DEC 23, 2021 2:00 PM PST

Acute Intoxication Effects of Legal-Market High-Potency THC-Enriched vs. CBD-Enriched Cannabis Concentrates

WRITTEN BY: Nadine Husami

Researchers from Colorado State University and the University of Colorado Boulder have just released the first study to compare the acute intoxication effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-enriched versus cannabidiol (CBD)-enriched cannabis-derived concentrates. Published in Nature’s Scientific Reports, the study utilized an observational strategy entailing self-administration of legally-marketed cannabis concentrates by the study’s participants (i.e., recreational cannabis users).

Based on the available literature and previous experimental data, the research team hypothesized that THC-enriched cannabis concentrate products would elicit intoxication and elation (i.e., positive disposition), whereas CBD-enriched concentrates (i.e., with low THC) would generate anxiolytic effects with lesser intoxication. 

Following ad libitum self-administration, researchers employed both objective and subjective assessments to compare the acute intoxication effects between the two cannabis-derived concentrates in a total of 54 participants. Participants were separated into two groups based on the type of cannabis-derived extract (i.e., THC-enriched or CBD-enriched concentrate) that would be self-administered during the study. Twenty-eight participants were included in the THC-enriched (“THC-dominant”) group, with the other 26 participants assigned to the CBD-enriched (“CBD-dominant”) group.

Objective assessments included time-point measurement of cannabinoid blood levels (baseline measurement, right before self-administration, immediately after, and one hour after). Physical sensation and affective state were subjectively assessed using modified versions of the 12-item Addiction Research Center Inventory-Marijuana (ARCI-M) effects scale and the Profile of Mood States (POMS) questionnaire. ‘Drug liking’ was used as a subjective measurement of drug reward, which was evaluated using a particular question from the Drug Effects Questionnaire (DEQ) (“Do you like any of the effects you’re feeling?” on a scale of one to five). Similar concentrate quantities by weight were used by both groups.

Cannabinoid blood levels of THC and 11-hydroxy-THC (11-OH-THC: the active, metabolized form of THC) varied by time-point, displaying their highest levels immediately following self-administration and then declining over time in both groups.

Plasma levels exhibited increased concentrations corresponding to each group’s assigned concentrate condition (i.e., THC-enriched versus CBD-enriched). THC-enriched group participants displayed elevated levels of THC and 11-OH-THC relative to the CBD-enriched treatment group at each time-point (i.e., immediately post-use and one-hour post-use, with peak levels immediately post-use). Accordingly, CBD-enriched group participants displayed significantly increased CBD levels, but only right after post-use (i.e., no significant increase in CBD levels one hour after self-administration).

In line with the researchers’ expectations, THC-enriched group participants reported elevated intoxication, drug effect, and drug liking compared to CBD-enriched group participants.  Moreover, analyses of the CBD-dominant group’s subjective assessments revealed reductions in tension and anxiety immediately after self-administration. On the other hand, the THC-enriched group displayed significant anxiety reduction only at the one-hour post-use time-point. Notably, a spike in paranoia – followed by restoration to baseline within the hour – was observed immediately post-use in the THC-enriched group.

Taken as a whole, the researchers conclude that the results of the study illustrate that CBD-enriched concentrate induced effects of elation (i.e., positive mood/euphoria) and reduced intoxication (relative to THC-enriched concentrates) while eradicating the undesirable effects observed with THC-enriched concentrate (paranoia, drug intoxication, and rewarding effects such as physical sensation and drug liking). The team proposed that the combination of the two phytocannabinoids in the CBD-enriched concentrate (i.e., low THC and high CBD) is likely responsible for alleviating the aforementioned undesirable effects experienced with the THC-enriched concentrate.  

 With the recent emergence and growth of such a proliferative cannabis concentrate market, this study is especially pertinent as it makes headway in addressing the notable research gap on the physiological impacts of CBD-enriched concentrates. Furthermore, it lays the groundwork for further research into reducing the harm potential of CBD-concentrates (either alone or with THC) towards ensuring product safety in today’s dynamic market. 

 

Sources: Nature’s Scientific Reports (1); Nature’s Scientific Reports (2); PhenX Toolkit; Brian Mac: Sports Coach; Psychopharmacology; Clinical Chemistry

 

 

About the Author
Biochemistry Graduate Student
Nadine (She/Her) is a Cannabis Sciences category writer at Labroots. She received her BSc in Biotechnology from Niagara University, where she investigated the use of bacterial glycoside hydrolases for the production of universal blood via hydrolytic ABO antigen cleavage. She also performed cannabis research during her undergraduate career as a laboratory associate for a plant genetics biotechnology company. She is currently a biochemistry graduate student at the University at Buffalo; her current thesis work investigates the role of long noncoding RNAs in ocular pathologies.
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