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. 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. 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. 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.
Benefits of CBD For Alcoholism
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. Scientists agree that alcohol induces steatosis by increasing oxidative stress in the liver. So, to treat this condition a robust antioxidant agent is needed. CBD is a stronger antioxidant that vitamin C and vitamin E. Mouse studies have confirmed that the antioxidant properties of CBD can significantly reduce oxidative stress levels of the liver. CBD can free the liver from oxidative stress. Furthermore, in alcohol-induced steatosis, alcohol is found to prevent autophagy. Autophagy is naturally used in humans to clear away damaged cells. It is needed to promote the production of new cells and tissue regeneration. 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. The lowered levels of autophagy in individuals with alcoholism may be brought back to normal using CBD. A mouse model showed that CBD could reverse the damage in alcohol-induced steatosis and thus, improve symptoms.
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. 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. 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. Scientists concluded that CBD was a robust immunosuppressive. 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. housekeeping of the body. Endocannabinoid receptors are found on immune system cells. So, the effects of CBD can be felt by the immune system cells and they can be ordered to produce fewer pro-inflammatory responses. In mouse models for alcohol-induced liver injury, CBD neutralized oxidative species and suppressed pro-inflammatory responses. In addition, CBD prevented neutrophils from entering the liver. Collectively, this brought down the levels of alcohol-induced liver injury.
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. 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. The trial leaders found that consuming just alcohol 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.
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. There are clear visual signs in the brains of people with the alcoholism of long-term permanent deficits. The antioxidant activity provided by CBD can help fight the toxicity caused by alcohol and thus, protect brain cells from being damaged. 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. 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 certain 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.
5. CBD May Help with Alcohol Addictions
CBD has not yet been directly tested on addictions related to alcohol in humans. 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. Cigarette cravings had reduced from day 1 and 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. Alcohol relapse occurs when a person returns to drinking alcohol after a period of sustained sobriety. At present, naltrexone is regularly used to manage alcohol dependence in alcoholism. A mouse study found that using CBD alongside naltrexone produces stronger effects than using either drug alone. 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.