Is CBD Psychoactive? Yes, It Is.

Is CBD Psychoactive? Yes, It Is.

by Laura Geftman, LCSW

By now, you’ve undoubtedly heard about CBD. It’s been referred to as a “magical elixir” and the new “super food.” Many people are intrigued by knowing it’s a “non-toxicant” that’s “non-psychoactive” and doesn’t get you “high.” Only one of those three assumptions are actually true. So let’s review…


CBD or Cannabidiol is one of the know 113 chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. It is a naturally occurring substance that has significant medical and mental health benefits and is now being thought to best treat various ailments. 

CBD can reduce the psychoactive effects of cannabis. A strain that has high THC and high CBD will have fewer mental effects and more physical ones. High CBD strains are especially effective for illnesses with strong physical symptoms.

CBD effects include:

  • reduced pain
  • reduced anxiety
  • reduced nausea
  • sedative effects
  • anti-convulsive
  • anti-schizophrenic
  • arrests the spread of cancer

If you want to learn more about CBD, check out 11 Misconceptions About CBD.


Understanding how CBD effects human physiology is continuing to be researched and understood. What we now know is that THC and CBD have similar molecular structures but CBD doesn’t stimulate brain and central nervous system receptors (CB1 receptors) the same way THC does. Stimulation of the CB1 can deliver many therapeutic benefits but it also creates a “high”effect. THC binds to receptors while CBD does not. 

“What people should think of, is that the primary intoxicating molecule in cannabis is THC.” Dr. Ethan Russo, the Director of Research and Development for the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute, Has been quoted trying to set the record straight.

Both elements, however, have a psychoactive effect on the body. The results or effects of their activity is different.

“Very simply stated, what is clear about CBD is that it must be considered psychoactive because of its ability to act as an anti-anxiety agent and an anti-psychotic agent,” Russo continued. “It is not intoxicating in the way THC is, it does not produce a high, nor does it produce any raving or withdrawal effects.”


Cannabis has been adversely stigmatized due its psychoactive effects that have not made a distinction between the use of its different elements. New users are curious about the benefits of cannabis and/or CBD but are concerned about what they’d heard about getting “high” and addiction.

Zach Walsh a professor and researcher of cannabis and mental health at the University of British Columbia has been quoted saying that “[CBD] doesn’t create a euphoric high. It doesn’t create cognitive alterations that are obvious or overt.”


Getting “high” isn’t the only concern of curious consumers, addiction carry its own constellation of questions.  Those in sobriety are concerned that using CBD will break their sobriety and trigger their addiction. 

Research has shown that cannabis can ben addictive for a minority of people (9%). Research like Russo claim “…it has no drug abuse liability that’s been observed.”

Research points to cannabis being non-addictive. Using cannabis and/or CBD will have health consequences for some users.

“People like simple explanations,” said Russo. “But anything about cannabis deserves paragraphs, not single phrases.”

About Laura Geftman, LCSW

Laura Geftman, LCSW

Laura Geftman, LCSW is the Founder of The Calm, Cool & Collected and a practicing therapist. Beyond all things cannabis and mental health, Laura is passionate about developing greater understanding for kindness and acceptance. In her free time, Laura can be found on her yoga mat, in a kayak or singing karaoke.


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This Post Has 31 Comments

  1. Holly Bird

    CBD is a wonderful natural way of helping with so many health issues. I always believed that there is something natural to help with many diseases! I personally have been using CBD for years and I am pleased with the results!!

  2. Molly Callister

    Great information. I have been using CBD oil for anxiety and have found it does help to manage it and has never made me feel intoxicated at all.

    1. WelcomingWeed

      That’s great Molly! Enjoy it! Now I hope you understand the difference in the language used to describe it!

  3. Brittany

    My friend’s daughter’s seizures have completely stopped since using CBD. Thanks for sharing your research! It was good to learn more about it.

    1. WelcomingWeed

      That absolutely warms my heart! So happy to hear that! Send all my best to them please!!!

  4. Nikki

    Great post and full of info. Yes there seems to be a stigma that needs to be broken and posts like yours go a long ways in showing the facts. My dogs vet has me give it to my 3-legged GSD for pain. The other option was a pill that would eventually destroy his liver!!! The poor dog only has 3 legs he definitely doesn’t need to have other issues that the pills would bring.

    1. WelcomingWeed

      Ohmygoodness! I love that you have a 3-legged dog and that you think so much about what its been through! While it’s not my specialty- there are many folks out there providing great info about CBD for dogs and cats! I know it can help them out! Good luck with your dog!!!

  5. Katie

    Thanks for the explanation and references, my friend with anxiety and I were just talking about this yesterday!

    1. WelcomingWeed

      Perfect timing! If the post didn’t answer all you and your friends questions, please feel free to email me!

  6. Katie Mitchell

    Great information here! Thanks for spreading more awareness on this subject. I’m a firm believer of CBD helping illness.

    1. WelcomingWeed

      WOOT WOOT! Katie’s on board! Thanks for posting your support!!!

  7. Leah Mullins

    This is so helpful and answers a lot of the questions I have about CBD and its recent rise in popularity. I love the pain relief properties for sure…but, girl, give me the THC. 😉 LOL. Thanks for this really well-written post!

  8. Great info. I’ve only used it once topically on a really bad sunburn after hiking Mt Rainier when visiting Washington State, and it seemed to help!

  9. Nicki

    Great information. Well said. Hopefully people will open their minds and read on.

  10. Shelly Bergman

    Interesting take on this controversial issue. I tried CBD oil to try and get a good night’s sleep. I used the whole bottle and it didn’t help. Maybe I need to try another brand.

  11. Angela Greven

    Thank you for sharing, I have a friend who suffers from major anxiety and CBD is the only thing that has given her relief! I appreciate learning more on this highly talked about topic.

  12. Kristen

    Thank you for explaining the differences. Very interesting!

  13. Tricia Snow

    I have black tar CBD and it is powerful. No THC, but until it is legal I can not risk anything more. Great info!

    1. WelcomingWeed

      Then I hope you’ll keep reading! Please let me know if you have any questions!

  14. Michele Vadnais

    I appreciate the better understanding of the terminology. I hear a lot these days about CBD, but it always seems to be tailored to fit the narrative of the particular story.

  15. Judean

    Thank you for the information…while I don’t know anyone who needs this, very helpful information.

  16. Rosanna

    Thanks for the information. A friend was telling me about using CBD oil and how it helped her pain.

  17. Monica

    thank you for sharing your findings and better educating people on a drug that could do so much good if people are willing to learn and use it properly.

  18. Mary

    This is very interesting information. I had heard about CBD oil, but didn’t know much about it.

  19. T.M. Brown

    I have a family member who uses CBD for anxiety and swears by it. I have another friend who uses it for pain. Thank you for the information you shared.

  20. Dennis

    Great post and very informative.

  21. Kirsten

    It can be a powerful and natural aid. Great article!

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