Is CBN Psychoactive?

[There is often confusion between the hemp plant and the marijuana plant. We also tend to use the adjective “psychoactive” and “psychotropic” interchangeably, to explain the effect certain cannabinoids can have on brain activity.

When most of us read about a product that is “not psychoactive,” it usually gives us some sensation of relief and safety about the product. At first sight, the word “psychoactive” may resonate as “dangerous” in most people’s minds. But do we really know what psychoactive means? Would you consider chocolate or coffee dangerous (also psychoactive)?

While reading up on the various cannabinoids and claims that CBN is “non-psychotropic”, CBD is “non psychoactive” or THC is “psychotropic”, there is a high chance you get lost in the terminology! And rightfully so.

“Psychotropic” and “psychoactive” tend to be used interchangeably, there is a difference though.

Let’s look at the definition in the dictionary:


(ˌsaɪkoʊˈtrɑpɪk  )

ADJECTIVE having an altering effect on the mind, as tranquilizers, hallucinogens, etc.


(ˌsaɪkoʊˈæktɪv  )

ADJECTIVE designating or of a drug, chemical, etc. that has a specific effect on the mind

Lets look specifically at the difference underlined in the definitions. Both “psychoactive” compounds and “psychotropic” compounds have an effect on your brain activity, but, only one has an “altering” effect, the other doesn’t.

Psychoactive compounds like CBN and CBD > crosses the blood-brain barrier to affect mood, cognition, pain perception after exercise, appetite, recovery, sleep, etc. But it does not change or alter your perception or cognitive abilities. 

(“Cognitive means relating to the mental process involved in knowing, learning, and understanding things.

Psychotropic compounds like THC> alters the mental state, perception, and cognitive abilities.

Let’s look at an example, dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has been researched to produce many wellness benefits. It may also contain caffeine and many other compounds that stimulate the brain’s dopamine (pleasure-generating neurotransmitter), serotonin (mood-modulating neurotransmitter) and endorphins (neurotransmitter helping to reduce discomfort). Although many enjoy chocolate (in moderation, of course), many don’t realize its thanks to the “psychoactive” effects on the brain.

So why is CBN described as “psychoactive” but “non-psychotropic?”

The potential sleep and calming benefits of CBN is credited to how it interacts with our Endocannabinoid System (ECS). CBN binds primarily to the CB2 receptor, helping to induce a sleepy state.

Unlike THC’s “high feeling”, CBN has not been found to affect perception and cognitive abilities. It simply helps to work with your ECS so that you may fall asleep and stay asleep the natural way. 

Please note: everybody is different and reacts differently to cannabinoids..or any other psychoactive compounds. You know your body better than anyone else and should test what is the best usage for you.

Should you have any doubt, use any medications or have a medical condition, consult your physician before using.


Collins Dictionary

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