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Can Cannabis Help You Quit Smoking?

stop smoking with cannabis

Daily marijuana use does not negatively affect health but tobacco kills millions every year. Puffing a joint instead of smoking a cigarette is, after all, an incredibly healthy, rational, life-affirming choice. And best of all, according to a new study published in the journal Addictive Behaviors, inhalation of the compound cannabidiol (CBD) — found naturally in cannabis — significantly decreases tobacco smokers’ desire to light up a cigarette.

“This is the first study, as far as we are aware, to demonstrate the impact of CBD on cigarette smoking,” according to researchers at University College London. “These preliminary data, combined with the strong preclinical rationale for use of this compound, suggest CBD to be a potential treatment for nicotine addiction that warrants further exploration.”

Investigators conducted the double-blind study by supplying one set of participants — all tobacco smokers hoping to quit — with inhalers containing CBD, while a second set got a placebo. Over the course of one week, both groups were instructed to use the inhaler whenever they felt a craving for tobacco.

“Over the treatment week, placebo treated smokers showed no differences in number of cigarettes smoked,” according to the study. “In contrast, those treated with CBD significantly reduced the number of cigarettes smoked by [the equivalent of] 40% during treatment.”

Separate research has shown cannabis can also play a positive role in addiction recovery for those abusing prescription painkillers, alcohol and even heroin. According to a report by UC Berkeley’s Dr. Amanda Reinman, published in the Harm Reduction Journal of December 2009:

“Forty percent [of medical marijuana users] have used cannabis as a substitute for alcohol, 26% as a substitute for illicit drugs and 66% as a substitute for prescription drugs. The most common reasons given for substituting were: less adverse side effects (65%), better symptom management (57%), and less withdrawal potential (34%) with cannabis.”

In the Summer 2011 issue of HIGH TIMES Medical Marijuana magazine, fellow researcher Jennifer Janichek offered some specific thoughts on how to take Bob Marley’s words to heart, reprinted below. Please share them with the tobacco smokers in your life!

Quitting Tobacco Use with Cannabis
The common withdrawal symptoms experienced by those attempting to kick a cigarette habit pose the greatest obstacle to making this vital change in behavior, and include overall irritability and tension, trouble sleeping, thoughts about smoking (urges or cravings), and slipping back into old using habits. The likelihood of relapse can also be raised by use of alcohol, high levels of stress, or even after a meal.

And make no mistake; despite tobacco’s status as a fully legal consumer product, it’s highly addictive even when compared to heroin, cocaine and other illicit drugs. So while it may at first seem counterintuitive to substitute a highly restricted drug for one that’s available in every convenience store in America, patients who actually make the switch from tobacco cigarettes to medical cannabis, or simply use medical cannabis as a short-term replacement strategy, could very well be saving their own lives.

When it comes to quitting tobacco, cannabis is uniquely positioned as both a proven, effective treatment for the symptoms of withdrawal and a replacement for the very act of smoking tobacco cigarettes. Cannabis provides many individuals with feelings of relaxation, reduction in stress, irritability and sleep interruptions, and an improvement in mood — all keys to quitting. Cannabis can also fulfill the ritual of holding or rolling a cigarette by simply replacing deadly tobacco with a much less harmful substance.

Again, research remains in its earliest stages, but successful strategies reportedly vary from using low-grade cannabis or “shake” joints to replace cigarettes, to eating a cannabis edible every morning and early evening, to use of a one hitter designed to look like a cigarette whenever a tobacco craving occurs. As always, any attempt to end use or misuse of a drug will work best as part of a comprehensive treatment program.

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