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Does Cannabidiol Help Abstinent Cigarette-Dependent Smokers?

Petar Petrov
Written by Petar Petrov

When you look at some of the negative cognitive symptoms of nicotine abstinence in cigarette-dependent smokers on the one hand, and some of the positive effects of CBD on the other, you might wonder how the latter could help with the former. This is precisely what an insightful study investigated.

Cognitive Symptoms of Nicotine Abstinence in Cigarette Dependent Smokers

The study, published in Scientific Reports, examined a few major indicators of the participants’ working memory and impulsivity, which are the two main cognitive processes that nicotine withdrawal takes a toll on, in order to determine whether CBD actually alleviates the symptoms. [1]

These indicators of impulsivity were delay discounting, which refers to “the degree to which one prefers smaller, immediate rewards over larger, more delayed rewards,” and response inhibition, which is “the ability to stop a pre-potent resonse e.g. craving for cigarettes.”

Go/no-go, prose recall, and N-back tasks were used to measure arithmetic and recognition memory ability, which are the memory aspects that suffer the most when a cigarette-dependent smoker is abstinent.

Why Would CBD Help?

Clearly, the researchers didn’t just randomly stumble upon the idea of using CBD as a potential source of relief for the aforementioned symptoms. On the contrary, previous pertinent studies they looked at had shown quite promising results.

From the studies the researchers examined, CBD had shown promise with alleviating heroin craving. [2,3] Furthermore, “a single week of ad-hoc CBD via inhaler, compared to placebo, reduced cigarette smoking by almost 40%, however craving was unaf

The Methods

The study involved 30 participants (1:1 men to women) at the average age of 28 who smoked 13.5 cigarettes per day for the past 9.55 years on average. Such a habit is considered moderate-to-high cigarette dependence, which is why the nicotine withdrawal was considered acute and posed uncharted territory.

The study implemented a double-blind placebo-controlled crossover design “to compare the effects of 800 mg oral CBD with matched placebo (PBO) afer overnight abstinence.”

The Results

The results were a let-down, especially when you consider CBD’s promise in such regards.

In terms of impulsivity, delay discounting wasn’t improved by CBD, The results of the go/no-go task were even worse — CBD actually increased

As far as memory abilities, CBD didn’t have a positive effect on prose recall or the N back task, with the null being 3.61 and 5.48 times likelier than the alternatives, respectively.

Even though this is certainly not what the researchers and cigarette-dependent people were probably hoping for, this doesn’t go to definitively say CBD can smoothen the edginess of abstinent smokers at least to a certain extent After all, the study used a single, large dose, and as we know, many people need time to develop a taste, or receptors, for CBD and its effects.


  1. Hindocha et al. “The Effects of Cannabidiol on Impulsivity and Memory During Abstinence in Cigarette Dependent Smokers. Scientific Reports, vol.8, no.1, 2018, p.7568. Journal Impact Factor = 4.122; Times Cited = 7
  2. Ren, Y., Whittard, J., Higuera-Matas, A., Morris, C. V. & Hurd, Y. L. Cannabidiol, a nonpsychotropic component of cannabis, inhibits cue-induced heroin seeking and normalizes discrete mesolimbic neuronal disturbances. The Journal of Neuroscience 29, 14764–14769 (2009).
  3. Hurd, Y. L. et al. Early Phase in the Development of Cannabidiol as a Treatment for Addiction: Opioid Relapse Takes Initial Center Stage. Neurotherapeutics 12, 807–815, (2015).
  4. Morgan, C. J., Das, R. K., Joye, A., Curran, H. V. & Kamboj, S. K. Cannabidiol reduces cigarette consumption in tobacco smokers: preliminary fndings. Addict. Behav. 38, 2433–2436 (2013).
  5. Hindocha, C. et al. Cannabidiol reverses attentional bias to cigarette cues in a human experimental model of tobacco withdrawal. Addiction (2018)

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About the author

Petar Petrov

Petar Petrov

Petar is a freelance writer and copywriter, covering culture, art, society, and anything in-between that makes for a nice story. And as it so happens, cannabis is a great element to add to each of those conversations.

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