Is CBD Psychoactive?

The number of cannabidiol (CBD) product offerings has grown rapidly over the past decade, with most of that growth occuring in the last couple of years, in relation to hemp and cannabis legalisation globally. Alongside this growth has come a new wave of CBD product formats including foods, drinks, supplements and smokeables. As with any growing category, a new influx of products brings with it a new group of consumers.

Traditionally, CBD and other cannabis-derived products were only consumed by people heavily involved in cannabis culture. Fast forward to the present day and the average cannabis consumer profile looks very different. CBD is now being consumed by people who not so long ago would have shunned anything to do with cannabis, and for a variety of reasons. Although people are slowly changing their attitudes towards CBD, many of them ask the same question before consuming it - Is CBD psychoactive? In other words, will it get me high?

According to the World Health Organization who recently published a pre-review report on the subject, there is no substantive evidence to suggest that CBD is likely to cause THC-like psychoactive effects [1]. For the uninformed, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the cannabinoid found in cannabis that causes the 'high' most people associate with cannabis consumption. The high caused via THC consumption, is characterised as the impairment of psychomotor and cognitive performance, as well as a range of physical effects such as increased heart rate and dry mouth.

Can CBD Convert to THC and Become Psychoactive?

It has been proposed that CBD could be converted to THC in the presence of an acid, like in the environment of the human gut. This proposal is of obvious importance as a large number of CBD products are consumed orally. Furthermore, a test tube study using simulated stomach acid showed that CBD can be converted to THC [2]. These conversions are obviously alarming, considering that many existing and prospective users of CBD do not want have any THC in their system due to its psychoactive properties.

Although worrying on the surface, such proposals and studies have been criticised, as the simulated stomach acid environments used in such experiments do not replicate the physiological conditions and complexity of the human stomach accurately [3]. Moreover, CBD to THC conversions have not been displayed in humans. A study conducted in 1991 investigated the effects of CBD on Huntington's disease, administering oral doses of CBD at 700mg per day. Again, for the uninformed, this is a pretty large dose of CBD! Throughout the trial, patients had their blood taken and analysed for cannabinoid concentrations. The average CBD concentration in blood throughout the trial was around 7 nanograms per litre, with zero THC detected [4] .

This is supported by a review of the available scientific data conducted by Grotenhermen in 2015 [5]. The review concluded that even large doses of CBD do not cause the psychological, psychomotor, cognitive or physical effects observed with THC consumption. Therefore, there is no reason to avoid oral administration of CBD, even at very high doses. In fact, in the past few decades several research groups have consitently shown that CBD causes the opposite effects to THC in clinical studies.

CBD is Not Psychoactive

From looking at the available research data on the subject and taking into consideration the anecdotal reports of CBD usage, it does not appear that CBD is psychoactive. Not only will CBD not get you high, it's actually been shown to cause the opposite effect to THC in many clinical trials.

In our opinion CBD presents zero risk of getting users high, either directly or by converting to THC following consumption.

*CBD is not psychoactive and will not get you high, but some CBD oils may contain small traces of THC. Although these traces will most likely not be large enough to have an effect, they may show up on drug tests*