Yes, CBD is psychoactive – here’s why

Through Lydia Karuki

In the cannabis space, the words psychoactive, intoxicating, and euphoric are often used interchangeably. With that in mind, it’s common to hear the statement that “unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive.” But is that really true? To answer this question, it is important to first understand what the word psychoactive means.

A psychoactive substance is a chemical that crosses the blood-brain barrier and thus enters the brain and affects it in some way. Examples of psychoactive substances include caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, some analgesics, and marijuana. As you can see, caffeine is psychoactive, although it doesn’t give consumers that “high”.

Is CBD Psychoactive?

Yes, CBD is psychoactive because it crosses the blood-brain barrier. The calming effect caused by CBD takes place in the brain. If CBD were not psychoactive, it would not be able to provide anxiety relief and other higher center benefits. In the same way, caffeine increases alertness without causing intoxication.

Is CBD intoxicating?

No, CBD does not intoxicate and does not cause euphoria. An intoxicating compound causes mental state changes and causes one to lose control of one’s thought process or behavior. A good example is how alcohol affects mental performance and behavior.

Photo by Cristi Ursea via Unsplash

A euphoric chemical altering sense of reality, spatial and sensory perception, and inducing excessive emotional feelings. CBD is not a euphoric chemical.

RELATED: Study: Cannabinoids (THC/CBD) beat opioids in treating chronic pain

While all intoxicating and euphoric chemicals are psychoactive, not all psychoactive chemicals are intoxicating or euphoric.

CBD vs. THC in the brain

Both CBD and THC cross the blood-brain barrier, meaning both are psychoactive. However, the two compounds interact differently with endocannabinoid receptors in the brain.

When THC is consumed, it immediately floods the CB1 receptors in the brain and “turns up” the endocannabinoid tone. The presynaptic neurons are forced to increase their volume and stop sending out “regulating” neurotransmitters. Put simply, the overstimulation of the CB1 receptors and the downregulation of neurotransmitter release are responsible for the euphoric feeling.

RELATED: Study: Orally Administered CBD Prevents Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy

CBD, on the other hand, has a weak affinity for CB1 receptors. CBD weakly binds to these receptors and acts as a modulator. Some studies have shown that CBD is able to displace THC from CB1 receptors, thus offsetting some of THC’s intoxicating effects. According to researchers at University London College, the more CBD there is in a strain, the less brain damage caused by consuming the strain.

So CBD is psychoactive, but not intoxicating. CBD will not induce euphoria. THC, on the other hand, is both psychoactive and intoxicating. THC will also induce euphoria. The next time you come across the all-too-familiar cannabis jargon, “CBD is not psychoactive,” you’ll have the chutzpah to craft a matter-of-fact letter to the editor.

This article originally appeared on and has been republished with permission.

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