There are at least 113 different chemical compounds found in cannabis known as cannabinoids, though you usually only hear about two of them. One is THC—marijuana’s primary intoxicating compound (i.e. the thing in weed that gets you high). The other is CBD, which doesn’t make you intoxicated and is best known for treating medical conditions like seizures.
While the effects of both compounds are well understood in isolation, the way in which CBD and THC interact with each other is not as well-known. To better understand that interaction, researchers from the University College London (UCL) recently took fMRI brain scans of 17 people after they consumed two cannabis strains. Both had nearly the same level of THC, but one contained much more CBD than the other.
After consuming the low-CBD cannabis, participants showed signs of impaired functional connectivity in the brain’s default mode network and salience network. But after consuming the high-CBD cannabis, the participants experienced comparatively minimal disruptions in these areas.
Since disruptions in the salience network have been linked to the development of addictions and psychosis, some researchers are concerned that frequent consumption of high-THC cannabis could lead to these conditions. However, the UCL study also suggests that CBD counteracts some of those effects, so consuming cannabis with high levels of CBD could be a safer choice overall.
«Over the last two decades, rates of addiction and psychosis linked to cannabis have been on the rise, while at the same time, stronger strains of cannabis with more THC and less CBD have become increasingly common,» said Dr. Matt Wall – the study’s lead author.
«We have now found that CBD appears to buffer the user against some of the acute effects of THC on the brain.»
Additionally, THC’s effects on the default mode network appear to contribute to how intoxicated a person feels after consuming cannabis. As CBD reduces the impact of THC on that network, people who consume high-CBD cannabis are likely to feel less high regardless of how much THC they’ve consumed.
Researchers also noted that CBD’s effects on the brain’s salience network shows it has potential as a future treatment for psychosis as well as addiction. That means CBD could help combat the opioid epidemic raging in America.