For a long time, I’ve been uncomfortable with my relationship to alcohol. I’ve been a regular drinker since the day after I arrived at college in 2003. And although I don’t drink to get drunk (anymore), I’ve been a daily drinker for over 15 years.
You know when you fill out a medical questionnaire, and it asks how many drinks you consume per week? I dread that question. Two to three drinks per day...every day…and more on the weekends? It adds up.
But I’ve found moderation very difficult. Since I rarely get drunk, never black out, and never drink until dinner time, I’ve found it hard to find methods of reduction that work for me. I don’t need AA. But “just drink less” wasn’t working.
Drinking has become a daily habit. Work day ends, laptop closes, drink is poured. It’s as much part of my daily routine as brushing my teeth.
That’s not good mentally, and I’m pretty damn sure it’s not good physically, either.
So, I wondered, how can I transition from the workday to evening without pouring a glass of wine?
Perhaps science could help
There have been a handful of studies on the possible aid that CBD could provide to people with drug and substance abuse problems. And while I don’t consider my problem to be a capital P Problem, I figured it would be a good place to start.
First, I looked at a 2015 meta study called "Cannabidiol as an Intervention for Addictive Behaviors.” A meta study is basically a study of studies. It takes the results from multiple previous studies to see what fits together.
This meta study analyzed 14 previous studies that examined the effects of CBD on opioid, psychostimulant, tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis addiction.
CBD’s “therapeutic properties,” such as stress reduction, could make it a useful aid in the treatment of addiction disorders.
So far, so good.
Next up: two 2018 studies that researched the effects of CBD on mice and rats with serious self-control problems.
The first was titled "Cannabidiol reduces ethanol consumption, motivation and relapse in mice." They really gave away the punchline with that title.
The study involved observing the effects of CBD on ethanol reinforcement. That’s a science-y way of saying “rewarding mice with booze.”
They found that CBD led to significantly decreased ethanol intake. And the conclusion was that CBD had the potential to help drinkers reduce their alcohol consumption and prevent relapse in recovering alcoholics.
The other 2018 study was a real barn burner. With the catchy name "Unique treatment potential of cannabidiol for the prevention of relapse to drug use: preclinical proof of principle,” this study found that CBD reduced the effect of stress-induced and context-induced alcohol consumption.
That context-induced bit was particularly exciting for me, since that seemed to fit my own situation the best.
And finally, a February 2019 study on the "Endocannabinoid System and Cannabidiol's Promise for the Treatment of Substance Use Disorder" was the most promising of all.
I won’t bore you with the details (plus I don’t really understand them). But I do understand this:
“Animal and human studies suggest that these cannabinoids have the potential to reduce craving and relapse in abstinent substance users, by impairing reconsolidation of drug-reward memory, salience of drug cues, and inhibiting the reward-facilitating effect of drugs.”
Well that sounded promising.
So maybe it was time for an incredibly unscientific study of my own.
I’ve spent years upon years telling my body that a drink is how we signal an end to the workday. What I needed was a new way to convince myself that the day had ended, and the evening had begun.
An end-of-day routine was what I decided on.
Now, when you perform a scientific experiment, you’re only supposed to test one variable at a time. Otherwise, you don’t know which variable resulted in the change that you’re observing.
But since I am a terrible scientist, I didn’t do that.
Instead, I created a 5-step end-of-day routine, and one of those steps was to take CBD.
Around 7:00pm, I take 30mg of full-spectrum CBD as the first step of my daily wind down. I also do some stretches or go for a quick walk, put together the next day’s to-do list, tidy up my home office, and write something I’m grateful for.
Full disclosure: at about the same time as implementing this new routine, I also started Intermittent Fasting.
(I told you I was a terrible scientist.)
I can’t say for sure, but it’s possible that only eating between 2:00pm and 10:00pm every day could influence my cravings for bourbon.
I’ve been doing these two things for the past five weeks. And for the past five weeks, I have not had a single drink Monday through Thursday. I drink moderately on Friday through Sunday.
Is the CBD helping? Is it the fasting? Is it all a big ol’ placebo?
I have no idea.
All I know for sure is that I’ve tried to get myself on a sober weekday schedule in the past. Usually by the second Tuesday, I’m back off the wagon.
As a brand new CBD user, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s subtle, but pleasant. Sometimes when I take it, especially if I’m hungry, I feel a slight heaviness in my limbs. And I’m sleeping very well, which can be hard when your body forgets how to relax without wine.
So something is working. And I don’t plan on changing this routine anytime soon.
As Dr. Kate, The Terrible Scientist, I would never presume to give anyone medical advice. But for any healthy person who is having a struggle like mine, CBD may be a helpful tool.
I’m nearing the end of my first bottle of CBD, and you’d better believe that before it’s empty, I’ll be headed back out to the dispensary for more.
Has anyone out there found CBD to be helpful in dealing with issues like mine? Let’s do a little anecdotal meta study of our own!