Spurred by its legalization in various countries and research revealing more and more health benefits associated with its use, the popularity of CDH has skyrocketed over the past few years. And now, from candles and bath bombs to chocolate and coffee, it seems as if CBD is everywhere and in everything conceivable.
However, despite this growing popularity and the fact that it is a legal substance, there are still a lot of grey areas and uncertainties around the use of CBD. One of the most prominent ones is the question of whether or not it is safe to drive while using CBD. If you are a CBD lover that has been wondering about this, keep reading to find out.
What is CBD and How Does it Affect the Brain?
The first step towards answering the question of whether or not CBD is safe for drivers is to understand exactly what CBD is – and what it is not.
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a chemical constituent of Cannabis Sativa plants. Cannabis plants actually contain hundreds of compounds, many of which have been found to have beneficial effects on the human body. Some of these compounds are grouped together and referred to as cannabinoids. They have one thing in common: they exert most of their effects by interacting with receptors that form a part of the body’s endocannabinoid system.
There are dozens of cannabinoids in cannabis plants but the most prominent ones are CBD and THC, short for tetrahydrocannabinol. Although they both act on the endocannabinoid system, they produce very different effects.
The major distinguishing factor is that, whilst THC has psychoactive effects and can produce the characteristic “high” associated with cannabis, CBD cannot.
CBD produces relaxation and feelings of calm – which is why many use it for relief from symptoms of anxiety and insomnia – but it does not affect your judgment or perception of reality. This is quite unlike THC which can make you feel euphoric, and impair your judgment, short-term memory, concentration, motor coordination, and reaction time.
What is Research Saying About the Effects of CBD on Driving Skills?
Many studies in the past that looked at the effects of cannabis on driving skills concentrated on cannabis containing mainly THC. Fortunately, a very recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, for the first time, explored the effects of CBD specifically on driving and found it to be safe.
The study involved a total of 26 participants between the ages of 20 and 50. It assessed their driving ability in real-life situations after exposure to cannabis.
Each participant was exposed to four formulations on four separate occasions. One formulation contained mainly CBD, the other contained a mixture of CBD and THC, the third type contained mainly THC and the fourth was a placebo formulation containing no active ingredients.
40 minutes and also 4 hours after a participant vaped a formulation, they were allowed to drive a vehicle under supervision on a public highway. During and after the exercise, various parameters were assessed including lane weaving and swerving, average speeds, decision making, the participant’s confidence, etc.
It was found that there was no driving impairment when the participants vaped the cannabis containing mainly CBD. They drove just as well as they did after vaping the placebo formulation. However, after vaping the cannabis containing mainly THC and the THC/CBD mixture, there was mild driving impairment after 40 minutes but not after 4 hours.
The great thing about this study is that it tested the effects of cannabis on driving in real-life situations as opposed to a simulation. Also, for the first time, it assessed the effect of CBD on its own on driving. And lastly, it helped to give an estimate of the duration of time during which THC can impair driving skills.
It is important to note that there are a few limitations to this research, however. Firstly, the sample size of 26 people is quite small. Secondly, most of the participants were regular cannabis users. And thirdly, they were all healthy without underlying medical conditions. As such, these inferences may not apply to people who are not regular cannabis users and those who have underlying medical conditions.
So, what’s the bottom line?
Although current research leans in favor of CBD being completely safe for driving, more research is needed to know for sure.
Is it Safe to Drive While Using CBD?
As outlined above, research currently indicates that the answer to this question is yes. However, there are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Some CBD Products Contain THC
For CBD oil to be considered legal in most countries, it should contain no more than 0.3% of THC. This concentration of THC is so small that it is highly unlikely to cause any psychoactive effects – unless a very high dose of the oil is taken. As such, it should not impair driving.
Such a small amount is also unlikely to be detected during a drug screen. The issue, however, is that CBD products are largely unregulated at the moment. Several are mislabeled and contain much more THC than the label claims. THC is a highly illegal substance. If you are using a product with a high level of THC, it can be picked up during a blood test and get you in trouble at work or with the police.
The solution? Buy your CBD products only from trusted brands with stellar reputations that you can trust to be transparent about their CBD extraction process and the concentration of THC in their products.
2. CBD Should be Used With Caution the First Few Times
Although CBD is considered to be quite safe and non-psychoactive, it does affect your nervous system. Some have reported feeling drowsy, dizzy, and lethargic after using a CBD product. If these feelings are in excess, they may impair your driving skills. In 2017, up to 795 people died as a result of drowsy driving according to The National Highway Traffic Association.
People react differently to various chemicals and some people experience the side effects of using CBD more strongly than others do. If you have never used CBD before, you cannot be sure about how you would react to it. As such, you should avoid driving or operating heavy machinery when trying out CBD for the first time. Instead, observe yourself and assess your reactions after taking CBD a few times before attempting to get behind the wheel.
If it makes you excessively drowsy, adjust the dosage, and see if that helps. If it doesn’t, it might be best for you to avoid driving for your safety and the safety of others.
CBD and Driving: The Bottom-line
CBD is a legal substance that is highly unlikely to impair your driving skills. However, it is important to buy only high-quality products from trusted brands to ensure that the CBD product does not contain enough THC to impair driving skills and show up on drug tests.
Also, certain people may experience the mildly sedative side effects of CBD more strongly than others. Observing yourself the first few times after taking CBD is, therefore, a necessity.