Scientists know more than ever about the more than 100 cannabinoids, and while more and more people are becoming familiar with their properties and effects, it’s still not uncommon for misinformation to be spread about.
Here is a look at the most common misconceptions about cannabinoids:
Misconception #1: All Cannabinoids are Psychoactive
Not all cannabinoids will cause users to experience a high. Some cannabinoid products will provide therapeutic effects without producing the altered perceptions and cognitive impairments caused by most recreational products.
The most well recognized cannabinoid — tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — does produce euphoric effects and products containing higher levels of THC will cause users to feel its psychoactive properties. Cannabinol (CBN) has been shown to have a mild psychoactive effects, but when combined with THC will often make a user drowsy and induce sleep. THC and CBN activate the endocannabinoid system’s CB1 receptors in the nervous system, creating a “high” sensation.
However, another major cannabinoid – cannabidiol (CBD) – is non-psychoactive and actually counteracts the temporary cognitive impairments caused by THC. Cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabichromene (CBC) have also been found to be non-psychoactive.
Therefore, those seeking the therapeutic properties of cannabinoids, but want to steer clear from any psychoactive effects, can stick with CBD and CBC products.
Misconception #2: Cannabinoids are Highly Addictive
It is possible to become psychologically or chemically dependent on many substances, including the cannabinoid THC. However, compared to many substances, including opiates, THC carries a far lower risk of chemical dependence. About 9% of THC users meet the criteria for dependence, which is significantly lower compared to 32% of tobacco users and 15% of those who consume alcohol.
THC does create changes in the brain and stimulates the neurotransmitter that affects the “reward” response in the brain, but <research has indicated that in adults these changes are mild.
There is no evidence that the non-psychoactive cannabinoids — CBD, CBG and CBC – carry any risk for addiction.
Misconception #3: You can Overdose on Cannabinoids
While there is a risk of some negative side effects from THC and CBN, including temporary impairments in memory, reaction time and judgment, it is not possible to have a fatal overdose from cannabinoid products.
The cannabinoid receptors acted upon by THC and other cannabinoids aren’t located in the brain stem, and therefore have no effect on essential processes like breathing.
Cannabinoids are, by far, the least harmful substance. They have been found to be at least 114 times safer than alcohol, according to a study published in the January 2015 issue of Scientific Reports. A research review published in 2001 issue of The British Journal of Psychiatry concluded cannabinoids to be safe in overdose.
Misconception #4: Using Cannabinoids Will Lead to the Use of More Serious Substances
While opponents to cannabinoid legalization often argue that cannabinoids serve as a “gateway drug” to more serious drugs, research has found no evidence indicating that cannabinoid use is linked to the eventual use of other illicit substances. A report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse concluded that, “the majority of people who use [cannabinoids] do not go on to use other, ‘harder’ substances.” Former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch also acknowledged that cannabinoids are not gateway drugs.
Research actually indicates that cannabinoids can be beneficial for those addicted to dangerous substances and help them on their road to recovery. Cannabinoids reduce the severity of opioid withdrawals and curb the cravings for alcohol.
Misconception #5: All Cannabinoids are Controlled Substances and Illegal Unless You Live in a State with Cannabinoid-Specific Laws
All cannabinoids that are derived from the marijuana plant are federally classified as Schedule I substances and therefore illegal to possess and consume unless you live in a state that have passed adult or medical use laws. There are currently 29 states in the U.S. that have passed medical use laws, and eight that have passed laws allowing cannabinoids for recreational use.
The cannabinoid CBD, when derived from hemp instead of marijuana, is excluded from the Controlled Substances Act. It is therefore legal to purchase and use CBD hemp oil under federal law, without a prescription. Individual state laws are dynamic and individual states may govern hemp-derived CBD. In most cases, however, CBD hemp oil is legally available.