CBD seems to be available everywhere – trumpeted by the less scrupulous as the great panacea. Recently, I even saw CBD-infused water! Claims abound regarding its efficacy as a treatment or add-on therapy for a host of conditions and, admittedly, some of these claims even have a scientific basis.
Last year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published a report confirming that CBD may be effective in the treatment of symptoms of chronic pain, Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, anxiety, depression, cancer and diabetic complications.
CBD vs THC
CBD is one of at least 113 chemical compounds, referred to as cannabinoids, found in the cannabis plant. The most common cannabinoid in the plant is THC. Whilst they have very similar structures, unlike ‘bad’ THC, ‘good’ CBD is said to be non-psychoactive; which is the major reason that it’s so freely (and legally) available. But is CBD really non-psychoactive?
The term ‘psychoactive’ is used to describe a chemical substance that acts primarily upon the brain and central nervous system where it alters the function of the brain, resulting in temporary changes to perception, mood, consciousness and behaviour.
It is, of course, some of those effects of THC – principally altered sensation and relaxation – that lead to the recreational use of cannabis.
To trigger a physiological effect, cannabinoids need to bind with CB1 receptors in the brain. These are like docking ports for cannabinoids, but THC and CBD dock in different ways. THC docks perfectly whilst CBD makes a hash of it (if you’ll excuse the pun). As a result, THC is able to activate and directly stimulate the body whereas CBD finds it difficult to stimulate CB1 receptors.
Yet critics have pointed out that if some of the benefits claimed for CBD are correct – particularly those claimed for mental states – it must have at least some psychoactive effect, even if not to the same degree as THC.
And it is true; CBD does have a psychoactive effect. In fact, anything that affects your mind can accurately be described as psychoactive But it’s a matter of degree. Doses of CBD available over the counter are relatively low. For example, in oil, 5% is fairly typical. However, even in higher doses it’s important to remember that ‘psychoactive’ does not mean that CBD has an intoxicating, hallucinogenic or dissociative effect. In fact, campaigners for the legalisation of cannabis are quick to point out that even our daily-dose of caffeine produces mild psychoactive changes and I think we can agree that a cup of coffee, even a double expresso, does not leave us intoxicated, hallucinating or disconnected.
Traces of THC
On a parting note, what is not appreciated by many users of CBD products, much of which is sourced from hemp, is that many of them do contain traces of THC. Typically, though, the quantities involved are miniscule – 0.3% or less – so you would have to ingest a fairly substantial quantity of the product before the trace of THC even had a chance to begin having a noticeable effect.
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About the author
Leading Chronic Pain solicitor Richard Lowes co-founded the first legal team in the UK specialising in representing people suffering debilitating chronic pain conditions including CRPS, Fibromyalgia, Somatic Symptom Disorder, Myofascial Pain Syndrome, Neuropathic Pain and Functional Neurological Disorder. Richard is a popular speaker on the subject of chronic pain in litigation and remains an inveterate blogger.