withdrawal. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 113, 108005.


  1. Hurd, Y. L., Spriggs, S., Alishayev, J., Winkel, G., Gurgov, K., Kudrich, C., Oprescu, A. M., & Salsitz, E. (2019b, November 1). Cannabidiol for the Reduction of Cue-Induced Craving and Anxiety in Drug-Abstinent Individuals With Heroin Use Disorder: A Double-Blind Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial. American Journal of Psychiatry, 176(11), 911–922.


  1. Morel, A., Lebard, P., Dereux, A., Azuar, J., Questel, F., Bellivier, F., Marie-Claire, C., Fatséas, M., Vorspan, F., & Bloch, V. (2021, February 22). Clinical Trials of Cannabidiol for Substance Use Disorders: Outcome Measures, Surrogate Endpoints, and Biomarkers. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 12.

7. CBD for the Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder. (2021, May 5). US National Library of Medicine Clinical Trials. Retrieved October 20, 2022, from