Amid speculation about whether cannabidiol (CBD) could affect the intoxicating effects of d9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a new study supports this idea, along with another unexpected and interesting finding related to a serious mental disorder. The researchers, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology in September 2021, concluded that CBD could reduce the psychoactive effects of THC when taken at the same time. 1
The study found that consuming 65 mg of THC in combination with CBD in a 2: 1 ratio was less intoxicating than when consumed alone, suggesting that CBD limits some of the effects of THC. This is especially relevant for medicinal cannabis patients who may need to take medication 24/7 and anyone who for some reason doesn’t want the high.
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Who is behind the study?
The study, conducted in Spain, was a collaboration between researchers Jose ‘Bouso, PhD from the International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research and Service, and Alberto Sainz-Cort, MSc from Universitat Oberta de Catalunya and GH Medical, among several other distinguished authors.
Their goal was to investigate whether CBD has any intoxicating effects. CBD is often referred to as non-psychoactive, but actually because it can affect mood and relieve anxiety. However, it is not psychoactive, as most people think, in the sense that it does not induce a high or a feeling of high.
To participate, all subjects had to be over the age of 21 and experienced cannabis users who consumed at least three times a week. Participants also had to be free from psychiatric or chronic illness, understand the study protocol, and commit to abstaining from cannabis, alcohol, and other drugs for at least 12 hours prior to the study. These conditions are aimed at controlling any factors that could affect the results, also known as confounders.
The strength of a research study lies in its design. Most studies are conducted in a laboratory setting with tight controls aimed at producing verifiable, reproducible, and most importantly, trustworthy results for the average reader. Equally effective, and sometimes more appropriate, are ecological studies, in which study participants participate in a more natural environment in order to enhance the positive influences of their surroundings.
Naturalistic study mimics real situations better
In research, a natural environment also helps to avoid negative influences of a strictly controlled laboratory environment, such as Subjects in a naturalistic study may have a more authentic experience and reaction because the natural environment mimics the real experience. Since it was a crossover study, the results of the individual subjects were not compared with those of other people, which reduced the potential and the influence of confounding variables.
The study was designed so that each subject participated in a total of four individual sessions in which they were given an exact dose of cannabis concentrate via a Volcano vaporizer from Storz & Bickel. The participant received either CBD, THC, THC + CBD, or a placebo and was screened for the psychoactive effects of cannabis every 10 minutes. Neither the researchers nor the test subjects knew which substance was administered themselves (double-blind). The subjects filled out questionnaires to measure symptoms such as relaxation, negative mood or perception and appetite at certain intervals during each 80-minute session. Each session was separated by at least a week as a “washout phase” for all substances in the body in order to minimize carry-over to the next session.
The dose taken during the sessions was as follows: CBD 130 mg, THC 65 mg, CBD 130 mg + THC 65 mg combined (2: 1 ratio CBD: THC) and a hemp placebo <0.05 mg total cannabinoids. The authors found that previous studies used THC in the range of 8 mg, so the amount of THC in this study (65 mg) was a better representation of real-world consumption by adults. This makes the results generalizable or more applicable to a broader population and not just to the study participants.
CBD changes the subjective effects of THC
The researchers analyzed the data reported by the 18 participants themselves and found statistically significant differences (which gives the results strength and confidence) between the experimental conditions in many of the items and scales used. In general, subjects scored higher under the influence of THC than placebo on factors such as sleepiness, dreaminess, and time perception.
THC levels were also higher than the placebo scales for psychotomimetic (psychotic-like) conditions such as mania, paranoia, and cognitive disorganization. While the researchers acknowledge that the evidence for the subjective effects of CBD alone is unclear, they believe that variables such as frequency of cannabis use, dose, and route of administration are key factors. In another study by O’Neill et al. For example, an oral dose of 600 mg of CBD was found to show a decrease in psychotic symptoms. 2
The role THC and CBD can play in schizophrenia is one of the most interesting results of this study. It has been speculated that heavy cannabis use beginning in adolescence is linked to an earlier onset of genetically predisposed schizophrenia. In his book Cannabis Pharmacy, author Michael Backes writes that the benefits may outweigh the risk of using cannabis to treat conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease or migraines in adolescents, especially when combined with high-dose CBD to mitigate the effects of THC. Backes claims that CBD shows promise as an antipsychotic both alone and in combination with standard antipsychotics. And while there is a lack of good clinical evidence, there is growing evidence that CBD can be used this way. 3
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What does it mean for the average person who uses cannabis?
The main conclusion is that CBD has the potential to reduce the intoxicating effects of THC as well as THC-induced symptoms such as paranoia. The study also suggests that CBD may play a protective role, helping to reduce some of the psychoactive effects of THC and possibly even reducing the risk for those predisposed to schizophrenia, a contraindication to THC therapy are. A higher CBD: THC ratio than a Type II chemovar can be a desirable choice for those who want the therapeutic effects while minimizing the intoxication or other negative symptoms caused by higher doses of THC. For long-term cannabis users, whether recreational or medicinal, a higher ratio of CBD: THC can help reduce the likelihood of a cannabis use disorder or even cannabis hyperemesis syndrome, although this topic requires more research. 4th
This study, along with significant previous research, suggests that consuming CBD along with THC mediates the intoxicating effects of cannabis and can affect other aspects of a THC high. The researchers note that further studies with cannabis-naive subjects, researching multiple CBD: THC ratios, analyzing compounds for terpenes, and collecting physiological samples to measure blood serum levels would further add to the existing evidence.
In order to individualize and optimize therapy, clinicians, medical patients, and adult users should absorb this information and feel empowered to experiment with different cannabis chemotypes to facilitate the most effective therapeutic response and the most rewarding experience.