Close this search box.
Close this search box.
cbd and recovery

CBD – What Is It and How Does It Relate to Recovery?

Cannabis refers to a group of flowering plants. Many use the term to describe many different substances, including marijuana, hemp, CBD oil, THC, among others, prompting confusion and understanding the differences between what is legal and what is not.

Generally, the term Marijuana refers to the dried plant form of cannabis consumed for euphoric or relaxing effects. Hemp refers to the non-drug use of the plant as a fiber. There are over 100 types of cannabinoids. But two of the most abundant cannabinoids in cannabis are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Understanding Cannabinoid Receptors in the Central Nervous System

In humans, two receptors respond to cannabis, CB1 (in the central nervous system) and CB2 (in the peripheral nervous system). When a substance or chemical affects your CB1 receptor, there are likely psychoactive effects as these receptors are mainly in your spinal cord and brain. When a substance or chemical affects your CB2 receptor, it can create reactions to the rest of the body without prompting a “high” feeling.

  • THC: stronger connection to the CB1 receptor – likely to trigger a euphoric feeling.
  • CBD: stronger affinity to the CB2 receptor – likely to reduce inflammation.

This is not to say that THC cannot trigger both receptors; it is just significantly more likely to interact with CB1 receptors than CB2.

What’s CBD Oil?

Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is legal, but marijuana is not legal in every state today. Why? The main difference comes down to the variations in THC concentration.

Marijuana has a significantly higher THC concentration than hemp or CBD, and THC is an addictive compound.


When you apply heat, THC breaks down and creates a mind-altering high by binding with cannabinoid receptors in the brain. THC can induce relaxation and enjoyable altered perceptions for some people, and anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations, and potentially psychosis for others. 

On the other hand, CBD does not appear to have psychoactive properties and does not appear to be addictive. CBD is gaining traction in being an alternative to treat several conditions, including anxiety, pain, seizures, headaches, and insomnia. For the most part, CBD does not provide a “high” effect.

  • THC: strong psychoactive properties and highly addictive.
  • CBD: does not appear to have psychoactive properties or addictive properties.

The Breakdown on THC in CBD Oils

If a product has less than 0.3% of THC, it is legal since the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill. Hemp contains approximately 0.3% THC and thus complies. If a product has more than 0.3% of THC, it is considered marijuana. 

To place this in layman’s terms, the average marijuana flower may contain anywhere from 10% to 35% of THC. For CBD to be in regulation, it must have less than 0.3% of THC. 

CBD companies’ marketing practices have the oil primarily under the category of a supplement instead of medication. Because the FDA currently does not control the safety and purity of supplements, they struggle to regulate the amount of THC in most CBD oils.

You cannot know for sure that the label and ingredients listed are what is in the product. Higher percentages may result in a positive drug test, and products containing more than 0.3% are not federally legal, leading to significant concern surrounding use in the recovery community.

What about CBD Oil Supplements?

CBD that is currently marketed and sold as a “supplement” is not being regulated to ensure the THC in the product complies and actually under 0.3%. Thus you cannot be sure that the label is accurately reflecting the contents and ingredients.

According to a 2017 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, only 30% of the marketed CBD products were accurately labeled regarding their THC content.

A person can use CBD oil in several ways, from smoking and vaping, to placing the oil under the tongue. It can also come in pill form or edible products, and topical creams and patches. Currently, there is only one purified form of CBD available, Epidiolex, as the FDA regulates it for the treatment of rare forms of epilepsy as a medication.

Is CBD Safe?

Although the World Health Organization states overall that CBD is “safe” and “well-tolerated,” the amounts to take and how often are unclear for any specific problem. There have been some studies surrounding the efficacy in the treatment of some issues. However, unless the study is a controlled trial, the results must be viewed with some degree of skepticism. There remains insufficient definitive research to speak to CBD being useful in all the avenues that it claims to be today. Additionally, high doses of CBD may have negative interactions with other medications, including blood thinners, antidepressants, and immune suppressors.

The Role of CBD in Drug and Alcohol Recovery

Some within the community support the product’s use. However, only if those in recovery are open and honest with providers and those in your life. Some believe that CBD might increase the risk of relapse and should be avoided altogether.

The most significant challenge in evaluating one side or the other is the lack of regulation and not knowing whether an online or in-store purchase is honestly identifying the ingredients. If a CBD product includes significantly higher THC levels but reports containing lower percentages, it can be problematic in several ways. These include failing routine drug screens, the potential for addictive and psychoactive properties, and consequently relapse.

Without full FDA approval and regulation of products in the general market, there is no way to tell what one may be getting unless a physician prescribes it as a medication under an FDA-approved premise. Thus, the use of CBD at this time within the treatment community remains discouraged until full regulations, monitoring procedures, and further definitive trials depicting the efficacy are in full effect.

Let’s Talk about It

If you or a family member are struggling with drug and alcohol recovery, speaking with a caring therapist might help. Incorporating substances like CBD oil into your active recovery treatment can be beneficial if done correctly. However, speaking with a specialist is always advisable before you attempt to include any supplement into your diet. To speak with someone today, contact Lighthouse Recovery Institute today and start your path to recovery.

Scroll to Top