does cbd enhance thc

Does cbd enhance thc

Now let me add yet another complication to our growing list of complications: THC and CBD are far from alone in the cannabis plant when it comes to medicinal properties. Those two might be anti-inflammatory, for instance, “but if you were to vaporize a whole flower, you'd be consuming potentially a couple dozen anti-inflammatory molecules at once,” says Wilson-Poe. “In this sense I think of whole-plant cannabis as like a multivitamin for inflammation.” (Because there are so many important compounds at play, some researchers prefer the term ensemble effect over entourage effect. “Entourage” makes it sound like everything is supporting the rock star that is THC, when the reality might be more nuanced.)

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With cannabis growing more legitimate as a medicine, researchers are finally putting hard data to these anecdotal reports. They’re beginning to understand how CBD might modulate the often unwelcome effects of THC.

At the top of the list of mysteries is how a galaxy of compounds in the plant combine to produce a galaxy of medical (and, of course, recreational) effects. For example, THC feels different when combined it with cannabidiol, or CBD, another naturally occurring compound in cannabis, but the reasons aren’t fully known. It’s called the entourage effect: THC, like a rock star, only reaches its full potential when it rolls with a crew, consisting of hundreds of other compounds in the plant that scientists know about so far.

It all comes back to the psychoactive CB1 receptor. THC is an agonist that fits nicely into CB1, activating it. “CBD can't do that at the CB1, but it does sort of sit in the pocket,” says Wilson-Poe. “It can compete with THC for the spot in the receptor.” Which means that if you take CBD with THC, there may be fewer receptors available for the THC to activate, thus modulating the psychoactive effects, like paranoia.

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Today, cannabis continues its slow march toward nationwide decriminalization with voters deciding whether to allow recreational use in Michigan and North Dakota, and for medical purposes in Utah and Missouri. As states keep chipping away at federal prohibition, more consumers will gain access, sure—but so will more researchers who can more easily study this astonishingly complex and still mysterious plant.

But the problem with researching a schedule I drug is that the government doesn’t want you to do it. Yet as more states go legal, cannabis continues to climb out of the scientific dark ages. Because it’s not just about giving people a comfortable high, but about developing cannabis into drugs that could treat a massive range of ills.

Mode of ingestion, then, is a big consideration in the cannabis experience. But so too are factors beyond your control. “We're pretty aware that the endocannabinoid system is not a static picture throughout the day,” says Raber. “Why it changes, what causes those changes—those are other levels of complicated questions.” Cannabis might hit you differently during the day than at night, and can also depend on your mood or whether you’ve eaten.

Consider the drug Marinol, a synthetic form of THC available since the 1980s. It’s a good appetite stimulant, but it’s also good at getting patients high and paranoid. “When you just stimulate the CB1 receptor with this pure molecule, it's very intoxicating and patients don't tolerate it very well,” says Adie Wilson-Poe, who researches cannabis for pain management at Washington University in St. Louis.

Tetrahydrocannabinol mimics the effect of endocannabinoids. In contrast to these substances, THC is not rapidly broken down at the site of operation, and it not only works at specific locations but simultaneously activates all CB receptors throughout the brain (14).

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Pharmacology

The mechanisms by which CBD exerts its effect are not precisely known, but it is clear that the pharmacological actions of CBD follow from many different mechanisms [for reviews, see Ref. (15, 16)]. CBD weakly binds to CB-Rs but is capable of antagonizing the effects of THC, even when the former is present in low doses. By inhibiting the degradation of the endogenous cannabinoid anandamide, CBD intensifies, and prolongs its effect (17). The (extended) presence of anandamide prevents THC from interacting with CB-Rs. CBD also interacts with several other recently discovered CB-Rs, and it is an agonist for the 5-HT1A receptor (18, 19), which may explain some of the antipsychotic and anxiolytic effects of CBD (20). Through its effect on intracellular calcium concentrations, CBD might protect neurons against the possible neurotoxic effects of THC (21). CBD itself has almost no effect on normal physiological processes. Only when a stimulus (such as pain or a shock reaction) or another cannabinoid (such as THC) upsets the normal “tone” of the endocannabinoid system is the effect of CBD expressed (12).

Toxicology of CBD

The conflicting results among volumetric brain studies seem to result from differences in time span (e.g., age of onset), patterns of cannabis use (e.g., frequency, duration of use, cumulative lifetime use), and type of cannabis used (e.g., potency, CBD/THC ratio) (29, 30).