Cannabinoid topicals are becoming increasingly popular among people who are looking for a quick and seamless way to experience relief from pain, inflammation, and other conditions. Cannabis can treat these conditions very effectively; however, the psychoactive effects of cannabis haven’t really been in the topicals conversation at all.
Are psychoactive topicals even a thing?
Technically, yes; although for the most part, no.
Most Topicals Are Non-Psychoactive
Cannabinoids found in topicals generally don’t reach the CB1 receptors in the brain, because they can’t break through the outer skin layer and don’t make it to the bloodstream. Instead they typically interact only with the CB2 receptors, which don’t possess any psychoactive properties to be unlocked.
Psychoactive Transdermal Patches
Transdermal patches on the other hand employ permeation enhancers—or cannabinoid carriers—which allow for THC and other compounds to seep through the outer skin layer making their way into the bloodstream, and respectively the CB1 receptors in the brain, triggering psychoactive effects.
However, the bioavailability of cannabinoids from a psychoactive standpoint will be quite low, as just a portion of the cannabinoids will make it all the way to the brain, and the psychoactive effects won’t be nearly as pronounced as with other delivery methods.
So, unless you are looking for a mellow high to merely accompany the other benefits of cannabis that can be experienced strictly transdermally, there’s not much of a point in using topicals to that end as you don’t get much bang for your buck.
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