Is CBD Psychoactive?

When people hear about CBD, one of the first things that comes to their minds is that cannabidiol is psychoactive to the same extent as other cannabinoids, especially THC. But this is actually not correct. Moreover, the answer to the question is not so obvious. That’s why we need to fully understand this issue. Can we consider CBD to be a psychoactive substance? Or rather, can we claim that it is non-psychoactive? The debate between the different points of view could go on and on, but we have decided that it’s time for closure. This blog article covers the question of what psychoactivity is, whether CBD is psychoactive or not, and what scientists think about it.

Defining the term “psychoactive”

If you thought that psychoactivity only has one explanation, we are going to surprise you. One of the reasons for all the confusion around this topic is that there is no common understanding of what “psychoactive” stands for. In this next section, we will discuss the two most common points of view for the term “psychoactivity”: THC-like and chocolate-like. We will also highlight the differences between them and indicate where CBD fits in between the two.

THC-like psychoactive

The first explanation of psychoactivity for CBD is “THC-like psychoactivity”. The concept behind THC-like psychoactivity is that of a drug or other substance that can have a significant impact on brain function, behaviour, mood or feelings. Some of these substances can be highly addictive, intoxicating and just plain harmful to general well-being. In such cases, some of them are restricted or banned altogether in many countries. Examples of these substances include nicotine, alcohol, heroin, cocaine and strong painkillers. Some people would also add marijuana to this list, as it contains high levels of THC and can cause the “entourage effect”. THC-like psychoactive substances are often associated with delusions and hallucinations and are considered synonymous with “psychotropic”. A psychotropic substance is something that affects a person’s mental state, perception of the world and sense of reality. While CBD may help someone feel less worried, it doesn’t change reality.

So, is CBD psychoactive in the same way that THC is? The answer is “No”. The Critical Review Report on Cannabinoid, published by the World Health Organization, states the following: “To date, there is no substantive evidence as to whether (+)-CBD is likely to cause THC-like psychoactive effects.” It seems that the discussion should end there, but everything is not as simple as it seems to be, because scientists confirm that CBD actually does interact with our brain receptors. It may also alter our mood or feelings. That’s why we need to look at the other interpretation of the term “psychoactive”.

Chocolate-like psychoactive

Looking at the other point of view, it turns out that psychoactive substances are more common than we could possibly imagine. What if we told you that chocolate, garlic, certain kinds of fish, chilli peppers or rye bread could actually affect your mind by interacting with brain nerve cells? Are you surprised? These products that are easily found in grocery stores can affect our body temperature or change the release levels of certain chemicals.

But of course, we are not here talking about hallucinations or the so-called “entourage effect” because the level of active elements interacting with our brain is so low that it barely causes any substantial changes in behaviour or interrupts task performance. We can’t tell someone that they shouldn’t drive because they ate too much garlic or chocolate. That would certainly make us seem crazy. However, if someone were to consume a huge dose of THC, drink an alcoholic beverage or take painkillers that might cause dizziness or severe fatigue, there would be nothing wrong with advising this person not to drive. If you are interested in the topic of driving while taking CBD, you can find the answers to the questions you are interested in by reading one of our articles on the subject.

While some people may consider these two concepts as part of the spectrum of psychoactivity, others are more categorical and deny this classification. The latter is also likely to conclude that CBD is indeed a psychoactive substance. To examine this viewpoint more thoroughly, let’s look at some of the arguments that support it.

CBD can affect brain function

The key aspect of this section is CBD’s interaction with the endocannabinoid system or ECS. ECS receptors are an essential part of the endocannabinoid system, and many of them are centred in the area of the brain that is rich in neurotransmitters and receptors. CBD’s ability to bind to various brain receptors is often seen as the possible explanation for its positive effects on mood-related and psychiatric conditions (anxiolytic activity, binding to dopamine receptors, increasing glutamate and serotonin levels, neurogenesis stimulation and reducing ADHD symptoms are among the major ones). You can find more interesting information on this topic in our article about the possible interaction between CBD and the brain.

CBD can affect moods

Like chocolate, CBD can interact with serotonin receptors. But how does this happen? CBD is thought to directly activate the 5-HT1A (hydroxytryptamine) serotonin receptor, thereby producing a calming effect. This G-protein receptor is involved in a number of biological and neurological processes, including but not limited to anxiety, addiction, appetite, sleep, pain perception, nausea and vomiting. In addition, it can interact with other receptors that produce so-called “happy” hormones, resulting in mood alterations. Multiple studies have registered the possible antidepressant-like effects of CBD after the activation of certain receptors in mice. These results have given hope to scientists around the world of developing new CBD-based medications for depression and other serious psychiatric disorders. Unfortunately, the current results are not sufficient, but there’s no doubt that this area of study will receive more and more attention from the medical community in the future.

So, CBD can be called psychoactive. In this case, many producers of CBD products are mistaken when they declare their products containing cannabidiol to be non-psychoactive as they are confused about the correct interpretation of the term “psychoactive”.

Additionally, don’t forget that we are all different and our bodies have their own characteristics, particularly their own metabolism. As a result, some people may not even notice any marked changes in their mood or feelings due to taking CBD. So, it is very important to consult with your doctor before consuming such products.

CBD and THC in tandem

As we have previously discovered, while the most popular cannabinoids — cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — are different, they can work together. According to one study, THC and CBD can have synergistic therapeutic effects when working in tandem. CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) have similar molecular structures, but CBD does not directly stimulate CB1 and CB2, the canonical cannabinoid receptors, like THC does. Instead, CBD can park at a different docking site on CB1 that is functionally distinct from THC’s orthosteric binding site. CBD possibly attaches to what’s known as an “allosteric” binding site on the CB1 receptor.

As for CBD products, the unique synergy of the two elements can be found in full-spectrum CBD products, as they contain both cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol. As this study states, combining the two in full-spectrum CBD can make it more effective against pain than CBD isolate. Scientists are still trying to gain a complete picture of how the two elements work together and whether the effects are compatible with those of isolated CBD elements, so hopefully, we will have the results of these new studies very soon.

If CBD can be called psychoactive, is it dangerous to consume it?

There are two sides to every coin, and consuming CBD is not a one-sided game either. The question arises of whether it is dangerous to consume products containing cannabidiol. This is just one more broad aspect of the question of consuming CBD. First of all, the most important thing to consider is the potential side effects. The major ones are drowsiness, gastrointestinal issues, dry mouth, nausea, liver damage, changes in alertness, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, lung diseases and medication interactions. It is also important to remember that the likelihood of each side effect can vary depending on the particular consumption method, for example oral, sublingual, inhalation, ingestion, application to the skin, etc.

According to the study, CBD is well-tolerated by all age groups. However, it should still be taken in moderation. Again, it is very important to put your safety first. Consulting with your doctor can be very helpful for understanding what starting dosage might be right for your body’s complexities. In addition, keep in mind that no in-depth research has been done on the long-term effects of CBD use, and more research is needed to prove the true benefits of cannabidiol.

Final thoughts

So, how does one answer the question posed in the headline? “Yes, but not to the same extent that THC is”. The main confusion regarding CBD’s level of psychoactivity lies in a misunderstanding of the terms “psychoactive” and “psychotropic”. Psychoactive substances affect the mind, whereas psychotropic ones relate to a mental state.

CBD is indeed psychoactive. Its possible mild influence and myriad effects on our brain or immune system have been repeatedly described in studies and during clinical trials. Another point is how psychoactive CBD is. Since we have now arrived at the truth, consider that when you hear someone mention that CBD is non-psychoactive, they probably mean “not THC-like psychoactive”. That’s it for today. Don’t forget to follow our blog for more fascinating content about CBD and the CBD-related world. If you have any questions for our team of professionals, please don’t hesitate to ask us for assistance. We are always on hand to help you.

Sources:

  1. What is THC? (https://www.livescience.com/24553-what-is-thc.html)
  2. Cannabidiol (CBD) Critical Review Report (https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/CannabidiolCriticalReview.pdf)
  3. Evaluation of anxiolytic activity of the essential oil of the aerial part of Foeniculum vulgare Miller in mice (https://bmccomplementmedtherapies.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1472-6882-14-310)
  4. The Impact of Cannabidiol on Human Brain Function: A Systematic Review (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33551817/)
  5. Cannabidiol is a partial agonist at dopamine D2High receptors, predicting its antipsychotic clinical dose (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5315552/)
  6. Antidepressant-like effect induced by Cannabidiol is dependent on brain serotonin levels (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29885468/)
  7. Cannabinoid receptor CB1 mediates baseline and activity-induced survival of new neurons in adult hippocampal neurogenesis (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2898685/)
  8. Subtypes of Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Cannabis Use (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/10826084.2013.841251)
  9. CBD Oil for ADHD in Children and Adults: Does It Work (https://www.healthline.com/health/adhd/cbd-oil-for-adhd)
  10. Effectiveness of Cannabidiol oil in the management of ADHD and its co-morbidities: Review of the evidence (https://adc.bmj.com/content/105/Suppl_1/A228.1)
  11. Cannabidiol modulates serotonergic transmission and reverses both allodynia and anxiety-like behavior in a model of neuropathic pain (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6319597/)
  12. It’s Time To Set The Record Straight – CBD Is “Psychoactive” (https://www.mondaq.com/unitedstates/food-and-drugs-law/809252/it39s-time-to-set-the-record-straight-cbd-is-psychoactive)
  13. Dosage, Efficacy and Safety of Cannabidiol Administration in Adults: A Systematic Review of Human Trials (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7092763/)
Other intersting reading
CBD and Your Period
CBD and Blood Pressure
Weekly News Digest: July 30, 2021