A small study suggests that CBD, a cannabis component in many medical marijuana products, may not have much effect on driving or cognitive abilities. CBD is marketed as non-psychoactive, but this doesn’t mean it can’t affect your driving. Learn whether or not it’s safe to take CBD on the road.
CBD Has Little Impact on Driving Even at High Doses
A small study suggests that CBD, a cannabis component in many medical marijuana products, may not have much effect on driving or cognitive abilities.
Researchers caution that their findings apply only to the specific CBD oil doses they tested. Marc Tran/Stocksy
Cannabidiol (CBD) may not impair people’s cognitive abilities or driving skills when taken in doses commonly used for medical purposes, a small Australian study suggests.
For the study, scientists asked 17 healthy adults to a complete a series of four driving assessments and cognitive tests after taking a placebo or CBD oil in doses of 15, 150, or 1,500 milligrams (mg). These doses represent amounts typically consumed to manage conditions like epilepsy, pain, anxiety, and sleep disorders, the researchers reported May 30 in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
In each of these four testing scenarios, participants completed tasks between 45 and 75 minutes after taking the placebo or the dose of CBD oil, then again between 3.5 and 4 hours afterward. CBD is thought to reach peak concentrations in the blood within three to four hours after an oral dose, according to the researchers.
To demonstrate how CBD impacted driving, participants had to drive behind another vehicle at a safe distance, then navigate simulated routes on urban highways and rural roads. Scientists measured how well participants controlled the car as well as how much the vehicle weaved or drifted. They also administered cognitive tests and took blood samples to determine CBD concentrations in the participants’ plasma.
None of the CBD oil doses appeared to impair driving or cognitive performance or make participants feel intoxicated, the study found.
“Though CBD is generally considered ‘nonintoxicating,’ its effects on safety-sensitive tasks are still being established,” said the lead author, Danielle McCartney, PhD, of the University of Sydney, in the university’s press release. “Our study is the first to confirm that, when consumed on its own, CBD is driver-safe.”
Medical marijuana was legal in 37 U.S. states and the District of Columbia as of February 2022, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. While drunk driving is illegal in every state, laws against driving under the influence of marijuana and other drugs vary from state to state; you can view them on a site produced by the Governors Highway Safety Association.
Driving while on CBD is legal in Australia and in many other countries, researchers note. The results of the new study build on earlier evidence suggesting that CBD doesn’t necessarily cause intoxication. Another cannabis component, THC, can induce sedation and a euphoric high that has been previously associated with impaired cognition.
THC can negatively impact areas of the brain that control movement, balance, coordination, memory, and judgment, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For drivers, THC can also slow reaction times and reduce the ability to make decisions.
Even though the new study suggests these issues might not arise for drivers using CBD oil, the study team cautions that their findings apply only to the specific doses they tested. At higher doses of CBD, or combined with other substances, it’s possible drivers might not perform optimally.
“This study looked at CBD in isolation only,” Dr. McCartney said. “Drivers taking CBD with other medications should do so with care.”
Is It Safe To Drive After Taking CBD? Does CBD Affect Driving?
CBD is marketed as non-psychoactive, but this doesn’t mean it can’t affect your driving.
Even though CBD won’t get you high, that doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t impair your driving.
CBD can produce relaxation and sedation. This can impair your ability to respond quickly to stimuli while driving.
CBD can also interact with medications and other drugs. This can create unwanted risks.
Learn all about the different effects of CBD and how they may affect your driving ability.
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Risks of Using CBD While Driving
CBD is not intoxicating, but it is psychoactive, and there are some risks that you should consider.
Firstly, sensitive people are more likely to find themselves somewhat impaired by CBD. Smaller people and those with quick metabolisms may find that CBD produces a stronger effect than they expect.
People who need large doses of CBD are also more at risk. Some patients need to take doses of more than 100 mg. At doses this high, the relaxation caused by CBD becomes way stronger. At this point, it can become full-blown sedation.
If you take this much CBD, then you’re absolutely going to have a harder time driving. Even if you’re not high or intoxicated, you’re still going to be sleepy. Most states recommend that you avoid driving when you’re tired.
CBD can also cause dizziness. Again, this is more likely when you’re highly sensitive to CBD.
Why Would You Use CBD While Driving?
People use CBD for all sorts of reasons. In many cases, they will use it before driving for reasons that have nothing to do with their ability to drive.
Pain patients, for example, often use CBD throughout the day. If they’re using CBD consistently and need to go for a drive, it will remain active in their system.
Some people may also use CBD to quell their anxiety. If driving provokes anxiety in an individual, they may want to use CBD to help manage it.
People may also use CBD to manage anxiety before a social gathering or a business meeting. In this situation, they may take it before driving to the said gathering, or even use it in their car, so that it takes effect by the time they arrive.
CBD also tends to cancel out some of the effects of THC.
CBD can also reduce these negative emotional states on its own. Whether or not it’s safe to drive while anxious and stressed out is debatable.
It’s also debatable whether it would be more or less risky to use CBD to fight these issues before driving.
What Is CBD?
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the many cannabinoids found in the hemp and marijuana plants.
To be sold legally in the United States, CBD must be derived from hemp. Hemp is classified as any strain of cannabis containing less than 0.3% THC.
As a cannabinoid, CBD is non-intoxicating.
CBD is often described as non-psychoactive, but this isn’t really true. It’s non-intoxicating, yes, but it’s definitely psychoactive. A psychoactive compound is anything that produces changes in mood, behavior, thoughts, or feelings.
So, by definition, CBD is indeed psychoactive. Many of its benefits are psychological in nature. These include reduced anxiety, stress, and depression.
However, the substance is far milder than THC. CBD can be used throughout the day without causing significant impairment.
Benefits of CBD
If you want to know how CBD might affect your driving, you should first take a look at its benefits and effects.
Here are some of the most common benefits associated with CBD:
1. Anxiety Relief
One of the main benefits of CBD is anxiety relief. CBD has been shown to help fight the anxiety of all types, including panic disorder and social anxiety.
2. Pain Relief
CBD excels as a pain reliever, and many people find that it has helped them stop using addictive pain-killing drugs like opioids. CBD can also reduce inflammation in a comparable way to NSAIDs like Tylenol.
3. Mood Regulation
CBD has been used for helping people manage stress and depression. It can help to decrease both the physical and mental symptoms of stress by managing blood pressure and relaxing the muscles.
For depression, CBD works a bit differently than conventional antidepressants. Rather than simply quashing your unhappiness, CBD can help produce some that changes in perception that may encourage you to reach out and take further steps.
4. Relaxation & Insomnia Relief
Another one of the main reasons that people use CBD is to help them relax after a long day. People who struggle with stress often experience insomnia. CBD can help to reduce any physical or mental symptoms preventing you from getting to sleep.
CBD can also help to reduce insomnia caused by PTSD and related emotional challenges.
CBD Side Effects
CBD doesn’t generally have any side effects, at least not according to how people typically define ‘side effects.’
The term itself is a bit of a misnomer, suggesting that certain substances cause certain effects, whereas other effects are not related to the substance at all.
The reality is that all effects of a substance are the direct result of its actions, whether they are desirable or not. Both benefits and side effects are the same, biologically speaking.
Most people use the term ‘side effect’ to describe an unwanted effect of a drug or substance. So in that sense, some of the benefits of CBD may actually be perceived as an unwanted side effect if you’re driving.
Relaxation and sleepiness, for example, are two common benefits of CBD. However, when driving, these effects are not beneficial and might be considered side effects.
CBD Interactions With Other Drugs
The other main precaution that you’ll want to take is important if you use drugs or take supplements.
CBD is an inhibitor of a set of enzymes known as the cytochrome (CYP) enzymes. These enzymes are important for processing about half of the drugs that people take. There are different CYP enzymes, and each one metabolizes a different set of drugs.
CBD inhibits the same set of enzymes that are inhibited by grapefruits and grapefruit juice. If you’ve ever seen a bottle of prescription medication that recommends you not to take the medication while drinking grapefruit juice, this is why.
When the CYP enzymes are inhibited, drugs become much stronger and/or longer-lasting. The enzymes that pass them out of the body are no longer being produced. This can increase the risk of side effects and dangers.
These risks are especially dangerous if you’re taking drugs known to cause dizziness, sleepiness, fogginess, or confusion.
To be safe, avoid taking CBD alongside any medication that warns against drinking grapefruit juice within two hours of taking your dose.
The cytochrome enzymes also metabolize illegal drugs that carry no such warnings. It can increase the potency of drugs like opioids and thus increase the risk of over-sedation. You should be cautious when combining CBD with other substances regardless of whether or not you’re driving.
So, Is It OK to Use CBD While Driving?
Knowing the risks of CBD and driving, it’s easy to simply say that you shouldn’t take it while you’re on the road. However, because CBD is fairly benign, sometimes that’s easy to forget.
It’s not like drinking and driving. When you’ve had a few drinks, you know you’re intoxicated. However, since CBD is so much more subtle, you might end up forgetting that you’re using it before getting behind the wheel.
On the one hand, this is sort of a good thing. CBD is mild enough that you’re unlikely ever to be so impaired as to create a serious risk. On the other hand, though, this is a risk in itself. You should be as clear-headed and straight as possible whenever you’re driving.
Most people won’t find CBD to be dangerous when they’re driving.
We don’t recommend driving under the influence of anything. However, we won’t pretend that there aren’t people who do.