As the move to legalize marijuana continues its momentum, new medical uses for this substance seem to be popping up left and right. Cannabidiol (CBD), one of the better known components of marijuana, has shown promise as a treatment for seizures, insomnia, and certain types of chronic pain1. According to other initial studies, it may even help some people drink less alcohol.
But does this mean you should take CBD oil to help you quit drinking? And what if you’re already taking anti-craving medications like naltrexone? Does CBD mix well with other medications for alcohol addiction?
Some initial studies combining CBD and low-dose naltrexone (LDN) show encouraging signs, but that doesn’t mean you should go running to your local dispensary just yet. Here are the facts, as we currently know them, about combining CBD with naltrexone treatment.
Can CBD Really Help With Alcohol Cravings?
To begin with, it’s important to look at the evidence for CBD as a treatment for alcoholism. Marijuana maintenance—using cannabis to help you cut back or quit alcohol—has been trending for some time. However, the research around marijuana as a way to reduce alcohol cravings is still limited. And there are always risks to replacing one substance with another.
CBD may seem like an appealing alternative to smoking weed for alcohol cravings. Cannabidiol on its own seems to have little to no intoxicating effects, so it’s not likely you’d replace one addiction with a different one. And skipping out on some of the common side effects of regular marijuana could be an added benefit.
But does it actually work? And is it actually free from risk? A 2019 review of the evidence suggests that CBD may reduce the motivation to drink, and how much you drink. It may also reduce anxiety, impulsivity, and the likelihood of relapse. Finally, CBD might even help with alcohol-related brain and liver damage2. It could be an excellent all-around drug for helping people recover from alcohol addiction.
But here’s the kicker: All of the studies included in this review were on animals. Not enough is known about CBD and humans. In one 2021 observational study on people, those who consumed CBD-heavy strains of marijuana drank less than those who used balanced or more THC-heavy strains3. But a lot more studies need to be carried out with human subjects before CBD is actually FDA-approved for this purpose.
In summary, there are reasons to believe that CBD oil for alcohol cravings could be helpful. But there is still a lot we don’t know, and we cannot actually recommend it yet.
CBD and Naltrexone
What about naltrexone and CBD? If you’re already taking anti-craving medication for alcohol, would adding CBD oil to the mix help, hurt, or do nothing?
CBD and LDN
Naltrexone is one of a handful of medications FDA-approved to treat alcohol use disorder. It is also commonly used to treat opioid addiction. Recently, low doses of this drug have shown promise in treating ailments unrelated to addiction—including Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia. This is often known as low-dose naltrexone (LDN).
A 2018 study on mice showed that the combination of CBD with LDN reduced drinking urges and alcohol consumption more than either medication alone4. This is an exciting prospect for alcohol treatment, as it suggests a new, effective pathway for treating cravings.
However, not only does this study share the same limitations as those mentioned above (only animals, not humans, have been tested), there is also the issue of dose.
Standard Naltrexone Treatment and CBD
A standard dose of naltrexone is 50-100 mg per day. Low-dose naltrexone is typically about 10 percent of that amount5. And while one might expect the effects of naltrexone to only increase with dose, it seems that a lot of the benefits of LDN are missing at higher amounts. Likewise, the standard dose of naltrexone seems much more effective at treating alcohol use disorder.
In other words, evidence for the combined effects of LDN and CBD may mean nothing for taking CBD oil with standard naltrexone doses.
Risks of Taking CBD With Naltrexone: Is There Harm in Trying?
Too few studies have been done for us to fully know how CBD interacts with naltrexone. But there may be some unexpected consequences if you take the two of them together.
To begin with, CBD and naltrexone share some similar side effects, including nausea and fatigue. These may be magnified when the drugs are combined. CBD can also have blood-thinning effects, and raise the concentration of certain medications in your bloodstream6.
Of particular importance is the purity of most CBD products on the market. Currently, the only FDA-approved use for CBD is to treat certain types of seizures7. The CBD products most people are likely to encounter are under-regulated, and often contain varying amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), another component of marijuana.
THC is the main reason why people experience a “high” when they smoke marijuana, and its effects on alcohol cravings are unclear. However, one study suggests naltrexone magnifies the intoxicating effects of THC8. At the very least, this means you should read labels carefully, and be prepared for a stronger reaction than you expect when combining most CBD products with naltrexone.
So, does Ria Health recommend the combination of CBD oil and naltrexone to fight alcohol cravings? The short answer is, no. Much more evidence is needed before we’d suggest our members try this for themselves. However, we do offer a number of legal, effective anti-craving medications that can make a big difference. Learn more about the existing options, and if you’re curious, get in touch with a team member, with no obligation to join.