Does CBD Make You Spacey?

August 31, 2023
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Does CBD make you feel spacey?

Have you ever taken a dose of CBD to enhance your exercise routine, bring a little more intimacy into the bedroom, or combat social anxiety only to find yourself feeling a little out of it?

While CBD might seem like a likely culprit for why you feel “spacy” — especially given what we know about how THC, CBD’s intoxicating cousin, can make you feel sleepy at the right dose level —but there is little evidence suggesting that CBD makes you feel spacey.

In this article, we’ll break down the experiences and feelings that the term “spacey” might describe before diving into the current scientific literature regarding whether CBD will make you feel spacey. We’ll also examine a few steps you can take to reduce feeling spacey when taking CBD.

Understanding the “spacey” sensation

Before diving into the discussion below, let’s first clarify the language we’re using. What exactly does it mean to feel “spacey?”

The first definition we’ll explore is what you might call brain fog — a phrase that has gained increasing use in recent years, according to a study conducted in 2023 by a team from the University of Edinburgh that examined how people described brain fog when posting on the social media platform Reddit.

Based on a survey of 1663 posts, the researchers found that brain fog is used to describe experiences resulting from a wide range of symptoms, including “dissociation, fatigue, forgetfulness, and excessive cognitive effort, and in association with a range of illnesses, drugs, and behaviours.” 

Combined, these symptoms might be considered a general issue of reduced cognitive function. Therefore, to examine CBD in relation to brain fog, we’ll look at studies focused on how CBD consumption affects cognitive function.

Alternatively, feeling “spacey” might be more specifically associated with feelings of fatigue (as mentioned above) or drowsiness. This is one of the most common side effects of taking CBD, according to a 2022 review article examining CBD studies from the last several years.

In addition to examining CBD’s effects on brain fog, we’ll look specifically at whether CBD might be making you feel spacey due to drowsiness.

CBD and cognitive function

Despite reports stating that CBD can cause feelings of fatigue or drowsiness, the majority of available studies suggest that the cannabinoid might actually improve cognitive function under certain conditions — especially when it comes to offsetting the potential negative side effects of THC, the main intoxicating cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant.

A 2021 literature review found that, in studies of both healthy humans and those with psychiatric disorders, “CBD modulated brain activity and had opposite effects when compared to THC in resting state and during several cognitive paradigms (i.e., salience, emotional, memory, response inhibition, auditory/visual processing), following task-specific activation patterns.”

A more recent study, published in 2023 and examining the effects of CBD on memory for 70 human participants who were given CBD as part of a four-week treatment procedure for cannabis use disorder, found that a daily dose of 800 mg might improve “working memory manipulation.” 

It's worth noting that the above study may have only found its results regarding working memory at the high dose of 800 mg because the CBD used in the study was administered orally. Despite the prevalence of this consumption method in popular CBD use and in scientific studies, CBD has relatively low oral bioavailability. Future studies examining, for example, vaped CBD, might find similar results at a lower dose level.

There is some evidence supporting this expectation. For example, a 2021 study with a somewhat small sample size of 39 participants that specifically examined the effects of 12.5 mg of vaped CBD on verbal episodic memory (i.e., memories of specific events or information as measured by a verbal test) found that CBD actually improved participants’ memory performance.

Furthermore, the 2021 study found that CBD did not affect cognitive functions that were studied along with verbal episodic memory, including attention and working memory performance.

CBD and drowsiness

Much of the evidence suggesting that CBD might make you drowsy comes from studies of patient populations with a specific disease, such as epilepsy. But, as the authors of one 2023 study note, “this is not representative of the most common use of CBD in the USA, i.e., self-administration and self-dosing of CBD.”

In their own study, which drew self-report data from a sample of 839 individuals who self-dose CBD, the authors found that “CBD use decreased [daytime drowsiness] for most participants.” Importantly, they note that the literature on CBD and sleep as a whole shows mixed, often dose-dependent results of CBD on drowsiness and that some of those mixed results could be evidence of underlying sleep quality issues experienced by the individuals being studied.

“In humans with anxiety, daily low-dose CBD (25–50 mg/day) improves sleep; in normal individuals, a moderate single dose (300 mg) has no effect on sleep, but chronic administration of a moderate to high dose (600 mg/day) causes drowsiness in 20%” they explain, adding that “in one study, high-dose CBD use in individuals with epilepsy (10–20 mg/kg) causes drowsiness in 30% of individuals, but a different study found that it improves sleep and reduces [daytime drowsiness].”

The authors add that, in their own results, only 4 individuals developed daytime drowsiness while using CBD every day while 43 of the 49 individuals who initially reported experiencing daytime drowsiness no longer felt drowsy by the end of the trial.

What to do if CBD makes you feel spacey

Regardless of what scientists have discovered in their studies, you’re likely reading this because you’re concerned that consuming CBD is making you feel spacey. 

If that’s the case, there are a few factors at play that might be causing you to have such an experience. 

First, the CBD you’re consuming might be rich in sedating terpenes like myrcene, linalool, or beta-caryophyllene. Switching to a different CBD product might give you better results.

Second, you might be taking too much CBD. High dose levels are often administered in cases where drowsiness is reported as a side effect, and reducing your dose might help eliminate that side effect.

Finally, it's important to take care of your body when consuming CBD or cannabis products. If you’re not getting enough sleep or not eating enough nutritious food, there’s a good chance that you’ll feel a bit foggy or drowsy regardless of whether or not you consume CBD.

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