For years, both experience and research have indicated that CBD has a mitigating effect when consumed with THC.
For example, budtenders suggest a THC-strain balanced with CBD for new consumers to avoid overwhelming them.
When an experienced stoner has eaten an edible or taken some oil and feels too high – they use CBD to take the edge off.
But a recent study suggests this is all placebo.
How Could CBD Modulate THC?
More extensive studies will conclusively determine if CBD modulates THC. But for now, we’ll have to rely on conflicting research and anecdotal experiences.
CBD and THC have drastically different effects. THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol, the most famous of all cannabis compounds. THC binds to our cannabinoid receptors to produce the “high” feeling.
CBD, on the other hand, doesn’t directly bind to our cannabinoid receptors. It is more like a psychedelic in that it targets the serotonin 5-HT1A receptors, which we find primarily in our stomach.
CBD also prolongs the life span of our endogenous cannabinoids: anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG).
These endogenous cannabinoids bind to our cannabinoid receptors. Researchers figure that because CBD inhibits the breakdown of anandamide in the cannabinoid one receptor, THC can’t fully bind and thus has a muted effect.
Research performed under double-blind, placebo-controlled conditions suggested CBD can reduce the unpleasant effects of THC.
Other research disputes this. But what about this new study?
Does CBD Modulate THC? No, Says Study
According to the latest study no, CBD does not modulate the effects of THC. Published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, this randomized, double-blind cross-over trial was thorough.
Researchers recruited 46 healthy volunteers ranging from 21 to 50 years old. They’d used cannabis before but not more than once per week during the previous year. Researchers asked them to inhale cannabis vapour containing 10mg of THC combined with different levels of CBD.
So per experiment, they consumed a 10:0 ratio, then a balanced 10:10 ratio, followed by 10:20, and then 10:30. In other words, by the last experiment, participants were inhaling more CBD per milligram than THC.
After each experiment, the researchers asked the participants to complete a set of tasks. Researchers measured “psychotic symptoms,” including:
And physiological effects
For example, THC is associated with delayed verbal recall. The study said CBD did not improve those scores.
The study concludes, “There was no evidence of CBD modulating the effects of THC on other cognitive, psychotic, subjective, pleasurable, and physiological measures.”
Even going further to suggest, “This should be considered in health policy and safety decisions about medicinal and recreational cannabis.”
Yet, did this study conclusively determine these results? Even the authors admit their research can only go so far without a placebo-controlled group.
To suggest that “no evidence that CBD protects against the acute adverse effects of cannabis,” while other double-blind clinical trials have shown otherwise, indicates more to the story.
Building a CBD Tolerance
This latest study suggested that CBD does not modulate the effects of THC in the short term. But what about the long term?
Cannabis connoisseurs know about tolerance. If you smoke weed daily, you build up a tolerance to THC. You can take a few days off and let your cannabinoid receptors reset. When you return to the herb, you’ll feel the effects more with less.
CBD might work the opposite way. It may promote receptor sensitivity, meaning you need less over time.
CBD may also reestablish homeostatic levels (bringing balance to your endocannabinoid system). So while it may give the impression it’s not doing anything, CBD is working with your system without producing the “psychotic symptoms,” of THC.
At least one study suggests the longer you use CBD, the lower dosages you’ll need. Which is another way of saying: you need to build up some CBD in your system before it can work.
With that in mind, how accurate was this new study? A short-term look at people inhaling THC-CBD vapour after a year of virtually no consumption?
And no placebo-controlled group, to boot.
Yet, these researchers want their inconclusive opinions “considered in health policy and safety decisions” about cannabis.
The Problem With the “CBD Doesn’t Modulate THC” Study
Of course, the apparent problem with this “CBD doesn’t modulate THC” study is its short-term aspect, the lack of a placebo group, and the cannabis delivery method.
Cannabis is a complex plant, and if you consume THC or CBD through edibles, the body will process the cannabinoids differently.
Same for plant extracts. Were the volunteers of this study taking THC and CBD isolates in vape format? Or were these full-spectrum products containing other cannabinoids like CBG and CBN?
What would result if a participant ate 10mg of CBD edibles for two weeks straight and then smoked a one-gram joint with 25% THC? And what if we paired them with a participant who didn’t consume CBD two weeks prior?
This is why more research is needed before inconclusive results should be “considered” in government policy.
But the big problem with the “CBD doesn’t modulate THC” study comes down to bias.
The study says, “Cannabis users may reduce harms when using a higher CBD:THC ratio, due to the reduced THC exposure rather than the presence of CBD.”
Throughout the paper, the researchers engage in a priori extremism by labelling THC “harmful” without further discussion. It’s one of the biases built into the study. And we saw it earlier by referring to THC’s effects as “psychotic symptoms.”
But what evidence links cannabis, particularly the effects of THC, to “psychotic symptoms?”
When we consume THC, we don’t become “psychotic.” We get high. We become stoned. The fact that they didn’t use a neutral, scientific term to describe THC’s effects brings the entire paper into question.
Not to mention, English and Australian universities funded this study. Two countries not exactly known for their legal recreational cannabis markets. (Even their medical program is strictly controlled and absurdly risk-averse).
Furthermore, we have conclusive, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies that prove that CBD reduces anxiety. And since higher concentrations of THC cause anxiety in some people, it’s no surprise we have past studies indicating that CBD modulates the effects of THC.
What Did This Study Prove?
The problem with this “CBD doesn’t modulate THC” study is its bias and limited scope. They created a category of “psychotic symptoms.” Then they tested this theory on a small group of participants in the short term without any placebo-controlled group.
It may be that CBD isn’t the modulating agent we think it is. Further studies may validate the conclusions of this study.
But further research is needed. Governments destroyed nutrition science in the 20th century by accepting half-baked theories and biased research as proven facts.
With cannabis legalization sweeping the world, we cannot allow the same thing to happen to cannabinoid-based therapies.