Will CBD Get You High?
Just a quick disclaimer; we don’t make health claims about CBD, we just share the research. You'll always find references to scientific literature to substantiate what we share. This is for informational use only. Always speak to your doctor before making any changes to your healthcare regimen.
CBD (cannabidiol) is one of over 100 cannabinoids found in hemp and other C. plant species. It is one of many cannabinoids that are largely non-psychoactive.
THC on the other hand is one of certain C. plant psychoactive cannabinoids.
CBD products are required by law to contain < 0.2% THC in the UK, which is orders of magnitude below the concentrations required to produce a high.
CBD and Mood
The high users experience from C. plants is because of THC, which produces psychoactive effects through activating the CB1 receptor in the brain.
CB1 influences consciousness and mood via the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin which make you feel rewarded and happy. This is what gives rise to a mildly psychedelic experience when you are high. For susceptible individuals, the reward associated with THC can lead to addiction.
Unlike THC, CBD has little attraction to the CB1 receptor, does not activate it, and sometimes blocks it. This means there is no significant distortion of your consciousness or mood.
However, CBD does have some very subtle mood boosting and stabilising effects, which is partly responsible for the feeling of wellbeing that it provides.
CBD inhibits an enzyme (FAAH) that breaks down your bodies natural feel good cannabinoid, Anandamide (also known as the bliss molecule). Inhibiting FAAH means there’s more Anandamide available to bliss out on.
Anandamide produces ‘bliss’ through activating the CB1 receptor in the brain. But, because its production and availability is tightly regulated in the body, it has no where near the same potency as THC.
Boosting anandamide produces a sense of wellbeing in much the same way as exercise does. Ever heard of the runners high? Well thats anandamide at work.
So unlike THC, CBD provides a sense of wellbeing indirectly, via altering the availability of your bodies own feel good chemical Anandamide.
CBD and Happiness
If CBD is non-psychoactive, how can you feel a change in mood and a sense of calm, then?
Well, CBD may be just a little psychoactive, but not via the same mechanism or degree as THC is.
Happiness can be largely influenced by Serotonin; a chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) that runs throughout the brain and nervous system. It is most famously known as the happy chemical, due to its ability to regulate mood, anxiety and depression.
Unlike THC, which regulates the release of serotonin via CB1 activation; CBD directly binds a specific serotonin receptor (5-HT1) to regulate nervous system activity.
In this way, CBD may subtly boost mood without getting you high.
CBD and Relaxation
Interestingly, in some studies participants have reported feeling a mild sense of intoxication from receiving CBD.
In a randomised controlled trial, people receiving 400mg CBD isolate via vaporiser reported feelings of intoxication compared to those receiving placebo (1). Intoxication was scored on a scale (1-10) and was scored as a subjective feeling of being ‘stoned’.
Image source: Solowij et al., 2019
It is worth noting though, that this could also be the placebo effect at work (thinking they received THC).
On another scale, intoxication was measured objectively by psychologists. They saw no sign that CBD was outwardly intoxicating in both frequent and infrequent cannabis users.
Image source: Solowij et al., 2019
Those receiving CBD also reported feeling mildly drowsy compared to placebo.
In another randomised controlled crossover trial, 11 healthy volunteers receiving 300-600mg CBD also reported a sense of sedation compared to placebo (2).
In a similar study, 400mg CBD was also found to increase mental sedation in 10 healthy subjects compared to placebo (3).
Its worth noting these studies sample sizes were relatively small (10, 11 and 36 participants), which can sometimes give spurious results.
Also, purified CBD used in research (isolate) may produce different effects to full spectrum extracts, due to the presence of other cannabinoids and terpenes.
These studies also use doses of CBD which are quite high. Typically, for the average user seeking the effects of wellness from CBD, a therapeutic dose might run from 5-50mg.
Research in animals has shown that low doses of CBD produce a sense of alertness, whilst higher doses induce sleep and are mildly sedating (4).
It is quite possible that the feeling of ‘intoxication’ is what users experience when they feel very relaxed, and possibly a little sedate from higher doses of CBD.