Products containing cannabidiol (aka CBD) have become hugely popular in recent years. These products – which include tinctures, edibles, vape oils, and topicals – deliver cannabinoids to the body that can alleviate pain and other symptoms associated with a host of medical conditions and mental health disorders.
However, a common misconception among consumers is that CBD produces a psychoactive high because it is derived from cannabis plants. Although CBD produces some noticeable effects, it does not make people feel high like other cannabinoids do, namely tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is found in marijuana.
This guide will explain what CBD is and how it’s manufactured, discuss common effects for consumers, and explain in scientific terms why CBD does not make people feel high. We’ll also compare CBD and THC to illustrate how these two cannabinoids differ.
Please note: first-time CBD consumers should always consult with their physician before trying CBD products.
What is CBD?
CBD, like other cannabinoids, is found in cannabis plants. Cannabinoids are natural chemical compounds that can be extracted from cannabis and used in various products. When introduced to humans and other mammals, cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid biological system.
This complex network of molecules, receptors, and enzymes is found throughout the body, primarily in the central nervous system, and helps regulate various cognitive and physiological processes in order to promote homeostasis, or bodily equilibrium. These processes include mood, appetite, and sleep, pain-sensation.
By introducing additional cannabinoids to the body, consumers can alleviate some of the symptoms associated with the following conditions:
- Insomnia and other sleep disorders
- Anxiety and stress
- Depression and other mental health disorders
- Cancer, HIV, and other conditions affecting the immune system
- Medical issues that cause loss of appetite
Most CBD products sold today are derived from hemp, a type of cannabis plant with high concentrations of CBD and a low concentration of THC. Some CBD products are considered full-spectrum, meaning they contain CBD and other cannabinoids from the hemp plant.
Other cannabinoids may include THC; per legal requirements, CBD products sold recreationally can contain no more than 0.3% THC. Other CBD products are considered isolate; these contain CBD but no other cannabinoids.
However, even full-spectrum products with trace amounts of THC will not produce the same psychoactive high as marijuana (which may contain more than 100 times as much THC). In the next section, we’ll break down the common effects of CBD products.
Effects of CBD
Common effects of CBD tinctures, edibles, and other ingested products include the following:
- Relief for inflammation and other forms of muscle and joint pain
- Feelings of relaxation that last up to four or five hours
- Enhanced appetite
- Anxiety and stress relief
Additionally, CBD topicals often contain antioxidants and moisturizers that can restore and replenish dry and damaged skin. They may also contain aloe vera and other natural pain soothers that alleviate discomfort from burns, insect stings, and other injuries.
Because CBD does not produce a psychoactive high, consuming these products will not cause intoxication. However, one thing to consider is that high concentrations of CBD can cause excessive tiredness; people should refrain from engaging in activities that require full motor functions – such as driving or working with machinery – until their dose has worn off.
Although fairly rare, CBD may also lead to certain adverse side effects. These include:
- A temporary dip in blood pressure as the CBD takes effect
- Mild nausea and/or diarrhea
- Excessive fatigue
- Dry mouth
CBD is considered low-risk in terms of adverse effects. CBD is non-toxic and a recent report from the National Cancer Institute notes that overdosing on CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids is virtually impossible. This is due in part to fact that cannabinoid receptors – unlike opioid receptors – are not found in parts of the brainstem that control respiration.
However, some consumers report adverse effects after using CBD; in many cases, the consumed products contained synthetic components and/or were sold by brands that do not provide information about ingredients or the manufacturing process.
As a general rule-of-thumb, CBD consumers should refrain from using synthetic products in favor of those with all-natural ingredients. Most legitimate CBD brands submit their products to third-party labs and post the results on their website, along with ingredients, serving sizes, and other pertinent details. We urge all CBD consumers to exclusively purchase and use products from brands that supply this information.
CBD vs. THC, Explained
When most people use the term ‘get high,’ they are referring to an altered, psychoactive state characterized by confusion, euphoria, heightened sensory perception, and other side effects that vary from person to person. While this describes the experience of many marijuana/THC consumers, the effects of CBD are not psychoactive and will not create any of the effects associated with getting high.
The science behind interactions between cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system are fairly complex. However, the most current research suggests that CBD interacts differently with the endocannabinoid system differently than THC. When any cannabinoid is introduced into the body via vaping or oral ingestion, it binds with a cannabinoid receptor; an endocannabinoid neurotransmitter, produced in the body, will also bind to the same receptor.
Let’s say the cannabinoid introduced to the body is THC. Once the THC and its endocannabinoid counterpart have finished taking effect, enzymes synthesize and degrade the endocannabinoid. These enzymes cannot synthesize THC in the same way, allowing it to remain with the receptor for a longer period of time. For this reason, the effects of THC will normally outlast those of the endocannabinoid; this is why THC consumers feel high or stoned after the relaxing effects of marijuana have worn off.
CBD behaves differently by preventing enzymes from synthesizing and degrading the endocannabinoid attached to its receptor. This results in prolonged feelings of relaxation. And because CBD does not have psychoactive effects, there is no ‘high’ feeling at any point.
Full-spectrum products with CBD that contain up to 0.3% THC may produce more pronounced effects. However, there is not enough THC to produce any psychoactive effects; the CBD and other non-psychoactive cannabinoids will essentially outweigh the traces of THC.
That being said, drug tests may be a potential concern for full-spectrum CBD/THC consumers; depending on how much the individual consumes on a regular basis, the THC in their body could potentially yield positive results on a drug test. Proceed with caution when using full-spectrum CBD products with THC if there is any possibility of a future drug test. Isolate CBD products do not contain any THC and should not produce positive test results.
For more information about CBD and CBD products, please visit the following guides.