With some research suggesting it helps reduce nicotine cravings, is CBD the key to kicking the habit for good?
Smoking kills – more than eight million people a year to be precise, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
In the UK alone, the NHS estimates around 78,000 people die from preventable deaths caused by smoking, with many more living with debilitating smoking-related illnesses.
If there was ever any doubt, the outbreak of Covid-19 – a respiratory virus which causes breathlessness and a persistent cough as two of its most common symptoms (just in case you’ve been living under a rock this year) – has exposed the risks smokers are leaving themselves open to.
An analysis by the WHO earlier this year found smokers are more likely to develop severe disease from COVID-19 than non-smokers, while Public Health England has suggested smoking is a significant predictor of disease severity, with smokers 14 times more likely to develop severe respiratory disease.
But as anyone who has tried to kick the habit will know, it’s easier said than done.
Can CBD help?
Findings published earlier this year by The Cannabis Radar, suggested, not for the first time, that CBD could be the solution.
The results, from a 700-person survey in the US showed that almost half of participants were able to abstain from cigarettes by using cannabidiol.
Participants were asked to inhale or consume CBD whenever they felt the urge to smoke, with 42 percent reporting that they were able to abstain from cigarettes for a month.
While there is plenty of anecdotal evidence, the scientific research into CBD’s effect on tobacco addiction is limited – but still promising.
A 2013 report explored the effects of replacing cigarettes with CBD in a week-long study. The results revealed that those participants given a CBD inhaler to use every time they felt the need to smoke, reduced their number of cigarettes by 40 percent.
As Matt Picken, of 7CBD explained, most smokers are addicted to the chemical nicotine. This triggers the release of the feel-good hormone dopamine in the brain and is to blame for cigarettes being so addictive.
It is thought that CBD can actually reduce nicotine cravings by rebalancing the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS).
Consuming CBD kickstarts the ECS and produces endocannabinoids anandamide (AEA) and 2-AG, says Matt, which naturally increase dopamine levels and reduce the cravings of dopamine spikes caused by nicotine.
What do the experts say?
“In very simplistic terms, CBD works by helping to bring the body back into balance,” said Ruby Deevoy, a CBD and cannabis journalist who has covered its effect on smoking extensively.
“Addiction, of any sort, throws your body out of balance in lots of different ways – emotionally, physically and mentally. The hope is that CBD can help with that.”
CBD is also thought to regulate cortisol release, the hormone produced by the body in response to stress, and could be helpful in reducing ‘stress-induced relapses’ which lead smokers to reach for the cigarettes, according to Ruby.
“The CBD molecule directly activates serotonin, opioid and dopamine receptors all of which play an important role in altered neuronal function and behaviour which goes hand in hand with addiction,” she continued.
“Numerous studies have shown that CBD holds great potential when it comes to quitting addictive substances, with research into cigarettes, alcoholism and other drugs yielding positive results. There’s still a long way to go in understanding why this is, so there are no official answers yet, but there are some good theories that are being investigated further.”
Dean Billington, chief scientific officer at BRAINS bioceuticals, one of the few companies in the world producing CBD as an Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API), also told Cannabis Health there are several indications that CBD could be effective in smoking, alcohol and even opioid cessation.
“It’s all at the very early stages but there are some interesting results coming out of some of the studies that are being conducted,” he said.
“What we know is that CBD reduces your levels of anxiety and stress, and therefore, perhaps reduces the need to subsequently take a cigarette.
“There is also some evidence that CBD can be used in alcohol cessation and as a mechanism to wean people off opiates, in areas where it is of particular interest, such as in the US where opiate addiction is a huge challenge.”
One of the significant benefits of using CBD to manage addiction, is that it is non-addictive itself, with no evidence that it causes any side effects, continued Dean.
“There’s no evidence to show that CBD taken in any level of concentration is addictive, or indeed that it has any side effects, or that anybody has ever overdosed on CBD,” he added.
“When you reach a plateau, as you continue to increase the concentration of CBD, it actually starts to take less effect.”
A safer alternative?
For those still tackling cravings, CBD brand V&YOU has recently brought out its own range of Nicotine Pouches to offer smokers and vapers a safer way to get a hit, while they try to curb the habit.
The pouches, which are billed as a less harmful alternative to smoking, consist of a small cellulose bag filled with cotton fibre, flavour and nicotine, which can be placed between the lip and your gum for up to 30 minutes.
V&YOU founders believe they could play a significant role in helping people quit, in the same way that snus has – a moist, powder, smokeless tobacco product which originated in Sweden.
Co-founder & CEO Titus Wouda Kuipers said: “V&YOU Nicotine Pouches are aimed at people who already use nicotine in vapes or cigarettes and are generally seen as a less harmful alternative to smoking. This is the biggest driver for smokers looking to quit smoking, all of whom will know the health risks associated with the habit.”
According to Karl Erik Lund, PH.D, research director of the Norwegian Institute for Alcohol and Drug Research, snus has become the most popular smoking cessation method among smokers in Norway.
Titus added: “In the same way as snus – which is estimated to be more than 95 percent less harmful than smoking – nicotine pouches could play a key role in helping smokers to quit the habit.”
Medicinal cannabis improves quality of life, finds largest study of UK patients
The preliminary results from Project Twenty21 have been published.
Patients on Project Twenty21 report improvements in quality-of-life measures, and ability to manage anxiety, insomnia and depression with medicinal cannabis prescriptions. Bod Australia – one of the producers involved in the study – delves into what this means for medical cannabis.
The first findings from the UK’s largest ever medical cannabis patient study, Project Twenty21, have been published in the esteemed journal Psychopharmacology.
These findings show that legally prescribed cannabis provides clinically significant improvements in the quality of life of patients living with conditions such as chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, Tourette’s syndrome, epilepsy, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
How does Project Twenty21 work?
Project Twenty21 is an observational study, established in 2019 by Drug Science, to provide a framework that pairs patients with specialist clinicians that are experienced with prescribing medicinal cannabis. The study gathers important patient data on the safety and tolerability of medicinal cannabis, while simultaneously improving patient access.
To support and fund the study, five licensed medical cannabis producers including Bod Australia, have adapted the costs of their medicines to allow more people to afford them and therefore access medical cannabis.
“We want to give people who suffer from chronic and severe conditions that haven’t had luck with conventional treatment options the chance to try something that could really alleviate their suffering,” said Jo Patterson, CEO of Bod.
Prospective participants were evaluated by trained clinicians and if deemed eligible, were prescribed medicinal cannabis. Patients enrolled in this study had at least two ‘failed treatments’ on their medical records, where commonly prescribed medications, such as opioids, had little to no effect on their ability to manage their conditions.
Participants’ health and progress on the medicines was assessed periodically using a standardised and validated questionnaire of health-related quality of life. This method is also used to study patients with other conditions, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and dementia.
Findings from the study:
This is the first published Real World Data to be collected on medical cannabis in the UK. The major findings from the interim analysis of 678 participants show:
- Most patients in the study were prescribed medicinal cannabis for chronic pain, then anxiety, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, substance use disorder, Tourette’s syndrome and epilepsy.
- Using medicinal cannabis led to a fifty percent increase in patients’ self-reported health and ability to lead a more normal life.
- Significant improvements in patients’ ability to manage debilitating secondary conditions such as anxiety, insomnia and depression were also reported.
- Patients are now able to avoid criminality with legal prescriptions, as many have felt compelled to turn to illegal use in an attempt to manage their pain/ life-limiting conditions.
- Medicinal cannabis prescriptions provide an opportunity to reduce and stop reliance on widely available medicines, like opioids, that can come with serious side effects, including dependency.
“These results show that for some people with severe and debilitating conditions and who substantially poorer health, treatment with prescribed medicinal cannabis is providing relief and improving their health-related quality of life,” said Dr Adele Hosseini, chief scientific officer at Bod Australia.
“Patient access to medicinal cannabis remains an issue in both the UK and Australia. As doctors and regulatory bodies are calling for more evidence, collecting real-world data from patients using medicinal cannabis in Australia and the UK will help build the evidence base required to support doctors and improve patient access,” Dr Hosseini added.
Despite medicinal cannabis being legalized in the UK in 2018, access for patients remains a challenge due to numerous conditions, including prohibitive cost and doctor support.
Professor David Nutt, founder of Drug Science commented: “A lack of clinical evidence has made it difficult for doctors to confidently prescribe legal medical cannabis in the UK. These new findings provide a major step forward, and help to clarify the benefit these medicines can have for thousands of seriously ill patients.”
Why Real-World Data?
Due to the challenges of studying medical cannabis through rigorous randomised controlled trials (RCTs), Project Twenty21 was set up to develop evidence using real-world data to assess the effectiveness and efficacy of medical cannabis.
Dr Hosseini explained: “While RCTs are still necessary, real world data helps support and guide research efforts by casting a wide net and catching data that might be missed by RCTs.”
About Project Twenty21
Project Twenty21 aims to create a structured body of evidence for the effectiveness and tolerability of medical cannabis for a broad range of conditions, while simultaneously allowing eligible patients to access affordable medical cannabis treatment. This project will provide evidence for NHS funding where the benefits of treatment with medicinal cannabis is proven to outweigh the potential risks
About Bod Australia
Bod Australia is a cannabis-centric healthcare company, specialising in the development and manufacture of medicinal cannabis, CBD and hemp products for a range of therapeutic needs. Bod provides pharmaceutical-grade CBD-dominant medicinal cannabis, produced under Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), that are being repeatedly prescribed in Australia and the United Kingdom. Bod also provide a range of non-prescription CBD and hemp seed health and skincare products for general health and well-being in Australia, UK, USA, Netherlands and Italy. More information on the clinical research being conducted by Bod Australia can be found here: https://bodpharmaceuticals.com/clinical-research/
Disclaimer: Bod Australia has no control over which products are entered into the Project Twenty 21 formulary or are prescribed by its clinicians. Neither does Bod Australia have any influence over the study’s outcomes.
“You don’t need cannabis to impact your endocannabinoid system”
Chief scientific officer at Endoverse, Simon Weissenberger reveals more about a complex and often misunderstood area of medicine.
Psychologist, researcher and chief scientific officer at Endoverse, Simon Weissenberger, reveals more about a complex and often misunderstood area of medicine: the endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) was discovered in the early 1990s by Israeli scientist, Raphael Mechoulam, during his research on the cannabis plant and its effects on the mind and body.
Although the system is inexorably linked with the cannabis plant, its function extends far beyond the plant. The ECS is thought to keep our body in a state of balance both physiologically and cognitively, however, most people have never heard of it.
A Manchester-based company, Endoverse is seeking to educate medical professionals and the general public about the benefits of the recently established field of ‘endocannabinology’ and demonstrate that there is more to this complex system than its association with cannabis.
Existing evidence suggests that endocannabinology could be a useful tool for treating various health conditions, including metabolic syndrome, diabetes, hypertension, anxiety, depression, obesity and other eating disorders.
Since launching in 2019, Endoverse has launched a training course that teaches medical professionals about the system and how they can introduce endocannabinology into their practice. The company is now rolling out a number of new services, including a post-COVID programme that aims to use the ECS to help people overcome the symptoms of Covid-19.
The company also has plans in the works for a new arm of the business which will develop solutions for monitoring the status of the ECS by measuring the level of endocannbinoids in the body.
Cannabis Health: What is the ECS?
Simon Weissenberger: There are two main receptors that are known – CB1 and CB2.
In the fast-paced, high-stress society that we live in where people are always connected to their phones, we have an overstimulation of the CB1 receptor. This can be associated with anxiety, stress, as well as with things like looking for food or needing a dopamine hit.
The point is to have a balance and overall, in our society today, it’s better to keep CB1 under-stimulated rather than overstimulated. Some of the examples of what helps here, are things like polyunsaturated fatty acids found in oils like olive oil, hemp seed oil and CBD of course.
CB2 is more associated with the immune system which is something that isn’t straightforward or black and white. For instance, it’s not ideal to have an overactive immune system. If your immune system is constantly on the lookout, it’s going to start attacking yourself. This is called autoimmune disorder.
CBD, for example, tends to lower immune function and that’s why it’s good for something like multiple sclerosis or other autoimmune disorders
CH: Why is the ECS important?
SW: The ECS is important because it regulates so many of our physiological functions.
The ECS is a relatively new discovery in medicine, but it is such a crucial component of everyday health because it regulates things like neural signalling, immune function and a whole variety of things like thermogenesis [maintaining a constant body heat], immunity, homeostatic regulation, hunger, general mood and even pain regulation.
It is a system which is in the background, but there are so many bodily functions, physiological functions and mental health issues that are intrinsically connected to it.
When we take common sense approaches to health and wellbeing like exercise, getting enough sun and diet, it is all intertwined with the balancing of the ECS.
CH: What is the connection between cannabis and ECS?
SW: The discovery of the ECS and its importance in overall health came about thanks to the cannabis plant, which has been both a blessing and a curse.
The legality of the cannabis plant varies around the world and it’s mostly illegal, so it gives the system a bad rep and people who are studying it are misperceived. Very often [researchers] are working for the cannabis industry and we have no problem with that whatsoever; we’re just trying to make it a little bit more scientific.
The big myth that we’re trying to debunk is that you need cannabis in order to impact your ECS. The basic fact is that the ECS is associated more with fatty acid metabolism in our body than it is with the cannabis plant.
CH: Aside from cannabis what other factors can come into play?
SW: Exercise, diet and overall lifestyle all play a significant role.
We want to move the perception away from cannabis equalling the ECS, get the public to understand how other factors play a part, and then introduce certain health, counselling and dietary interventions to improve people’s wellbeing.
CH: What role do fatty acids play in the ECS?
SW: The power that fatty acids have on our health is immense and they are essential for the ECS.
The ligands (fat) connect to the receptors and are the building blocks of the ECS; the ECS needs that fat to be built.
We’re focusing on educating the public about the fact that fats and fatty acids are necessary for human health. There are these misconceptions that low fat diets are good for you. But most people don’t know that there is a biosynthesis effect, so even if you are eating a low-fat diet, your body is producing fat and saturated fat.
CH: Your primary focus of research is ADHD. Where does the ECS fit into this area of your work?
SW: There were claims made in the past about omega 3 supplements, and how they help with ADHD. There is now research to confirm that. If you supplement with omega 3 and you take your normal medication, you will have a better outcome than somebody who, for example, is just taking Ritalin and not eating well.
Changing diet and integrating exercise are examples of things that people can do to improve their symptoms of ADHD. We now know that these factors are working on the ECS.
CH: What is the potential of the ECS moving forward?
SW: There is definitely a huge potential and I see it primarily on two fronts.
Number one is the research aspect, so understanding in greater depth how this complex system works and how we can improve our health, while being cognisant of the ECS.
The second is just as important, which is delivering therapeutic interventions for people that are aware of the ECS. It is a shame that it has been ignored for so long.
CH: Why has the ECS flown under people’s radar for the past three decades?
SW: One of the main reasons is that its discovery is so recent. In medicine and science, you work on the shoulders of giants. We knew that there were some receptors that connect with cannabis, but then all of a sudden, we’re hearing that these are actually fundamental. It’s like discovering a hidden treasure which you have been trained not to look at.
We know more about the ECS now, but it is still not in the paradigm of medicine yet. The thing that is hard to get with the system is that it’s all-encompassing, but it’s also subtle.
I’ve spoken to medical doctors who say you need to decondition from standard medical training which is based on very black and white thinking. You need to get away from that and start thinking more holistically and that when it starts to make more sense.
CH: What do Endoverse’s training courses for medical professionals entail?
SW: Our training focuses on the physiology of the ECS and helps medical professionals understand what is regulated by the ECS in the human body, in what way and what the impacts are on the functioning of the system.
CH: Who can take the courses and what can participants do with the qualification?
SW: People who take our courses should already have some background in either medicine or counselling; something with a scientific background.
Through learning about the ECS, you gain the knowledge you need to integrate endocannabinology within your field.
For example, a client who is in counselling which integrates the Endoverse model would have blood tests, they would have a diet log, and we would take all that into account within the framework. It could be somebody who has low self-esteem along with some health issues. We would work with their diet and the ECS and maybe introduce CBD as well.
CH: What projects do you have coming up?
SW: One of the relevant things I will be focusing on is the post Covid or ‘long Covid’ symptoms, and how they can be managed passively by endocannabinoids like CBD and things like this, but also how these are impacting the ECS and how is it related.
Up to 60 percent of people who experienced Covid-19, have some kind of prolonged symptoms that might be manifested as insomnia, anxiety, breathing problems, and so on. These people need some kind of post-Covid care.
We are preparing post-Covid online programs, individual and group consultations and we are working on a post-Covid retreat.
CH: What is Endoverse’s vision?
SW: The vision is to educate the public on the ECS, and to provide certain interventions or ways that we can look at balancing the ECS holistically – through fatty acids for diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes.
The UK’s first organisation dedicated to the study of Endocannabinology, Endoverse is on a mission to simplify food supplement messaging and debunk myths surrounding hemp seed oil and CBD.
Anyone who wants to learn more can contact Endoverse at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Jiu Jitsu enthusiast tackling CBD stigma in black and Asian communities
Through his company, CBD Britanicare, Syed Dyas is tackling the taboo of CBD amongst black and Asian communities.
Syed Dyas, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu enthusiast, found CBD helped him recover from an arduous training regime and introduced his parents to it after they were involved in a serious car accident. Now through his company, CBD Britanicare, he’s tackling the taboo of CBD amongst black and Asian communities.
Nine years ago, Syed’s parents were involved in a major car accident. Amongst a number of serious injuries, his mother suffered from an open fracture in her forearm and underwent surgery on her wrist.
Syed recalls she was prescribed heavy medications, including gabapentin and Tramadol, which came with a range of crippling side effects, including severe anxiety which later led to suicidal thoughts.
“She wasn’t herself, she was in a daze most of the time and was really short tempered,” Syed tells Cannabis Health.
At this point, CBD was still relatively unknown. Syed first heard about the cannabidiol compound while studying for his Master’s degree in pharmaceutical science at University College London and later started using creams and oils after intense sessions of MMA and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training.
The 33-year-old has been practicing the martial art for six years, training as often as three or four times a week. He recently earned his purple belt, regarded as one of the toughest ranks to reach in the sport.
With such a physically demanding hobby, Syed has had his fair share of injuries over the years, but says CBD has helped him stay on top form and maintain his health and wellbeing. He uses oil to improve his sleep and aid his recovery, while CBD-infused creams offer more targeted relief when recovering from injuries, he says.
Several years after the accident, as his mother continued to suffer from the side effects of her medication, Syed suggested she try CBD.
“She had all these injuries and nothing was working for her,” he says.
“She suffered from a lot of anxiety just from travelling in a car and had nightmares and insomnia as well.”
He adds: “It was quite extreme at that point, so I was exploring alternatives to your typical over the counter and prescription medicines.”
It was an incredibly difficult time for his family, but Syed’s mother eventually did find relief with CBD, which allowed her to come off the opioid medications that were having such a detrimental impact on her life and wellbeing.
Seeing how much his mother had benefited from the supplement, Syed was “spurred on”, to start his own company, CBD Britanicare, and “share CBD with the nation”.
“It has really helped her and now I want to share that with as many people as possible,” he adds.
With a professional background in pharmaceutical regulation, Syed was well-equipped to start his own premium CBD company which he launched in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
He began his career working for the pharmaceutical giant, Nurofen in Hull, before moving on to work for niche pharmaceutical firms in London. He primarily dealt with patient safety, medical writing and substantiating patient information for a range of different medications and food supplements.
Having been embedded in pharmaceutical regulation for just under a decade, he says his background has helped him build CBD Britanicare on solid foundations.
“With my background, I think I was able to register all the information quicker and in greater depth,” Syed says.
“I’ve seen some people in the industry make mistakes, so I’m very careful with the advertising and marketing of the products.
“We want to reassure the public that we’re following regulations and guidelines from the government and the Food Standards Agency, while ensuring that all our products are lab tested and manufactured to the highest standard.”
CBD Britanicare produces a range of oils, from isolates to full spectrum using an olive oil base sourced from Greece and hemp from the UK. The family-run business also produces capsules, cosmetics, e-liquids and hemp-infused teas.
But although Syed’s mother was willing to give CBD a try, his father was sceptical.
Coming from an Asian background, Syed says CBD and medicinal cannabis is “looked down upon” in the British Asian community and his dad was against the idea of using a product associated with the illegal drug.
However, after being diagnosed with early-stage bowel cancer last year, he eventually came around to the idea and started taking his son’s own products to help him during treatment.
His father’s distrust of CBD is common amongst black and Asian communities, Syed says. With the launch of CBD Britanicare, one of his primary aims is to eradicate the taboo so more people like his parents can discover the benefits of CBD.
“Cannabis is obviously illegal in this country and it’s not really part of the culture,” he says.
“With CBD Britanicare, I really wanted to do away with that stigma and introduce CBD into these communities.”
CBD Britanicare is teaming up with influencers from black and Asian communities to help promote CBD, including Solomon Lefleur, Queensbury Boxing Champion & ISKA World Champion Kickboxer, and Ajmal Khurram, a social media influencer, personal trainer and wellness coach.
Alongside its new partners, CBD Britanicare aims to tackle the stigma and get more people using the supplement who may have otherwise dismissed it.
Syed adds: “We’ve already partnered with influencers across the country who have built up a big following; mainly people in the communities who are into sports, bodybuilding and MMA. They’ve used and reviewed our products, and many were surprised themselves at how much they benefitted.”
With the passion and determination to tackle misconceptions, CBD Britanicare is one to watch!
For more information about the company and products visit www.cbdbritanicare.co.uk and keep up to date
by following them on all social media platforms.
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