Study Examines If CBD Buffers THC’s Effects

Little evidence shows that CBD can reduce adverse effects of cannabis and THC.
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A study published Wednesday in Neuropsychology attempted to determine if CBD reduces the adverse effects of THC, such as paranoia and memory loss, but found little evidence to support this theory. Study participants were observed and both pleasurable effects as well as adverse effects like paranoia and memory recall were recorded.

The study, called “Does cannabidiol make cannabis safer? A randomised, double-blind, cross-over trial of cannabis with four different CBD:THC ratios” aimed to determine if increasing the amount of CBD can reduce the “harmful effects” of cannabis—notably from THC.

Cannabis products are typically marketed with CBD:THC ratios, with CBD frequently being touted to augment THC’s effects, leading researchers to explore the relationship between the plant’s two most popular compounds. But they found that CBD doesn’t necessarily show evidence of reducing adverse side effects.

Forty-six individuals, ages 21-50, who consume cannabis infrequently, were observed and given an initial baseline visit—followed by four visits for a dose, in which participants vaped cannabis containing 10 mg THC and either 0 mg (0:1 CBD:THC), 10 mg (1:1), 20 mg (2:1), or 30 mg (3:1) CBD, in a randomized, counterbalanced order. 

The participants vaped the cannabis using a Volcano® Medic Vaporiser manufactured by Germany-based Storz-Bickel GmbH. The study participants were asked to take smaller hits and try not to cough, in order not to waste the dose via coughing it out.

Participants completed numerous tasks including a 15 minute walk around the hospital—which was previously determined to increase paranoia—and other activities such as memory exercises and questions about psychotic effects.

The Results

The results found little evidence of a reduction in paranoia and other adverse effects. “At the doses typically present in recreational and medicinal cannabis, we found no evidence of CBD reducing the acute adverse effects of THC on cognition and mental health,” researchers wrote. “Similarly, there was no evidence that it altered the subjective or pleasurable effects of THC. These results suggest that the CBD content in cannabis may not be a critical consideration in decisions about its regulation or the definition of a standard THC unit.” 

They also suggested that people who report better effects from CBD:THC products say so because they consume less THC rather than any buffering effects from CBD.

“The data are also relevant to the safety of licensed medicines that contain THC and CBD, as they suggest that the presence of CBD may not reduce the risk of adverse effects from the THC they contain. Cannabis users may reduce harms when using a higher CBD:THC ratio, due to the reduced THC exposure rather than the presence of CBD. Further studies are needed to determine if cannabis with even higher ratios of CBD:THC may protect against its adverse effects.”

Does Nature Know Best?

There’s the ongoing argument that the entourage effect from cannabis and many other plants is better than consuming one compound alone. Consuming THC alone in a vape pen won’t provide nearly the same effects as smoking high quality flower, packed with terpenes, cannabinoids, and flavonoids. 

A similar argument, for example, is that coffee is better than caffeine alone in energy drinks, given the balance of bioactive compounds in coffee including antioxidants, diterpenes, chlorogenic acids, and trigonelline.

The data is likely inconclusive, given the array of other explorations into CBD. Other studies seem to suggest that CBD may reduce anxiety, and even boost cognitive performance in activities such as gaming.

In one review, it was determined that specific brain regions associated with anxiety behaviors were reduced when participants took CBD. More specifically, it was observed that CBD was able to reduce “amygdala activation and altered medial prefrontal amygdala connectivity.”

But simply adding one additional compound to the mix doesn’t necessarily make much of a difference, judging by these latest findings. CBD doesn’t necessarily reduce paranoia, memory loss, or the other side effects caused by cannabis.

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