Alcoholism refers to a condition in which individuals are unable to manage their drinking habits.

They will be unable to control their urge to drink and once they start drinking they will find it hard to stop. [1]

There is an endless list of reasons for why someone starts drinking. But, as soon as their drinking habits spiral out of control, they are hugely at risk of developing alcoholism.

Alcoholism is not one of those diseases that produce clear visible symptoms. The disease quietly brews within the individual and many times people do not even realize that they have developed an alcohol dependency. [2]

Individuals suffering from alcoholism can act violently towards their family members.

Whilst, short-term effects of alcoholism including, slowed reflexes and restlessness can be treated, the longer-term effects are detrimental.

From just one problem, alcoholism, you could be facing extremely high risks of brain diseases, liver disease, heart problems, and cancer. [3],[4]

This article will be exploring the effects of CBD when mixed with alcohol and how CBD could potentially help treat alcoholism. But first, let’s take a brief look at what CBD is.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is extracted from the Cannabis sativa plant, more commonly known as hemp and marijuana.

Whilst, the THC component of marijuana is intoxicating, CBD does not produce such effects on the body i.e. the feeling of a ‘high’. [5]

CBD has gained massive popularity in a short span of time for its robust anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

It has become widely available at natural health stores and is sold in the form of capsules, gels, lotions, shampoos and much more.

CBD-infused alcoholic beverages have recently infiltrated the market. Whilst it is still a relatively unexplored territory, alcohol producers are certain that in the near future it will become a huge trend.

Note: Hemp oil and CBD oil are not the same. Always check the ingredients of the product before buying.

Benefits of CBD For Alcoholism

The robust anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of CBD make it a highly appealing therapeutic agent for treating alcoholism.

CBD can help normalize liver function and thus, protect from liver diseases. It may help lower blood alcohol levels.

CBD may improve memory, learning and other cognitive abilities in patients of alcoholism. Finally, CBD may effectively reduce uncontrollable cravings for alcohol which, can help minimize the instances of alcohol-relapse after treatment.

1. CBD May Prevent the Development of Fatty Livers

Alcohol can cause the fats taken in from our diets to accumulate in our livers.

Fat accumulation in the liver can disrupt liver function and induce inflammation which, can eventually lead to liver diseases known as hepatic steatosis. [6]

Scientists agree that alcohol induces steatosis by increasing oxidative stress in the liver. [7] So, to treat this condition a robust anti-oxidant agent is needed.

CBD is a stronger anti-oxidant that vitamin C and vitamin E. [8]

Mouse studies have confirmed that the anti-oxidant properties of CBD can significantly reduce oxidative stress levels of the liver. [9] CBD can free the liver from oxidative stress.

Furthermore, in alcohol-induced steatosis, alcohol is found to prevent autophagy. [10]

Autophagy is naturally used in humans to clear away damaged cells. It is needed to promote the production of new cells and tissue regeneration. [11]

Autophagy maintains a well-functioning liver by canceling out any abnormal activity. But, alcohol prevents autophagy from working as normal.

Several mouse studies have reiterated that CBD can increase autophagy. [12] The lowered levels of autophagy in individuals with alcoholism may be brought back to normal using CBD.

A particular mouse model showed that CBD could reverse the damage in alcohol-induced steatosis and thus, improve symptoms. [13]

No clinical trials have been done to investigate the effectiveness of CBD for alcohol-induced steatosis.

What does this Mean? The anti-oxidant properties of CBD make it a highly promising treatment option for alcohol-induced fatty liver diseases. CBD can release the liver from oxidative stress and help it return to normal. Clinical trials are needed to confirm the effectiveness of CBD for treating fatty liver diseases.

2. CBD May Protect from Liver Injury

You must have wondered why people have different alcohol tolerance levels. The most obvious answer is – environment.

The more a person drinks, the better the tolerance they build. Yes, this is true but, it is not the complete answer.

Some people are in fact ‘genetically blessed’. Their genes code for more efficient varieties of the enzymes that are used to break down alcohol in the body. [14]

So, the alcohol is cleared away faster, they do not feel as intoxicated and thus, they can keep drinking.

Alcohol is broken down by enzymes in the liver. These enzymes are produced according to the instructions in our DNA.

Alcohol activates the immune system to release pro-inflammatory chemicals. [15] This leads to increased inflammation and oxidative stress in the liver.

White blood cells (e.g. neutrophils) invade the liver and can cause alcohol-induced liver injury.

In the early 1980’s, cell culture studies had already found CBD to inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory molecules. [16]

Scientists concluded that CBD was a robust immunosuppressive. [17] It can protect from liver injury by suppressing pro-inflammatory responses and tuning down oxidative stress.

CBD exerts its anti-inflammatory effects by binding to the receptors of the endocannabinoid signaling system in humans.

This system is essential to regulate homeostasis in humans i.e. house-keeping of the body.[18]

Endocannabinoid receptors are found on immune system cells. [19]

So, the effects of CBD can be felt by the immune system cells and they can be ordered to produce fewer pro-inflammatory responses. [20]

In mouse models for alcohol-induced liver injury, CBD neutralized oxidative species and suppressed pro-inflammatory responses. [21]

In addition, CBD prevented neutrophils from entering the liver. [22] Collectively, this brought down the levels of alcohol-induced liver injury.

There is a lack of clinical trials in this area. They will be needed for CBD to become an approved form of treatment for alcohol-induced liver injury.

What does this Mean? The potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects of CBD can help protect from alcohol-induced liver injury. CBD can weaken immune system attack of the liver. This is an ongoing area of research.

3. CBD May Reduce Blood Alcohol Levels

Bad or good, marijuana has always been a key area of research for scientists. First, they isolated the psycho-stimulating chemical of marijuana, THC, and later, CBD.

Little did they know at the time that CBD would go on to become one of the most desirable phytochemicals in the pharmaceutical industry.

Just recently in 2018, Epidiolex became the first CBD oral supplement to be approved for the treatment of 2 types of epilepsies.

A 2019 review clearly summarized the clinical evidence we currently have to back CBD as a novel therapeutic agent for alcoholism. [23]

Only 3 human trials have been done to investigate the safety and efficiency of CBD in helping to manage the symptoms of alcoholism.

Of the 3, the most famous study is the one that found CBD to reduce blood alcohol levels when CBD and the alcoholic beverage were consumed together. [24]

The trial leaders found that consuming just alcohol or alcohol + CBD led to impaired motor activity in the participants.

However, participants taking alcohol + CBD had lower blood alcohol levels than those taking just alcohol.

The mechanism by which CBD may lower blood alcohol levels is still unclear.

But, most scientists agree that CBD would somehow be influencing the absorption of alcohol into the blood from the stomach and intestines.

Additionally, as CBD is known to disrupt the liver metabolization of drugs, it is highly likely that CBD would be doing the same with alcohol as alcohol too is broken down by the liver.

What does this Mean? A clinical trial found that taking alcohol + CBD resulted in lower blood alcohol levels than those from consuming only alcohol. This is an ongoing area of research.

4. CBD Can Help Protect from Brain Damage

The harmful effects of alcohol on the brain can be clearly felt in patients battling with alcoholism.

Alcohol kills brain cells. This leads to behavioral and cognitive impairment. The morning after a night out you may find it difficult to recall what all happened during the night.

This is because the high levels of alcohol in your body at the time prevented memory formation.

The areas of your brain more susceptible to alcohol are those that are responsible for: problem-solving, attention, learning, memory and behavior control. [25]

There are clear visual signs in the brains of people with the alcoholism of long-term permanent deficits.

The anti-oxidant activity provided by CBD can help fight the toxicity caused by alcohol and thus, protect brain cells from being damaged. [26]

Generally, mouse studies for alcoholism use oral CBD supplements. A group of scientists decided to do something different and used CBD gels instead.

They found that there was a dose-dependent improvement in brain damage of alcoholic mouse models. [27]

Higher doses led to a reduction in neurodegeneration by up to 50% in certain brain parts.

Gels have an important advantage over oral supplements; patients are more likely to use gels i.e. there will be greater patient compliance.

Alzheimer’s disease is also symbolic of extensive brain damage. Instead of alcohol, there is a particular protein inflicting toxicity upon brain cells and causing them to die.

Cell culture studies showed that CBD can protect brain cells from damage by that protein.[28],[29]

CBD may be able to protect brain cells from various toxic agents including, alcohol. However, to substantiate these claims, clinical trials will be needed.

What does this Mean? Once again, the anti-oxidant properties of CBD may be able to reduce brain damage from alcohol. This could improve learning, memory and behavior in victims of alcoholism. Clinical trials are needed to confirm these claims.

5. CBD May Help with Alcohol Addictions

CBD has not yet been directly tested on addictions related to alcohol in humans. [30]

But, clinical trials have shown that CBD can curb addictive behaviors related to a variety of drugs including: opioids and marijuana.

Scientists agree that CBD’s beneficial effects in drug addictions can also be applied to alcohol.

In a 2013 trial, participants consuming CBD were smoking less cigarettes per day than those on the placebo. [31]

Cigarette cravings had reduced from day 1and CBD treatment helped lower anxiety also.

Mouse studies have been done to understand the effects of CBD on attraction to alcohol.

Multiple studies confirmed that CBD reduced motivation to consume alcohol and could help prevent alcohol relapse. [32]

Alcohol relapse occurs when a person returns to drinking alcohol after a period of sustained sobriety. [33]

At present, naltrexone is regularly used to manage alcohol dependence in alcoholism. [34]

A mouse study found that using CBD alongside naltrexone produces stronger effects than using either drug alone. [35]

Combination of drugs are generally more preferred as the individual dosage of each drug can be reduced.

As a result, the dose-dependent side effects of each drug can be minimized. By reducing side effects, the overall efficiency of a drug climbs up.

What does this Mean? CBD can help reduce motivation to drink, cravings for alcohol and how much a patient drinks in one sitting. Collectively these effects can help prevent alcohol relapse amongst people with alcoholism. Clinical trials are needed to confirm the these claims and the effectiveness of CBD.

6. Is it Legal to Sell Alcoholic Beverages Mixed With CBD?

The CBD industry is fast-evolving as, new scientific findings are coming to light. This is leading to confusion about the legal status of CBD products.

You’d think that if bars and clubs are now openly selling CBD-infused beverages it would be legal to do so. However, this is not necessarily true.

Selling CBD is legal. But, CBD is not an approved ingredient of alcoholic beverages. So, to sell CBD-infused alcohols, a business/individual must have the correct approvals.

They may seek patents for their particular concoction as well, as Bohus Bradley did. [36]

On the other hand, Black Hammer Brewing in California was stopped from selling CBD-infused beers by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Bureau in early 2018 because they did not have sufficient approvals. [37]

The CBD industry is booming and has a lot of big money involved. Businesses are keen to establish a strong position in the CBD industry before competition increases.

What does this Mean? CBD has not yet been an approved ingredient of alcoholic beverages. If an organisation wants to sell CBD-infused alcohols, they must seek approvals from the government.

Precautions

CBD is highly unlikely to cause any allergic reactions. [38]

Several research studies have found CBD oral supplements to disrupt the metabolism and effectiveness of medicines broken down by the liver.[39]

You must consult a doctor for dosage before using CBD supplements with your regular medicine.

CBD supplements must be used with caution as several studies found CBD to disrupt the actions of conventional anti-pain medication. [40] Consult a physician for more information.

Companies have been found to be selling synthetic impure CBD products, just to make good profits.

Before buying a CBD product, always check if it has been third-party lab tested. We advise you to only buy CBD products from reputed companies with good reviews.

CBD may inhibit clot formation by influencing platelet activity. This can escalate bleeding time. [41],[42]

Individuals with problems related to insufficient blood clotting or those taking blood thinners should consult a doctor for advice before taking CBD.

Ensure you have full knowledge about the legal issues of CBD products in your country before conducting any purchases.

Dosage

Hemp plants grown at northern latitudes i.e. in Canada are likely to contain greater CBD content. [43]

CBD is non-toxic to humans even at doses up to 50 mg/kg. [44] In other words, 1500 mg/day of CBD can be well-tolerated.

The heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature will not be affected. [45]

We advise you to start with low doses (5 – 10 mg/kg) and then slowly increase it if you are experiencing positive results. [46]

A clinical trial revealed that 200 mg of CBD taken with alcohol in the quantity of 1g/kg of orange juice could lower blood alcohol levels. [47]

However, it is important to note that scientists do not recommend more than 20 – 50 mg of CBD per day.

Summary

CBD has not yet been approved as an ingredient of alcoholic drinks due to the lack of clinical trials investigating the safety and efficiency of CBD in alcoholism.

Nonetheless, mouse studies confirm that CBD has high potential to help alleviate and prevent harmful consequences of excessive drinking.

CBD may disarm the toxic reactions of alcohol on the brain so that, there is less damage to memory, learning and thinking abilities.

Additionally, mood changes in people with alcoholism can be improved.

Alcohol increases inflammation levels and oxidative stress in the liver. CBD’s anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties can counteract the effects of alcohol.

CBD can protect individuals from fatty livers and the diseases associated with it.

Consuming CBD alongside alcohol may help lower how much alcohol enters the blood. CBD can help reduce uncontrollable cravings for alcohol by weakening motivation to drink.

This may help treat alcohol dependencies and addiction disorders.

CBD’s time in the beverage industry has just begun. Future clinical trials will be able to confirm the efficiency of CBD for alcoholism and open up a novel treatment option for the condition.

D Dutt (MSc. Biotech.)
All our posts are written by experienced writers with relevant degrees. These extremely well researched and comprehensive articles take 10s of hours to write. For each article, all the sources of information are provided as reference links for anyone to check.

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