The side effects and risks involved with consuming marijuana-based products aren't clear, either, Bonn-Miller said. It's important to "determine cannabinoids that are useful therapeutically while understanding and using cannabinoids that are associated with less risk," he said. At least with CBD, he said, it doesn't appear to have the potential for addiction. That's different from THC, which has been associated with addiction, he said, and negative side effects, including acute anxiety.
Then one day in 1963 a young organic chemist in Israel named Raphael Mechoulam, working at the Weizmann Institute of Science outside Tel Aviv, decided to peer into the plant’s chemical composition. It struck him as odd that even though morphine had been teased from opium in 1805 and cocaine from coca leaves in 1855, scientists had no idea what the principal psychoactive ingredient was in marijuana. “It was just a plant,” says Mechoulam, now 84. “It was a mess, a mélange of unidentified compounds.”
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Cannabis oils and CBD oils are not the same thing. So what is CBD oil? Cannabidiol (CBD) oil has a high concentration of cannabidiol, while cannabis oil contains both CBD and THC. CBD oil is created by extracting CBD from either the cannabis or hemp plant and then diluting it with a carrier oil like coconut or hemp seed oil. CBD does not produce a euphoric “high” or psychoactive effect because it doesn’t affect the same receptors as THC.
Since then several other so-called endocannabinoids and their receptors have been discovered. Scientists have come to recognize that endocannabinoids interact with a specific neurological network—much the way that endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine do. Exercise, Mechoulam notes, has been shown to elevate endocannabinoid levels in the brain, and “this probably accounts for what jogging enthusiasts call runner’s high.” These compounds, he explains, apparently play an important role in such basic functions as memory, balance, movement, immune health, and neuroprotection.
So Mechoulam called the Israeli national police and scored five kilos of confiscated Lebanese hashish. He and his research group isolated—and in some cases also synthesized—an array of substances, which he injected separately into rhesus monkeys. Only one had any observable effect. “Normally the rhesus monkey is quite an aggressive individual,” he says. But when injected with this compound, the monkeys became emphatically calm. “Sedated, I would say,” he recalls with a chuckle.
Fortunately, the party stopped at my friends and most people left, leaving us to just hang out and chat for a bit (which is what I wanted). At some point during the night I was cajoled into drinking a couple of beers (not something I’d normally agree to), but was trying to live it up for once. Comparatively, I’d say that the beer helped more than the CBD in terms of taking the anxious “edge off.”
Maybe if I had stuck with one type of CBD for the whole two weeks, my body would have become more adjusted to it and I would have noticed more dramatic effects. While it was certainly relaxing (most nights), it wasn't a miracle sleep aid. If my struggle to fall asleep ever became a more serious problem, I'd probably head to a doctor to talk dosages and other options. But in the meantime, I'll be using it on those stress-y kind of nights that require a literal chill pill before bed.
"It's important to know that the research in this area is in its infancy, partly because we haven't really understood much about CBD until relatively recently," said Marcel Bonn-Miller, an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. He pointed out that the classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug by the DEA makes it difficult to get material to use in laboratory studies. Schedule 1 drugs have a high potential for abuse, according to the DEA, and are illegal under federal law.
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