According to research, since CBD is not intoxicating like its counterpart THC, it is unlikely to boost dopamine levels or significantly impact your brain’s reward system. However, CBD may help replenish dopamine levels in your brain. It indirectly replenishes dopamine levels by interacting with your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) to suppress neurons that inhibit dopamine production. Once these so-called GABA inhibitors are suppressed, your body can produce more dopamine. Here’s a look at how CBD can help replenish your brain’s dopamine level under different circumstances:
Thanks to dopamine, humans can form memories of pleasurable experiences. With the help of these formed memories, we can repeat pleasurable experiences in the future.
Here’s the really neat part: when you associate a particular activity with pleasure and happiness, just anticipating that activity is enough to raise dopamine levels in your body. It could be sex, food, shopping, or even watching a favorite TV show. That’s why dopamine is also called the ‘reward chemical’ because it’s involved in your body’s pleasure-reward system. It’s even referred to as the motivation molecule since it gives you the drive and the focus you need to increase productivity.
How Does CBD Affect Dopamine?
Scientists have shown that CBD may help in weight loss through a process called browning. Browning involves turning white fat into beige fat. What difference does the color of your fat make? Well, white fat gets stored, while brown fat burns excess stores. The consequence of browning is therefore your body’s improved ability to burn calories. CBD plays a part in weight loss by:
The release of dopamine is also stimulated by alcohol and drugs, and a memory of the sensation is then formed. The cause of addiction usually is this remembered pleasure, rather than the actual substance dependence. The more often you abuse drugs and other substances, the more unstable your dopamine reward system becomes. Consequently, the dopamine reward system may stop functioning.
Aside from its “feel good” function, dopamine plays other roles in the human body. It is involved in blood flow and blood vessel functioning; pain processing; motor control; digestion; heart and kidney function; mood regulation; and your emotions.
Dopamine deficiency is linked to various mental conditions. Scientists have recently discovered that health imbalance, neurological conditions, and intentional substance abuse are all causes of dopamine deficiency. The most prevalent causes of dopamine deficiency are:
CBD’s therapeutic potential with respect to addiction also extends to the serotonin system. Animal studies have demonstrated that CBD directly activates multiple serotonin receptors in the brain. These interactions have been implicated in its ability to reduce drug-seeking behavior. CBD’s influence on the serotonin system may also account in part for its anti-anxiety properties, which have been robustly demonstrated across both human and animal studies.
Despite being chemical cousins, THC and CBD have very different effects. The primary difference is that THC get you high while CBD does not. This is because THC and CBD affect our endocannabinoid system (ECS) in different ways. The major ECS receptor in the brain, CB1, is activated by THC but not CBD. In fact, CBD can get in the way of compounds like THC, preventing them from activating the CB1 receptor. This is why the THC:CBD ratio is so important for influencing the effects of cannabis products.
Although it is a cannabinoid, CBD does not directly interact with the two classical cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2). Instead, it affects signaling through CB1 and CB2 receptors indirectly. This partly explains why, in contrast to THC, CBD is non-intoxicating. In addition to its indirect influence on the CB1 and CB2 receptors, CBD can increase levels of the body’s own naturally-produced cannabinoids (known as endocannabinoids) by inhibiting the enzymes that break them down.
CBD has effects on many different receptor systems
Figure 1. Neurons Communicate Using Neurotransmitters
Right: The brain contains a huge a number of brain cells (neurons). Each neuron, represented here as a hexagon, is connected to many others. Left: The synapse is the site where two neurons communicate with each other. The “sender neuron” releases chemical signals called neurotransmitters, which stimulate receptors on the “receiver neuron.” There are many different receptor types in the brain, each one sensitive to different neurotransmitters.
This raises the intriguing possibility that CBD’s ability to influence either opioid or dopamine receptors may underlie its ability to dampen drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms, effects directly relevant to the treatment of addiction. However, we can’t say for sure at this point; more research on CBD’s interactions with the opioid and dopamine receptor systems is still needed.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of many cannabinoid molecules produced by cannabis, second only to THC in abundance. These plant-derived cannabinoids, or phytocannabinoids (phyto = plant in Greek), are characterized by their ability to act on the cannabinoid receptors that are part of our endocannabinoid system. While THC is the principal psychoactive component of cannabis and has certain medical uses, CBD stands out because it is both non-intoxicating and displays a broad range of potential medical applications including helping with anxiety, inflammation, pain, and seizures. These makes CBD an attractive therapeutic compound.
Even more intriguing: CBD also influences many non-cannabinoid receptor systems in the brain, interacting with receptors sensitive to a variety of drugs and neurotransmitters (Figure 2). These include opioid receptors, known for their role in pain regulation. Opioid receptors are the key targets of pharmaceutical pain killers and drugs of abuse such as morphine, heroin, and fentanyl. CBD can also interact with dopamine receptors, which play a crucial role in regulating many aspects of behavior and cognition, including motivation and reward-seeking behavior.
CBD doesn’t have a direct influence on dopamine levels in the body. It acts on the 5-HT1A receptors present in numerous brain regions, specifically the pleasure areas where dopamine activity takes place.
CBD also has an impact on numerous non-cannabinoid receptor systems of the brain. It interacts with several receptors that are sensitive to many drugs and neurotransmitters. CBD raises the levels of anandamide in the brain. This is one of the naturally occurring cannabinoids found in the body. Anandamide helps in the regulation of other chemicals in the brain, which includes dopamine and serotonin. Through this effect, it helps to increase the level of dopamine in the body. CBD also stimulates the adenosine receptor to encourage the release of glutamate and dopamine neurotransmitters. Through its interaction with dopamine receptors, it helps to raise dopamine levels and regulate cognition, motivation, and reward-seeking behaviors.
CBD and Dopamine
Despite being a cannabinoid, high-quality CBD doesn’t interact directly with CB1 and CB2 receptors. In fact, its interactions help in reducing the extreme effects of THC. It also raises the body’s level of naturally produced cannabinoids through inhibition of the enzymes that break them down. CBD also interacts with opioid receptors to regulate the perception of pain in the body.
Neurotransmitters are responsible for the communication of messages between neurons. An imbalance in the level of neurotransmitters in the body can lead to several neurological disorders. Dopamine is one such neurotransmitter produced by two main regions of the brain:
Dopamine doesn't just activate the pleasure centers in the body. It's also responsible for the regulation of other functions such as: