Does CBD make you high?

Authors: Gerhard Nahler, Franjo Grotenhermen, Antonio Waldo Zuardi, and José A.S. Crippa;

Department of Neuroscience and Behavior, University of São Paulo Ribeirão Preto, Brazil and Instituto

Nacional de Ciência e Tecnologia Translacional em Medicina



Does CBD make you high? Delta9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”) is a hurdle for CBD because THC is the primary psychoactive

component in cannabis. This close association between CBD and THC is likely what causes a negative

reaction to the thought of using CBD as a medical therapy.

This study combats the notion that CBD causes a THC high by discussing the misinterpretations of prior

studies on the subject. In fact, the researchers state that two particular prior studies “have caused much

confusion and uncertainty whether oral cannabidiol (CBD) is safe and whether subjects who are treated with

CBD run the risk of positive workplace tests [for THC].”

The Prior Studies questioning if CBD makes you high


The first prior study analyzed the changes in CBD when mixed with a petri-dish simulation of stomach acids.

Interpretation of the results yielded the researcher conclusion that CBD does convert to THC when exposed to

stomach acids.

The second prior study also suggested CBD may convert to THC when taken orally. The conclusion was based

on tests done on human volunteers.


The Misinterpretations


The study authors noted that both prior studies were severely misinterpreted. This is due to two main reasons.


1. While CBD might convert to THC under certain simulated acidic conditions, it has not been shown

to actually occur in living organisms. This is a classic misinterpretation of what could happen in

practicality based solely on culture-dish tests results.

2. The results of the human volunteer tests were taken out of context. Traces of THC were not only

extremely minimal in the human volunteers but the alleged THC was not present in urine samples.

Author Gerhard Nahler found it most surprising that an entire group of authors were “tempted to over-interpret

results.” However, he felt that misinterpretations are not entirely uncommon, stating “People overlook quite

frequently that “in vitro” results may differ significantly from conditions “in vivo”, particularly in man. In

vitro results are suggestions, not proofs for processes in real life.

The current study points out that the glaring difference between CBD and THC is the inability for CBD to

bind to a person’s cannabinoid brain receptors (more scientifically referred to as “CB1”). As CBD does not

initiate a physiological response when combined with CB1, it “lacks cannabis-like intoxicating effects.”

Key Takeaways

The researchers note that while conversion to THC may occur under artificial conditions “Over 40 years of

research on CBD does not suggest a conversion of CBD to delta9-THC and/or other cannabinoids in vivo after

oral administration.”


To avoid misinterpretations in the future, Nahler noted “The more a result is unexpected (or presented as such

as it was in the paper of Merrick et al., 2016) the more authors should be cautious when interpreting and

extrapolating results.”


This is a truly impactful study for CBD use as it takes direct aim at the common-yet-faulty belief that CBD is a

psychoactive compound.

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