There is a great deal of confusion surrounding what CBD can and can't do.
We've dived into many key pathways across the body and brain.
For hallucinations, we have to focus on the brain.
Most of the confusion comes from THC and how it works versus CBD.
Very different animals entirely….in fact, opposite in many effects.
The so-called "entourage effect" actually speaks to CBD's ability to counter many of THC's psychoactive effects.
They both come from the cannabis plant but work entirely differently.
Let's dive into the question at hand:
- Does CBD cause hallucinations or paranoia
- How does CBD work in the brain versus THC
- Is CBD psychoactive or psychomimetic
- Does the type of CBD matter for hallucinations?
To the brain!
Does CBD cause hallucinations or paranoia
In the dozens of NIH studies on CBD use up to 1500 mg, we have not seen hallucinations as a side effect of CBD isolate (CBD by itself).
We covered paranoia separately in our CBD and paranoia review.
First, let's get a quick introduction to what drives hallucinations and paranoia.
Hallucinations appear to be tied to too much excitability in certain parts of the brain or not enough processing in other parts.
We can look to glutamate, our brain's gas pedal, as having a starring role.
In fact, chemicals that jack up glutamate activity like PCP or ketamine are known to cause hallucinations.
Interestingly, if areas of the brain tied to receiving signals (sound or visual) are ramped up to such an extent, they will self generate inputs if it's lacking from outside.
This is a perfect example of an active mind (the glutamate piece) not having enough to process:
vivid dreamlike visual imagery can be induced in some individuals by placing 2 halves of a ping pong ball over the eyes and playing a recording of the sounds of a waterfall for several minutes
Check out CBD and glutamate to learn more.
Interestingly, GABA is the brain's "brake" pedal which opposes glutamate in the brain.
As for paranoia?
Most research is pointing to too much dopamine is a certain part of the brain...the striatum.
Interestingly, the striaturm is part of our threat detection system and dopamine generally drives (or directs) activity and focus.
Check out CBD and dopamine to learn more.
This accounts for the so-called "positive" symptoms of schizoprenia or psychosis. See CBD and schizophrenia for more detail as we have a giant review.
And then, there's THC.
With levels of high THC, hallucinations and paranoia can both be experienced:
Acute cannabis exposure in a healthy adult male resulted in self-reported hallucinations that rated high in magnitude on several subscales of the HRS.
The important piece is this:
mostly occurred after administration of purified Δ-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) rather than whole plant cannabis.
So...why do they work so differently in the brain?
How does CBD work in the brain versus THC
THC imitates a powerful chemical in our brain called anandamide.
Anandamide was named after the HIndu goddess of bliss, Anand.
It has many functions but primarily works to calm activity in the brain after periods of excitation or stress.
Hence the name!
Anandamide works primarily at a specific type of receptor called CB1.
THC fits into this receptor and pushed activity in one direction...up!
The issue is that anandamide is usually made when needed and almost immediately broken down.
The brain isn't able to do this with THC (doesn't full recognize it) so THC lingers around much longer and pushes activity beyond the scope of what this pathway is designed for.
This can lead to hallucinations and other psychoactive effects.
What about CBD? Why doesn't it cause hallucinations?
CBD is technically an allosteric negative modulator or key pathways.
That's a mouthful...what does it mean?
Essentially, CBD works like a feedback mechanism for these key pathways (and others):
- Serotonin - our master regulator of behavior and stress response
- GABA - the "brake" pedal which keeps glutamate in check
- Opioid system - key to psychological well-being and social/psychological pain as well
- Dopamine - dopamine is controlled by serotonin as a downstream effect
There are other lesser known pathways but the ones listed above are big players in brain function for our discussion.
So...how does CBD work there?
Most drugs or chemicals will push these different neurotransmitters up or down in one direction.
This is why you can have too much of a good thing.
Serotonin syndrome is a very dangerous excess in serotonin caused by SSRIs (usually in conjunction with another medication that also boosts serotonin).
CBD at very high doses has not been shown to cause serotonin syndrome even though it rescues serotonin when depleted (see CBD and serotonin).
The standard antipsychotics will ramp down dopamine.
This can be helpful for the "positive" effects but not great for the "negative" symptoms like low affect, depression, etc.
We did an entire review on CBD and dopamine but the key there is serotonin which governs dopamine.
As for glutamate (a key for hallucinations), CBD has a big impact on it's countering force, GABA.
In fact, this balancing act is key to why CBD was originally found for seizures (way too much glutamate!).
How do we explain CBD's interaction with these critical pathways?
Most chemicals will cause a neuron to send a message to a neighbor.
CBD sends a message the other way, from receiving neuron to sender!
- We're all fine here, stop sending!
- We're running low, send more!
For this reason, you have very different results.
CBD and cancer is a perfect example:
- Healthy cell with low inflammation - CBD has no effect
- Healthy cell with high inflammation - CBD reduces inflammation
- Cancerous or virally-infected cell - CBD INCREASES inflammation
Read that back over since it's so interesting!
The third result speaks to how our body deal with cancerous cells.
Our immune system boosts up oxidative stress in faulty cells to kill them off!
Three different states - three different results from CBD.
That's really the beauty of how it works.
It's also why we don't see overdoses or hallucinations. In fact, we would be surprised if it helps in that area. The studies on CBD and schizophrenia (where hallucinations affect roughly 60% of sufferers) is pretty fascinating.
This begs the question.
Is CBD psychoactive or psychomimetic
Psychoactive just means that a substance has effects on how we feel and perceive the world.
Technically, CBD is psychoactive since it can help balance the pathways above.
For example, if it supports GABA, this would calm anxiety which is a change in our mental state.
Pyschomimetic is more what we're interested in.
This means to "resemble psychosis". LSD is psychomimetic. It will significantly alter your mental state.
Check out the review on psilocybin to understand what's going on there.
CBD is not psychomimetic.
In fact, it has been shown to reduce the pyschomemetic effects of THC!
We did a full review of CBD versus THC here (night and day) or why CBD is a must if you use cannabis here.
Everything we've discussed above is based on CBD isolate. CBD by itself.
Let's touch base on that point.
Does the type of CBD matter for hallucinations?
First, the following requirements must be met:
- Organically grown in the USA at an FDA registered farm
- CO2 processed
- 3rd party tested
- No THC (for reasons above)
- No Heavy metals
- No pesticides
- No solvents
- No bacteria
- No mold
We test ours twice since our whole family uses it.
Then there's the question of CBD isolate versus full spectrum.
We can only speak to research on CBD isolate and hallucinations since that's all we can find.
Full spectrum may have up to .03% THC by law and it has a host of other plant materials and even other cannabinoids.
40-60% of the population has histamine issues and all this plant material can cause a very different side effect profile from CBD isolate.
In fact, histamine agents are known to cause delirium and other effects in some people.
The biggest issue is that histamine eats up GABA (our brain's calming agent from above) as they form the sleep/wake cycle. In fact, we did a deep dive on histamine as a big cause for insomnia.
For this reason, we focus on CBD isolate or CBD by itself.
To really dig into why the brain pathways might be dysregulated, check out below:
Check the review on CBD and schizophrenia which dives into the "positive" symptoms like hallucinations and CBD.
The review on CBD and dopamine is equally interesting on this front.
How early trauma/infection can downregulate GABA, serotonin, dopamine, and more (People...this is it outside of loss of steroidal hormones)
Steroidal hormones drive serotonin which manages dopamine. More here (testosterone mirrors estrogen on this front)
Always work with a doctor or naturopath with any supplement!
The information provided here is not intended to treat an illness or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.