Cannabidiol (CBD) does not cause a high. It is THC, not CBD, that creates the ‘high-feeling’ people associate with cannabis use. CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two different compounds isolated from the Cannabis sativa plant.

This article discusses the differences between CBD and THC and explains why these compounds produce such drastically different effects in people.

Is CBD legal?The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. This made some hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC federally legal. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3% THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them federally illegal but legal under some state laws. Be sure to check state laws, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the FDA has not approved nonprescription CBD products, and some products may be inaccurately labeled.

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Although THC and CBD are both present in cannabis, using CBD alone will not cause a ‘high.’

CBD is one of the most well-known cannabinoids produced by the C. sativa plant. It is one of more than 500 compounds that come from cannabis plants.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is another well-known cannabinoid that produces the strong psychoactive effects of being “high.”

Consuming or using CBD alone will not cause the “high” associated with THC.

CBD and THC are present in all types of cannabis plants but in different quantities. Certain varieties of C. sativa and Cannabis indica contain higher amounts of THC and low amounts of CBD. As of 2014, the average cannabis plant contained 12% THC and less than 0.15% CBD.

Hemp, on the other hand, is a non-intoxicating variety of C. sativa. Under the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp plants must contain less than 0.3% THC. The average hemp plant has up to 18% CBD.

CBD’s chemical composition and its effects are the same, whether extracted from hemp or other varieties of the cannabis plant.

It is illegal to add CBD to foods, dietary supplements, and products marketed as having therapeutic benefits.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis plants.

THC binds to cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors located in brain regions associated with learning, memory, movement, pain sensation, and inflammation.

It also binds to cannabinoid 2 (CB2) receptors located in the brainstem and hippocampus, which has links to memory and emotions. Immune cells, bone cells, and spleen and liver cells also contain CB2 receptors.

This widespread distribution of cannabinoid receptors is the reason why THC produces such powerful physical and psychological effects.

CBD resources

Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and in-depth resources on CBD.

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Public and research interest in CBD has grown considerably due to CBD’s potential health benefits.

CBD does not bind to either CB1 or CB2 receptors.

According to a 2018 review article, CBD may reduce the ability of THC and other cannabinoids to bind to the CB1 receptor’s. This may reduce the psychoactive effects of THC and may increase the number of circulating cannabinoids.

A 2018 review in Surgical Neurology International indicates that CBD may reduce inflammation in the brain by indirectly interacting with CB2 receptors.

In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epidiolex, a cannabis-derived CBD prescription for treating two rare forms of epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.

Anecdotal evidence and preliminary research suggest that CBD may help treat a variety of conditions, including:

However, researchers must continue to study the effects and potential health benefits of CBD.

In 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that CBD might offer therapeutic benefits for people with:

  • neurodegenerative diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s disease
  • chronic pain
  • brain injuries related to restricted blood flow
  • psychosis
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • cancer
  • infections
  • inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • inflammatory bowel and Crohn’s diseases
  • cardiovascular diseases
  • complications of diabetes

Learn more about the potential health benefits of CBD oil here.

Risks and side effects

While most people tolerate CBD well, it can lead to adverse side effects, such as:

  • drowsiness or fatigue
  • a dry mouth
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • changes in mood, such as increased agitation and irritability
  • interactions with prescription or over-the-counter drugs
  • increased risk of sedation, drowsiness, and injuries when used with alcohol
  • increased or decreased appetite
  • liver damage due to drug interactions

If a person is considering using CBD, they should speak to a doctor or healthcare provider first.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse state that when THC binds to CB1 receptors, it activates the brain’s reward system and stimulates dopamine release. The sudden rush of dopamine leads to the pleasurable, euphoric “high” associated with recreational marijuana use.

Other effects of THC include:

  • sense of euphoria
  • increased relaxation
  • changes in perception of time
  • dry mouth
  • red, dry eyes
  • difficulty concentrating or problem-solving
  • impaired memory
  • feelings of anxiety or paranoia
  • increased appetite
  • fatigue

Learn more about what it feels like to be high from THC here.

CBD does not make a person “high.”

Although CBD comes from cannabis plants, it does not produce the same euphoric intoxication as cannabis or THC.

CBD continues attracting attention from members of the general public, scientific communities, and healthcare organizations. An ever-growing body of preclinical and clinical research suggests that CBD may help treat various medical conditions, such as anxiety, inflammatory diseases, and chronic pain.

CBD is available in oral capsules, oils, tinctures, topical patches, and edible products.

While most people tolerate CBD well, they should only purchase CBD products from high-quality, reputable manufacturers and distributors.