Can CBD Help You Quit Smoking?
Updated November 2021
Can CBD help you quit smoking? Did you know that, according to the CDC, 13.7% of adults in the United States identify as smokers? It may sound like a small percentage, but look at it this way; smoking is the leading cause of preventable death. More than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States are because of smoking. Even further, over 41,000 deaths result from secondhand smoke exposure. For every person that dies because of smoking, at least 30 people live with a serious smoking-related illness or disease.
Smoking is also expensive. Not only does the smoker purchase cigarettes, but healthcare costs are also a factor. More than $300 billion is included in the cost of smoking PER YEAR in the United States alone.
Whichever way you flip it, smoking causes more damage than it does good. Which is why people attempt to quit. Of the 13.7% of people that smoke, approximately 68% of them want to quit. Unfortunately, though, only 7 out of every 100 people actually succeeded.
When someone wants to quit smoking, they start looking for help whether it be in the form of nicotine-free products, therapy, distractions, meditation, or anything that they can do or use to escape the withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal is the leading cause of failure. Symptoms can get nasty quick and an easy respite is to light up another cigarette and hope you can retry tomorrow. Research is still being done, but using CBD can help redirect your focus, act as a substitution, and help alleviate and reduce symptoms of withdrawal when you begin your journey of quitting smoking.
Why People Have Difficulty Quitting
Making the decision to quit smoking may seem easy, but you know the fun saying “easier said than done”? That’s about right when it comes to quitting smoking. Regardless of the “why you started smoking”, the quitting part can be very difficult for a lot of different reasons.
Of course, the nicotine addiction is one of the biggest reasons it’s so hard to quit smoking. Nicotine is the main addictive drug in tobacco. This drug pretty much gives your brain super good feelings. Who wouldn’t want to keep those good feelings? Because your brain is so used to feeling good when smoking, that good feeling goes away when you stop. So picking up a cigarette to feel good easily becomes an addictive habit when you don’t feel so good (i.e. stress, sadness, anger, etc.).
I kind of touched on this in the previous paragraph, but routine is also a part of the addiction and why smokers can’t stop easily. Breaking a habit is difficult and no matter how many self-help websites claim that it takes 21 days to create/break a habit, it’s just incorrect. According to neuroscientist/psychologist, Brian King, it’s just too hard to quantify how long it takes to create or break a habit due to a lot of factors. One of those factors, though, is what the habit actually is. King states, “Anything that provides our brain with intense feelings of pleasure is going to be learned fast”. Which is why the routine of giving your brain good feelings (smoking) is hard to let go of since the alternative is not giving your brain good feelings (not smoking). Make sense?
I don’t want to get stuck on the routine loop, but it really is a big part of why people continue smoking even though they don’t want to. Oral fixation is a routine built out of continually putting a cigarette in your mouth. Whether it’s at the same time every day or during the same stressful situation you get in, that habit of having something in your mouth that then releases the good feelings into your brain is built up over time and hard to break. Same psychologist, King, says ‘Simple behaviors are easier to habituate than more complex behaviors.” The simple behavior is having something in your mouth. The complex behavior is NOT putting something in your mouth, not having the automatic feel goods, and then fighting with your own mind that you don’t need something in your mouth. Think of it this way, you get a mosquito bite and it FREAKING ITCHES, right? Well, try NOT itching it. Those first 5-10 minutes are actual hell. Those awful feelings are in the same realm as what smokers have to deal with when they quit. Definitely not the same intensity, but you catch my drift.
Finally, probably the hardest thing to traverse as a person that is trying to stop smoking; physical withdrawals. Withdrawals depend on A TON of factors including body composition, how long the person has been smoking, how many cigarettes a day, what the routine is, etc., etc., etc.… The intensity of withdrawals and what the symptoms are depend on those factors as well, so while it can be crazy hard for one person to quit, it might be pretty simple and painless for another person. Having withdrawals is one of the main reasons people fail when they try to quit smoking. Some withdrawal symptoms include;
- Irritability, frustration, anger
- Increased appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty feeling pleasure
CBD To Quit Smoking
Though research is still being done on CBD as a whole, there has been a little done on CBD for helping people quit smoking. In the research done, CBD has proven to be effective in the treatment of nicotine addiction. This study from 2013 found that “those treated with CBD significantly reduced the number of cigarettes smoked by ~ 40% during treatment”. Research from this study shows that “drugs that alter the endocannabinoid system may be effective treatments for nicotine addiction”. Another study from 2015, reported that “CBD has several therapeutic properties on its own that could indirectly be useful in the treatment of addiction disorders, such as its protective effect on stress vulnerability and neurotoxicity”.
Your endocannabinoid system, in short, makes sure your body’s chemicals (mood, blood pressure, pain response, memory, immune system response, appetite, and more) are in complete balance. This system can get out of balance in a lot of ways, by taking CBD it helps naturally heal that imbalance. CBD affects the endocannabinoid system by reacting with the CB1 and CB2 receptors to fill in the gaps from an imbalance. Read more on CBD and your endocannabinoid system here.
5 Tips To Help Quit Smoking
Quitting smoking can be difficult. While there probably isn’t an end-all-be-all to it, at least there are some tips and tricks that may be helpful on your journey to sobriety. Here are 5 ways to help you kick the smoking habit and reduce some withdrawal symptoms.
- Have a Plan
The best way to start any new habit or lifestyle change is to have a plan. This plan could include the other tips in this list: diet plan, exercise schedule, distraction ideas, substitution list, CBD products. Making sure you have backup in your journey is important so it’s not easy to backslide into your old smoking habit. Your plan could also include goals, but not too lofty as you might fail more than once. Having everything in place will help reduce your potential for failure but could also reduce the significance of the failure.
KNOWING you will fail is important to your plan because that will help you build up the things you find easier to accomplish. If you find that popping in a piece of gum helps you best, then you will be able to create a stockpile and make sure you have gum with you wherever you go. Or maybe you realize that going for a quick walk when cravings come on helps you, when you plan for it, you will make sure you have tennis shoes in the back of your car when the craving hits. Creating a plan significantly reduces your failure.
- Exercise & Eating Healthy
Making sure your body is getting the correct amount of movement and correct types of food is important to any lifestyle change. You will see this on every single blog. Having your body healthy and running to its utmost capabilities can help your brain not need those nicotine-induced good feelings because it’s creating its own serotonin. Exercise is a helpful tip twofold because, while it creates serotonin on its own, it can also be an easy distraction from wanting a cigarette. We will chat about distractions in a couple lines, but in short, when you start to feel a cigarette craving coming on, go for a run, go on a hike/walk, get on a bike, or find something to get your body sweating. Now, I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I’m pretty sure it would be hard to run and have a smoke… right?
- Create Distractions
Speaking of distracting yourself with exercise, there are other ways to distract yourself if you’re not wanting or not able to get sweaty. When you build your plan to quit smoking, make a list of things you enjoy doing that may help distract you from your cravings. Exercise is definitely a distraction, but maybe you enjoy reading, writing, sewing, building puzzles, painting, etc. - the list can go on. Another proven distraction is mindfulness meditation (which I, personally, do not understand) and doesn’t require any special products or any specific place. Whatever distraction you choose, make sure you have more than one ready and the things you need to do the distraction with you whenever you think you may have a craving.
- Use Substitutions
Distractions might be helpful with the nicotine addiction, but sometimes won’t cut it for the other habits you’ve built up around smoking (i.e. oral fixation). Using substitutions can help in a couple ways, actually. When you have a craving for a cigarette, grab a piece of gum or toothpick (as long as you’re not in a predicament where you could accidentally swallow it, please) or even by grabbing something to snack on (in moderation). By chewing gum or on a toothpick or having a snack, you distract yourself from wanting a cigarette and you’re actually still allowing yourself to have that oral fixation craving met, but without nicotine. This is why nicotine gum is so popular with people that are trying to quit smoking.
Unfortunately, you might find yourself really needing that cigarette “vibe”. If that happens then having a CBD substitution in the form of vaping or smoking flower is a great way to still “smoke” but without the harmful nicotine addiction. You can read more on vaping CBD vs. nicotine here.
As a side note, you can also look into Delta 8 vaping products, flower, or cigs (read our blog on D8 cigs here) if you want a head high along with your nicotine-less smoking. For more information on Delta 8 THC, read this article.
- Take CBD Regularly
Of course, part of your plan should include taking CBD regularly. I already touched on the fact that CBD helps create the balance in your endocannabinoid system and that you can replace your cigarette with CBD flower or vaping products. Another reason CBD can help you quit smoking is that it has the potential to reduce the withdrawal symptoms. While CBD might not reduce all of the symptoms, it can help reduce things such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia (especially CBD products with melatonin or specific products for sleep). Other withdrawal symptoms, though, are because of your endocannabinoid system being imbalanced. Again, CBD has shown to help maintain that balance.
You can find many types of CBD products. If you just want something convenient just like you're taking a vitamin, capsules are a great way to take without thinking. Maybe you want your CBD product to be "fun", then look for gummies and other edibles or tinctures. Both types of products come in a lot of fun and interesting flavors. Whichever CBD product you choose will still contain all of the benefits you are looking for, though different types will take different amounts of time to reach your bloodstream. It's not a big difference, just a matter of minutes vs a couple of hours.
When you begin taking CBD, remember that it’s not an overnight miracle drug. It will take time just like starting a new vitamin routine. If you are a person that needs to see something work (like myself), try measuring it with our helpful blog that teaches you how to do so.
Things To Remember
Addiction is no joke. Quitting smoking is hard work and you may fail more than one or two times. Using CBD to quit smoking is a helpful tool but you can’t lean on it entirely. Even with all of the tips, tricks, and special products, you might fail and that’s okay. Always forgive yourself when you relapse.
Reset, recover, and push forward. You’ve got this!
*One thing to remember is that while we aren’t legally allowed to make any specific health claims, we can, however, offer advice from personal accounts and success stories from people around the globe.