CBD against depression addiction

My CBDiary 4: The Cage Experiment

In our My CBDiary blog series, guest blogger Kim describes her personal experiences as she tries out CBD for the first time. She uses her diary to assess whether CBD supplements can offer some relief for the sombre moods to which she has been prone for a very long time.

Part 4: The Cage

This may be a strange start for a story about CBD, but I was suddenly reminded of an old psychology experiment. It’s from a study into addiction. Not that I use CBD for any addiction, mind you. The experiment just struck me as a valuable metaphor for my experience with depression. I’ll try to explain – bear with me…


Our idea of drug addiction and how it works was formed about a hundred years ago. It was based in part on the following experiment: a rat in a cage gets two bottles of water. One bottle contains ordinary water, and the other bottle contains water mixed with heroin. What happens? Well… soon the rat will solely drink the water mixed with heroin and die from an overdose. Conclusion of the experiment: heroin is highly addictive and deadly in the end. This remained – and still is – the common idea about addiction and drugs in general. In other words; drugs are to blame, keep off them.

But in the 1970s, a professor of psychology, Mr. Bruce Alexander, thought that perhaps something about this conclusion wasn’t quite right … Alexander decided to run the test again. However, instead of putting a rat alone in a cage, he built a ‘rat theme park’ cage where rats lived together. In this cage, they could play and move around freely, and have sex and eat cheese … And well, do all those things that rats and humans like to do.

How does addiction work?

The outcome was remarkable: the rats in the ‘rat theme park’ cage hardly drank from the heroin water. Not a single rat died of an overdose. (The rats alone in a cage all died from an overdose).
Now this research tells us something very important about addiction. Apparently, the decisive factor in becoming addicted or not, depends not so much on the addictive effect of the drugs itself. Rather, it depends on our circumstances and how they make us feel.

Put any rat alone in a cage and it will be “unhappy” (it is still a strange word to use for a rat). Another professor (coincidentally from the Netherlands), Peter Cohen, elaborated on this research. He came up with the idea to replace the word “Addiction” with the word “Bonding”. The need of humans and animals to bond and connect (to each other or the world) is strong. This urge is so great, in fact, that when that need isn’t fulfilled, they will try to bond with something else. And that bond can be the onset of an addiction, to food or sex or drugs, whatever. In a way, you build a deeply intimate and dependent relationship with whatever it is you get addicted to.

Depression versus addiction and CBD

But unintentionally these results tell us even more. The demonstrate how important our circumstances are when it comes to our sense of happiness.
Cages come in many forms. They can even be imaginary, (although it’s undeniable that our recent “social distancing” society is starting to look more and more like the lonely rat cage). But the reason why I introduced the rat-story – you might wonder – is not about physical cages. It’s not even about how tricky these pandemic times are when it comes to our mental health. Most of all l told you this story to illustrate a personal conviction. I firmly believe that the origin of depression and addiction are quite similar to each other.

It actually makes a lot of sense. When we are hungry, we eat; when we are tired, we sleep. Still, when we feel unhappy, we tend to see it as a disorder or an error in our system. We don’t see it as a signal that  something is (or was) missing in our lives. Something we need may be lacking.


Of course, that’s pretty much the whole problem when it comes to feeling depressed. You feel like you don’t have the power to change your situation.  You feel unable to see the positive in your circumstances. On top of that, you also feel the urge to withdraw yourself from bonding and making connections. All those glasses are half empty for sure… (And it may not even be your current circumstances, but those from the past that negatively affect you). So you might need help before you can get started at all. Initially, that help should come in the form of therapy. Exercise and sports can be very effective as well.

But as I said before, this was about the possible influence of CBD on our mood. I don’t want to make claims about the use of CBD in severe clinical depression. In such cases, only professional help is responsible advice.

CBD to break depression

My experience with CBD

I will no longer beat around the bush. My personal experience with using CBD is mainly about feelings. CBD can give you a feeling of more energy, positive strength and focus. It’s that little push from “I can’t do this” to “this could work out”. That push can make a real difference. It can be a very important push when you’re not feeling well. I can easily imagine it making an important difference. CBD can be that little nudge in the right direction you need to break out of that negative spiral. If not, it could help you find that direction, at least.

So why start by telling the whole rat story then, you may wonder? What do they have to do with CBD? I’ll explain. What I really want you to know is this. When it comes to symptoms of depression, regardless of your therapies or remedies, CBD or not, remember on thing. Never, ever forget to keep looking closely at your cage.