Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the naturally occurring cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant. CBD has been touted as a potential treatment option for various health conditions, including anxiety, depression, chronic pain, arthritis, and lots more. As a result, CBD has become a widely accepted natural alternative for a number of health-related issues. But it’s derived from the marijuana plant, so does that mean that cannabidiol is a drug?
Over the years, the use of CBD as a substitute for over-the-counter pharmaceutical drugs has been growing rapidly. Unlike most other supplements, it can be used to treat a wide range of issues.
Just like almost everything that surrounds the matter of CBD, the question of whether cannabidiol is a drug can get quite complex. But today, we want to try to give you an answer that is as simple as possible. So, here it goes.
What is a Drug Defined as?
At the end of May 2019, the FDA had their first hearing to decide the regulatory fate of CBD – you know, the compound that has no psychoactive effect. At the most basic level, a drug is a chemical. It can be a compound like salt, an element like oxygen, or a complex molecule like insulin or aspirin.
Let’s take a look at oxygen for a moment. If you want to go scuba diving, you just need to show your certification and get a tank that contains 20% oxygen. But in healthcare, where much higher concentrations of oxygen are used, it’s considered to be a prescription drug.
Here is the FDA’s definition of a drug:
“FDA regulations define the term drug, in part, by reference to its intended use, as ‘articles intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease’” and “‘articles (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or other animals.’”
Let’s break down this definition:
- To be a drug, it cannot be a food.
- Drugs are directly linked to diseases. There first has to be a recognized disease; presumably, one that is identified by a recognized International Classification of Disease (ICD). For example, heart failure is a disease, but wrinkles are not.
- Finally, a drug is defined by its intended, rather than actual use. Think about vitamin D. When you have it in your milk, and it prevents rickets, it’s a food additive. But when you take it because your friend said that it’s good for your health, it’s a supplement.
Physicians who prescribe a drug for a reason other than its intended use are said to be prescribing the substance off-label. Supplements are the ultimate when it comes to off-label use, and are available to everyone. They don’t have any intended use.
Is Cannabidiol a Drug or Supplement?
So where does all this leave CBD? Cannabidiol is currently considered by the FDA to be a medication (Epidiolex), that is used for the treatment of Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) and Dravet syndrome. These are both rare forms of epilepsy that start during infancy and tend to be intractable to conventional medications.
The FDA has approved cannabidiol as a drug that has shown to be both safe and efficacious in the treatment of a specific disease.
Legally, CBD cannot be used in dietary supplements. Why? Well, according to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), dietary supplements aren’t permitted to contain substances that are present in an FDA-approved drug (in this case, Epidiolex).
The only exception to this rule is if the CBD had been marketed as a dietary supplement before the FDA approval of Epidiolex.
CBD for Addiction Recovery
While CBD is considered by the FDA to be a drug, in the medicinal sense, it’s important to note that cannabidiol is not a drug in the same way that narcotics, such as cocaine and opioids are. Essentially, CBD is a pharmaceutical drug.
In fact, compelling scientific evidence has found that CBD may be an effective treatment option for some substance abuse-related symptoms. Just like most chronic illnesses, addiction is a disease that may present episodes of remission and relapse.
Since CBD is not addictive and non-psychoactive, it could very well help in reducing the anxiety and cravings that are experienced by individuals who suffer from addiction.
The ability of CBD to regulate the dopamine receptors is the key to providing relief for these associated withdrawal symptoms:
- Sleep issues
- Muscle pain
- Excessive hunger
- Cold and sweaty outbreaks
- Disorientation and mental confusion
- Agitation and mood swings
CBD has also proven to be effective in breaking the smoking habit. A study was conducted by The University of London that found a relationship between cannabinoids and the addiction to nicotine.
As part of the study, habitual smokers were given either an inhaler filled with CBD or a placebo. Those who used the CBD inhaler showed a radical reduction in their tobacco consumption, and their nicotine craving decreased.
Final Thoughts on Whether CBD is a Drug
Ultimately, the FDA has approved cannabidiol as a drug in the treatment of two very specific conditions. So yes CBD is a drug, but a medicinal drug, rather than a narcotic drug (like cocaine and alcohol). In reality, it really depends on what your definition of a drug is. Essentially, CBD is considered to be a medicinal substance that can be used as a natural alternative to traditional medication.