A Back to Basics Analysis of 12-Step Programs’
Support For CBD From a Big Book Thumper

By Vic Gerami

Many in the recovery community are unsure or confused about whether they can use CBD products and remain sober. I have been in recovery and sober for almost twelve years and active in a 12-Step program, but I still find myself cautious about new products and information.

Many people in recovery who are overcoming alcoholism, drug abuse and other addictions grew up with untreated mental illness. They found alcohol and other substances down the line to treat their anxiety, depression and other mental health matters. The majority still suffer from these illnesses, even after they become sober.


Contrary to the myth repeated by a fringe few, the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob, recommended psychiatric drugs and other remedies as part of one’s recovery. Bill Wilson, co-founder of AA consulted with one of the most prominent psychiatrists of all time, Dr. Carl Jung when researching alcoholism.

Page 133 of the Big Book, AA’s main guideline and instruction, states, “Now about health: A body badly burned by alcohol does not often recover overnight nor do twisted thinking and depression vanish in a twinkling.

God has abundantly supplied this world with fine doctors, psychologists, and practitioners of various kinds. Do not hesitate to take your health problems to such persons. Most of them give freely of themselves, that their fellows may enjoy sound minds and bodies. Try to remember that though God has wrought miracles among us, we should never belittle a good doctor or psychiatrist. Their services are often indispensable in treating a newcomer and in following his case afterward.”

In AA and many other 12-Step programs, there is widespread support for using other therapies, prescriptions and natural supplements to support recovery.


Medications prescribed by psychiatrists can do wonders and are sometimes necessary; but what about alternatives like CBD products? CBD has been successful in treating anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), insomnia, seizure, pain relief, acne, cancer, epilepsy and seems to be a neuroprotective in general.

Yasmin Hurd

CBD is an acronym for cannabidiol, a compound that occurs naturally in both marijuana and hemp. It’s found in very high concentrations in certain strains of hemp and is widely regarded to possess great medicinal value.

It is not psychoactive, which means it won’t get you high, unlike the compound THC, which produces the mind-altering sensations found within marijuana. Because it doesn’t have psychoactive effects, CBD is legal almost everywhere, and any restriction depends on the legal status of cannabis in that state. If you are using CBD derived from industrial hemp, you do not need a prescription. It is available in different forms, including oils, pills, or topical creams.

Jim Hefner, the founder of Sunrise CBD says, “CBD is non-intoxicating and won’t produce the effects of marijuana. Many users do, however, report feelings of calm and relaxation.” He adds, “CBD affects everyone differently, and the effects depend on the amount taken and the length of time you’ve been taking it. While some users report an increased sense of well-being, they also report fewer headaches, less pain and better sleep — without any intoxicating effects. It is important to take a sufficiently high dose. 50 mg to 100 mg a day is generally our clients’ feedback.”


Dr. Julie Holland

Yasmin Hurd was the lead researcher on a recent study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry that found CBD suppresses the cues or triggers associated with heroin use. “The intense craving is what drives the drug use,” Hurd, director of the Addiction Institute of Mount Sinai, told CNN. “If we can have the medications that can dampen that [craving], that can greatly reduce the chance of relapse and overdose risk.”

While studies show the use of CBD for addiction treatment may be effective, it’s unclear exactly how it works. One theory, Hurd said, is that CBD may affect “how brain cells that have been damaged by opioids communicate with each other.”

CBD Psychiatrist Dr. Julie Holland is former assistant professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine. She said CBD goes a step beyond reducing the anxiety and cravings associated with addiction.

“It also diminishes the original pain and inflammation that leads to opiate use in the first place,” Holland told CNN.

Shereef Elnahal, M.D., the commissioner of New Jersey’s Department of Health agrees. “CBD has promising effects on pain, which could make it an effective substitute for opioids,” he told Yahoo News.

A preliminary report published in November 2017 by the World Health Organization concluded that naturally occurring CBD is safe and well-tolerated in humans (and animals) and isn’t associated with abuse potential. However, the WHO said adverse effects from interactions between CBD and patients’ existing medications may exist. If you are currently on other medications, check with your doctor before starting a CBD regimen.


Addiction recovery is a very personal journey, and everyone gets to make their own final decision. There will never be a straightforward answer to these kinds of questions because ultimately, it’s up to you. One can abuse anything to check out and escape reality, from alcohol to food, sex to sugar. Because CBD does not produce euphoria, it is unlikely to lead to that type of use. And since it likely doesn’t carry significant negative consequences like a failed drug test or incarceration, you should feel safe using it for anxiety, depression, pain, or another issue you are facing in recovery.