I had one incident in college where I thought I was going to be the first person to die from a weed overdose, so I don’t consume marijuana anymore. Everyone who learns this about me is like, “But CBD! Have you tried this Gonzo Magician’s Full Moon Mistress strain? Have you tried inserting a 100:1 CBD to THC ratio suppository directly into your womb? I really think you’ll like it. You just haven’t tried the right weed.”
Maybe they’re correct, but it’s beside the point. I’m not so concerned about avoiding the anxiety of weed as I am about having a method of escaping it. I wouldn’t get on a rollercoaster if the conductor couldn’t tell me when it would stop, y’know?
Perhaps, though, this is precisely what CBD could be used for. By some accounts, a fat dosage of CBD offers the ability to pull the off lever on an uncomfortable high. According to Dr. June Chin, Chief Medical Officer for Yesterday Wellness, the neuroscience behind weed supports that, too.
Basically, the human body has an endocannabinoid system that responds to various components of marijuana. One of the primary cannabinoid receptors is called CB1, and it’s found throughout the central nervous system, regulating different brain functions. “The CB1 receptor is responsible for the euphoria or ‘high,’” says Chin. “THC gets you high by activating the CB1 receptor in your brain. It’s also responsible for the increase in heart rate caused by THC.”
CBD, meanwhile, works as a CB1 antagonist or blocker. “A receptor antagonist blocks or dampens a biological response by binding to and blocking a receptor rather than activating it like an agonist,” Chin explains. For that reason, she adds, “CBD is capable of blocking THC activation of the CB1 receptor in cells.”
“CBD may help reverse anxiety-like behavior and the addictive behavior caused by just taking the THC alone,” Chin continues. “Researchers believe that the timing of when you consume CBD with THC matters, as well as the CBD dose, and the cannabinoid ratio.”
Whether CBD can block receptors that THC has already activated isn’t entirely clear. However, psychopharmacological studies from 1982 and 2013 found that CBD can work as an antagonist on CB1 receptors regardless of the order of dosage, and that consuming higher amounts of CBD alongside THC produces fewer mental health risks than high THC, low CBD marijuana consumption.
Chin also notes that CBD has calming effects elsewhere in the brain. “CBD acts at the serotonin 5-HT1A receptor, which results in decreasing anxiety,” she tells me. “The serotonin 1A receptor is a subtype of the serotonin receptor that binds the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is implicated in pain, depression and anxiety.”
In layman’s terms, CBD appeals to parts of the brain that can help reduce negative feelings beyond those caused by THC. As such, CBD could produce calming effects that counteract the anxiety of a THC high as well.
At very least, consuming CBD to counteract an uncomfortable weed experience won’t hurt. Even just the placebo effect of believing you have an antidote can help lessen paranoia and panic. Many stoners also swear by smelling or chewing peppercorn, which itself works as a blocker on the CB2 receptor, and thus, promotes positive feelings alongside THC.
As for me, I’ve recently had a vague interest in attempting to find enjoyment in weed again. In an ideal world, I’d procure some of that dried oregano-looking dirt weed and roll it up in a tobacco spliff, possibly with a rack of Busch and a bonfire. In an ideal world, I’d also not have anxiety.
The good news is, if all that neuroscience checks out, such greener pastures might just be a hit of CBD away.