Nicotine withdrawal is all that stands between you and freedom from cigarettes. We’ll show you how cannabis helps take the edge off your plan to quit smoking.
Despite anti-cigarette campaigns and health warnings, nicotine addiction is strong as ever. Nearly 480,000 Americans die every year of cigarette-related diseases and secondhand smoke.
Nicotine withdrawal is a reality every smoker and tobacco user knows all too well. Even with prescription medications and replacement therapy, quitting nicotine can feel impossible.
If the withdrawal wasn’t so adverse, more people would likely be able to kick their nicotine habit. Fewer would succumb to lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, and other cigarette-related diseases.
So, what are tobacco users supposed to do about nicotine withdrawal? How can they overcome withdrawal – and their nicotine addiction – once and for all?
There may not be an end-all-be-all cure for nicotine withdrawal. But researchers are discovering that cannabis can alleviate the side effects of withdrawal. Which, ultimately, can make overcoming nicotine addiction all the more possible.
To discover how cannabis can soothe withdrawal of nicotine, read on!
To understand how cannabis eases withdrawal, first, it’s important to understand nicotine addiction.
Nicotine is a stimulant most commonly found in tobacco plants. Once dried and fermented, tobacco can take several forms.
Cigarettes. Cigars. Chewing tobacco, snuff, and now most recently, e-cigarette juice.
These all contain nicotine. Some contain more nicotine than others. Cigarettes, in particular, also contain dozens of chemicals and additives. Among these additives are acetone, arsenic, tar, and carbon monoxide.
The chemicals and additives in cigarettes, although harmful, aren’t the roots of addiction. It’s the nicotine that makes cigarettes and tobacco products so addictive.
When smoking tobacco, the nicotine becomes absorbed through air sacs in the lungs. When ingested, say through chewing, it becomes absorbed through the body’s mucous membrane.
When absorbed, the nicotine enters the body’s bloodstream. It circulates throughout the body until it reaches the brain. Once this happens, the nicotine binds to cholinergic receptors.
Cholinergic receptors commonly respond to a neurotransmitter known as acetylcholine. Acetylcholine, in particular, promotes respiration, muscle movement, and memory.
Nicotine and acetylcholine are similar in structure. Because of this, nicotine can easily bind to cholinergic receptors.
When the body’s cholinergic receptors are still so sensitive to nicotine, users experience:
The effects of smoking or using tobacco are short-lived and last for up to several minutes. People who use tobacco heavily will experience nicotine withdrawal not long after.
Nicotine also stimulates the adrenal glands, which release adrenaline. This is what causes a user’s blood pressure and heart rate to increase. It’s also what creates the short-lived “buzz” of using tobacco.
Nicotine simultaneously causes the body to release dopamine, as well. Dopamine affects emotional responses to rewards. As the body repeatedly experiences increased levels of dopamine, users crave tobacco more.
With continued tobacco use, the cholinergic receptors adapt to the structure of nicotine. They eventually lose their sensitivity to nicotine and require more of it.
When the body feels so dependent on nicotine, it’s because the brain depends on it to function.
At this stage, users will crave the bite of inhaling cigarette smoke or tasting tobacco. Their cravings become stronger when they come into contact with secondhand smoke.
When users go without using or smoking tobacco, they go through withdrawal. It’s not until they get their tobacco fix that the feelings of withdrawal will stop.
Those going through nicotine withdrawal may experience some – or all – of the following:
The feelings of nicotine withdrawal are most intense for 2 to 3 days. Typically after 2 to 3 weeks without nicotine, these feelings begin to subside.
Because the side effects of withdrawal are so powerful and adverse, many struggle to quit.
In many cases, long-term smokers have the most difficulty overcoming withdrawal. This is because their bodies and brains are so used to nicotine that they cannot function without it.
Some tobacco users respond well to nicotine replacement therapy. Many will find nicotine patches and gum helpful as their bodies wean off tobacco for good. Others are able to quit with the help of diet, exercise, and commitment.
Yet, for the majority of tobacco users, it takes multiple tries to quit for good.
Unfortunately, too many users lose hope after failing to quit. Most will continue to smoke despite knowing the health risks.
But now, some users are finding it easier to go through nicotine withdrawal by using cannabis.
Like nicotine, cannabis attaches to receptors throughout the nervous system when consumed.
Cannabinoids, the chemical compounds which make up cannabis, are what attach to receptors. There are about 113 known cannabinoids, which include THC and CBD.
They attach to CB-1 receptors in the brain and CB-2 receptors throughout the body. When cannabinoids attach to these receptors, they produce a number of effects.
The effects vary depending on the cannabinoids in a given strain of cannabis. Most strains contain a majority of THC and CBD, among several lesser-known chemicals.
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) mainly produces the mind-altering effects of marijuana. Yet, it doesn’t just trigger the telltale signs of being high (a.k.a. the munchies, lethargy, alertness, euphoria).
THC can alleviate nausea, vomiting, and inflammation, as well as stimulate digestion. And that’s not even the half of cannabis!
CBD (cannabidiol), the other main chemical compound in cannabis, also produces medicinal effects. In fact, CBD produces the same medicinal effects of THC – without the mind-altering high.
It even treats far more. CBD has demonstrated an effectiveness in alleviating seizures and symptoms of epilepsy. It’s widely used for cancer, cardiovascular, and diabetic patients.
It even helps those suffering from schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression.
THC, specifically, doesn’t just attach to receptors throughout the brain and body.
It’s also shaped similarly to endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are molecules that the human body naturally produces. They help to regulate sleep, appetite, pain, mood, and even the immune system.
Because of its similar shape, THC can bind to endocannabinoid receptors. When this happens, THC can aid in regulating basic functions like mood and sleep.
Cannabis and nicotine interact with the human brain and body chemically, neurologically, and psychoactively. Their effects are quite different, however.
While nicotine’s effects lead and perpetuate addiction, cannabis counteracts nicotine’s damage.
A smoker is likely to become irritable, anxious, and nauseous while trying to quit. He or she may develop headaches and have difficulty concentrating or falling asleep.
By smoking or ingesting a small amount of cannabis, they can take the edge off. They’ll be able to relax more and ease their nauseousness.
After using cannabis, their headache may go away. By being more relaxed, they’ll be able to focus better and pay less attention to the nicotine craving.
Not to mention, smoking cannabis can mimic smoking a cigarette. This may also take the edge off.
It may seem counterintuitive to use one substance to replace another. Especially in the case of smoking cannabis to curb a cigarette habit.
Some will argue that cannabis isn’t addictive.
It’s true that there are far fewer people in rehab for marijuana addiction. At the same time, there’s no evidence to prove that marijuana isn’t addictive, either.
While cannabis addiction isn’t so well known, marijuana use disorder does exist.
Evidence does show that cannabis addiction and use disorder pertains to long-time users.
Research shows that 30% of frequent users have marijuana use disorder – to some extent. This percentage is more prevalent among users who began using marijuana before the age of 18.
Marijuana use disorder and addiction are only known among long-term users. These instances rarely occur among those who use marijuana in small, infrequent doses.
In fact, 91% of people who try marijuana don’t become addicted. In comparison to other drugs like cocaine and heroin, marijuana is by far less addictive.
Contrary to major belief, it doesn’t take years of tobacco consumption for an addiction to kick in. One study shows that as little as a few cigarettes can lead to full-blown addiction.
The study by the University of Massachusetts focused on test subjects aged 12 to 13 years old. 60-63% of them demonstrated signs of nicotine addiction shortly after the study began.
25% of those who showed signs of addiction demonstrated them 2 weeks after trying. A handful of other subjects showed symptoms only days after. The rest developed signs of addiction throughout the study, which lasted for 1 year.
There’s still merit to the belief that addiction occurs after years of using tobacco. For some people, it may take years. For others, it may only take months or even days.
Studies mentioned previously indicate that 9% of marijuana users will become addicted. This figure becomes higher the younger a person begins using.
Though both nicotine and cannabis are addictive, nicotine is far more addictive. When consumed in small amounts, cannabis use rarely turns into an addiction.
People trying to overcome their tobacco addiction go in with the best intentions.
They want to be healthier. They want to be rid of a habit that’s stripped them of their money and health. They want to break free of the endless cravings.
But when they try to quit, nicotine withdrawal leaves them ill. The withdrawal leaves many feeling so sick that they need tobacco again for relief. All their good intentions go to the wayside in a single moment.
But instead of reaching for a cigarette, tobacco users can try cannabis instead. Whether they smoke it or ingest it, they can relieve the effects of withdrawal.
Cannabis is not the cure for nicotine withdrawal. After all, there is no cure for nicotine addiction or withdrawal.
Yet, cannabis can help soothe the feelings of withdrawal as smokers wean off nicotine. With cannabis and other methods for quitting, it’s possible to kick tobacco addiction.
For more information on the health benefits of cannabis, visit Stop! Get Help Quitting Smoking With Cannabis.