SPOKANE, Wash. — Kicking a nicotine habit for good is much easier said than done, but researchers from Washington State University say CBD may be an effective treatment to help people quit smoking tobacco cigarettes. Their study reveals that CBD can hinder the metabolism of nicotine, which should help smokers curb their craving for cigarettes.
The non-psychoactive cannabinoid known as CBD (Cannabidiol) is one of the main components of marijuana. However, this one doesn’t produce the trademark “high” cannabis is famous for. In recent years, CBD has exploded in popularity as a singular substance, with many claiming it offers an array of therapeutic effects ranging from stress relief to improved sleep. While the validity of these claims remains largely up for debate, these latest findings strongly indicate CBD may be able to help smokers struggling to quit.
Researchers tested the effects of CBD and its major metabolite on human liver tissue and cell samples, revealing it inhibited a key enzyme for nicotine metabolism. For smokers, slowing metabolism of the drug could help them wait longer in between cigarettes. To be clear, while these findings are promising, further research is necessary in order to both confirm these effects in humans and determine the appropriate dosage levels.
“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,” says Phillip Lazarus, WSU professor of pharmaceutical sciences senior author of the study, in a university release. “If we can minimize that harm, it would be a great thing for human health.”
CBD helps curb cravings even at low doses
Cigarettes remain a major health concern in the United States, with one in five Americans dying every year due to smoking-related causes. Although many perceive them as less harmful, alternative nicotine delivery methods, such as vaping, snuff, and chew, also contain chemicals that can cause cancer and several other illnesses.
For this study, the research team tested CBD and its major metabolite — what it converts into within the body (7-hyroxycannabidiol) — on microsomes collected from human liver tissue. They also tested CBD on microsomes from specialized cell lines. This approach allowed study authors to focus in on the individual enzymes related to nicotine metabolism.
This led to the discovery that CBD inhibited several of these enzymes, including the major one involved with nicotine metabolism (CYP2A6). Other research reveals that over 70 percent of nicotine is metabolized by CYP2A6 in most tobacco users. CBD appears to impact this particular enzyme in a major way, inhibiting its activity by 50 percent — even at relatively low concentrations of CBD.
“In other words, it appears that you don’t need much CBD to see the effect,” Prof. Lazarus concludes.
Prof. Lazarus’ team is currently working on a clinical study examining the effects of CBD on nicotine levels in smokers by measuring the nicotine in their blood and comparing it to smokers taking a placebo over the course of six to eight hours. In the future, researchers plan on conducting a much larger study analyzing CBD and nicotine addiction.
The findings appear in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.