What Is CBD? Marijuana Compound Could Help Smokers Quit by Stopping Intrusive Thoughts, Study Finds

A marijuana plant for medicinal use in the Pharmacielo company in Rionegro, Colombia, on March 2. A non-psychoactive compound in cannabis, CBD, has already shown promise in treating other medical issues, like anxiety and even seizures. Jaime Saldarriaga/Reuters

Marijuana and the components derived from it are already known to treat a myriad of medical conditions, but researchers now think that it might also help smokers drop the habit.

Cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive compound in cannabis also known as CBD, has already shown promise in treating anxiety and even seizures, but researchers believe that it can help people cut down on smoking, according to a study from the Addiction journal. An earlier study showed that CBD users reduced smoking by 40 percent after a week compared to people who were given a placebo.

Researchers at the Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit of University College London wanted to investigate if CBD might be a better alternative to smoking cessation drugs, easing the nasty symptoms of withdrawal that often make it very difficult to quit.

"I wanted to investigate if a component of cannabis, cannabidiol, a non-intoxicating cannabinoid could be used in a positive way, to treat withdrawal," author Chandni Hindocha told website PsyPost.

A cannabis plant at the "Weed the People" event as enthusiasts gather to celebrate the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana in Portland, Oregon July 3, 2015. Jaime Saldarriaga/ Reuters

The team of researchers looked at smokers who had stopped taking in any nicotine overnight. Some of the participants took one 800-milligram dose of CBD while the others were given a placebo. Researchers then observed that those who were given the placebo had a stronger response to photos related to smoking than those who were given CBD. This meant that people who use CBD have fewer intrusive thoughts about smoking, and therefore have a better chance of kicking the habit.

Still, researchers found that the single dose of CBD did not help with withdrawal symptoms and nicotine cravings, which are often what keep people hooked.

However, Hindocha said that it's possible that if patients continued to use CBD over a longer period of time, or perhaps at a higher dose, they could start seeing more improvements. It's clear that there are benefits to using CBD as a tool to quit smoking, but there are still many questions about its effectiveness in comparison to smoking cessation drugs, Hindocha told the PsyPost.