CBD does not cause the mind-altering “high” that is often sought out amongst cannabis consumers. It’s another compound, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), that causes the mind-altering effects for which the herb is famous.
It is for this reason that CBD is not considered psychoactive. However, the compound does have an effect the brain and your mood. This means that some professionals argue that CBD is technically psychoactive.
CBD and THC both engage the brain in different ways. THC binds directly to special locations in the cell known as cannabinoid receptors. These receptors were named after the active compounds in cannabis, called cannabinoids. Both THC and CBD are cannabinoids.
THC directly engages cannabinoid receptors, causing a near immediate psychoactive high. CBD, however, engages a different location on these receptors (like a side pocket).
While CBD does not produce a stand-apart psychoactive experience by connecting with this location, the molecule does alter the effects of other compounds that try to link up to the same spot. While CBD is not psychoactive in the recreational sense, the cannabinoid certainly does have an affect on the brain.
How does CBD affect the brain?
To give you a sense of the CBD experience, here are three ways that CBD is psychoactive:
Feeling blue? Pre-clinical studies have shown that CBD causes a rapid increase in serotonin, the same compound targeted by antidepressants. The cannabinoid engages a certain cell receptor, the 5HT1A receptor, which is one several serotonin receptors in the human brain.
This early rodent research is quite promising, as commonly prescribed drugs can take as long as six weeks to produce therapeutic effects. In other research areas, cannabis is considered well-tolerated in humans. This is perhaps why many cannabis patients gravitate to the herb when they’re feeling more than a little bit down. CBD also helps prevent the breakdown of feel-good endocannabinoids, which may boost mood and generate feelings of bliss and contentment, sort of like a runner’s high.
Another small human study conducted in 2011 found that pre-treatment of CBD prior to a public speaking event limited the levels of reported anxiety among 12 patients that had not used CBD before. They were given 600 mg of the compound.
Pediatric epileptic conditions like Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome have been found to be particularly responsive to the effects of THC. In case videos, children in the midst of seizure are pulled back just a few moments after being given a few drops of medical cannabis oil.