As the debate of legalizing cannabis continues to rage on, the difference between key compounds CBD and THC in cannabis is becoming increasingly important. They both have very different effects and uses that range from recreational to medically ground-breaking. You may have heard of cannabidiol oil (thanks to novelty products like CBD dog treats and vapes), but when talking about legal cannabis, it’s important to note key distinctions.
Despite varying public feeling on cannabis, these two separate compounds (CBD vs. THC) have very specific uses, most notably in the medical sphere. The advocacy of many medical professionals has helped the compound CBD garner support for legalization and further research. As the wave of legalization of cannabis slowly hits, products derived from compounds CBD and THC have huge marketing, investment and medical potential. But what is the difference between the two?
What’s the Difference Between CBD vs. THC?
The main difference between CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is that CBD does not induce a psychological effect, or, high feeling while THC does.
Despite CBD and THC sharing a near exact molecular formula of C21H30O2, and molecular mass of 314.469 g/mol and 314.464 g/mol respectively, the compounds react quite differently. THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, can make one sleepy or drowsy (a common effect of most strains of cannabis), whereas CBD keeps you up and increases energy. THC is responsible for the feeling of being high or body-high. When reacting together, CBD actually works against the effects of THC by reducing anxiety, stress or other negative feelings. For this reason, CBD is often extracted to use separately for non-psychoactive (and non-recreational) purposes. Recent studies however, have shown that the effects of such are much better when administered together rather than by itself.
What Is CBD?
CBD is only one of around 400 compounds in cannabis, and is responsible for counteracting the effects of THC. Although the CBD molecule is almost identical to the THC molecule, it doesn’t get you high. On its own, CBD has been proven to have many health benefits and uses, such as treating anxiety, stress, epilepsy and depression. The compound is non-psychoactive, which has helped it gain support in many medical fields for its therapeutic properties. Its benefits have been maximized by the retail and medicinal markets, with CBD products including oils, vapes, medicines, skincare and drinks. Cannabinoid oil is a popular product created from CBD.
Side Effects of CBD
Based on current research, side effects of CBD are rather limited. According to studies done by Medical Marijuana Inc., some reports of drowsiness, dry mouth and low blood pressure exist, but no links to serious side effects have been found.
What is THC?
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is a psychoactive component of marijuana, although the THC molecule is surprisingly similar to its non-psychoactive counterpart CBD. THC is what gets you high, and for that reason is somewhat less accepted for medicinal use than CBD.
Still, THC brags its own beneficial uses. THC has properties that have been known to help treat pain, nausea, asthma and even anorexia nervosa. However, as a psychoactive compound, its medicinal uses are still controversial.
Side Effects of THC
In high-concentration THC, common negative side effects include reduced cognitive functions, anxiety, paranoia, dry mouth, red eyes, lethargy and increased appetite. Still, the positive effects of THC include increased relaxation, joint and headache relief, among others. It’s worth noting that the increased appetite effect is often looked at as a positive among chemotherapy patients suffering extreme loss of appetite, as well as individuals suffering from an eating disorder.
Health Benefits of CBD vs. THC
The health benefits of CBD have been widely researched. With its non-psychoactive status, CBD has been known to treat health problems, most notably epilepsy. U.S. Food and Drug Administration Deputy Commissioner Anna K. Abram claimed as much. “CBD has been shown to be beneficial in experimental models of several neurological disorders, including those of seizure and epilepsy,” Abram wrote in a notice through the Federal Register in 2017.
It is clear that the positive benefits of compounds like CBD are becoming increasingly uncovered. The FDA is aware that “cannabis or cannabis-derived products are being used for a number of medical conditions including, for example, AIDS wasting, epilepsy, neuropathic pain, treatment of spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, and cancer and chemotherapy-induced nausea,” according to their website. Still, the use of many medical marijuana and even CBD products are still awaiting official approval. THC, while not used for quite as many applications as CBD, brags quite a few health benefits itself. In cannabis-oil form, studies have shown that THC can be used to treat neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. These studies also showed that THC can ease pain and help alleviate multiple sclerosis.
CBD vs. THC For Anxiety
Both THC and CBD have been used to treat anxiety. CBD has been used as an anxiolytic, or anxiety-treating drug, to some success. Studies show its potential to treat not only anxiety but also depression, PTSD, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, THC has mixed reviews when it comes to treating anxiety. Due to its psychoactive nature, THC has been linked to feelings of anxiety or paranoia (perhaps most commonly experienced during marijuana use). However, the level or concentration of THC present is largely responsible if the consumer feels anxious or not, so the appropriate dose is more of the key.
While the jury in some ways is still out, studies so far have shown relatively few negative side effects of CBD and THC use. However, some studies show that the neurotransmission systems involved in processing CBD can be linked to cannabis addiction and dependence, and found links to the three stages of addiction. Positive effects were also found in the study.
Additionally, the THC compound in marijuana can have varying effects on stimulating anxiety. Various studies have shown increased anxiety with cannabis use, but results largely vary depending on the individual’s preconditions to anxiety or paranoia.
Legality of CBD Vs. THC
The legality of both CBD and THC has been up for debate for quite a while. Apart from the nationwide debate (some may argue worldwide) on the legalization of cannabis, CBD’s health benefits are still largely untapped due to FDA regulations.
I currently manage my anxiety and depression with a slew of approaches, including the use of cannabis and cannabis products. It is my hope by continuing to publish information like this, social attitudes will continue to shift and more people will be able to get the help they need, free of judgement or fear of stigma. The lazy stoner is a myth y’all.
Until next time,