How CBD Blocks THC Euphoria Explained
With widespread legal approval of marijuana growing, scientific research into some of the more elusive details of this drug can be explored. For instance, it has been previously shown that strains of cannabis with high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and low levels of cannabidiol (CBD) can cause increased psychiatric effects, including paranoia, anxiety, and addictive-behaviors. Yet, why this occurs had been a mystery until now, as investigators from the University of Western Ontario, recently showed for the first time the molecular mechanisms at work that cause CBD to block the psychiatric side-effects caused by THC.
“For years we have known that strains of cannabis high in THC and low in CBD were more likely to cause psychiatric side-effects,” explained senior study investigator Steven Laviolette, PhD, a professor at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. “Our findings identify for the first time the molecular mechanisms by which CBD may actually block these THC-related side-effects.”
The research team used rats to investigate the role of a molecule in the brain’s hippocampus called extracellular-signal-regulated kinase (ERK), which triggers the neuropsychiatric effects of THC. The group published their findings recently in the Journal of Neuroscience through an article titled “Cannabidiol Counteracts the Psychotropic Side-Effects of Δ-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol in the Ventral Hippocampus Through Bi-Directional Control of ERK1-2 Phosphorylation.”
In the study, the researchers saw that rats given THC had higher levels of activated ERK showed more anxiety behaviors and were more sensitive to fear-based learning. Rats that were given both CBD and THC acted like the control rats: they had normal levels of activated ERK, fewer anxiety behaviors, and were less sensitive to fear-based learning.
“Using in vivo electrophysiology in male Sprague Dawley rats, we demonstrated that intra-vHipp THC strongly increases ventral tegmental area (VTA) DA neuronal frequency and bursting rates, decreases GABA frequency, and amplifies VTA beta, gamma, and epsilon oscillatory magnitudes via modulation of local extracellular signal-regulated kinase phosphorylation (pERK1-2),” the authors wrote. “Remarkably, whereas intra-vHipp THC also potentiates salience attribution in morphine place-preference and fear conditioning assays, CBD co-administration reverses these changes by down-regulating pERK1-2 signaling, as pharmacological re-activation of pERK1-2 blocked the inhibitory properties of CBD.”
Based on these results, the research team proposes that CBD blocks the ability of THC to overstimulate the ERK pathway in the hippocampus and thus prevent its negative side-effects.
“Our findings have important implications for prescribing cannabis and long-term cannabis use. For example, for individuals more prone to cannabis-related side-effects, it is critical to limit use to strains with high CBD and low THC content,” said Laviolette. “More importantly, this discovery opens up a new molecular frontier for developing more effective and safer THC formulations.”
Amazingly, the researchers also found that CBD alone had no effect on the ERK pathway. “CBD by itself had no effect,” noted lead study author Roger Hudson, a PhD candidate at the University of Western Ontario. “However, by co-administering CBD and THC, we completely reversed the direction of the change on a molecular level. CBD was also able to reverse the anxiety-like behavior and addictive-like behavior caused by the THC.”
Laviolette says they will be following up these studies by continuing to identify the specific features of this molecular mechanism. The research team will examine ways to formulate THC with fewer side effects and to improve the efficacy of CBD-derived therapies.
Scientists have shown for the first time the molecular mechanisms at work that cause CBD to block the psychiatric side-effects caused by THC
So, Does CBD Actually Get You High?
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.