Cannabis Psychoactivity vs. Intoxication

Updated: Oct 9

Mainstream media, a significant number of content creators, and even many research scientists commonly label cannabinoids produced by hemp and marijuana (cannabis)—such as cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabigerol (CBG)—as non-psychoactive (meaning that they do not get consumers "high").

However, a number of organizations and thought leaders have debated this approach, insisting that, precisely speaking, these cannabinoids are actually quite psychoactive because of the changes they can affect to mood and mental state.


The proponents of calling CBD and many other cannabis-derived compounds "psychoactive" (which include the well-respected Project CBD) do so because of the sometimes significant reductions in anxiety that these molecules often deliver. Technically, this decrease in anxiety is a psychoactive (psychotropic) response.


Merriam-Webster defines psychoactive as "affecting the mind or behavior," psychotropic as "acting on the mind," and intoxicating as "to excite or stupefy by alcohol or a drug especially to the point where physical and mental control is markedly diminished."

Researchers and patients who embrace this approach differentiate CBD from its infamous and more overtly psychoactive sibling THC by labelling the latter "intoxicating." This term does not mean that those who consume THC necessarily experience intoxication (although this is a contentious subject that has generated a great deal of controversy).

Those who consume large doses of cannabis—particularly novices and those who indulge in edibles—may experience intoxication that manifests as increased anxiety, disorientation, confusion, discomfort, and even full blown panic attacks (which can be so severe that they result in a hospital visit; some who overdose on edibles perceive that they are dying).


"Many consider both CBD and THC to be psychoactive, simply with THC being more so and capable, if not dosed correctly, of producing intoxication and negative outcomes for patients and consumers."

Thus, many consider both CBD and THC to be psychoactive, simply with THC being more so and capable, if not dosed correctly, of producing intoxication and negative outcomes for patients and consumers.


Now that you know the facts, what do you think?


Are you going to abandon calling cannabinoids like CBD non-psychoactive? Let us know your approach in the comments below and please remember to #LearnAndTeachOthers by sharing this article today!


Like what you just read? Check out our new Cannabis for Cancer Hub that features links to all of our articles about marijuana for cancer.

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