Preclinical Assessment of the Abuse Potential of Purified Botanical Cannabidiol: Self-Administration, Drug Discrimination, and Physical Dependence

J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2022 Jul;382(1):54-65. doi: 10.1124/jpet.121.000988. Epub 2022 Apr 30.


Cannabidiol (CBD) is a constituent of the cannabis plant with a diverse array of pharmacological activities as well as potential therapeutic uses. An oral formulation of CBD (Epidiolex in the US; Epidyolex in Europe) is approved for treating seizures associated with rare and severe forms of epilepsy. These studies, which supported the approval of the medication, investigated abuse-related effects of CBD in rats and nonhuman primates (NHPs) using drug self-administration, drug discrimination, and physical dependence procedures and characterized its pharmacokinetics. In NHPs (n = 5) that self-administered midazolam (0.01 or 0.032 mg/kg/infusion), CBD (0.1-3.2 mg/kg/infusion) failed to maintain responding above vehicle levels. CBD maintained very modest levels of self-administration in rats (n = 7-8) that self-administered heroin (0.015 mg/kg/infusion) and did not increase drug-lever responding, up to a dose of 150 mg/kg (by mouth), in rats (n = 6) trained to discriminate 0.5 mg/kg (i.p.) midazolam. In juvenile (5-6 weeks old) and adult (10-11 weeks old) male and female rats, discontinuation of chronic treatment (twice daily for 20 days) with an oral formulation of CBD (20 or 100 mg/kg, by mouth) did not reliably produce signs of withdrawal. Pharmacokinetic studies confirmed that the dosing regimens used in these studies resulted in therapeutically relevant plasma levels. Taken together, the lack of reliable self-administration, the failure to increase drug-lever responding in rats trained to discriminate midazolam, and the absence of withdrawal signs upon discontinuation of chronic treatment indicate that CBD has very low abuse potential and is unlikely to produce physical dependence. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: Legalization of cannabis across the United States and elsewhere has led to intense investigation into the safety and therapeutic potential of cannabis and its constituent materials, including cannabidiol (CBD). Results of these preclinical abuse potential studies on CBD indicate no rewarding properties, physical dependence potential, or similarity to a benzodiazepine. Together with data from in vitro pharmacology and human abuse potential studies, the abuse potential of Epidiolex in humans is likely to be negligible.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cannabidiol* / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Hallucinogens*
  • Male
  • Midazolam
  • Rats
  • Self Administration
  • Substance-Related Disorders*


  • Hallucinogens
  • Cannabidiol
  • Midazolam