CBD shown to be promising in reducing urge to smoke

CBD was shown to inhibit nicotine metabolism in a laboratory experiment.



CBD may help slow the metabloization of nicotine in the body. CBD gummies at Glassphemy in Pullman.

ERIN MULLINS, Evergreen reporter

CBD was shown to inhibit nicotine metabolism in human liver tissue and cell samples, which shows promising potential in helping cigarette users reduce their urge for the next cigarette, according to a recent WSU-led study. 

Philip Lazarus, lead author of the study and a professor in the WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, said that the aim of his research is to help people smoke less often and feel less of a craving for nicotine.

“So what we’re trying to do is, have nicotine last longer in their body so they don’t need to go ahead and smoke another cigarette within 30 minutes,” Lazarus said. “Why do people continue to smoke every 30 minutes?” 

The reason is that the nicotine may get metabolized quickly through their body and not hit their brain, which causes such frequent smoking. The researchers aim to help people gradually decrease how much they smoke, he said. 

In metabolism, everything that you eat, breathe or absorb in your skin goes into your bloodstream, which goes into your liver and other organs, Lazarus said. The liver detoxifies substances in your body. Hepatocytes in the liver are responsible for making things in the body more water-soluble so they can be excreted in the urine. 

The researchers studied the effects of cannabidiol (CBD) and 7-hydroxy cannabidiol (7-OH-CBD), which is the major active metabolite of CBD in the body, to see whether they inhibit the enzymes which metabolize nicotine, Lazarus said. Nicotine was added to either cell lines, which were grown in the lab, or human liver tissue, which was obtained from tissue banks. 

Researchers observed those to see if they metabolized nicotine and found that only a small amount of CBD is needed to inhibit nicotine metabolism, he said. Specifically, the enzyme CYP2A6, which is a major enzyme in nicotine metabolism, was found to be inhibited along with several other nicotine enzymes. 

Although CBD may help to reduce the urge to smoke, there are reasons besides addiction why people choose to use drugs, said Joshua Muscat, professor at Penn State College of Medicine. 

“It’s easy to control the pharmacologic exposures, but humans are a lot more complicated because there are other reasons that people may smoke besides their addiction to nicotine, certainly all sorts of social factors,” Muscat said. “People who vape nicotine and take cannabinoids, they may be quite different in terms of their backgrounds or educational levels or desires to use drugs.”


He said that they want to do more research on the topic of CBD inhibiting nicotine metabolism, including animal and human studies, to further explore the science on the topic and are in the process of trying to get funding for further studies. 

A human study would be more complicated because every human is unique, Lazarus said. 

“There are genetic variations, even in our metabolizing enzymes,” he said. “So in any given individual, there could be differences in the way we metabolize CBD. So maybe in certain people, they’re going to metabolize whatever dose of CBD that they get maybe a little faster than others, so it might not work as well.”

Changes in genetic variation is what is behind the idea of personalized medicine, Lazarus said. In personalized medicine, each individual gets a dose of medicine that is unique to their genes. 

Drug addiction is difficult, and it is difficult to treat people with drug addiction, Muscat said, so the study is trying to find new interventions to treat those addictions. Muscat said there is relatively little research on the long-term effects of CBD and marijuana because of how recently the drugs were legalized. 

Lazarus said that he has not seen many negative health effects of CBD in the scientific literature. When it comes to smoking marijuana, there is found to be a slightly increased cancer risk long-term, because of the carcinogens that are involved in any type of smoking. 

Although CBD shows promise in reducing nicotine cravings, there is a possibility that if you are taking another drug, it could interfere with the metabolism of that drug and it may not be the best idea to take CBD, Lazarus said.

“If you’re taking another drug for whatever disease you might have, like high blood pressure, and it’s getting metabolized by an enzyme that’s also inhibited by CBD, then maybe you shouldn’t also take CBD for whatever pain you’re getting. Because you’re going to interfere with the metabolism of that other drug, and it could cause toxicity,” he said.

If you are struggling with substance abuse or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s hotline 1-800-662-HELP (4357), or visit their website for more information on addiction resources.