Can CBD get you high?
It’s not quite right to say that CBD—or cannabidiol, which, after THC, is the best-known and most abundant cannabinoid (“active ingredient”) found in the cannabis plant—isn’t “psychoactive.” Of course, CBD has some effect on the mind; if it didn’t, why would CBD, which adherents say helps alleviate brain-powered problems including insomnia and anxiety, be so popular?
What is right is to say is that unlike THC, CBD is “non-intoxicating.” In fact, CBD is non-intoxicating to a such a degree that you can consume great gobs of the stuff and still be relied upon to safely operate a motor vehicle, according to a recent study.
So, can CBD get you high? No. However, this isn’t to say that CBD isn’t without some risks, biological as well as legal. Depending on what CBD formulation a patient is using, and depending on what state they’re in, they may indeed be able to operate a motor vehicle without any issue while on an epic amount of CBD — while still running the risk of a “cannabis DUI” charge. And depending on what other pharmaceuticals and other drugs a patient may be taking; CBD does carry some risks.
Safe at any Speed
In this most recent study, researchers in Australia—where doctors have written more than 55,000 prescriptions for medicinal CBD since medical cannabis was legalized in 2016—gave doses of either a placebo or synthetically derived CBD ranging from 15 milligrams to 1,500 milligrams to 17 study participants. Each participant was then asked to perform basic tasks in a driving simulator between 45 to 75 minutes after taking their dose, and then again between 3.5 to 4 hours later.
And, according to findings published last month in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, even a massive, prescription-only dose of CBD “has no impact on people’s driving or cognitive abilities,” as the University of Sydney, where the lead researchers are employed, reported in a news release.
The question of can CBD get you high? has been answered: Not only did the study participants report no feeling of intoxication, but they also exhibited no signs of intoxication whatsoever.
These findings are consistent with past research, and they “suggest that unlike some other drugs, CBD can be used without the risk of being unable to operate a motor vehicle,” said Danielle McCartney, the lead researcher and a professor at the University of Sydney’s School of Psychology. “This could certainly make CBD more appealing than other therapies to some patients (e.g., those with jobs requiring them to operate heavy machinery).
Previous research found that low doses of vaporized CBD also had no impact on driving ability. But the CBD used in the study isn’t the CBD most people are using.
What’s in Your CBD?
In Australia, it’s already legal for consumers to drive a car while using CBD. The same is true in the US, where neither state nor the federal government imposes any limits on how much CBD can be in the human body while operating a vehicle.
But the same isn’t true for THC. In theory, it’s possible to consume enough CBD oil to trigger a positive result for THC in a drug test, as well as exceed the “per se” limit for cannabis intoxication in states that still have a per se limit.
That’s because in the US, “hemp” is classified as cannabis with 0.3 percent or less THC. While formulations and ratios will vary—and while product quality and consistency are issues that continue to bedevil the CBD industry—what this means is that a CBD product will likely have some THC, and the larger a dose of CBD, the larger the potential dose of THC.
While that still probably won’t be enough THC to create any kind of intoxicating effect, or at least an effect that the user would recognize as THC-driven intoxication—in part because CBD is a THC agonist, and tends to ameliorate or even eliminate THC’s psychoactive properties—patients in a situation where a drug test could trigger loss of employment or housing should be aware of the risk of a positive drug test, said Dr. Sherry Yafai, a Santa-Monica, CA-based physician and board member of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians.
“It’s really important to highlight that,” Yafai told Cannabis Now. “I bring this up because I do have patients who test positive for THC after using a CBD product, and then get booted out of their pain-management doctor’s office.”
Yafai, who wasn’t involved with the Australian study, was also surprised that study participants reported “no lethargy or sleepiness” even at high doses. “That’s a little bit strange,” she said. “Practically speaking, a 1500 milligram dose will make most people tired for a couple of days.”
That said, this latest study is the latest demonstration of what should now be accepted as gospel: CBD is non-intoxicating.
“That’s been shown over and over again,” she said. “CBD shouldn’t be considered a drug of intoxication.”