Does acute cannabidiol (CBD) use impair performance? A meta-analysis and comparison with placebo and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2024 Mar 25. doi: 10.1038/s41386-024-01847-w. Online ahead of print.


Cannabidiol (CBD) is widely used and believed to be non-intoxicating, lacking acute performance effects (e.g., non-impairing). However, a synthesis of data has not evaluated this. This meta-analysis synthesized data from controlled human laboratory studies that evaluated if acute CBD use impairs performance. Performance on objective and subjective measures of cognitive and psychomotor function were used as markers for potential performance changes and impairment. Studies were identified through systematic database searches. Adult clinical trials measuring acute CBD effects (within 0-8 h of administration) were included. The primary outcome was the peak mean difference in performance measures between CBD and placebo. A secondary analysis utilizing delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) as a positive control for comparison to CBD was completed. Pooled Hedges' g estimates were calculated using robust variance estimation (RVE) meta-regression. The omnibus RVE meta-analysis indicated a statistically significant, but small effect size (Hedge's g < 0.2) for impaired performance following acute CBD consumption compared to placebo (N = 16 trials, Hedges' g = 0.122, 95% CI: 0.023-0.221, p = 0.019). Measure type was a significant moderator with larger mean differences between CBD and placebo when subjective measures, specifically self-reported sedation, were used versus objective performance tasks (Hedges' gSubjective = 0.288 versus Hedges' gObjective = 0.048). Δ9-THC had a significantly greater magnitude of impairment compared to CBD (N = 8, Hedges' g = 0.416, 95% CI: 0.017-0.816, p = 0.043). In summary, acute CBD consumption was associated with a small increase in subjective ratings of sedation, but no difference from placebo was observed across multiple domains of objectively assessed cognitive or psychomotor performance. These findings suggest that acute CBD alone is unlikely to significantly impair daily functioning or workplace performance.