is cbd really non psychoactive?

Revealed: Is CBD Really Non-Psychoactive?

Is CBD non-psychoactive? We already know that it’s not intoxicating, meaning that it won’t make you feel “high.” But if CBD has no-psychoactive properties whatsoever, then why does a top expert in the cannabinoid field say this is a mistaken belief?

If you’re an avid cannabis advocate, you are likely familiar with the two most researched cannabinoids, THC and CBD. You probably also consider the former psychoactive. CBD, on the other hand, has long maintained the reputation of a ‘non-psychoactive’ cannabinoid.

But is it truly this way? Is CBD really non-psychoactive?

Let’s figure it out!

Why Do People Describe CBD As Non-Psychoactive

Ask any CBD consumer and they will tell you right away that the main reason they use Cannabidiol is that can experience numerous health benefits of cannabis without getting high.

The “high” a person can get from THC is exactly why cannabis consumers, along with the rest of the world, attributed psychoactivity only to Tetrahydrocannabinol.

Given this logic, since CBD doesn’t get you high, it’s the non-psychoactive compound, correct?

Yes and no.

Let’s see what dictionaries have to say about the word “psychoactive.”

Is CBD Psychoactive? Where’s the Catch?

In his publication reviewing myths associated with Cannabidiol, Dr. Ethan Russo, a long-time cannabinoid researcher, has recently said that referring to CBD as a “non-psychoactive cannabinoid isn’t actually the case.

As Dr. Russo states:

“CBD is frequently mischaracterized in lay, electronic, and scientific sources as ‘non-psychoactive’ or ‘non-psychotropic’ in comparison to THC…”

Let’s take a peek at what the Merriam-Webster dictionary has to say about these words:

  • Psychoactive: Affecting the mind or behavior
  • Psychotropic: Acting on the mind

That being said, anything that can affect your mind can accurately be described as psychoactive. Coffee, cigarettes, tea, food – all of them can affect the way you think or behave.

And, Russo goes even further:

“…these terms are inaccurate given its prominent pharmacological benefits on anxiety, schizophrenia, addiction, and possibly even depression.”

Okay, but what exactly makes CBD affect one’s mind?

Psychological Effects of CBD

CBD does not carry psychoactive traits per se, but it does have an influence on the brain. Studies show that while THC mostly taps to CB1 receptors, CBD operates on CB2 receptors. CB2 receptors exist in the peripheral organs and skin, particularly in cells that modulate the work of the immune system.

This, in turn, produces sedative effects on the body while easing the mind. Numerous studies have shown that CBD boasts anxiolytic effects by activating adenosine and serotonin receptors.

In fact, CBD operates on more than 60 molecular pathways, and the above examples only prove that it does affect the brain despite having no intoxicating properties.

Is CBD Non-Psychoactive vs. THC?

The Science Between Their Synergy

Since researchers discovered the CB1 receptor in 1988, the vast majority of them believed that CBD, unlike THC, has little if nothing to do with CB1. However, this notion is based on old science.

New research from the international cannabinoid research community suggests that CBD enters into direct interaction with CB1 receptors in ways that are particularly relevant in terms of the psychotic effects caused by high doses of THC in medical cannabis patients.

CB1 responds to stimulation by THC and the endogenous cannabinoids. They activate the receptor by transmitting certain signals to its cell. As it turns out, CBD changes the shape of the receptor, which may have a dramatic impact on the above signaling.

When CBD binds to the site of the CB1 receptors, it can amplify or even block the cell’s ability to receive chemical messengers. This is why CBD can counter the negative effects of its intoxicating cousin.

Is CBD Non-Psychoactive, or is it?

Below, we explain why, from the scientific point of view, CBD can be psychoactive under specific circumstances:

  • CBD can be psychoactive in people with certain mental conditions (e.g. anxiety, addiction, stress);
  • CBD can be psychoactive in experimentally-induced anxiety; in other words, it can produce such effects when the researchers create anxiety purposely in a study to prove the anxiolytic effects of Cannabidiol)
  • CBD can be psychoactive when combined with THC. Cannabidiol modulates certain emotional and cognitive effects of THC.

But what about normal, healthy people who don’t suffer from any mental conditions? Does CBD do anything to their brain? Unfortunately, we cannot make any statements about that. Even after reviewing about a dozen studies, we couldn’t find any direct mental effects of CBD in healthy people.

Below, you will find two studies highlighting the ways in which CBD affects the brains of healthy people.

Changes in fMRI

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) is conducted to check activity in different regions of the brain. A 2012 review showed that CBD induces changes in fMRI under a variety of different circumstances (memory tasks, attention tasks, sensory processing, etc.) Interestingly, they were totally opposite of those changes induced by THC.

Facial Recognition Improvement

In one study, a healthy subject underwent a face recognition test. The researchers showed them a face expressing one emotion. The subjects had to recognize the emotion after vaporizing 16mg CBD or taking a placebo.

Once the emotional intensity of the face reached 60%, the participants who took CBD noted a statistically significant improvement in accurate recognition of the emotion. However, the difference between the two groups was only 3%.

Is CBD Non-Psychoactive – The Evidence

Is CBD really psychoactive? As you can see, it depends on a variety of conditions. But Cannabidiol is undoubtedly non-intoxicating. Here’s why:

CBD Doesn’t Cause Psychomotor Impairments

One study proved that a dose of about 22mg of oral CBD had no effects on reaction time, standing steadiness, or motor coordination on the psychomotor performance test.

Another study concluded that about 10mg of smoked CBD was not capable of impairing the above parameters.

CBD Does Not Negatively Affect Cognitive Performance

According to a 2017 review paper that has investigated the effect of CBD on cognition, cannabidiol proved safe for cognitive performance. Oral CBD at a dose of 600mg was not capable of producing any impairment in tests of social recognition, executive function, or verbal memory in healthy subjects.

CBD Has No Sedative Effects

Although some patients have occasionally reported sedation with CBD in the past, recent placebo-controlled studies have shown that CBD alone can’t cause significant sedation. For instance, a 2012 study reported no differences in feelings of mental or physical sedation between placebo versus a single 600mg dose of oral CBD.

CBD Has Zero Potential For Abuse

Thus far, we have seen no evidence whatsoever that CBD would cause abuse as a recreational substance. A 2017 study tested doses of oral CBD ranging from 200mg to 800mg in regular cannabis users. No CBD dose had any impact on measures like how high the subject felt – it didn’t differentiate from placebo in this test.

Is CBD Non-Psychoactive? Yes And No

Most people think of the word psychoactive as something that makes you feel high. Although it’s not technically correct to say so, this usage has become so commonly used by everyone that people seem to ignore that false belief.

Since the semantics of the word can be complicated, let’s get back to Dr. Ethan Russo. He suggests an alternative, namely:

“More accurately, CBD should be preferably labeled as ‘non-intoxicating’, and lacking associated reinforcement, craving, compulsive use, etc., that would indicate a significant drug abuse liability.”

For healthy people, however, CBD doesn’t show traits of psychoactivity. Only when a person suffers from mental conditions like social anxiety or lives in a stressful environment, he or she can experience the mood alteration offered by cannabidiol.

So, let’s put it this way: CBD is not psychoactive by nature; it can be psychoactive under certain conditions; it is non-intoxicating.


How does CBD affect you? Share your stories in the comment section!