Why recreational cannabis users may benefit from taking CBD
Taking cannabidiol (CBD) perhaps doesn’t sound that appealing to a recreational cannabis user, who wants a classic psychoactive experience. And indeed, when consuming cannabis to get “high,” it’s simply counter-productive to dull the effects with CBD, which isn’t just non-psychoactive but serves to suppress the impact of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
However, the cannabis plant has changed dramatically over the past few decades and is chemically unrecognizable to what was being smoked during the ‘Summer of Love’ back in the 1960s. Strains have much greater quantities of THC than they once did, and levels of CBD in recreational cannabis are typically minimal.
While this is brilliant for enhancing the psychoactive effects, this chemical imbalance means that we quickly acquire a tolerance to cannabis. And, on a more serious note, without the balance between CBD and THC, could chronic use of high-THC strains be having a negative impact on the brain. One study, which we will focus on later, suggests so – but don’t worry, CBD can help!
The value of cannabinoid cycling
Many cannabis users opt to take a ‘tolerance break’ every now and again, to give their desensitized CB1 receptors relief from the THC and return their endocannabinoid systems to normal. This is often for financial reasons – after all, what’s the point in spending and smoking more, if it’s not having the effect that it could?
However, it’s not necessary to completely stop, as some savvy users are finding out with high-CBD strains and other CBD products. Cannabinoid cycling involves swapping the THC for CBD for a couple of weeks or more to return tolerance levels to normal. What’s more, CBD can actually be very pleasant to take, even if you don’t have a condition to treat. By indirectly elevating anandamide, CBD functions as an indirect antidepressant. The cannabinoid also stimulates a rise in GABA, while seemingly exerting an additional anti-anxiety effect via the 5-HT1A receptor in the serotonin system.
For smokers and vapers, it’s simply a case of switching to CBD-rich hemp or cannabis flower, although just with the recreational THC market, there are loads of tasty CBD edibles to try out as well, from established brands such as YiLo.
The neuroprotective properties of CBD
Anti-cannabis forces tend to zone in on the dangers of super-strength strains. Sadly, a common tactic is to resort to scaremongering, when there is a legitimate conversation to be had about the effects of sustained consumption of large amounts of THC.
Not everybody responds well to the psychoactive effects of cannabis, and people predisposed to schizophrenia and psychosis can, in rare cases, have their conditions triggered by THC. However, these are extreme situations. What about the subtle effects of those who regularly use THC-rich strains?
Studies have found that long-term use of cannabis can affect brain structure in the hippocampus. This is a concern, since motivation and memory are controlled by the hippocampus – two mental faculties that cannabis is sometimes accused of adversely affecting.
However, while THC can ultimately reduce hippocampal volume, studies have repeatedly shown that CBD has precisely the opposite effect, and in 2018, a study specifically focused on the hippocampus and chronic cannabis use found the same.
A group of 18 cannabis users took part in a 10-week trial, where they were given a 200mg dose of CBD every day. Structural magnetic resonance imaging was conducted before and after the trial, with volume in the left subicular complex of the hippocampus increasing following treatment. Higher rates of hippocampal regrowth were reported in the heaviest cannabis users.
While one study is not confirmation of the restorative effect that CBD can have on the hippocampus, it is an encouraging sign for those who feel that cannabis has affected their cognition. Regular cannabis users may also be able to protect their brain health by taking CBD often.
Using CBD to calm an unpleasant trip
Cannabis is a psychoactive substance, and the effects can always be unpredictable, especially if the ‘set’ or ‘setting’ that the user is in unexpectedly changes. If your trip goes awry and you begin to feel uncomfortable, a dose of CBD will help to quickly reduce the potency of the psychoactive effects and bring your mind back to normal.
This effect is realized by the anti-psychotic properties of CBD, which could be a result of the cannabinoid’s effect as a negative allosteric modulator of the CB1 receptor.