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CBD and the Psychedelic Receptor: A Relationship you Didn’t Know Exists

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Warning: This information is for educational purposes only. We are not medical professionals, and no information on this website should be construed as medical advice. For more information please view our Medical Disclaimer. Please consult a medical professional if you are considering consuming cannabis products.

Everybody appears to agree that the effects of CBD are non-psychoactive as it typically doesn't make you high. Is CBD non-psychoactive?

The short answer is no.

Naturally, it is assumed that CBD does not affect the higher centres because it does not bind to the same receptor (CB1) as THC, which causes euphoria by binding to this receptor.

It has, however, emerged that CBD does indeed affect some psychedelic receptors.

Here is how CBD relates with the psychedelic receptor.

What Are Psychedelics?

Psychedelics are psychoactive drugs in the hallucinogenic class whose primary effect is triggering non-ordinary states of consciousness (called psychedelic “trips” or experiences). These psychedelic trips typically happen when the drugs bind with serotonin receptors (5-HT receptors). The psychedelic state causes specific psychological, auditory, and visual changes, mainly altering consciousness. The “Classic” psychedelic drugs are LSD, mescaline, psilocybin, and DMT.

The chemical compounds in these drugs all activate receptors that are known as serotonin 5-HT. These receptors typically regulate cognition and sensory perception to differing degrees.

Where does CBD come in?

The Relationship Between CBD and The Psychedelic Receptor

Initially reported in 2005, CBD was discovered to directly interact with these (and other) 5-HT receptors. This interaction hints at a broader relationship between the serotonin receptors and endocannabinoid systems, which scientists have not fully understood. For now, science has made it clear that CBD we love very much exerts its effects by interacting with both serotonin and endocannabinoid receptors. For this topic, we are more concerned with how CBD interacts with serotonin receptors.

Whereas CBD has a little binding affinity for “the classical cannabinoid receptors,” CB1 and CB2, it appears that several serotonin receptor subtypes happen to be the main docking sites for CBD. 5-HT2A receptor is one of these receptors. As discussed earlier, 5-HT2A also mediates the actions of drugs such as mescaline, LSD, and other hallucinogenic drugs.

This is the relationship CBD has to the psychedelic receptor. However, this is where the similarity ends. Whereas LSD acts to cause hallucinations and alter states of mind, CBD has very different effects, which we'll discuss below. 

In studying the ability of CBD to bind to 5-HT1A and counter the effects of THC, we have to look at the actions of CBD that are similar to serotonin.

Unlike CBD, THC will not bind expressly to 5-HT2A. But, as we noted earlier, THC will directly activate the “CB1 cannabinoid receptor.” As it were, 5-HT2A receptors form “heterodimer complexes” with CB1 receptors. What this means is that 5-HT2A and CB1 receptors can entwine, functioning as a combined entity.

Intriguingly, when these receptors work together, they activate signalling pathways that neither can cause on their own. It appears that 5HT1A facilitates CBD's beneficial effects, such as reducing anxiety, liver damage, pain, depression, and nausea. The activation of 5-HT1A-facilitated neurotransmission by CBD also brings about anti psychedelic effects like lowered body temperature, decreased blood pressure, and a slowed down heart rate.  

On the other hand, when cannabis is used over a long period, the 5-5-HT1A receptors become less sensitive, leading to decreased serotonin.


It seems we are yet to understand the full impact and benefits of CBD! While CBD does not bind to the typical cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2, it can bind to some psychedelic receptors such as serotonin. This property allows it to counteract some effects of THC and have its effects of calming, inducing appetite, improving mood, and pain management, among others.

Now you know!

Lydia K. (Bsc. RN) is a cannabis writer, which, considering where you’re reading this, makes perfect sense. Currently, she is a regular writer for Mace Media. In the past, she has written for MyBud, RX Leaf & Dine Magazine (Canada), CBDShopy (UK) and Cannavalate & Pharmadiol (Australia). She is best known for writing epic news articles and medical pieces. Occasionally, she deviates from news and science and creates humorous articles. And boy doesn't she love that! She equally enjoys ice cream, as should all right-thinking people.