Cannabidiol (CBD) does not cause a high. CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two of the most well-known compounds isolated from the Cannabis sativa plant. It is THC, not CBD, that creates the ‘high-feeling’ people associate with cannabis use.
This article discusses the differences between CBD and THC and explains why these compounds produce such drastically different effects in people.
Is CBD legal? Hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC are legal federally but still illegal under some state laws. Cannabis-derived CBD products, on the other hand, are illegal federally but legal under some state laws. Check local legislation, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not approved nonprescription CBD products, which may be inaccurately labeled.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is another well-known cannabinoid that produces the strong psychoactive effects of being “high.”
Consuming or using CBD alone will not cause the “high” associated with THC.
CBD and THC are present in all types of cannabis plants but in different quantities. Certain varieties of C. sativa and Cannabis indica contain higher amounts of THC and low amounts of CBD. As of 2014, the average cannabis plant contained 12% THC and less than 0.15% CBD.
It is illegal to add CBD to foods, dietary supplements, and products marketed as having therapeutic benefits.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis plants.
THC binds to cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors located in brain regions associated with learning, memory, movement, pain sensation, and inflammation.
It also binds to cannabinoid 2 (CB2) receptors located in the brainstem and hippocampus, which has links to memory and emotions. Immune cells, bone cells, and spleen and liver cells also contain CB2 receptors.
This widespread distribution of cannabinoid receptors is the reason why THC produces such powerful physical and psychological effects.
CBD does not bind to either CB1 or CB2 receptors.
According to a 2018 review article, CBD may reduce the ability of THC and other cannabinoids to bind to the CB1 receptor’s. This may reduce the psychoactive effects of THC and may increase the number of circulating cannabinoids.
A 2018 review in Surgical Neurology International indicates that CBD may reduce inflammation in the brain by indirectly interacting with CB2 receptors.
Anecdotal evidence and preliminary research suggest that CBD may help treat a variety of conditions, including:
However, researchers must continue to study the effects and potential health benefits of CBD.
In 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that CBD might offer therapeutic benefits for people with:
- neurodegenerative diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s disease
- chronic pain
- brain injuries related to restricted blood flow
- inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis
- inflammatory bowel and Crohn’s diseases
- cardiovascular diseases
- complications of diabetes
Risks and side effects
While most people tolerate CBD well, it can lead to adverse side effects, such as:
- drowsiness or fatigue
- a dry mouth
- changes in mood, such as increased agitation and irritability
- interactions with prescription or over-the-counter drugs
- increased risk of sedation, drowsiness, and injuries when used with alcohol
- increased or decreased appetite
- liver damage due to drug interactions
If a person is considering using CBD, they should speak to a doctor or healthcare provider first.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse state that when THC binds to CB1 receptors, it activates the brain’s reward system and stimulates dopamine release. The sudden rush of dopamine leads to the pleasurable, euphoric “high” associated with recreational marijuana use.
Other effects of THC include:
- sense of euphoria
- increased relaxation
- changes in perception of time
- dry mouth
- red, dry eyes
- difficulty concentrating or problem-solving
- impaired memory
- feelings of anxiety or paranoia
- increased appetite
Learn more about what it feels like to be high from THC here.
CBD does not make a person “high.”
CBD continues attracting attention from members of the general public, scientific communities, and healthcare organizations. An ever-growing body of preclinical and clinical research suggests that CBD may help treat various medical conditions, such as anxiety, inflammatory diseases, and chronic pain.
CBD is available in oral capsules, oils, tinctures, topical patches, and edible products.