A new federally funded study has found that CBD may help tobacco users quit by reducing cravings.
Researchers at Washington State University (WSU) looked at the effects of the non-intoxicating cannabinoid on the metabolism of nicotine, the main addictive component of tobacco.
The study, published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology last month, showed that relatively low doses of CBD significantly inhibited a key enzyme associated with the processing of nicotine in the body, which could stave off cravings.
“The whole mission is to decrease harm from smoking, which is not from the nicotine per se, but all the carcinogens and other chemicals that are in tobacco smoke,” WSU professor Philip Lazarus, senior author of the study, said in a press release. “If we can minimize that harm, it would be a great thing for human health.”
While researchers say more studies that involve human subjects are needed, the study that examined liver tissue and microsomes derived from specialized cell lines showed that cannabidiol inhibited multiple relevant enzymes—and that included CYP2A6, the main enzyme that metabolizes nicotine.
“This suggests that these cannabinoids may be inhibiting overall nicotine metabolism in smokers.”
CBD inhibited that enzyme’s processing of the chemical by 50 percent, even at the low dose concentration that was administered.
“In other words, it appears that you don’t need much CBD to see the effect,” Lazarus, whose team is actively pursuing a follow-up clinical trial involving tobacco smokers, said.
The research was conducted with support from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences.
Past studies have reached similar conclusions about the inhibitory effects of CBD on nicotine metabolism.
This latest research indicates that such inhibition of the key enzymes leads to “increased plasma nicotine levels per cigarette smoked and a reduction in the number of cigarettes smoked, thus diminishing the adverse health effects of smoking.”
“Further investigations will be required to determine the potential for CBD and potentially other cannabinoids as agents for tobacco cessation therapy,” the study says.
From a harm reduction perspective, the implications of this study could be significant. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance, and even offsetting craving by a small amount could have demonstrable public health impacts.
Tobacco use has already been declining precipitously among the public. Gallup released a poll last year that found young people are now more than twice as likely to report smoking marijuana compared to cigarettes, for example.
Gallup separately released a data analysis in August that found, for the first time, that more Americans openly admitted to smoking marijuana or eating cannabis-infused edibles than those who said they’ve smoked cigarettes in the past week.
Meanwhile, there’s promising early research that suggests psilocybin, the main active constituent of so-called magic mushrooms, can dramatically help with tobacco smoking cessation.
In 2021, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) approved a grant for researchers at Johns Hopkins University, New York University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham to explore exactly how psilocybin can help people curb their addiction to cigarettes.
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