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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Could CBD help people quit smoking? A WSU Spokane study delivers promise

A new Spokane-led study shows promise that CBD – a non-intoxicating cannabis compound – reduces a desire for cigarettes.

Washington State University researchers steered a study team testing the effects of CBD on human liver tissue and cell samples, showing that it inhibited a key enzyme for nicotine metabolism.

For nicotine-addicted smokers, slowing that metabolism could curb the urge for the next cigarette, said Phil Lazarus, WSU department of pharmaceutical sciences professor. If further research proves this, smokers wanting to reduce tobacco use or quit might use CBD as a tool.

“The study definitely shows that CBD affects the major enzymes for nicotine metabolism,” Lazarus said.

“The whole mission is to decrease harm from smoking, which is not from the nicotine per se, but all the carcinogens and other chemicals that are in tobacco smoke.”

In the study, the researchers tested CBD and its major metabolite, meaning what it converts to in the body, on microsomes from human liver tissue and from specialized cell lines. This allowed them to focus on individual enzymes related to nicotine metabolism.

Lazarus said the next step – planned by year’s end – is to start testing CBD’s effects among a group of people who smoke and whether it reduces nicotine dependency, against other smokers who receive only a placebo.

Cigarette smoking remains a major health issue, with one in five deaths in the U.S. each year from smoking-related causes.

While often seen as less harmful, other nicotine delivery methods including vaping, snuff and chew also contain chemicals that can cause cancer and illnesses.

If CBD’s benefit proves out, it’s likely a better cessation tool for smokers who are otherwise healthy, Lazarus said. That’s because his earlier WSU studies indicate that use of CBD and other cannabis could inhibit how certain prescription drugs metabolize in the body – perhaps negatively.

The earlier research looked at cannabinoids – along with their major metabolites in users’ blood – and found that they interfered with two families of enzymes in the body that help metabolize a wide range of prescribed medications. It could be a concern for people who regularly take certain drugs, Lazarus said.

Otherwise healthy people would likely benefit from CBD.

“The idea is if they’re not taking other drugs, that with CBD, they might be able to limit smoking and they won’t feel that need for nicotine,” he said. “This could apply to any kind of tobacco use, snuff or to stop vaping.

“There is a lot in the juice in vaping that is probably bad for you. The point is with any type of nicotine, the idea is to decrease the level of use where you don’t feel the urge to light up again or take another vape.”

Next, Lazarus’ team will develop a clinical study to examine the effects of CBD on nicotine levels in the group of smokers, by measuring nicotine levels in their blood versus smokers taking a placebo over the course of six to eight hours. Then, they hope to do a much larger study looking at CBD and nicotine addiction.

He said people typically buy CBD pills or drops. This latest research also indicates that even small doses of CBD could make a difference.

The researchers found that CBD inhibits several enzymes, including the major one for nicotine metabolism. Other research has found that more than 70% of nicotine is metabolized by this enzyme in the majority of tobacco users. The impact of CBD on this particular enzyme appeared strong, inhibiting its activity by 50% at relatively low CBD concentrations.

“In other words, it appears that you don’t need much CBD to see the effect,” Lazarus said. “We have some pretty strong laboratory results.”

Lazarus is the senior author on the study published in the journal, Chemical Research in Toxicology.

In addition to Lazarus, co-authors on the study include first author Shamema Nasrin, Shelby Coates, Keti Bardhi and Christy Watson of WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, as well as Joshua Muscat of Penn State Cancer Institute. This research was supported by a National Institutes of Health grant.