- A new, first-of-its-kind study found CBD does not impair driving, making it safe to consume before driving.
The study was led by the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics at the University of Sydney and conducted at Maastricht University in the Netherlands.
CBD has therapeutic benefits that treat various conditions like epilepsy, anxiety, addiction, insomnia, and chronic pain. However, many CBD products contain both THC and CBD, leading the Australian team to examine the effects on driving in real-world conditions.
Past studies focused on smoked cannabis containing THC only and did not quantify impairment duration. But with the legalization of CBD products, a new public health concern arises on the effects of CBD and driving.
This particular study focuses on CBD's effect, or in combination with THC, on one's driving ability in real-world conditions. It also provides a clear indication of the duration of THC impairment. Hence why this new research is so crucial at helping allow for evidence-based laws and regulations for people using CBD and medical cannabis.
CBD is Psychoactive, But it's Not Intoxicating
You might see some brands saying that CBD is non-psychoactive. But it's not quite a true statement. They are meaning it will not get you high like THC, but it is psychoactive.
CBD generally changes your mental state by raising anandamide and GABA levels within the brain, resulting in increased relaxation and decreased excitability. These mental state changes are a psychoactive change, and one you want if you feel anxious or stressed.
Small doses of CBD are associated with stimulating effects that boost mood. In contrast, large amounts are linked to more sedating effects.
However, these effects are not intoxicating; they only alter your mood and level of sleepiness, they won’t make you high.
Based on this, CBD should not impair your driving ability. But it should be noted that everyone experiences different side effects from cannabis, and some of these side effects could lower your driving capability.
Reported side effects could include low blood pressure, lightheadedness, and drowsiness. It's why it's best to use CBD or increase your dose in the safety of your home first. And if you feel these effects, it doesn't hurt to talk with your doctor or even modify your dose.
CBD Does Not Impair Your Driving
Small doses of CBD does not impair your driving, according to the new research released this week. Lead author, Dr. Thomas Arkell said, "These findings indicate for the first time that CBD when given without THC, does not affect a subject's ability to drive. That's great news for those using or considering treatment using CBD-based products."
The quest in this experiment was to identify if:
- CBD alone impairs driving ability?
- And what is the duration of impairment when using THC only?
The scientists recruited 26 healthy participants.
They were tested on four occasions after randomly vaping 13.75 mg of either THC only, CBD only, a THC/CBD combination, or a placebo.
Participants were tested in a laboratory for cognitive and psychomotor performance, blood cannabinoid concentrations, and cardiovascular indicators such as heart rate and blood pressure. They were asked to rate how high they felt and their levels of anxiety, sedation, confidence, and enjoyment of the substance on 10-point scales.
The test involved driving 60 miles on a public highway at 60 miles per hour while in-car cameras recorded their behavior 40 minutes after vaping one of the substances. They drove the same route four hours later. Following each drive, they were asked to rate how they thought they did.
Impairment was assessed using a common metric known as the standard deviation of lateral position (SDLP). SDLP tracks how much a person drifts or weaves within a given lane, as well as fluctuations in vehicle speed. It's a standard metric used in the past to establish impairment levels of substances such as alcohol and Valium.
Compared to the placebo, the researchers found no driving impairment differences 40 minutes after vaping just CBD. This corresponds to a mild impairment detected in both THC and THC/CBD tests after 40 minutes.
Another important finding from the study was a lack of impairment detected in any of the four groups in the driving test conducted four hours after substance consumption.
Prior research has found cannabis can generate mild driving impairments up to three hours after consumption. These temporary impairments generally diminish around four hours after consumption, and the data from this experiment affirms the previous studies.
Consuming CBD alone seemed to have little to no impact on performance. Similar doses of THC were associated with short-term impairment "modest in magnitude and similar to that seen in drivers with a 0.05%" blood alcohol concentration- the equivalent of at least four alcoholic beverages in two hours for a 170-pound man. Unlike many drunk drivers, participants who consumed THC or the THC/CBD blend seemed distinctly aware of their risk behind the wheel. That was true even as observable signs of their impairment faded.
After four hours, signs of marijuana treatment faded.
They found that people who only vaped CBD were able to control the car and prevent swerving just as well as those who took the placebo.
They found that people who vaped cannabis containing 9% CBD and less than 1% THC were less likely to veer off route than people who vaped THC-only cannabis before driving. But both THC and a THC/CBD blend were more likely to veer off route during the first driving test, but not the second.
The Limitations to This Study
Every study has its limitations, and this one is no different. Although it provided valuable information, it still had its shortcomings. Meaning that the findings can't be generalized for those who aren't regular cannabis users or have underlying medical conditions.
Here are the limitations:
- It was a small study.
- All the participants were healthy.
- They were between the ages of 20-50.
- All the participants reported cannabis use up to twice weekly.
- The participants represent a subset of the population.
- All the participants were given the same dose, which is lower than what is typically used in specific treatments.
This data should reassure everyone that using CBD-only products is safe to consume before driving, and those using THC-dominate products should give themselves some time between consumption and driving.
Just remember CBD and medical cannabis dosing, is individual. What works for you might not work for someone else. That being said, driving outcomes may differ with higher doses of cannabis (CBD or THC). It's important to start with low doses and work your way up, experiment with your amounts in the safety of your home with ample time between consumption and driving.