CBD won't cause you to feel paranoid, as it binds to receptors in your body rather than in your brain. Researchers are finding it may be able to counteract paranoia, especially when it's a result of THC. CBD can actually "quiet down" your cannabinoid receptors, while THC can cause hyperactivity which can lead to paranoia. The largest study of the effects of the main ingredient of cannabis has shown definitively that it can cause short-term paranoia. The Oxford-led research also, for the first time, identifies psychological factors that can lead to feelings of paranoia in people who take cannabis. One editor explains how she took CBD oil every day for a week to help her anxiety, plus the difference between CBD and weed. Learn more here.
Does CBD Make You Paranoid?
It’s not uncommon to experience paranoia when consuming THC, but does CBD have the same effect? I set out to uncover the answer & have first-hand experience to share with you:
CBD won’t cause you to feel paranoid, as it binds to receptors in your body rather than in your brain. Researchers are finding it may be able to counteract paranoia, especially when it’s a result of THC. CBD can actually “quiet down” your cannabinoid receptors, while THC can cause hyperactivity which can lead to paranoia.
THC Hits The Brain, CBD Hits The Body
Although you probably already know how CBD is much different than THC, did you know it’s received by your body in an entirely different way?
THC is known to bind to the CB1 cannabinoid receptors located in your brain. Because of the location & function of these receptors, it can cause you to feel paranoid or anxious due to “hyperactivity” caused by too much THC! Your receptors are firing off with large amounts of THC & therefore it can bring on some intense effects.
CBD, on the other hand, binds mainly to CB2 receptors that are located throughout your body & largely in your immune system. Instead of being received by your brain, it’s received in the body. This also explains CBD’s promising results when it comes to inflammation & autoimmune conditions.
This is largely why CBD is not going to make you paranoid, where THC can. But, what about when CBD is used alongside THC in something like a Full Spectrum CBD Oil?
Will Full-Spectrum CBD Be Different?
An important factor in not feeling paranoid with THC is the amount you consume. When it comes to Full spectrum CBD, we are talking about a limit of 0.3% THC maximum. So, not a lot.
We still recommend Full Spectrum to those who’ve had previous negative experiences with THC. In all likelihood, the paranoia was a result of taking one too many gummies or puffs – we’ve all been there at one point. But, understanding that there is much less THC in these products than gummies you’d get from a dispensary in Colorado!
Also, we must understand the effect CBD has on THC & paranoia.
Using CBD Alongside THC
One of the biggest reasons people are using CBD today is to calm down anxious thoughts/relieving stress. So, it clearly has a natural calming effect. This especially comes into play when alongside THC.
Various studies including a 2019 controlled trial published to the National Library of Medicine showed that CBD has the ability to reduce the negative side effects of THC! Usually being paranoia & anxiety. CBD has the potential to help “calm” those cannabinoid receptors down & help your nervous system return to normal!
We advise our friends who enjoy THC to always have some CBD on hand! As it can really come in handy when you’re feeling like you just might never feel normal again.
THC can certainly be intense, but there are reasons you shouldn’t count it out completely.
Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid of THC
We would tell anyone, especially newcomers, to be mindful about how much THC you are consuming. Because although you can’t overdose or become addicted to THC (physically), you certainly can reach a point of “too much”. Which can come with an existential crisis, an endless case of the munchies, & for some, nausea.
But, fear not! THC can be extremely beneficial when used correctly. As you may or may not know, it specifically empowers CBD so you can feel better results at lower doses! Having just a little bit of THC makes the CBD work much better & more consistently than when you take it away.
We recommend Full Spectrum as a first-choice for most everyone. The cases for not taking Full Spectrum CBD are things like drug testing for work or hypersensitivity to THC. As for some, even that little 0.3% is just too much. But, for most, choosing Full Spectrum is the best bet to finding the most relief.
CBD isn’t going to make you paranoid. It acts much differently than THC & delivers calming effects that are received by your body, not your brain.
This doesn’t mean it won’t help with anxious thoughts/etc. As we know, CBD has been showing promise in these areas & works more so with the Central Nervous & Endocannabinoid systems to help you remain calm.
So, don’t be afraid to give it a try! It usually comes with a ton of benefits without any sort of negative effects.
How cannabis causes paranoia
The largest study of the effects of the main ingredient of cannabis has shown definitively that it can cause short-term paranoia. The Oxford-led research also, for the first time, identifies psychological factors that can lead to feelings of paranoia in people who take cannabis.
The research team, led by Professor Daniel Freeman, found that worrying, low self-esteem, anxiety and experiencing a range of unsettling changes in perceptions most likely led to the feelings of paranoia.
‘The study very convincingly shows that cannabis can cause short-term paranoia in some people,’ says Professor Freeman. ‘But more importantly it shines a light on the way our mind encourages paranoia. Paranoia is likely to occur when we are worried, think negatively about ourselves, and experience unsettling changes in our perceptions.’
The study, funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), is the most in-depth investigation ever of the paranoia-inducing effects of the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, THC (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol). Participants were given a range of tests of excessive suspiciousness, including real-life social situations, a virtual reality simulation, self-report questionnaires and clinical interviews.
Paranoia is excessive thinking that other people are trying to harm us. Many people have a few paranoid thoughts, and a few people have many paranoid thoughts
Professor Daniel Freeman
All of those who took part had reported mistrustful thinking in their day to day lives. This is not an unusual sample as approximately half the population report similar paranoid type thoughts occurring in the past month. The scientists tested 121 participants between the ages of 21 and 50, all of whom had taken cannabis at least once before. None of the participants had a history of mental illness and all were screened to rule out relevant health conditions.
Two thirds of the participants were injected with the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis and one-third were injected with a placebo. The dose was equivalent to a strong joint. The advantage of injection was that it reduces variability across participants in how much THC is in the bloodstream during testing, compared to oral or inhalation administration routes. In the study participants, the THC had effects for 90 minutes.
The study found that the main ingredient of cannabis increased the likelihood of paranoia occurring. Half the participants had paranoid thoughts with THC, and 30% with placebo. That is, 1 in 5 participants had an increase in paranoia directly attributable to the THC. The paranoia declined as the drug left the blood stream.
The drug also caused a range of other psychological effects: anxiety; worry; lowered mood; negative thoughts about the self; various changes in perception such as sounds being louder than normal and colours brighter; thoughts echoing; altered perception of time, and poorer short-term memory.
The Oxford researchers used a sophisticated statistical analysis which indicated that it was likely that the increase in the negative feelings and the perceptual changes led to the increase in paranoia. There was no indication that the reductions in short-term memory caused the increase in paranoia.
Professor Daniel Freeman of the Department of Psychiatry explains: ‘Paranoia is excessive thinking that other people are trying to harm us. It’s very common because in our day-to-day lives we have to weigh up whether to trust or mistrust, and when we get it wrong – that’s paranoia. Many people have a few paranoid thoughts, and a few people have many paranoid thoughts.’
The researchers believe the study reinforces the idea that paranoia arises from multiple causes.
‘The study identifies a number of highly plausible ways in which our mind promotes paranoid fears. Worry skews our view of the world and makes us focus on perceived threat,’ says Professor Freeman. ‘Thinking we are inferior means we feel vulnerable to harm. Just small differences in our perception can make us feel that something strange and even frightening is going on.’
He adds: ‘The study provides a great deal more information about the immediate effects of cannabis, but it did not investigate clinically severe disorder. The results don’t necessarily have any implications for policing, the criminal justice system, or legislation. It tells us about the little discussed paranoid-type fears that run through the minds of so many people from time to time. The implication is that reducing time spent ruminating, being more confident in ourselves, and not catastrophizing when unusual perceptual disturbances occur will in all likelihood lessen paranoia.’
The study is reported in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin. As well as funding from the MRC, it also received support from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London.
I Took CBD Oil Every Day for My Anxiety—Here’s What Went Down
Dana Myers, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker and life coach based in Philadelphia. She has a special interest in how race, sex, gender, ethnicity, social status and competencies impact those in marginalized communities and aims to help her clients find purpose and peace in life.
Michelle Regalado is a seasoned editor, fact-checker, and content strategist with expertise in women’s lifestyle news.
When I first learned about CBD oil, I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical. My mind immediately turned to weed and the unnerving experiences I’d had with heightened anxiety in college. For me, a person who’s already predisposed to overthinking, marijuana, no matter what the form, would typically put my mind into overdrive and result in a common yet dreaded side effect: Paranoia. But, let’s back up a bit. What even is CBD?
What is CBD?
A bit of online digging led me to realize that the active ingredient in Charlotte’s Web Everyday Plus Hemp Oil, the product I’d been offered to test, was the chemical compound CBD, which stands for cannabidiol. Unlike THC, the other crucial compound in hemp and marijuana plants, CBD (when derived from the hemp plant) does not produce the psychoactive effects that make you feel “high”; instead, emerging science has hinted that CBD may actually ease anxiety, and therefore, makes you less likely to freak out.
For example, one study comparing the effects of THC and CBD found that, while THC increased anxiety by activating the neurotransmitters involved in the “fight or flight” response, CBD actually repressed autonomic arousal—or the nervous system response associated with sudden increases in heart rate or respiration. In other words, CBD may be ideal for people looking to relax and unwind.
While the science behind CBD’s effectiveness for treating anxiety, pain, and insomnia is still in its infancy, Charlotte Figi’s inspiring story sounds promising. Figi, a 6-year-old girl diagnosed with a rare and resistant form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome, was placed on hospice care and given a “do not resuscitate” order when her parents, desperate and frustrated with pharmaceutical medication, considered medical marijuana; specifically, a strain low in THC and high in CBD. Charlotte is now nearly seizure-free since she began supplementing with Charlotte Web’s CBD oil, which the brand named after Figi.
Legal and Safety Things To Know About CBD
The current CBD industry is like the internet’s early years. the Wild West. Legally, speaking, a Harvard Medical School blog post reads, “All 50 states have laws legalizing CBD with varying degrees of restriction, and while the federal government still considers CBD in the same class as marijuana, it doesn’t habitually enforce against it.” With heightened interest around CBD, it’s important to note that because CBD is currently unregulated, it’s difficult to know what you’re getting (whether that’s a tincture—commonly referred to as CBD oil, which is often combined with a carrier oil like coconut oil—topical products like creams and balms, sprays, or capsules), despite product labels and brand promises, the blog post further reads. It’s also important to note that people experience CBD differently. For the most part, the National Institute of Medicine says that while most people can tolerate CBD, side effects do exist. They might include dry mouth, drowsiness, and reduced appetite, among others.
That said, those interested in exploring the potential benefits of CBD should consult with their doctor (especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or currently taking medication) and be mindful of your dosage, writes Consumer Reports. And before you buy, Megan Villa, co-founder of the hemp-focused website and shop Svn Space, told Shape magazine to seek out a certificate of analysis. “Ask for a COA for the batch number of the product you have, since these products are made in batches,” she said. “You need to match the batch number to the COA that pertains to it.” Then, scan the report for potency (i.e. does the number of milligrams of CBD that the product label touts match the lab report?), contaminants and pesticides, and mold (which should live under the “Microbiological Testing” part of the report). Go a step further and note whether the testing lab is GMP (Good Manufacturing Principles) certified, and whether the lab is registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Shape magazine also suggests purchasing CBD products made from domestically-grown hemp, and reading up on the difference between full- and broad-spectrum and CBD isolate.
With that, I threw caution to the wind and asked for a sample. Here’s what happened—including what it feels like—when I took one full dropper of Charlotte’s Web’s Everyday Plus Hemp Oil in the mint chocolate flavor every morning for seven days.
My First Impression
It was actually a bad bout of jet lag after a trip to California that inspired me to finally test out the CBD oil (I’ll admit that my weed-based reservations kept me from trying it for the first few months). Knowing that the oil had also helped people with sleep issues, I squeezed one full dropper of the Everyday Plus oil onto my tongue, per the instructions, and waited.
Thirty minutes later, I was surprised by how subtle the effect was. While I expected a hazy nodding-off effect similar to melatonin’s, the oil simply relaxed my body ever so slightly—my heart stopped pounding against my chest, my legs stopped kicking beneath my sheets, my mind stopped racing. I wasn’t sure if it was the oil or the late hour, but eventually, physical relaxation gave way to mental relaxation, and I drifted off to sleep.
Reflecting the next morning, I was most surprised by the fact that I never felt “high” in any way—there was never a moment of It’s kicking in; I can feel it now like with pain medications or even anti-anxiety drugs. Considering it takes time, consistency, and the right dosage to experience the full effect, I continued taking the oil once a day for the next six days. Here’s what went down.
It Made Me Less Anxious and Edgy
Rather than overthinking a sternly worded email or analyzing a social interaction, I found it easier to recognize the irrationality of these thoughts and actually let them go.
While normally I’d be slightly tripped up by little things like an overly crowded subway car or a full inbox at work, the CBD oil seems to have taken the edge off of my anxiety a bit. Rather than overthinking a sternly worded email or analyzing a social interaction, I found it easier to recognize the irrationality of these thoughts and actually let them go. In some ways, I feel more like myself. With that said, I’ve still experienced some social anxiety when meeting new groups of people—I’d be interested to see what taking the full recommended dose would do.
I’m More Focused At Work
I work well under pressure, but being extremely busy at work has almost made me less productive—I’m constantly distracted by email, Slack, and the people around me, to the point where getting my work done becomes difficult. This week, however, I’ve found it easier to put my blinders on, block out all distractions (especially social distractions), and focus on one task at a time. I think this is partly related to the lessened anxiety—I feel more frazzled and off task when my anxiety is running high. It almost feels like a newfound sense of clarity and calm that enables me to focus.
I’m Falling Asleep Faster
I assume this is also a side effect of feeling less anxious, but I seem to fall asleep faster; within the 20-30-minute range rather than my normal 45 minutes to one hour (or longer). Not only do I seem to be skipping or at least shortening the whole tossing-and-turning phase of my sleep cycle, but I’m able to snap out of the overthinking that often keeps me up at night. Of course, there’s no telling whether a big life event would disrupt this newfound bliss, but I’d like to think it’s helped on a day-to-day basis.
My Experience With CBD
Would I say that CBD oil has fundamentally changed my life? No. But per the Charlotte’s Web website, this is the typical first experience. “Anyone who has ever started a new vitamin or supplement routine knows the short answer to how long it takes to kick in is—’it depends.’ For many newcomers, they’re not sure what to imagine, or some anticipate a huge change right away. For most of us, though, dietary supplements take time.”
With that said, I’m definitely intrigued enough by the subtle effects to continue taking the oil and to possibly up the dosage to the recommended two full droppers of the 30mL bottle per day. Plus, I take comfort in knowing that it’s an all-natural product that’s responsibly grown on family farms in Colorado. Something that’s safe, legal, requires no prescription, and makes me less anxious, less scatterbrained, and more focused? I’m definitely on board.
Explore the World of CBD
Looking to learn more about CBD? These are some of my favorite products to help get you started.
For those new to CBD, Charlotte’s Web recommends this hemp oil. Containing 17mg of CBD per 1mL serving, this CBD oil is also U.S. Hemp Authority Certified. Choose from four different flavors including Lemon Twist, Mint Chocolate, Orange Blossom, and Olive Oil.
Go deep on the subject of CBD with this book that includes case studies, interviews with doctors, an overview of the latest cannabis research, and how scientists are exploring cannabis for various medical uses. There is also an explainer about the difference between CBD products made from industrial hemp versus in a lab, and products made from the whole marijuana plant.
Charlotte’s Web inaugural CBD oil product comes in two flavors; Olive Oil and Mint Chocolate. It’s also its most potent. According to its website, its Original Formula Hemp Extract Oil comes with 50mg CBD per mL.
Gretchen Lidicker puts a lifestyle spin on the world of CBD as the author draws on the “knowledge of leaders in the health and wellness world” to explain why CBD has become a top beauty and wellness trend for top athletes and celebrities. The book also includes recipes and recommendations for how to choose a top-quality CBD product.
This travel-friendly roll-on is packed with CBD and fragrant essential oils, including lavender, bergamot, and chamomile, for an easy de-stress quick fix. The result? “That elusive feeling of wakeful calm,” reads the Sagely Naturals website.
With this book, CBD is explained from A to Z and breaks down the good, bad, and ugly of a fledgling industry that is poised for rapid growth. CBD: 101 Things You Need to Know About CBD Oil covers what it is, why people take it, who it’s for (and who it isn’t for), its myriad forms, and more.
Lord Jones’ High CBD Formula Body Oil combines CBD with organic avocado, jojoba and safflower oils for smooth, hydrated skin. Each bottle has 100mg of CBD.
Charlotte’s Web’s Extra Strength Capsules feature 25 mg of CBD per capsule. The website offers capsules as a convenient and precise way to take CBD—on the go, stash them in your gym bag, pocket, etc.
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
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Shannon S, Lewis N, Lee H, Hughes S. Cannabidiol in anxiety and sleep: A large case series. Perm J. 2019;23:18-041. doi:10.7812/TPP/18-041