We hear all the time that, “CBD won’t get you high!” or, “CBD is entirely non-psychoactive!”. But is it true? Learn the truth. Strategies for Non-Psychoactive Cannabis Use For people who want the beneficial effects of cannabis without adverse psychoactive effects like impairment and intoxication, this program provides
Is CBD Really Non-Psychoactive, or Is This a Myth?
If you have researched CBD online, you’ll almost certainly have seen it described as ‘non-psychoactive.’ Many people use the term without understanding what it means. Similarly, you will read that THC, the cannabinoid in marijuana that causes an intoxicating high, is psychoactive.
However, the notion that CBD isn’t psychoactive is based on outdated science. The fact it helps define the cannabinoid as distinct from THC is another reason. In this article, we outline the truth behind whether CBD is psychoactive.
The Science of CBD – A Quick Primer
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is found in humans and other mammals and consists of different endocannabinoids. These are neurotransmitters that bind to receptors in our peripheral nervous system and central nervous system. The ECS regulates a variety of cognitive and physiological processes in the body, including:
The CB1 and CB2 receptors are the main receptors for endocannabinoids. The CB1 receptors are typically found in the central nervous system and brain. They help regulate mood, pain, appetite, and other functions. The CB2 receptors are primarily located in the immune system and throughout the body. They generally regulate pain and inflammation.
CBD Versus THC’s Effects
THC’s ability to mimic anandamide is why it provides intoxication. Anandamide, known as the ‘bliss’ molecule, binds to the CB1 receptors in the brain, which is associated with a mood boost. THC binds more tightly to CB1 receptors than the bliss molecule. As a result, it prevents the release of other neurotransmitters, leading to a feeling of euphoria.
CBD’s effect on the CB receptors is significantly milder. It loosely binds with CB1, which ultimately blocks the receptor. CBD is a modulator capable of increasing or decreasing a receptor’s capacity for transmitting signals. Its effects are often likened to a dimmer switch. Researchers believe that CBD’s ability to modulate brain activity is why it helps with symptoms of epilepsy, such as seizures.
CBD could also modulate some of the body’s other receptors. Examples include serotonin, which impacts mood, and opioid receptors, which offer relief from pain. CBD can also reduce the intoxicating effects of THC.
What Does ‘Psychoactive’ Mean & Why Do People Think CBD Is Non-Psychoactive?
A psychoactive chemical acts primarily on the central nervous system and also alters brain function. This leads to a short-term change in mood, behavior, perception, or consciousness.
CBD doesn’t cause intoxication like THC. Moreover, using it won’t lead to clear signs of cognitive changes, nor will you suffer withdrawal symptoms once you stop using it. Even scientific researchers refer to CBD as ‘non-psychoactive.’ This study published in BioMed Research International in 2018 is one example.
However, it is a misnomer. CBD crosses the blood-brain barrier and has a direct effect on the central nervous system. It also causes changes in mood and perception. There is evidence from the countless CBD users who claim they feel calm and relaxed after taking it. A huge percentage of people use the cannabinoid to help relieve pain.
Psychoactive, Intoxicating, & Psychotropic
The term ‘intoxication’ usually refers to a state where a person has lost control of their faculties or behavior. In general, it describes the effects of drugs like alcohol, cocaine, and cannabis. CBD doesn’t result in any such loss of control, so saying it is non-intoxicating is technically more accurate.
A psychotropic substance is also something that impacts a person’s mental state, perception of the world, and sense of reality. While CBD could help someone feel less anxious, it doesn’t alter reality. Marijuana potentially does, as do drugs such as psilocybin, LSD, and other hallucinogens.
The term ‘psychoactive’ seems to carry negative connotations, which is why CBD sellers are keen to steer clear. They are only too happy to go along with the myth that cannabidiol isn’t psychoactive.
However, many people don’t realize that they consume psychoactive substances regularly! Chocolate, specifically dark chocolate, is a prime example. Dark chocolate contains an abundance of cacao, the raw seeds from where the chocolate is derived. Its compounds can help reduce tension. Therefore, cacao, and by extension, chocolate, are psychoactive substances.
Old Science, Wrong Conclusions
The idea that CBD is non-psychoactive comes from a reliance on old science. Even today, researchers are still learning more about how CBD impacts human physiology. We know that CBD operates through over 60 different molecular pathways.
We’re also aware that CBD acts through a variety of receptor-independent channels. The cannabinoid binds to a series of receptors in the brain, including:
- GPR55:The orphan receptor.
- PPAR-gamma:A nuclear receptor that regulates gene expression.
- TRPV1:Plays a major role in CBD’s antipsychotic effect.
- 5HT1A:Helps with CBD’s anti-anxiety properties.
CBD doesn’t directly stimulate the CB1, and CB2 receptors like THC does. THC fits into a specific binding site in the CB1 receptor. The ‘lock and key’ description is apt for this process. THC is the molecular key that fits perfectly into the CB1 receptor’s lock.
Researchers discovered the CB1 receptor in 1988. Ever since, researchers see it as a ‘given’ that CBD has little binding affinity for this receptor. However, recent research suggests that CBD does interact with the CB1 receptor. Moreover, it does so in a fashion that makes it therapeutically relevant.
A study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology in 2015 made a fascinating discovery. The researchers found that CBD is a negative allosteric modulator of the CB1 receptor. CBD doesn’t bind directly to the CB1 receptor like THC. However, it interacts allosterically and alters the receptor’s shape in a manner that weakens the CB1 receptors’ ability to bind with THC.
All of the above means that CBD reduces the effects of THC. It is why you probably won’t feel intoxicated after using cannabis with a high CBD content.
There are thousands of studies on CBD now available to read. Researchers have discovered that CBD has antidepressant, antipsychotic, and anxiolytic effects. Therefore, if the cannabinoid can relieve symptoms of anxiety, psychosis, or depression, it does affect the brain and central nervous system.
As a consequence, it is a myth to suggest that CBD is non-psychoactive.
Final Answer to the Question: “Is CBD Non-Psychoactive?”
We can conclusively say that CBD IS psychoactive. A psychoactive substance affects the brain and acts on the central nervous system. It results in a temporary effect on behavior, mood, perception, and consciousness.
An abundance of research clearly illustrates CBD’s moderating effects on depression, anxiety, psychosis, seizures, and pain. While it doesn’t provide an intoxicating or psychotropic effect like THC and other drugs, it is psychoactive. Therefore, it is more accurate to say that CBD is non-intoxicating than non-psychoactive. You could also say it is not psychoactive in the same way as THC.
The British Journal of Pharmacology study is several years old, but the claim that CBD is non-psychoactive remains. It is still mentioned in the medical community! Now that hemp is federally legal, a clear distinction has been drawn between it and marijuana.
Those in the CBD industry will likely try to ensure the same distance appears between its product and THC. Continuing to assert that CBD is non-psychoactive is potentially a useful marketing tool. However, it is also misleading.
Strategies for Non-Psychoactive Cannabis Use
For people who want the beneficial effects of cannabis without adverse psychoactive effects like impairment and intoxication, this program provides you with a number of strategies to help you get the optimal benefits of cannabis without getting high. Let’s get started!
- CBD & THC Ratios
- THCA: Cannabis in it’s raw form
- Micro-dosing with THC
- Topical Forms of Cannabis
- Edibles: Caution
- Antidotes: Cannabis THC Intoxication
Understanding CBD and THC Ratios
Get the right balance of cannabis’ chemical components.
Cannabis strains may contain both THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) in varying ratios, but it has been shown that strains rich in CBD can have a greater therapeutic effect – relieving pain, relaxing muscles, calming anxiety – and in fact can actually block some of the adverse effects of THC. Dr. Sulak explains what to look for in your strain’s CBD:THC ratio, and how to maximize the benefits of your cannabis therapy while minimizing the psychoactive effects.
Cannabis in it’s raw form
Use high doses without intoxication.
When cannabis is heated, it becomes “decarboxylated,” the chemical process that turns raw THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) into THC. Yet before this process occurs, THCA offers many of the medicinal properties of THC without any intoxicating effects. If a raw form of cannabis is available to you, Dr. Sulak explains how you can successfully use it for symptom relief in high doses, without any risk of intoxication.
Micro-dosing with THC
Carefully control your THC dosage.
When it is not possible to find CBD-dominant strains and preparations, Dr. Sulak teaches you how to safely control your cannabis dosage to provide the benefits you seek without intoxication. Whether delivered via inhalation, tincture, edible or topical form, you can reach the optimal effect you seek with this gradual and effective strategy.
Topical Forms of Cannabis
Apply directly to your skin for non-psychoactive relief.
Cannabis preparations such as lotions, salves or cannabis oil can be used directly on specific areas of your body to relieve pain, inflammation, muscle spasms or an itchy rash without affecting the mind. However, you should also be aware of “transdermal” cannabis delivery systems, which Dr. Sulak explains are designed to enhance absorption into the bloodstream and are more likely to cause psychoactive effects.
Cookies and brownies taste great, but watch out!
Edible forms of cannabis must be used with extreme caution: it’s easy to eat too much and overdose, possibly because the product was mislabeled, you misunderstood the instructions, or you were simply hungry and wanted a little bit more. If you want to experience the benefits of medical cannabis without the risk of impairment, Dr. Sulak recommends tincture as a safer and easier to control alternative. If you choose to use edibles start with a very low dosage and be sure to wait up to 2 hours to determine the effects before consuming more.
Antidotes: Cannabis THC Intoxication
Simple ways to counteract a THC overdose.
If you find you’ve inhaled or ingested too much cannabis and don’t want to feel high, don’t despair, there are a few simple ways to make the feeling of intoxication go away faster. Dr. Sulak suggests you try lemon zest – simply grind a lemon peel and sprinkle it on some food – or have a cup of chamomile tea to help you relax and relieve the psychoactive effects. The good news is that too much THC is non-toxic and won’t harm you, even in high doses, so just hydrate, try one of these effective antidotes and wait it out. You’ll soon be back to normal.
Live life to it’s fullest
Get Dr. Sulak’s cannabis and CBD education for free
101 Video, Shopping and Dosage Guides, and More!
Plus get $50 off our Online Training & Certification Program.
Training & Certification
The information on this website and online training website is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic, treatment purposes or considered professional medical advice. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. I waive all claims which might arise from my use of this website and release any person or entity connected with this website of any liability. Some Images of Dr. Sulak by Melissa Mullen