Article written by
Dipak HemrajHead of Research and Education
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
Gaming (esports) is considered a competitive sport, and like with other more physically active sports, competitive gamers are often required to submit a random drug screening for performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).
One of the substances on the prohibited list is cannabis generally, and THC and its metabolites in particular. However, cannabis’ inclusion as a PED is much debated. People point to THC’s ability to impair cognitive function and reduce reaction time and coordination, arguing that cannabis can’t be considered to enhance performance because of these factors.
However, cannabis contains more than just THC. Recent neuroimaging studies have shown that consuming cannabidiol (CBD) increases brain activity and connectivity patterns while performing cognitive tasks or when in a resting state. It is possible that these increases in brain activity and connectivity could help improve gaming performance, which in turn confirms cannabis’ potential as a PED.
So, is cannabis-and CBD in particular-a performance enhancer or not? Let’s see what science says.
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CBD for Gaming: What the Science Shows
There are no studies looking at the impact of CBD consumption on gaming performance directly. Rather, there are several studies that imply CBD could be of benefit when it comes to gaming performance due to the cannabinoid’s other benefits. Here are some reasons why CBD could directly or indirectly benefit gaming performance.
- Using CBD counteracts the effects of THC to some extent and could improve some of the processes involved in gaming, such as verbal episodic memory, auditory/visual processing, response inhibition and emotional processing.
- CBD consumption could help improve blood flow in the brain, which can help ease stress, anxiety, and performance nerves associated with high-level competition.
- Professional esports players can expect to sit in the same spot for hours to fully understand the elements of each of the games they play. Moreover, the rigors of pro-gaming means some level of athletic ability is becoming more necessary to improve mental acuity and concentration over long periods. This can lead to pain in joints, muscles, the back, nerves, and carpal tunnel syndrome, which CBD may help alleviate.
Whether these benefits extend to cannabis as a whole is debatable. First, cannabis contains a range of cannabinoids that have opposed (e.g., THC) and complementary effects (e.g., CBG) when used alongside CBD. Cannabinoids also have biphasic effects, with different effects when used in different dosages. This extends to athletic performance, as cannabis and varying combinations of cannabinoids can be both performance-enhancing and performance-diminishing.
Other Benefits of Using CBD for Gaming
CBD could help:
- Improve sleep.
- Relieve some of the adverse symptoms and signs of ADHD, autism, and depression.
- Provide a sense of well-being.
Although non-intoxicating and very well tolerated by the human body, CBD can have some adverse effects, mainly if used in high doses. These include:
- Dry mouth.
- Reduced appetite.
- Drowsiness and fatigue.
- Upset stomach.
- Negative interaction with other medications you might be using, such as blood thinners (e.g., warfarin).
- In rare instances, liver damage.
Doses of up to 1500 mg of CBD per day are well-tolerated, but not everyone will need such high amounts of CBD.
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Tips for Using CBD for Gaming
While CBD is not targeted in drug tests carried out by esports and athletic commissions, THC is. This means that even in states with legalized medical cannabis, professional gamers may face sanctions if they test positive for THC or its metabolites. Here are a couple of tips on how to avoid this unfortunate fate if you’re an avid gamer who wants to utilize CBD oil or other such CBD products.
Tip 1: Use CBD Isolate Products
Since many medical cannabis and hemp-derived full-spectrum CBD products contain THC, those who use such products may test positive for THC, even if the amounts consumed have no major psychoactive effect. Using CBD-only products could help overcome this potential negative, although some may find that such products may not be as effective due to a lack of entourage effect.
Tip 2: Use Broad-Spectrum CBD Products
If CBD isolate products are not effective for you, you may want to consider a product that contains other cannabinoids and terpenes, but without the THC. These are called “broad-spectrum” CBD products, not “full-spectrum”, which may contain trace amounts of THC. Terpenes like beta-caryophyllene, linalool and limonene may help reduce pain, improve mood and beat stress and anxiety.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Is CBD good for gaming?
There are no studies examining CBD use in gaming and whether or not it can improve one’s ability to play games. CBD may help reduce stress and anxiety, which could directly or indirectly help you feel at ease and play with a clearer mind.
Does CBD improve performance?
There is no evidence that CBD could help improve gaming performance directly. Using CBD may help alleviate sleep problems, anxiety and inflammation associated with injuries and other health problems, but whether this improves gaming performance is yet to be seen. It is an important question to answer, though, as esports may make their way into the Olympics.