Is CBD Addictive?

Potential benefits of CBD

Verywell / Theresa Chiechi

Because marijuana can be addictive, particularly when it is used heavily and at high doses, you might wonder if CBD addiction is also possible. CBD (cannabidiol) is one of the many compounds found in cannabis. Products containing CBD have grown in popularity in recent years, found in everything from gummy supplements to post-workout smoothies to CBD-infused pillows.

CBD’s burgeoning popularity has been fueled in part by the compound’s purported mental health-boosting properties. However, some people may hesitate to use such products for fear that CBD might have the same potential for addiction as cannabis.

This article discusses whether CBD addiction is something to worry about. It also covers some of the other possible concerns you might have when taking CBD.

Is CBD Addictive? 

Drug addiction is defined as a compulsive need to use a substance and an inability to stop using it despite negative consequences.

Substances that lead to dependence and addiction affect the pleasure centers of the brain, often making it so that people need to consume a substance to avoid experiencing symptoms of withdrawal. In many cases, people may also need to use more and more of a drug in order to continue experiencing the same euphoric effects that they initially felt. 

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive compound in cannabis that produces the high associated with marijuana. When administered, THC travels to the brain via the bloodstream and attaches to the endocannabinoid receptors found in areas of the brain that are associated with things such as pleasure, movement, memory, and thought. 

While cannabidiol also interacts with the body's endocannabinoid system, CBD does not have the same intoxicating properties that THC has. Research suggests it has a good safety profile and is well tolerated at doses up to 600mg to 1,500 mg.

Unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD does not produce psychoactive effects. And while marijuana use can lead to dependence, current research suggests that CBD is not addictive.

According to the World Health Organization, in humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential…To date, there is no evidence of public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.

A 2017 study published in the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence suggested that CBD has the same potential for dependence as a placebo pill.

However, it is important to note that many CBD products may contain some level of THC. Federal law requires that hemp-derived CBD products contain less than 0.3% of THC. However, research has found that 70% of CBD products contain significantly more THC than their labels suggest.

While CBD is not addictive, THC is. Evidence suggests that people can develop a tolerance to THC and may experience withdrawal symptoms. Physical dependence on THC is more likely among people who use high-THC cannabis strains.

CBD Might Help Treat Addiction

Some evidence suggests that CBD may actually be helpful for treating drug addiction and addictive behaviors. For example, while the research is still scarce and preliminary, studies have found that CBD shows promise in the treatment of cocaine and methamphetamine addiction. 

A 2015 review of available preclinical and clinical data found that CBD had therapeutic properties in the treatment of cocaine, opioid, and psychostimulant addiction. Evidence also indicated that it might have benefits in the treatment of tobacco and cannabis addiction.

A 2019 study found that cannabidiol might help reduce drug cravings, paranoia, impulsivity, and withdrawal symptoms associated with crack-cocaine addiction.

While promising, more research is needed to understand how CBD might be utilized for the treatment of substance use disorders.

Effects of CBD

While CBD does not have psychoactive properties, it does have a variety of effects. Its potential impact on mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression has been a specific point of interest for many.

In addition to mental health benefits, some research indicates that CBD might be helpful for reducing pain, relieving nausea, and treating inflammation. The World Health Organization also suggests that CBD may be helpful for treating conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

Some of the potential uses are listed below.

Seizures

Research has found that CBD may help reduce seizures caused by epilepsy. A 2018 study of children and adults with treatment-resistant epilepsy found that the use of CBD was associated with reductions in the frequency and severity of seizures.

In 2018, the FDA approved Epidiolex, a CBD solution, for the treatment of rare, severe forms of epilepsy.

Anxiety

Research also suggests that CBD may be helpful for alleviating symptoms of anxiety. For example, one study found that cannabidiol was useful for reducing symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and social anxiety disorder.

Depression

Studies also suggest that CBD may have potential in the treatment of depression. For example, one study found that CBD influences how the brain responds to serotonin, which may have an antidepressant-like effect.

What the Research Says

While CBD does not appear to be addictive and may have some benefits, one large-scale review concluded that there was not enough evidence to support the use of CBD as a treatment for mental health conditions.

This doesn't mean that CBD might not be helpful. It means that more studies are needed to determine what CBD might treat, when it is best used, and what dosage people should take.

Side Effects and Other Concerns

Current evidence suggests that CBD use does not lead to addiction and that the substance may have a number of health benefits. However, it is also important to be aware that CBD does have some potential side effects

Some side effects that may occur when taking CBD include:

  • Anxiety
  • Changes in appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Drug interactions
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Mood changes
  • Nausea

Research indicates that CBD is generally well-tolerated up to doses of around 600 mg and as high as 1500 mg. However, it can often be difficult to determine how much CBD you are actually taking. According to one study, 43% of commercially-available CBD products contain substantially more cannabidiol than indicated on the label.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health cautions that CBD may be harmful to some people. In some studies, the use of Epidiolex was linked to liver problems and drug interactions.

While such issues can be managed when taking a prescribed medication under doctor supervision, self-administered CBD could potentially have the same harmful effects, particularly since it can be difficult to determine how much CBD many products actually contain.

CBD products may also contain higher levels of THC than stated on the label. This can be concerning if you are trying to avoid THC.

Recap

While current evidence indicates that you won’t develop a CBD addiction, it is possible to have an adverse reaction to cannabidiol. Talking to your doctor first and starting with a low dose can reduce the risk of unwanted side effects.

A Word From Verywell

CBD doesn’t appear to be addictive, but that doesn’t mean that it is right for everyone. If you are thinking about trying CBD, discuss it with your doctor first. Be sure to tell your healthcare provider about any other medications you might be taking in order to prevent any potential drug interactions. Watch for side effects and don’t take more than the dose that your doctor recommends. 

13 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Society of Addiction Medicine. Definition of addiction.

  2. Iffland K, Grotenhermen F. An update on safety and side effects of cannabidiol: a review of clinical data and relevant animal studies. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2017;2(1):139-154. Published 2017 Jun 1. doi:10.1089/can.2016.0034

  3. World Health Organization. Cannabidiol (CBD): pre-review report, agenda item 5.2.

  4. Zehra A, Burns J, Liu CK, et al. Cannabis addiction and the brain: A review. Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology : The Official Journal of the Society on NeuroImmune Pharmacology. 2018;13:438–452. doi:10.1007/s11481-018-9782-9

  5. Prud'homme M, Cata R, Jutras-Aswad D. Cannabidiol as an intervention for addictive behaviors: a systematic review of the evidence. Subst Abuse. 2015;9:33-38. doi:10.4137/SART.S25081

  6. Calpe-López C, García-Pardo MP, Aguilar MA. Cannabidiol treatment might promote resilience to cocaine and methamphetamine use disorders: a review of possible mechanisms. Molecules. 2019;24(14):2583. doi:10.3390/molecules24142583

  7. Szaflarski JP, Bebin EM, Cutter G, et al. Cannabidiol improves frequency and severity of seizures and reduces adverse events in an open-label add-on prospective study. Epilepsy & Behavior. 2018;87:131-136. doi:10.1016/j.yebeh.2018.07.020

  8. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). FDA approves first drug comprised of an active ingredient derived from marijuana to treat rare, severe forms of epilepsy.

  9. Crippa JA, Derenusson GN, Ferrari TB, et al. Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety disorder: a preliminary report. J Psychopharmacol. 2011;25(1):121‐130. doi:10.1177/0269881110379283

  10. Sales AJ, Crestani CC, Guimarães FS, Joca SRL. Antidepressant-like effect induced by Cannabidiol is dependent on brain serotonin levels. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2018;86:255‐261. doi:10.1016/j.pnpbp.2018.06.002

  11. Black N, Stockings E, Campbell G, Tran LT, Zagic D, Hall WD, et al. Cannabinoids for the treatment of mental disorders and symptoms of mental disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet Psychiatry. 2019;6(112):P995-1010. doi:10.1016/S2215-0366(19)30401-8

  12. Bonn-miller MO, Loflin MJE, Thomas BF, Marcu JP, Hyke T, Vandrey R. Labeling accuracy of cannabidiol extracts sold online. JAMA. 2017;318(17):1708-1709. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.11909

  13. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Cannabis (marijuana) and cannabinoids: what you need to know.

By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.