Cannabidiol, or CBD, has become a household name. On many social media sites, people suggest “but have you tried CBD oil?” on posts pertaining to any health-related issue.
CBD, a minor constituent of marijuana, is widely touted as nature’s miracle by CBD enthusiasts. It does not get people high, unlike marijuana’s main constituent, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). However, given the recent surge in its popularity, you’d think the molecule is magic.
We are behavioral pharmacology scientists, and we study how drugs act on the body. Specifically, we have an interest in developing new drugs for the treatment of pain that possess lessened drug abuse potential, and therapeutic interventions for drug abuse. Although there is scientific interest in the use of CBD for both pain and drug addiction, as well as many other medical indications, there is a lot that we still do not know about CBD.
CBD and THC: How do they work?
Drugs affect the body by binding and acting at various protein molecules, usually on the surface of the cells in the body, called receptors. These receptors then send signals that can impact bodily functions.
Marijuana has an effect on the body because many animals have receptors termed “cannabinoid receptors.” There are two known cannabinoid receptors that are responsible for the effects of marijuana. Only one of them, the cannabinoid type 1 receptor (CB1R), is responsible for the high from marijuana. These cannabinoid receptors are predominately found on nerve cells located throughout the body, including the brain.
CBD doesn’t get people high because CBD does not bind or act on CB1R. CBD also does not bind or act on the other cannabinoid receptor, the cannabinoid type 2 receptor (CB2R), predominately found on immune cells. In contrast, THC binds and activates both of these receptors.