Is CBD Psychoactive?
Article written by
Dipak HemrajHead of Research and Education
Table of contents
CBD, or “cannabidiol,” is a natural compound found in cannabis plants that some claim is not psychoactive. However, CBD does have psychoactive effects; they just differ from the psychoactive effects of THC. So, to put it simply, yes, CBD is psychoactive.
Even though CBD and THC have the same chemical formula, CBD’s psychoactive effects don’t provide the same “high” that’s typically associated with THC.
Let’s take a closer look at why some people think CBD doesn’t affect the mind, as well as the science behind why it produces mind-altering effects.
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How CBD Got the Reputation as Being Non-Psychoactive
Both CBD and THC have medicinal effects and can be used to provide relief from several conditions. However, CBD has a reputation for being non-psychoactive, which comes from CBD not causing the euphoric effects of THC. Often, people use CBD as a result of this.
Most people who say that CBD is non-psychoactive really mean that CBD is not intoxicating. Compounds are considered psychoactive when they act primarily on the central nervous system, altering brain function, which results in changes in perception.
CBD is not intoxicating like THC and doesn’t provide the consumer with euphoric “highs.” But, CBD does affect the central nervous system and changes mood and perception and is therefore considered psychoactive.
How CBD Affects the Body
The body’s endocannabinoid system comprises neurotransmitters that bind with receptors throughout the nervous system. It helps to regulate cognitive and physiological processes, like pain, appetite, memory, and mood.
The cannabis plant contains cannabinoids that bind with these receptors. The most well-known cannabinoid receptors are called CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors work in the central nervous system and the brain, while CB2 receptors are found throughout the body.
CBD does not bind to CB1 or CB2 receptors. Instead, it is theorized that CBD inhibits the enzyme fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) from breaking down the “bliss molecule” anandamide. This leads to more anandamide in the body, helping reduce anxiety. CBD also modulates different receptors and neurotransmitters within the body, like serotonin and opioid receptors, which are involved in regulating mood and pain relief.
Anecdotal and pre-clinical research suggests that using CBD products can help to relieve many different conditions, such as:
CBD may also reduce inflammation and stress, change your perception of pain, and promote neuroprotection.
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The Difference Between CBD and THC’s Psychoactive Effects
THC’s ability to induce intoxicating effects comes from its ability to mimic the “bliss molecule” anandamide. Like anandamide, THC binds with CB1 receptors; the difference is that THC is more potent than anandamide, which is why it causes euphoric feelings and sedative effects.
CBD does not bind to CB1 receptors and is an agonist of CB1 receptors in the presence of THC. This means that it helps to reduce the intoxicating effects caused by THC.
The way THC and CBD work together is due to something called the entourage effect. This essentially means CBD and THC exert more powerful effects together than they do individually.
But even when used alone, CBD still has an effect on the body’s cannabinoid and non-cannabinoid receptors and influences them to transmit other signals that ultimately help maintain balance in the body.
For example, research shows that CBD activates the 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) serotonin receptor. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is often dubbed the “happy hormone.” It affects things like your mood and sleep. The activation of this receptor may be why CBD is known to cause anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects without THC’s staple “euphoric” high.
Why Some CBD Products Are More Intoxicating Than Others
THC and CBD are prominent cannabinoids within the cannabis plant and can be found in both hemp and cannabis. Cannabis often has a higher concentration of THC, whereas hemp contains mostly CBD.
On average, a cannabis strain today contains 12% THC. Due to THC being present at low concentrations within the hemp plant, CBD oils can contain trace amounts of THC, and CBD can have up to 0.3% THC and still be classified as legal by the FDA. However, it is possible that some full-spectrum CBD oils contain more THC than expected, causing an intoxicating effect (and, possibly, a positive drug test).
Marijuana-derived CBD oils are more likely than hemp-derived CBD oils to produce a high, and some CBD oils contain a higher amount of THC, which can provide the consumer with an intoxicating “high.” Generally, these oils are made from cannabis specifically bred to contain a high CBD and moderate THC content.
If you’re concerned about the THC content in your CBD products, broad-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate products contain no THC but can still offer the benefits of CBD.
The Bottom Line
CBD is often said to be non-psychoactive, but it is, in fact, psychoactive as it causes a physiological effect that affects mood. CBD can help people to feel more relaxed and less anxious without the intoxicating effects of THC. With that said, you may find that some CBD products produce more psychoactive effects than others.
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