Smoking a cannabis strain with higher levels of cannabidiol (CBD) can reduce the impairment to brain function, according to a new brain imaging research.
The new study, conducted by scientists at University College London and published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, found that CBD seems to protect the user against some of the negative and acute effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on the brain. THC is the main psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis and is what creates the high.
Researchers, therefore, recommend that users avoid high-THC cannabis and choose high-CBD strains instead.
How the study was conducted
The study is the first to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to see how different cannabis strains impact brain function.
The researchers monitored the brain activity in 17 individuals at rest. These individuals were monitored after taking two different strains of weed. Both strains have equal levels of THC, but one of them is a high-strength weed that is better known as skunk, while the other strain has high levels of CBD.
Both of these strains of cannabis are comparable to the different strains commonly used today.
The results of the study
The researchers found that the low-CBD cannabis strain impaired the brain’s functional connectivity in its default mode, particularly in the posterior cingulate area, as well as in salience networks. Meanwhile, the high-CBD strain caused only very minimal disruption to the same regions even if the amount of THC is the same.
The salience network supports other networks in the brain and determines the emotional or sensory inputs that we pay attention to. Disruptions in this network have been implicated in psychosis and addiction.
Researchers said that the brain disruption was strongly linked to how stoned or high the user said they were. They explained that if CBD can restore the disruption in this network, this could be a neuroprotective mechanism.
To put things simply, their findings suggest that CBD counteracts the harmful effects of THC. And this could point to CBD’s potential in treating certain brain disorders like addiction and psychosis.
Dr. Matt Wall, one of the authors of the study, said that as cannabis is becoming legal in more countries and states, people buying the drug should be able to make an informed decision regarding their choice of cannabis strains and be aware of the relative risks for each one.