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Does CBD Get You High? Ask a Pharmacist

Posted by Dr. Leslie Mudd, PharmD on Jul 7th 2020

Does CBD Get You High? Ask a Pharmacist

"Getting high" may be a bit different than you once thought.

For Baby Boomers like me, the best explanation of “getting high” comes from the John Denver song, “Sunshine on my Shoulders.” He sings: “Sunshine almost always makes me high.” But when that sunshine makes a hemp plant grow, and that hemp plant creates CBD, many of us come to an initial question: can CBD get you high?

“Getting high” has been scientifically described as elevating one’s state of mind. The science shows that getting high is the creation of an altered state of mind or consciousness. Sometimes, that feeling occurs naturally. And sometimes, a person uses a drug to achieve that feeling of being “high.”

Getting high can consist of situations like the following:

  • strong feelings and emotions as in a beautiful day,
  • a familiar song, or the face of a loved one,
  • Using drugs, plants, or botanicals to chemically alter the state of consciousness,
  • Exercise enthusiasts can experience a “runner’s high,”1 which is the feeling of an endorphin rush that comes with prolonged exertion.

Because the public is more familiar with THC’s role in getting marijuana users high, many people wonder if CBD does the same thing. Many people want the wellness benefits of hemp without the intoxicating effects of marijuana. For them, this is an important question. To start, let’s discuss the difference between CBD and THC.

CBD vs THC

The cannabis plant contains at least 150 phytocannabinoids. 2 Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) dominates the cannabinoid profile of most cannabis plants found in nature, followed by cannabidiol (CBD).

Scientists around the globe are currently studying these cannabinoids, although their benefits have been anecdotally understood for decades. 3 From college to cooking, cannabis has been infused into the culture of both prehistoric and modern civilizations, and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Here’s a simple way to understand the difference between cannabis with high THC content versus cannabis with high CBD and low THC content. 4 Generally speaking, the type of cannabis we call “marijuana” produces THC,5 and the type of cannabis we call “hemp” produces CBD. As many of you already know, these two cannabinoids are the most popularly discussed, and that’s because they are largely responsible for most of the benefits and side effects seen from cannabis infused wellness products.

Does CBD Get You High
Hemp grown for CBD being harvested in Kentucky.

Hemp vs Marijuana

Due to CBD’s increasing popularity as a wellness product, many cannabis growers now cultivate plants with high CBD content. When Congress legalized hemp, it changed the definition of hemp to distinguish it only by its THC content of not more than 0.3 percent.6

Soon, growers realized that the federal government no longer prohibited the many other cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. In short order, these cultivators began cross-breeding cannabis strains to reduce THC levels to meet federal guidelines, while also meeting the CBD percentage threshold to be considered a viable hemp crop for CBD oils.

Cannabis plants that produce CBD are nearly identical in every way to the ones that produce THC. They look the same and smell the same. Only a chemical analysis with a lab report can tell the difference between marijuana and hemp. That’s the same lab report we use to test for CBD and THC ratios, as well as pesticides, heavy metals, microbials, mycotoxins, and much more.

Cannabinoids & the Endocannabinoid System

A quick vocabulary lesson might be helpful here. “Phyto-“ means “plant” in Greek. 7 Therefore, phytocannabnoids are cannabinoids found naturally in plants. The cannabis plant is the only known plant on Earth that creates phytocannabinoids, as opposed to endocannabinoids. “Endo-“ is a Greek prefix that means “from within, or inside.”8 So, “endocannabinoid” means a cannabinoid produced naturally inside your body.9

Likewise, the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) consists of a set of receptors found throughout the body. The ECS communicates with cannabinoids, whether they are endocannabinoids or phytocannabinoids. The ECS responds whether these cannabinoids are inhaled through smoke; absorbed sublingually through a tincture; or taken orally in a capsule.10

The ECS consists of two types of receptors: CB1 and CB2. These two types of receptors could be key to understanding why THC produces a “high” sensation while other phytocannabinoids, like CBD, do not. 11

How Does THC Get You High?

THC, the principle cannabinoid that causes the psychoactive effects of cannabis, works by activating the ECS’s CB1 receptors. CB1 receptors mostly reside in the brain, brain stem, and elsewhere in the central nervous system.

In this way, THC directly affects brain function and causes the sensations associated with “getting high,” such as: euphoria, laughter, distortions of time and space, and distortions of the senses. Something that CBD obviously does not do, which is why it has thankfully become legal across the United States.12

How are THC and CBD Different?

CBD has little to no effect on the CB1 receptors found in the brain. That means it has no biological way to make a person get high. 13 In fact, studies show that CBD can act as a THC inhibitor. In this way, CBD may reverse the intoxicating effects of THC, such as paranoid symptoms and hippocampal-dependent memory impairment.

That corresponds with what we understand about CBD as helping the body restore homeostasis. When the body has too much THC, CBD may counteract THC’s effects to bring the body and mind back into balance. CBD may also help to bring other systems into balance, like maintaining a healthy sleep cycle, bringing a sense of calm, and helping to ease stiff muscles and joints, only without the intoxicating effects of THC.

CBD does not make you high
CBD oils are psychoactive but not intoxicating.

Is CBD Psychoactive?

This question is at the heart of the topic: Does CBD make you feel high? The general understanding is that “psychoactive” means the same thing as “getting high.” So if something is going to make you feel high, it must be psychoactive. But scientifically speaking, it’s a little more complicated than that.

For instance, studies show cannabidiol can have an anti-anxiety effect. 14 This study from Brazil conducted in 2019 concluded that CBD oil may show promise as a treatment for people who live with anxiety. The researchers tested human subjects in a simulated public speaking test with various dosages of using CBD against a placebo.

This mood-altering quality of cannabidiol qualifies it as psychoactive, even though it is non-intoxicating. The real question isn’t whether CBD is psychoactive, but rather whether it is intoxicating. From our research and trials, that answer seems to be an obvious no. But depending on how much you weigh, what you’ve had to eat and drink, and some other variables, you might disagree every once in a while.15

Psychoactive vs Intoxication

So, taking CBD oil does not make you get high, but it is psychoactive. This might seem contradictory at first, but here’s the difference. An intoxicant produces a state of diminished mental and physical ability, like alcohol, recreational drugs, and THC-rich cannabis, as well as many more negative side effects.

A psychoactive substance, on the other hand, merely changes an individual’s mental state by impacting how the brain and central nervous system function. That includes a wide range of substances like caffeine and chocolate, and these substances generally do not carry as many negative side effects. One way to remember this is that all intoxicants are psychoactive, but not all psychoactive substances are intoxicants.

So What Does CBD Do?

We discussed CBD’s ability to restore a body to balance and homeostasis through its interaction with the ECS. Also, we discussed how cannabidiol can “bring down” a person experiencing too much THC in their system. That excess of THC in the system is also known as having a “green out.”

With this knowledge, it’s not difficult to understand that not only does CBD not make you high, but it gets you middle, bringing the body and mind into balance in a healthy way. That’s something that all of us could certainly use in our everyday life. And that’s why CBD products that contain a full spectrum of cannabinoids are leading the industry.

To further ease concerns, Cornbread Hemp makes its USDA certified organic CBD oils from organic hemp grown in Kentucky, where hemp is legal but marijuana is not. Therefore, you can rest assured that Cornbread Hemp products will never contain more than the federal legal limit of THC, which is not more than 0.3 percent. And that’s not enough to do anything psychoactive. It is, however, just enough THC to spur the most potent entourage effect that we all may benefit from while using CBD products.

And you can bet we get as close to the 0.3% mark as we possibly can. You’re welcome!

The Entourage Effect

Full spectrum CBD products made in accordance with the Farm Bill of 2018 contain not more than 0.3 percent THC by law. Many CBD companies only sell broad spectrum or CBD isolate products which contain no THC at all, much of this due to an outdated stigma associated with marijuana.

We tell our customers to look at the full spectrum of cannabinoids like your favorite sports team, with CBD and THC as two of the most important players. If one of them is suddenly no longer playing, the team’s performance will suffer as a result. 16   Studies show that without THC, full spectrum CBD products may not be as effective. This is because of a reaction known as the “entourage effect.” Every educated CBD consumer should look for a product that delivers an entourage effect if they want to get the most out of their CBD supplement without making them feel high.

Full Spectrum CBD and Drug Tests

If you take CBD, you should be aware that ingesting any CBD could cause you to fail a drug test. While THC-free products might seem like a safer bet than full spectrum products, these THC-free varieties of CBD can also put you at risk of testing positive for the presence of cannabinoids. If you think you might be drug tested at work, talk to your HR department before you begin taking CBD.

In short, taking CBD only gets you as high as John Denver’s sunshine. Which is to say: CBD is psychoactive but not intoxicating. It’s psychoactive because it does indeed impact our mood, our mental health, and our general quality of life. But we don’t consider CBD intoxicating whatsoever, as many of us now take it in order to feel a sense of calm and focus throughout our day.

As CBD and THC work together to bring our bodies the most beneficial entourage effect, the question of the future of CBD becomes: how much THC is too much?

For those that still aren’t sure whether full spectrum CBD products are right for them, feel free to send us an email at support@cornbreadhemp.com and a team member will be happy to answer your questions! And don’t forget to subscribe to our email list to stay up to date on the latest research like how much CBD to take, how long CBD lasts, and many more blog posts that I share each week!

References

1. Hicks SD, Jacob P, Perez O, Baffuto M, Gagnon Z, Middleton FA. The Transcriptional Signature of a Runner’s High. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2019;51(5):970-978. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000001865. 2nd paragraph
2. Lafaye G, Karila L, Blecha L, Benyamina A. Cannabis, cannabinoids, and health. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2017;19(3):309-316. Under the heading “Cannabis today,” 2nd paragraph
3. Bridgeman MB, Abazia DT. Medicinal Cannabis: History, Pharmacology, And Implications for the Acute Care Setting. P T. 2017;42(3):180-188. Under the heading “Historical Significance,” 1st paragraph
4. Cannabis (Marijuana) and Cannabinoids: What You Need To Know. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/cannabis-marijua... Published July 1, 2020. Accessed July 1, 2020. 3rd bullet under the first paragraph.
5, 6. Hilderbrand RL. Hemp & Cannabidiol: What is a Medicine?. Mo Med. 2018;115(4):306-309. Under the heading “CBD as an Extract from Hemp,” 1st paragraph
7. Atakan Z. Cannabis, a complex plant: different compounds and different effects on individuals. Ther Adv Psychopharmacol. 2012;2(6):241-254. doi:10.1177/2045125312457586. Under the heading “Delta-0-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol,” 1st paragraph
8. Van der Kloot W. Anandamide, a naturally-occurring agonist of the cannabinoid receptor, blocks adenylate cyclase at the frog neuromuscular junction. Brain Res. 1994;649(1-2):181-184. doi:10.1016/0006-8993(94)91062-6. Do not have access to full text.
9. Lu HC, Mackie K. An Introduction to the Endogenous Cannabinoid System. Biol Psychiatry. 2016;79(7):516-525. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.07.028. 1st paragraph
10. Lu HC, Mackie K. An Introduction to the Endogenous Cannabinoid System. Biol Psychiatry. 2016;79(7):516-525. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.07.028. 3rd paragraph
11. Reggio PH. Endocannabinoid binding to the cannabinoid receptors: what is known and what remains unknown. Curr Med Chem. 2010;17(14):1468-1486. doi:10.2174/092986710790980005. 3rd paragraph
12. Sharma P, Murthy P, Bharath MM. Chemistry, metabolism, and toxicology of cannabis: clinical implications. Iran J Psychiatry. 2012;7(4):149-156. 10th paragraph
13. Englund A, Morrison PD, Nottage J, et al. Cannabidiol inhibits THC-elicited paranoid symptoms and hippocampal-dependent memory impairment. J Psychopharmacol. 2013;27(1):19-27. doi:10.1177/0269881112460109. Do not have access to full text
14. Linares IM, Zuardi AW, Pereira LC, et al. Cannabidiol presents an inverted U-shaped dose-response curve in a simulated public speaking test. Braz J Psychiatry. 2019;41(1):9-14. doi:10.1590/1516-4446-2017-0015
15. Iffland K, Grotenhermen F. An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2017;2(1):139-154. Published 2017 Jun 1. doi:10.1089/can.2016.0034. Under “Introduction” heading, 1st paragraph
16. Gallily R, Yekhtin Z, Hanuš LO. Overcoming the Bell-Shaped Dose-Response of Cannabidiol by Using Cannabis Extract Enriched in Cannabidiol. Pharmacol & Pharm. 2015;06(02):75-85. doi:10.4236/pp.2015.62010

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