So, Does CBD Actually Get You High?
Created for Greatist by the experts at Healthline. Read more
CBD is quickly becoming the Taylor Swift of the wellness world — catchy, healing, and a little too omnipresent in everyday life.
With so many touted benefits (pain relief! reduced anxiety! better sleep!) and so many formats to try (oil! gummies! lube!), it’s no wonder everyone is jumping on the CBD train. And just like “Lover” or “Back to December” gets you higher than a kite, you might be wondering if CBD can do the same.
The short answer: CBD won’t get you high. Even though CBD comes from cannabis (the same plant species that brings us marijuana), CBD products contain little to no THC — the psychoactive chemical that creates a high, euphoric effect.
It may, however, provide a host of other benefits. Here’s everything you need to know about the effects of CBD and how it differs from a THC-induced high. *Cue “Wildest Dreams”*
Here’s the deal: CBD is one of more than 100 natural compounds called cannabinoids that come from the cannabis sativa plant (aka a marijuana or hemp plant).
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a popular cannabinoid known for its psychoactive effects. But don’t confuse THC with CBD — these two might come from the same place, but that doesn’t mean they do the same things.
As we mentioned earlier, THC makes you feel the high that’s often associated with smoking marijuana — and CBD does not. But CBD and THC do share a few side effects (more on those in a minute).
CBD might help you feel more relaxed and calm and less anxious, and it may even help you fall asleep. It has the soothing qualities of THC without the high or “stoned” effect.
CBD comes in many forms, and while they all have similar effects, each one is slightly different.
Oils and tinctures
Oils infused with CBD are popular because they’re easy to take and they get absorbed into your body very quickly, meaning you’ll feel the effects quickly.
CBD oils are typically placed under your tongue using a dropper. They’re great for anyone who doesn’t want to take pills but wants to try CBD.
Capsules and pills
There are CBD capsules and pills that may help with a variety of issues, including sleep deprivation, digestive problems, and seizure disorders. You take them just as you would any other pill.
The main difference between a pill and an oil is that the pill takes longer to be absorbed by your body, so you may not feel the effects quite as quickly.
Creams and lotions
Some CBD-infused lotions and creams are meant to relieve muscle and joint pain. Others claim to be beneficial for various skin problems, such as eczema or acne, although there isn’t much scientific evidence to back that up. You might even find CBD in some skin care products.
While CBD gummies are really popular, you can also find CBD in candy, chocolates, cookies, and even beer and wine.
The fastest way to experience the effects of CBD is to inhale vaporized CBD oil, which you can do with an e-cigarette. Vaping CBD oil sends it into your bloodstream, so it’s absorbed really quickly.
But the safety of vaping is being very seriously questioned, so it’s not something to take lightly.
Both CBD and THC have an impact on the cannabinoid type 1 receptors (CB1) in your brain, but they kinda have opposite effects. THC binds with those receptors, activating them and causing a feeling of euphoria or high.
But CBD is different: It barely binds with CB1 receptors. In fact, it can actually block any high from happening at all. If you were to take CBD with THC, you might find that you didn’t feel as high as you would if you’d consumed only THC.
So, what do you feel when you take CBD?
Research on CBD is relatively new, but some studies suggest CBD is relaxing and calming. It could reduce inflammation and pain, it may help you sleep better, and it’s often used to ease symptoms of anxiety and depression.
CBD is considered safe and well-tolerated in general. But everyone may react slightly differently to it, so what someone else feels may not match up with your experience.
CBD does have some possible side effects, including:
- changes in appetite and weight
- mild nausea
- dry mouth
CBD can also interact with some medications, so be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before starting a CBD regimen.
How does THC make you feel?
Smoking or ingesting THC is going to cause that feeling of being high. The possible short-term side effects of THC are:
- increased heart rate
- coordination issues
- dry mouth
- red eyes
- slower reaction times
- memory loss
The high from THC can leave you feeling euphoric, relaxed, focused, amused, giggly, creative, hungry, and more sensitive to smell, taste, touch, sight, and sound.
CBD has lots of possible benefits that have made it a good choice for people who deal with a variety of conditions. But CBD is still being studied, so new research is published often. The details on CBD could change as scientists learn more!
Easing anxiety and depression
CBD oil is a promising treatment for people who live with anxiety and depression and don’t want to turn to pharmaceutical drugs. Some research suggests that specific doses of CBD are very effective at reducing anxiety before a test.
And it’s not just for adults: According to a 2016 study, CBD oil can be safely used to relieve anxiety and insomnia in children experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Some studies have also shown that CBD can have antidepressant-like effects and can affect how your brain responds to serotonin. A 2018 review of studies found that CBD can also have anti-stress effects, so it might reduce depression that’s related to stress.
Helping with insomnia
Some people take CBD to help them sleep better. In a 2019 study, 66.7 percent of participants reported better sleep after taking CBD.
Scientists don’t totally understand why CBD might help people sleep better, but it could be because CBD can ease anxiety, depression, and stress.
Relieving pain and inflammation
CBD could be one of the reasons marijuana is known for relieving pain. Research on animals has shown that CBD may reduce chronic pain by reducing inflammation and could also ease pain from surgical incisions and sciatic nerve pain.
When combined with THC, CBD may be effective in easing pain caused by multiple sclerosis and arthritis.
Alleviating cancer-related symptoms
CBD may be useful for relieving some cancer-related pain and side effects of chemotherapy such as nausea and vomiting. Research has found a significant reduction in pain when THC and CBD are combined for this type of use.
CBD reduces inflammation, which in turn might help reduce acne. A 2014 study found that CBD oil can prevent sebaceous gland cells from releasing too much sebum (which can cause acne) and can prevent the activation of agents that cause acne.
More research needs to be done, but it’s possible that CBD could help with other skin issues too.
Helping with seizures and neurological disorders
More research is needed, but CBD might help ease symptoms related to epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease.
Some studies have found reduced seizure activity in children and young adults after they took CBD oil. And in 2018, the FDA approved a CBD product called Epidiolex to treat two seizure disorders, Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
Other studies have shown that CBD may improve quality of life and sleep quality for people with Parkinson’s disease.
And some animal and test-tube studies have even shown promising results with Alzheimer’s disease: CBD may decrease inflammation and help prevent the neurodegeneration that goes along with the disease.
Boosting heart health
A 2017 study showed that CBD might even benefit the heart and circulatory system by lowering high blood pressure, thus preventing health problems such as stroke, heart attack, and metabolic syndrome. This could be because CBD can relieve stress and anxiety, which in turn lowers blood pressure.
A 2010 study on rats also suggested that CBD might help reduce inflammation and cell death associated with heart disease.
Helping with schizophrenia
Some research suggests CBD might benefit people with schizophrenia and similar conditions by reducing symptoms of psychosis.
Aiding in treatment of substance use disorder
CBD might even be useful in treatment for substance use disorder. Research suggests it can change circuits in the brain related to drug dependence. A 2015 review of studies found that CBD reduced morphine dependence and heroin-seeking behavior in rats.
The short answer: CBD won't get you high. Even though it's made from cannabis (the same plant species that brings us marijuana), it doesn't contain THC, the psychoactive chemical that creates a high. But it may have a variety of other benefits. Here's everything you need to know about the effects of CBD and how it differs from a THC high.
Cannabis oil: what is it and does it really work as medicine?
Cannabis is in the headlines for its potential medical benefits after the recent confiscation of cannabis oil medication from the mother of a 12-year-old British boy with severe epilepsy. The furore that ensued is shining a light on campaigns for cannabis oils to be made legal for medical reasons, and the UK government has now announced a review into the use of medicinal cannabis. Here’s what you need to know.
What is cannabis oil?
Cannabis oil is extracted from the cannabis plant Cannabis sativa. The plants medicinal properties have been touted for more than 3,000 years. It was described in the ancient Eygyptian Ebers papyrus around 1550BC, and it was likely used as a medicine in China before that. Some varieties of the plant contain high levels of the psychoactive substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for the “high” that comes from smoking or eating cannabis leaves or resin. The plant’s other major chemical component is cannabidiol, which has no psychoactive effect. Both act on the body’s natural cannabinoid receptors which are involved in many processes such as memory, pain and appetite. The cannabis plant also contains more than 100 other different cannabinoid compounds at lower concentrations.
So can cannabis oil make you high?
It depends on the THC content. Some types of Cannabis sativa plant, known as hemp, contain very little THC. The extracts from these plants contain mainly cannabidiol, so will not get anyone stoned.
Is it legal?
That’s a complicated question. In the UK cannabidiol is legal. Cannabis plant extracts (known as hemp or CBD oils) are available in high-street stores but the THC content must be below 0.2 per cent. “THC is not psychoactive at this level,” says David Nutt, a neuropsychopharmacologist at Imperial College London. But cannabidiol is illegal in many other countries.
In the USA for example, cannabidiol is classed as a schedule 1 controlled substance, and can only be sold in states where cannabis use is legal.
However, the tide may turn in favour of cannabidiol after a recent World Health Organisation review. This concluded that cannabidiol “exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential” but “has been demonstrated as an effective treatment of epilepsy … and may be a useful treatment for a number of other medical conditions.”
What is the evidence that cannabis oils can help treat epilepsy?
Although there is some scientific evidence that THC has potential to control convulsions, its mind-altering effects mean that much of the focus has turned to cannabidiol – particularly for childhood epilepsies that conventional drugs fail to control.
Two recent high quality randomised and placebo controlled trials showed that cannabidiol is an effective treatment for Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, severe forms of epilepsy. The mechanism of action is unknown, but it may be due to a combination of effects, such as inhibiting the activity of neurons and dampening inflammation in the brain.
The situation is less clear when it comes to the use of commercial cannabis oils to control seizures, where the evidence is mainly anecdotal, and the oils can contain differing concentrations of cannabidiol and THC.
The UK government announced on 19 June that it would review the use of medical cannabis.
Are there any cannabis-based epilepsy drugs on the market?
Not yet. In April the US Food and Drug Administration recommended the approval of a drug called Epidiolex for Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. Its active ingredient is cannabidiol, and final approval is due at the end of this month.
However, it is possible the drug is not as effective as cannabis oil containing THC, says Nutt. For example, the cannabis oil used to treat Billy Caldwell, the boy at the centre of the recent cannabis oil confiscation furore, contained cannabidiol and a low dose of THC, because cannabidiol alone did not stop all his seizures.
This is one of the big unknowns. “It is important to remember that there is currently very little scientific evidence to support cannabis oil containing both THC and cannabidiol as a treatment for epilepsy,” said the charity Epilepsy Action, in a statement issued this month.
Are cannabis-based medications available for other conditions?
Yes. A synthetic version of THC called Nabilone has been used since the 1980s to treat nausea after chemotherapy and to help people put on weight. A drug called Sativex is also approved for the treatment of pain and spasms associated with multiple sclerosis. It contains an equal mix of THC and cannabidiol, but would not be suitable for the treatment of children with epilepsy such as Billy. “If you used that to treat epilepsy, the kids would be stoned off their heads,” says Nutt.
What is the aim of the UK government’s review of medical cannabis?
The first part of the review will look at the evidence for the therapeutic value of cannabis-based products. It can recommend any promising ones for the second part of the review. This will be carried out by the government’s Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs, which can recommend a change to the legal medical status of cannabis and cannabinoids.
This will hopefully lead to a relaxation of the rules surrounding research into cannabis-based medicines says Tom Freeman, a clinical psychopharmacologist at King’s College London.
In the UK cannabis currently has Schedule 1 status, the most restrictive category, which is for drugs which are not used medicinally such as LSD. “This creates a Catch 22 situation,” says Freeman. “You can’t show that cannabis and cannabis-based products have medicinal value because of restrictions on medical research.” If cannabis is moved to the Schedule 2 category, it will join substances such as morphine and diamorphine (heroin) which can be prescribed by doctors if there is a clinical need .
The UK government is reviewing medicinal cannabis after two boys with severe epilepsy were withheld cannabis oil treatments. Here's everything you need to know