Cannabidiol (CBD) has been revealed as an alertness inducer in experiments with animals (Murillo-Rodríguez et al., 2008) and in studies with human beings (Nicholson et al., 2004).
In the study conducted by Murillo-Rodríguez, CBD activated the nerve cells responsible for keeping them awake, while in the case of Nicholson, 15mg of CBD administered through an oromucosal spray increased the alert levels of healthy subjects.
It is interesting to see Cannabidiol’s capacity to induce alertness in individuals without altering their sleep/wake cycle, while in those cases where insomnia is a problem, CBD has proven to be a very effective molecule to improve this symptom that is so commonly suffered today. This effect, seemingly contradictory, reinforces the idea that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) acts as a regulatory system of balance, once that balance has been broken.
The areas of the brain where CBD acts to activate the state of alertness are mainly the lateral hypothalamus and the dorsal raphe nucleus, where it activates the neurons responsible for keeping one awake, showing an increase in Alpha and Theta brain waves, with a decrease in Delta brain waves.
Note that in the study in humans, CBD and THC were administered together, which is consistent when considering whether CBD’s effect, in this case, was due to reduced drowsiness typically caused by THC or by a direct activation of neurons in the lateral hypothalamus and the dorsal raphe nucleus.
On the other hand, this increase in alertness and attention has also been observed when using CBD in children who suffer from drug-resistant epilepsy. This could indicate that CBD not only increases the state of alertness in healthy individuals but also when this alertness drops for various reasons, such as the side effects of certain medications or the clinical consequences of the disease itself.
Dr. Javier Pedraza,
Specialist in Family and Community Medicine
Consultant in treatments with cannabis and derivatives