Does CBD Increase Dopamine Or Lower It?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is the talk of the town! Does CBD increase dopamine? Is it a “miracle cure?” The hottest supplement trend in years and the FDA hasn’t even approved it in food or dietary supplements. It was reported on June 12, 2019 in The New England Journal of Medicine that, “the FDA has taken the position that cannabidiol cannot be legally sold in supplements or food.” The hype for CBD as a “miracle cure” is unknown. We don’t know if cannabidiol can be a “miracle cure” for anything other than epilepsy at this time based on the scientific research! Cannabidiol is sold illegally online and in some retail stores in several dosage forms such as CBD Oil, CBD Candy and CBD Gummy Bears. Sales of CBD are projected to reach $22 billion by 2022.
In an article published Thursday, December 27 in The New York Times, it acknowledges, “In 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine convened a panel of experts to review the health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids. They examined more than 10,000 studies, most of which examined marijuana, not CBD. They found evidence that some cannabinoids — not including CBD — are effective for pain, nausea from chemotherapy and muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis.
“When it comes to CBD, the panel found only a few small randomized clinical trials, and concluded that there was insufficient evidence that CBD was effective in treating conditions like insomnia, addiction to cigarettes and Parkinson’s disease, and limited evidence in its ability to treat anxiety.”
In 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Epidiolex, a CBD concentrate, for two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, on the basis of several clinical trials.” (The New York Times, December 27, 2018). Research has shown that CBD may cause liver toxicity (Molecule, 2019; Healthline, August 20, 2019). More research on long-term safety and efficacy is required, especially for daily use of CBD.
As you can see, the hype on CBD is way ahead of the science! The scientific literature supports CBD for seizures and convulsions. CBD looks promising in the areas of reducing inflammation, relieving pain and anxiety, but much more research is needed. The mechanisms of action for CBD in the scientific literature are not fully understood until recently.
So does CBD increase dopamine or lower it? Cannabidiol (CBD) has little effect on cannabinoid receptors in the brain and in contrast to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD lacks psychoactive properties or produces euphoric side effects. A most recent study in the journal of Drugs (September 2019) reports: “the most likely mechanism of CBD and seizures includes: (1) antagonism G-protein-coupled-receptor-55 (GPR55) (2) Desensitization of the transient receptor potential of vanilloid-type-1 (TRVP1) (3) Inhibition of adenosine reuptake.”
CBD can raise adenosine levels and can downregulate the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine. Caffeine is an adenosine inhibitor that raises dopamine! The reduction of dopamine from marijuana abuse and excessive use of CBD is very concerning! It’s concerning because it may cause lasting cognitive impairment! CBD exerts its anti-anxiety effects and anti-inflammatory effects in the body by activating the adenosine receptors and increasing adenosine levels.
The mechanisms of action of CBD as a TRPV1 receptor inhibitor and adenosine reuptake inhibitor may lower dopamine levels in the brain. In my last article I talked about a new study about cannabis abuse and the connection between excessive cannabis use and decreased dopamine release in the brain, which could lead to impaired memory, attention and problem-solving abilities. A new study published in Molecular Psychiatry found evidence of a “compromised dopamine system” in heavy pot smokers, and significantly lower dopamine levels for those heavily dependent on cannabis. MRI and image studies have shown that drug abuses have marked decreases in dopamine release (Neuropharmacology, January 1, 2010).
Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the two most abundant cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant, with THC containing approximately 12% to 25% and CBD containing 1.4%. People who use THC regularly lower their dopamine levels. CBD is an adenosine activator and doesn’t include the psychoactive effects of THC. Like I said earlier, the latest scientific research has shown that CBD can inhibit dopamine release by inhibiting the TRPV1 receptor in the brain as well as increasing adenosine (Neuropharmacology, 2019, Drugs September 2019). The spice black pepper extract containing piperine has been shown to activate the TRPV1 receptor, and caffeine, which inhibits adenosine and enhances dopamine release. Increasing dopamine has been shown to increase energy, focus, memory, alertness, attention, confidence, mood, motivation, libido, weight control and creativity.
One solution to boost dopamine levels, besides going easier on the weed and THC and CBD, is the breakthrough product Dopa Rush Cocktail™ from Advanced Molecular Labs (AML™). Dopa Rush Cocktail™ is the most potent dopamine-maximizing supplement on the market. Dopa Rush Cocktail™ is a dopamine MAXIMIZER that uses a scientifically backed formula to increase mental alertness, focus, clarity and energy. No crash, no jitters— just enhanced mood, creativity and motivation. Dopa Rush Cocktail™ is designed for students, athletes and motivated professionals for a mental edge in the office, in class or even in the gym.
Consuming CBD: Impact on the brain
The human brain is a complex organ that the scientific community has not yet mastered perfectly. As a result, it is still difficult to establish an official connection between cannabinoids and the human brain, although this hypothesis seems to be approved by the majority of researchers. In the 1960s, scientific studies revealed the existence of the endocannabinoid system: a system common to all vertebrates that interacts with cannabinoids. From this point on, it seems obvious that the body of humans and animals reacts to cannabis, and in particular to the CBD molecule. But what about dopamine production in the brain?
According to scientific research, CBD is indeed capable of promoting the production of dopamine in the brain. Even if the research on this subject is far from being completed, it would seem that CBD has a positive action on what is more commonly known as the “happiness hormone”.
Although CBD is not considered an addictive substance, it would still be responsible for an increase in dopamine, the hormone responsible for feelings of happiness and pleasure. So, could CBD cause a form of psychological addiction? How does CBD really work on your brain? What is the difference between CBD and THC consumption? What are the long-term effects of CBD? All the answers to these questions can be found in this article dedicated to CBD, the brain, and dopamine production.
What is dopamine?
To fully understand how CBD affects your brain, it’s important to understand the role of dopamine in your body. Often referred to as the “happy hormone,” dopamine is a hormone that directly affects feelings of pleasure and reward. For example, dopamine can be released during a meal, before going to sleep, during sex, etc. The brain equates all of these positive actions as a reward.
The problem is that certain substances, such as alcohol or hard drugs, can cause a sudden increase in this dopamine level for no reason. Even if you’re not doing anything in particular, you may feel a sense of well-being and mild satisfaction when you use them. At the time, it’s very pleasant. But in the long run, it reduces your ability to produce dopamine naturally, and causes you to use more to get that good feeling back. So what about CBD, this molecule that is neither psychoactive nor addictive? Does it act in the same way on the production of dopamine?
How does CBD act on the brain?
The complexity of the brain is such that scientists are still divided on the issue of CBD and dopamine. One thing is for sure, the studies conducted so far have nevertheless highlighted the obvious link between CBD and the endocannabinoid system. In this way, CBD would act on many neurotransmitters, not just the happiness hormone in particular.
Even if its role in the process of dopamine production is still unclear, CBD acts on the production of this hormone, it is a fact. It’s hard to know how and why, but CBD does enhance dopamine production. Thus, it promotes the feeling of happiness, pleasure and satisfaction. With this conclusion, you may be wondering: What is the difference between CBD and drugs that increase dopamine production and make you addicted? Indeed, millions of people around the world consume CBD, often for therapeutic or medical purposes. And yet, they do not suffer from any form of CBD addiction. Why not? Simply because CBD does not act like a drug.
What is the difference with THC?
Scientific studies are clear on this subject: short-term drug use increases the level of dopamine, but affects it drastically in the long term. This is why people who use cocaine, for example, always want more and cannot do without it to feel happy. The brain becomes dependent on these drugs to release dopamine, and a vicious cycle sets in.
CBD (cannabidiol), on the other hand, has no addictive effect on the brain. Even if the CBD molecule temporarily increases your dopamine level, it does not affect it in the long term. It doesn’t make you addicted or prevent your brain from producing dopamine without it. Although THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is considered a psychoactive and unhealthy drug, it is also not considered addictive, unlike alcohol.
What are the effects of CBD in the long term?
As you can see, CBD does not have any harmful effects on the natural production of dopamine, even in the long term. What you need to remember is that most substances considered drugs slow down the production of cannabinoids, because your brain gets used to receiving them from an external source, without doing anything. Over the long term, the damage can be irreversible. But with hemp, studies have shown that after a certain period of time, the dopamine neurotransmitters return to normal. By comparing a group of former cannabis users with a group of non-users, researchers even found that there was no significant difference in their dopamine receptors.
CBD, a molecule with powerful therapeutic properties
Beyond its relationship with dopamine production, CBD acts in multiple ways on your brain. By acting on TRPV-1 receptors, it helps regulate body temperature, relieve inflammation and pain. Widely known for its positive action on chronic pain, CBD is also highly valued for its anti-epileptic and anti-anxiety properties. In fact, people suffering from epilepsy are increasingly using CBD to reduce the frequency and intensity of spasmodic disorders. In addition, CBD has antioxidant, analgesic, and neuroprotective properties that enhance its enormous therapeutic potential. The bottom line is that CBD is a natural substance that positively affects many receptors in our brain and body, and has yet to reveal the full extent of its powers.
Can taking CBD cause side effects?
To date, there are no known side effects from taking CBD. Some people have already noticed a feeling of drowsiness or nausea, but these side effects are often related to the intake of another drug or a pathology that is not related to CBD. You can consume this natural substance without any danger to your health. If in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor for advice on the best dosage of CBD for you.
Are the risks of addiction to CBD really non-existent?
Although CBD does increase dopamine levels for a while, your brain does not become accustomed to the substance. Many people use CBD on a daily basis to relieve chronic pain, stress and anxiety issues or sleep disorders. And yet, they are able to quit overnight without experiencing withdrawal. Again, CBD is not a drug, but rather a natural regulator for your body.
CBD (cannabidiol): What does it do and how does it affect the brain & body?
What is CBD and what medical conditions might it help?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of many cannabinoid molecules produced by cannabis, second only to THC in abundance. These plant-derived cannabinoids, or phytocannabinoids (phyto = plant in Greek), are characterized by their ability to act on the cannabinoid receptors that are part of our endocannabinoid system. While THC is the principal psychoactive component of cannabis and has certain medical uses, CBD stands out because it is both non-intoxicating and displays a broad range of potential medical applications including helping with anxiety, inflammation, pain, and seizures. These makes CBD an attractive therapeutic compound.
Why does THC get you high but not CBD?
Despite being chemical cousins, THC and CBD have very different effects. The primary difference is that THC get you high while CBD does not. This is because THC and CBD affect our endocannabinoid system (ECS) in different ways. The major ECS receptor in the brain, CB1, is activated by THC but not CBD. In fact, CBD can get in the way of compounds like THC, preventing them from activating the CB1 receptor. This is why the THC:CBD ratio is so important for influencing the effects of cannabis products.
The reason THC and CBD have different effects is because they influence the endocannabinoid system in different ways.
Scientific evidence for CBD’s medical effects
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about CBD is the sheer number and variety of its potential therapeutic applications. It is important to recognize that each application may be supported by different levels of evidence. These range from ongoing clinical trials evaluating its efficacy in the treatment of human disorders, to animal studies investigating its behavioral and physiological effects, to in vitro work (test tube experiments) measuring its pharmacological interactions and mechanisms of action. Each type of study comes with its own strengths and weaknesses.
Clinical trials allow us to draw conclusions about the safety and effectiveness of potential therapeutic agents in humans, while animal studies and in vitro experiments allow researchers to explore their biological actions in greater detail. However, because the latter class of studies are not conducted in humans, the results don’t always lead to the clinical application that we hope for—the majority of drugs that start in human clinical trials never become approved. Nonetheless, animal studies provide us with a strong foundation of biological knowledge, and are where the initial breakthroughs in research are made.
Why does CBD have so many potential therapeutic benefits?
CBD is famous for the promise it holds for treating treatment-resistant forms of childhood epilepsy. A number of clinical trials, testing the efficacy of CBD in human epilepsy patients, are currently underway. But there is also evidence, mainly from animal studies and in vitro experiments, that CBD may have neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-relieving) properties, and potential therapeutic value in the treatment of motivational disorders like depression, anxiety, and addiction.
What’s the biological basis for this wide range of potential medical uses? A key part of the answer lies in CBD’s promiscuous pharmacology—its ability to influence a wide range of receptor systems in the brain and body, including not only cannabinoid receptors but a host of others.
Receptor systems in the brain
The brain contains large numbers of highly specialized cells called neurons. Each neuron connects to many others through structures called synapses. These are sites where one neuron communicates to another by releasing chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters (Figure 1).
A neuron’s sensitivity to a specific neurotransmitter depends on whether or not it contains a receptor that “fits” that transmitter, like an electrical socket fits a plug. If a neuron contains receptors that match a particular neurotransmitter, then it can respond directly to that transmitter. Otherwise, it generally can’t. All neurons contain multiple neurotransmitter receptors, allowing them to respond to some neurotransmitters but not others.
Figure 1. Neurons Communicate Using Neurotransmitters
Right: The brain contains a huge a number of brain cells (neurons). Each neuron, represented here as a hexagon, is connected to many others. Left: The synapse is the site where two neurons communicate with each other. The “sender neuron” releases chemical signals called neurotransmitters, which stimulate receptors on the “receiver neuron.” There are many different receptor types in the brain, each one sensitive to different neurotransmitters.
Brain receptors are not only sensitive to neurotransmitters produced naturally within the brain, like dopamine or serotonin, but also chemical messengers produced outside the body, such as plant cannabinoids like THC or CBD. So when you ingest an edible or inhale some vapor, you’re allowing compounds originally produced by a plant to enter your body, travel through your bloodstream, and enter your brain. Once they arrive, these plant-derived compounds can influence brain activity by interacting with receptors on neurons. But they don’t interact with all neurons, just the ones that have the appropriate receptors.
CBD has effects on many different receptor systems
Although it is a cannabinoid, CBD does not directly interact with the two classical cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2). Instead, it affects signaling through CB1 and CB2 receptors indirectly. This partly explains why, in contrast to THC, CBD is non-intoxicating. In addition to its indirect influence on the CB1 and CB2 receptors, CBD can increase levels of the body’s own naturally-produced cannabinoids (known as endocannabinoids) by inhibiting the enzymes that break them down.
Even more intriguing: CBD also influences many non-cannabinoid receptor systems in the brain, interacting with receptors sensitive to a variety of drugs and neurotransmitters (Figure 2). These include opioid receptors, known for their role in pain regulation. Opioid receptors are the key targets of pharmaceutical pain killers and drugs of abuse such as morphine, heroin, and fentanyl. CBD can also interact with dopamine receptors, which play a crucial role in regulating many aspects of behavior and cognition, including motivation and reward-seeking behavior.
This raises the intriguing possibility that CBD’s ability to influence either opioid or dopamine receptors may underlie its ability to dampen drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms, effects directly relevant to the treatment of addiction. However, we can’t say for sure at this point; more research on CBD’s interactions with the opioid and dopamine receptor systems is still needed.
CBD’s therapeutic potential with respect to addiction also extends to the serotonin system. Animal studies have demonstrated that CBD directly activates multiple serotonin receptors in the brain. These interactions have been implicated in its ability to reduce drug-seeking behavior. CBD’s influence on the serotonin system may also account in part for its anti-anxiety properties, which have been robustly demonstrated across both human and animal studies.
CBD and the serotonin system: exciting possibilities
CBD’s ability to target a specific serotonin receptor, the serotonin 1A receptor, is associated with a remarkable range of therapeutic possibilities. Professor Roger Pertwee, an English pharmacologist renowned for his research on cannabinoids, spoke with Leafly about this aspect of CBD biology.
“It’s apparent ability to enhance the activation of serotonin 1A receptors supports the possibility that it could be used to ameliorate disorders that include: opioid dependence, neuropathic pain, depression and anxiety disorders, nausea and vomiting (e.g. from chemotherapy), and negative symptoms of schizophrenia,” he said. “One big unanswered question is what the human clinical relevance and importance of each of these potential therapeutic uses of CBD, identified solely by examining data from non-human preclinical research, actually is.”
Given that these possibilities come mainly from animal studies, more research will be needed before we can think seriously about human applications.
Figure 2. Receptor Systems Involved in CBD’s Potential Therapeutic Applications. CBD interacts, either directly or indirectly, with many different receptor systems in the brain. It indirectly influences the major cannabinoid receptor in the brain by decreasing THC’s ability to stimulate this receptor. It also interacts with a variety of other receptors. A subset of these are shown here. Each red shape represents a different brain receptor that might be found on a neuron. Some of the potential therapeutic applications associated with CBD’s interaction with each receptor system are listed below each receptor.
CBD: Psychiatric utility from complex pharmacology?
Understanding CBD’s neurological effects is a complicated business, because of the wide variety of receptors with which it interacts. But that complexity may be the key to its promise as a therapeutic agent. Motivational disorders like addiction and anxiety are themselves highly complex; they arise from incompletely understood causes that span multiple receptor systems and neural networks in the brain. CBD’s complex, multi-target effects may therefore be crucial to its potential for aiding the treatment of such disorders. Over the coming years, researchers will continue to further understand this complexity and uncover the full scope of CBD’s therapeutic potential.