Does CBD Get You High?

No. Or, at the very least, if it’s a trusted, tested CBD product it shouldn’t.

But don’t CBD and THC both come from the same source, IE: the cannabis plant? Technically, yes, but cannabis grown for CBD related purposes (more commonly referred to as hemp) doesn’t typically contain THC in the same way as cannabis grown specifically for its psychoactive purposes.

So, again, no: If you’re someone looking into using CBD for pain relief, stress relief, insomnia or any other of a host of medical ailments, you shouldn’t have to worry about getting high while alleviating your symptoms. But why won’t CBD get you high? And what if you find a CBD product that, despite claims to the contrary, does? We’ll talk all about CBD, how it effects your system, and why it (shouldn’t) be getting you high in our article below. Let’s get started.

What Is CBD?

(Quick note: What follows is a quick refresher, but we talk about this at length in our articles “What is CBD” and “CBD vs. THC” – Make sure to check out these links for a more detailed look into the topics of THC, CBD and their associated differences.)

The cannabis plant contains a number of chemicals that interact with the human body, collectively referred to as cannabinoids. Most commonly known through-out history is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the cannabinoid primarily responsible for making someone feel “high” after smoking or ingesting cannabis.

Also included in cannabis is the chemical cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive cannabinoid derived from hemp that, when either smoked or ingested like THC, is known for alleviating numerous medical issues, including pain, anxiety, and muscular disorders.

person holding hemp plant

Cannabis, Hemp, THC, and CBD

Cannabis can be grown specifically to focus on either CBD or THC – While many areas inside the United States are changing their legal stance on cannabis as a whole, THC remains illegal at a federal level; CBD does not.

The US Food and Drug Administration defines a cannabis plant as being an illegal drug once the plant has a percentage of THC greater than 0.3%. For CBD farming operations, this means the cannabis plants they grow are typically classified as “hemp”, as it must be of a strain that naturally produces high amounts of CBD with practically no THC.

For farmers growing industrial hemp plants for CBD usage, legalities mean they must keep a close watch over their crops. If any hemp plant in their field is found with a percentage of THC greater than 0.3% the entire crop must often be destroyed – If any of these hemp plants is found with a THC percentage higher than 0.5% the farm could be at risk of violating federal law, leading to heavy fines, destruction of property and jail time. Needless to say, the difference between cannabis plants grown for THC and a hemp plant grown to be processed into CBD oil or other CBD products is an important distinction for any grower.

How CBD and THC Effect The Human Body

As part of our cellular makeup and function every human has what is referred to as an “endocannabinoid system“. This system is important in regulating many of our sensory functions, from mood to appetite to overall energy levels.

The endocannabinoid system is comprised of three major components: Enzymes, our own natural endocannabinoids, and receptors. Let’s talk about each one in depth for a bit, to get a better sense of the individual roles they play in our day-to-day functions.

Endocannabinoid Enzymes

First in the chain are the enzymes that create and modify cannabinoids. Humans naturally produce cannabinoids (referred to as “endo”cannabinoids due to their origin inside the body), each designed to stimulate certain physical and emotional responses. It’s our enzymes which produce these cannabinoids and, eventually, break them down into waste products; without them we would never stop feeling their effects (and though a continual 24/7 high may sound fantastic to some of us, it’s nice to be able to turn the haze off once in a while too).

These enzymes are heavily dictated by your personal genetic code, and their precise makeup will vary from person to person – They can even be the secret behind while cannabis edibles have a difficult time getting some people high. In the end, though, their goal is to keep the system moving along as smoothly as possible.

cbd molecule
The Infamous CBD Molecule

Endocannabinoids: 2-AG, Anandamide, NADA & More

Our bodies produce a host of endocannabinoids, with at least five – possibly six – known to science: Arachidonoylethanolamine (AKA “anandamide” or “AEA”), 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (AKA “2-AG”), N-Arachidonoyl dopamine (AKA “NADA”), 2-Arachidonyl glyceryl ether (AKA “noladin ether”), Virodhamine (AKA “OAE”), and the still-in-study compound Lysophosphatidylinositol (AKA “LPI”).

Each of these compounds has differing and varying effects on the human body; anadamide (literally named after the Sanskrit word “ananda”, meaning “joy”, “bliss”, and/or “delight”) is one of the endocannabinoids most similar to THC, despite it’s vastly differing physical structure, while NADA has notable effects on inflammation, addiction, and the human immune response. 2-AG, found commonly in many mammals, is a full antagonist of our CB1/CB2 receptors (more on those in a moment) and has shown influence over mood, addiction, memory, and more.

Endocannabinoid Receptors

Receptors are, as the name implies, the part of the endocannabinoid system that receives active cannabinoids. Much like slotting a puzzle piece into place these receptors are shaped precisely to fit the endocannabinoid molecules as they travel through-out our system. There are two main types of cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2.

CB1 receptors are located primarily in the brain, and have varying functions dependent on what specific regions they are located in; CB receptors in the amygdala moderate stress and anxiety, while receptors in the cerebral cortex influence cognition and emotional responses.

CB2 receptors are typically located on cells governing the human immune system, and are where many of the physically medicinal effects of THC/CBD use come into play. Cannabinoids that bind to CB2 receptors can help influence issues with inflammation, asthma, and digestive troubles.

Enter Phytocannabinoids

As noted earlier the endocannabinoids such as 2-AG and NADA are created inside the human body, hence the “endo” prefix. Cannabinoids derived from plants, such as CBD and THC, are referred to as phytocannabinoids, with the “phyto” prefix indicating their plant-based origin. In particular, THC is derived from what we think of as cannabis, while CBD is typically refined from plants classified as industrial hemp.

Despite being vastly different from the endocannabinoids produced by our bodies, humans are still capable of processing and using these plant-based cannabinoids. THC will bind directly to the CB1 receptors in our brains, producing both psychoactive effects (IE: getting you high) and medicinal benefits. CBD, however, acts a bit differently.

CBD does not, in any meaningful sense, bind to the CB1 receptors in the human brain – Simply put, this means that the answer to the question “can CBD get you high” is a definitive “no”. But while CBD may not directly bind to our CB1 receptors they will activate other receptors within the body, such as our serotonin and peroxisome proliferator activated receptors (PPARs). Activation of these receptors is believed to offer a number of beneficial side effects, including pain relief, sleep aid, appetite stimulation, and relaxation; in the case of PPARs these receptors may well be linked to both cancer and Alzheimer’s disease treatment.

Now we know more about how CBD works, but what about the reality of buying a bottle of CBD oil? Can you trust that the CBD you’re picking up off your store shelf to help with joint pain won’t get you high? Let’s talk a bit about the process of manufacturing CBD products and the regulations therein.

cbd oil

Is My CBD Product THC Free?

If the bottle says it’s 100% CBD, no THC included, that sounds pretty trustworthy right? In most cases it probably is. But it’s important to know that the CBD market is mostly unregulated, with very little oversight from the US Food and Drug Administration over the end products, meaning quality control might not be as tight as you would like it to be. Before you start using CBD, here are a few things to watch out for to help make sure you’re buying the highest quality CBD oil (or other hemp-derived CBD products) you can.

Purchase From a Trusted Source

Always take the time to do your homework when buying new brands of CBD products – Take the time to search for reviews on the internet, see what other customers are saying, and, if possible, scout out their website for testing reports and results. If the consensus on the internet is that a brand of CBD is terrible and doesn’t work, it might be worth following the advice of the masses and steering clear.

Check For Third Party Tests

As mentioned above most reputable CBD farms and processors will send samples of every crop/production run to a third-party testing center, who will confirm that the CBD products are of good quality and don’t contain contaminants (such as THC). If the brand you’re scoping out has no public testing records available, that CBD may be best left on the shelf.

hemp product label with no thc

Make Sure It Doesn’t Say “Contains THC”

Seems simple, but can be easy to overlook. THC and CBD each have their own unique effects, but studies show that CBD oil and other products have a greater effect when combined with at least a small amount of THC.

We discuss the manufacturing process more in-depth in our “Why is CBD Oil So Expensive” article but when creating hemp-derived CBD concentrates a manufacturer has one of three options: “Full spectrum”, which contain a scant amount of THC alongside CBD and other terpenes from the cannabis plant, “broad spectrum”, with zero THC but still containing terpenes, and “CBD isolate”, which are products with nothing but pure, 100% CBD concentrate.

Many products on store shelves will state clearly whether or not THC is included in any fashion – After all, not everyone seeking out joint pain relief is also looking to get high. If you live in one of the few remaining states that hasn’t legalized either medical or recreational marijuana use odds are you won’t find “full spectrum” CBD products on your shelf to begin with. But for those living in legalized areas who still want to steer clear of THC, make sure to check the packaging on any CBD products you plan to purchase.

Use Your Judgment

The old saying “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover” isn’t always true, and being a smart consumer means knowing what to look out for in potentially shoddy products. Things such as ill-fitting labels, thin/clear glass bottles, poor shrink wrapping, and an overall slovenly look to the product can be signs that their overall quality control might not be the greatest – Meaning their testing and product control might not be the greatest either. Though there’s nothing wrong with going for the off-brand, if your instincts say to stay away? Your instincts might just be right.

The Wrap Up

The United States Food and Drug Administration has yet to make a definite statement on the usage of CBD as a medical supplement. And while studies have yet to definitively prove either the benefits or even the direct actions of CBD on the human body, anecdotal evidence is strong enough to warrant a further look into CBD’s potential use as a medicinal aid. What CBD won’t do is get you high, and we hope our article has helped explain the reasons why.

Whether you’re smoking hemp or taking CBD oil, just remember to be a smart consumer: Do your research on any hemp-derived CBD products you may come across, and stay away from offerings that sound too good to be true. Not all cannabis usage has to be about getting high, and the medicinal benefits of CBD products are available for everyone to benefit from, without the side effects of THC getting in the way. Enjoy!

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