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Is There Really Such a Thing as Recreational CBD?

Written by Sarah Friedman

It isn’t uncommon to see CBD described as a recreational drug, in fact that term is widely used for the product.

However, the definition for ‘recreational drug’, especially considering the wide-reaching legal implications of using it, doesn’t technically match what CBD actually is. And this can be seen in pretty much any major dictionary and definition.

Recreational drug: A drug (such as cocaine, marijuana, or methamphetamine) used without medical justification for its psychoactive effects often in the belief that occasional use of such a substance is not habit-forming or addictive.

That’s Merriam-Webster’s definition.

Recreational drug: A drug used nonmedically for personal enjoyment.


Recreational drug: The use of a psychoactive drug to induce an altered state of consciousness for pleasure, by modifying the perceptions, feelings, and emotions of the user.

And that one is Wiki.

Funny enough, when you look up CBD in Wikipedia, it specifically says: CBD does not have intoxicating effects like those caused by tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and may have a downregulating effect on disordered thinking and anxiety.

In fact, according to, CBD is a: …phytocannabinoid derived from Cannabis species, which is devoid of psychoactive activity

So, the question becomes, why do we consider CBD – which has no psychoactive properties – to be a drug used for recreation, lumped with the likes of cocaine, heroin, and even regular marijuana which contains the psychoactive THC? And even more importantly, does it matter?

The word ‘recreational’ is used all the time for CBD. By government agencies using the idea of it being a recreational drug in order to make it less available to the public. Right down to the industry itself which often uses the word recreational to denote non-prescription use. Rather than treating it like all those other drugs we simply label as ‘over-the-counter’ or ‘non-prescription’, it is continually misrepresented in the press as ‘recreational’.

If a person has a headache they buy Tylenol. If they have allergies there are things like Benadryl. Much like CBD, neither of these medications is known to produce a high (although Benadryl can sure make a person feel tired and loopy), however unlike CBD they both get to be defined as nothing more than ‘non-prescription’ and ‘over-the-counter’. At no point is a person ever told that they are taking Tylenol recreationally, and in none of the marketing for Tylenol does Johnson & Johnson refer to its drug as recreational.

Does arguing semantics matter? In the case of trying to get a basic understanding through to a world population that has been acclimated to misinformation for a very long time…yes! Yes, it really does. Words matter.  They define what something is, and using the wrong word, means using the wrong definition. Using the wrong definition means a continuing misunderstanding among the general population. And a continuing misunderstanding among the general population means the ability for something like CBD to be marginalized legally for all the wrong reasons.

CBD has been shown to help with pain management, anxiety, insomnia, epilepsy and is a front runner in research into anti-aging and anti-tumor treatments, among many, many other things. These are medical properties, and they’re medical properties that exist without any high at all.

So, what do the previous words mean? They mean that CBD is a medicinal compound. And that it is 100% NOT a recreational drug. Why should we keep this in mind? Because the word shows up a lot, and in order to understand what CBD actually is, it’s also important to understand what it’s not. In the plight for blanket legalization, the word ‘recreational’ still stands as an unnecessary roadblock.

[Image Credit: Pixabay]

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About the author

Sarah Friedman

I look stuff up and and write stuff down, in order to make sense of the world around. And I travel a lot too.