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June 24, 2023 2 min read

Did You Know That CBD Is Psychoactive?

Everyone knows that “CBD is king” because it is the therapeutic compound in weed that is non-psychoactive. This is the marketing by-line used by many CBD sellers to woo customers to buy their CBD products. They boldly proclaim:

“It is non-psychoactive and so will not get you, or your furry friend, high”.

But is this the case?

Well, the answer will surprise you.

Dr. Ethan Russo is one of the founding fathers of medicinal cannabis. It appears that he is equally perturbed by the common assumption that since CBD does not cause the typical marijuana high, it must be non-psychoactive.

In a recent interview, Dr. Russo gave his take on the matter:

“Cannabidiol is frequently mischaracterized as being non-psychoactive. Rather, it is psychoactive. It is an anti-anxiety agent and anti-psychotic agent”.

Why Is CBD Psychoactive?

As alluded to by Dr. Russo, CBD relieves anxiety as well as psychosis. This means that it works in the brain to perform these roles. Consequently, it is a psychoactive compound.


Hold that thought.

Can CBD Make You High?

CBD, unlike THC, will not make you high, and that is where the confusion comes in.

To clear this, let’s first define some terms:

Psychoactive describes any substance that can cross the blood-brain barrier and consequently affect the brain in any way. CBD, THC, as well as coffee and chocolate, have this ability.

Check this statement from Wikipedia: “Caffeine is the world's most widely consumed psychoactivesubstance.”

Psychedelic describes a substance that can alter one’s mental state and perceptions. While THC has this ability (mild psychedelic), CBD does not.

As much as THC is not classified as a typical psychedelic, it causes euphoria which is an altered sense of perception.

In reality, CBD is non-psychedelic but psychoactive; this is where the difference lies.

How Does CBD Work?

CBD causes psychoactive effects in the brain through different mechanisms. The first involves the stimulation of serotonin receptors which are responsible for elevating the mood. One study carried out on mice showed that the administration of CBD led to an increase in serotonin levels.

CBD interacts with allosteric sites on the CB1 receptors in the brain. It displaces THC from the CB1 receptor and blunts out the mind-altering effects of THC. In this way, CBD acts as a “dimmer switch.”

Is CBD Superior To THC?  

Between THC and CBD, none is superior or inferior to the other. In actual sense, the two cannabinoids complement each other.

One study showed that CBD counteracts the short term memory impairment caused by THC. It probably does this through its antagonistic action at the CB1 receptor. CBD also reduces the sedative and hunger causing properties of THC.

THC, on the other hand, helps to amplify the pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects of CBD. Yet another study has shown that combining CBD and THC produces greater anticancer effects.

It would suffice to say that both THC and CBD have significant therapeutic benefits, especially when allowed to work in concert.

Dr. Ethan Russo defines this relationship beautifully- cannabis synergy.

 This implies that “the whole is always greater than the sum of parts.”