Whether you’ve used marijuana or not, we all know that its primary purpose has been to get people high. Its unmistakable effects are all over the media, and chances are that this accounts for the majority of real-life experiences. Although getting “stoned” is definitely the goal among recreational users, recent research has found a much more benign – and practical – way for people with certain needs to use cannabis compounds (cannabinoids).
What we’re referring to, of course, is cannabidiol (CBD). It’s one of several non-intoxicating compounds (cannabinoids) found in all variations of the cannabis plant. For the longest time, this particular cannabinoid and its effects eluded users and researchers alike. Now, we know it so well that companies everywhere have been able to isolate and breed certain plants to yield CBD with comparatively little to no THC – the compound responsible for getting people high.
So what makes CBD so special? Well, its effects differ significantly from that of THC to the point where certain products containing CBD aren’t considered controlled substances. This is great news, because it makes the product accessible to those who can benefit from it.
Whether you have a prescription or not, you might be wondering if – like THC – CBD will get you high. The simple answer here is “no.” While that might be a buzzkill (no pun intended) if you’re looking for a typical cannabis experience, it’s great news for those with certain conditions who don’t need or want the psychoactive effects of THC.
Although we’ve answered the burning question here, it can’t hurt to take a look at why CBD doesn’t get you high.
THC vs CBD
In order to better understand why CBD won’t affect your head like THC, we need to establish the difference between the two.
As we said earlier, the fact that CBD won’t get you high might be disappointing (or impractical) to some people. But for many others, CBD’s inability to get people high is exactly what many patients are looking for.
Many people take issue with THC because it can have some nasty side effects. Dizziness, headaches, anxiety and paranoia are often reported by users. This makes any potential benefits difficult for certain people to experience. Since CBD doesn’t act like THC, you don’t have to worry about the aforementioned side effects.
But CBD isn’t just non-intoxicating, it’s also an antagonist to its counterpart, THC. This is due to a phenomenon called the “entourage effect,” where the different compounds within marijuana work together and balance each other out. CBD plays a key role here. In the words of Doctors Malik Burnett (MD) and Amanda Reiman (PhD), “In addition to helping maximize the benefits of the plant, the entourage effect plays a role in helping to minimize the side effects of various cannabinoids. The most fitting example of this is CBD’s ability to modulate the potentially negative side effects of THC.”
In other words, using a strain that contains enough CBD will help keep the THC in check, in addition to providing relaxing effects. While some people do focus exclusively on CBD and avoid THC like the plague, strains containing both are the best choice for people who want a balanced effect.
Like a system of checks and balances, CBD keeps the effects of THC from becoming too strong.
Why Won’t CBD Get You High?
CBD lacks the intoxicating properties of THC because it doesn’t directly bind to your CB1 receptors.
Every human has an endocannabinoid system made up of CB1 and CB2 receptors. These receptors interact with cannabinoids like THC and CBD as well as with the cannabinoids produced by your own body.
CB1 receptors are located mostly in the brain. The binding of THC to your CB1 receptors is what’s considered to produce the intoxicating feeling of being high. CBD also interacts with the CB1 receptor, but not directly.
CBD can block the breakdown of a cannabinoid which your body produces called anandamide. Anandamide, which gets it’s name from the Sanskrit word Ananda (meaning bliss), binds to your CB1 receptors similarly to THC.
The relaxing effects of CBD are thought to be caused by it’s prevention of the breakdown of Anadamide.
CBD is Non-Psychoactive?
You don’t have to look far to find claims about how CBD is “non-psychoactive”.
We prefer to stick with Ethan Russo’s distinction that CBD should rather be considered “non-intoxicating” as opposed to “non-psychoactive”.
While CBD may not affect your mental state in the same way as THC, it certainly has an effect on the mind for many people. The positive mental effects of CBD are what has researchers and consumers so excited about its anti-anxiety properties.
What Does CBD Do?
The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains that CBD still affects (but doesn’t bind to) the same receptors (CB1 and CB2) as THC. However, “There is also growing evidence that CBD acts on other brain signaling systems, and that these actions may be important contributors to its therapeutic effects.” So aside from being markedly weaker than THC in terms of psychoactive effects, it appears that CBD may target entirely different parts of the brain.
Ultimately, CBD is said to create a deep sense of relaxation. People who use it report a reduction in pain and anxiety, as the pleasant effects extend through their bodies. Consequently, it effectively has “…anti-seizure…anti-inflammatory, analgesic…anti-psychotic, and anti-anxiety properties,” while also showing preventative abilities against neurological issues, and even tumors. Most importantly, however, individuals can reap these benefits with little to no effect on cognitive ability. This makes it easy for patients to feel better without interfering with day-to-day activities, like going to work.
Granted, this also means that CBD isn’t for everyone. For instance, if you’re looking for insomnia relief, you’re not going to feel as sedated as you might with THC. So in the end, cater your strain to your personal health needs. If you don’t have a prescription for medical marijuana, then your only source would be CBD from hemp. This variation is virtually THC-free.
A Personal Perspective
While we believe a mix of THC and CBD is the best choice based on research into the entourage effect, this doesn’t always work for everyone.
In my experience, staying with mostly CBD worked best for me. As an individual with epilepsy – a key area where CBD has seen promising benefits – I use pure CBD in the form of oil and high-CBD marijuana strains. It has allowed me to reduce the dosage of my anticonvulsant medication by 250 mg (25% of my total dose). Since then, I’ve enjoyed a much better quality of life, as the anxiety and tremors caused by my medication are now virtually gone.
Initially, I used a strain heavy in THC, as I made the mistake of not properly educating myself on what cannabinoid would suit my needs. The results were nothing short of disastrous. Aside from some of the negative effects of THC mentioned above, the biggest problem was that the strain made me feel like I was on the verge of having a seizure. I have used THC to help with insomnia at times (albeit a much lighter strain), but it doesn’t work for my primary purpose.
In short, despite the significance of the entourage effect, I’m apparently an exception to the rule. For me, pure CBD is what works best for my needs. But this proves a very important point that we can’t stress enough – every person is different. The human body doesn’t come with an instruction manual, nor is it as predictable as a machine. The only real way to know what works best is through a consultation with your doctor and – to a lesser extent – trial and error.
CBD shows a great deal of promise for mitigating the symptoms of a variety of issues. But the jury’s still out in many of the medical and scientific communities. In the end, we need to give it time and wait for more data. But if what we know by now is any indication, there’s a solid chance that there’s good news on the horizon.
This article addressed the following:
- CBD is non-intoxicating but it can still have an effect on your mental state.
- Because CBD isn’t intoxicating, it doesn’t create the unpleasant side effects that some people report with THC.
- CBD can be an effective defense against becoming too high, as it can counter the effects of THC in medical marijuana.
- People seeking help with issues like physical pain and seizures will benefit the most from CBD since it’s said to be relaxing and reduce pain while keeping cognitive abilities intact.
- In general (assuming you’re using medical marijuana, as opposed to CBD hemp oil), it’s optimal to use a strain that contains some THC to experience the entourage effect, but not everyone responds well to that approach.
- Even small amounts of THC can be unpleasant for some people. For those individuals, it’s best to stick to just CBD.
- Always seek the advice of a medical professional before using CBD or any other drug/supplement.