Cannabidiol reverses attentional bias to cigarette cues in dependent cigarette smokers

First published: 30 March 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019

Aims: Cannabidiol (CBD), the non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in cannabis, may be a novel drug for smoking cessation due to its anxiolytic and potentially anti-addictive properties. It has previously been shown to reduce the salience of cues, both preclinically and clinically.  Attentional bias, the ability for a drug to capture one’s attention, is heightened during abstinence and can lead to relapse. The present study utilizes an experimental medicine approach with the hypothesis that CBD would reduce attentional bias to cigarette cues.

Method: A double-blind placebo-controlled crossover design was implemented to investigate the effects of CBD, in comparison to placebo (PBO) and satiation (SAT). N=30 (Age: 20.07 ±8.66, 14F) dependent cigarette smokers (FTND: 5.56 ± 1.13) took part in two drug sessions after overnight abstinence and one fixed satiated session (SAT). On each session, participants were administered a dot probe task to assess attentional bias (AB), withdrawal (MPSS) and craving (QSU-B) questionnaires.

Results: For the dot probe short exposure, there was greater AB after PBO compared to SAT (MDiff= -45.15 ± 10.48 ms, p=0.001, Cohens d: 0.789) and CBD (MDiff= -36.47±10.90 ms, p=0.007, Cohens d: 0.704) but not between SAT and CBD (MDiff= -8.68 ± 7.77, p=0.82) suggesting CBD normalises AB. Craving and withdrawal were greater in abstinence sessions but unaffected by CBD.

Conclusions: In the first study to assess CBD for nicotine withdrawal, we found that CBD reduced attentional bias which may be the mechanism by which CBD exerts its anti-addictive effects in humans. This effect occurred in the absence of changes in withdrawal and craving suggesting it exerts an early and direct effect.


Dr. Tom P Freeman – National Addiction Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King ‘s College London, London, SE5 8BB, United Kingdom. Ms. Meryem Grabski – School of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

Conflicts of interest:

no conflicts of interest

Ms Chandni Hindocha