With the legalization of Cannabis and hemp around the world, the usage of Cannabis has increased. Consumers are now eager to know more about the two available options of the Cannabis genus that include tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
These are extracted from the Cannabis sativa plant that is widely cultivated in Eastern Asia. Hemp is also known as industrial hemp because it comes from a variety of Cannabis sativa that is specifically grown for industrial use. However, there is 0.3% or less THC present in legal hemp.
CBD is available in three primary forms, oil, isolates, and wax that can further be classified into gummies, supplements, capsules, gels, etc.
The key psychoactive compound that increases sensitivity found within Cannabis is THC. It can be found as an oil, capsule, or tincture, but the main consumption source of THC is by smoking Cannabis.
The Endocannabinoid system (ECS) is responsible for regulating the neuronal activity of the body. The compounds acting on our body either stimulate or inhibit the ECS. Similarly, CBD and THC interact with the receptors of the endocannabinoid system and have various effects.
In this article, we shed light on THC vs. CBD, talking about their similarities and differences and providing you the information you need to understand their use.
The Structural Formula
Though both compounds share a similar chemical structure that includes 30 atoms of hydrogen, 21 carbon atoms, and two atoms of oxygen, they are still different.
The difference is determined through the arrangement in their atoms which makes them act differently on our body.
Due to CBD and THC's similarity with the body's endocannabinoids, it can easily attach to the cannabinoid receptors and spread throughout the body's nervous system. These interactions delay the reuptake of neurotransmitters in the body and brain.
It regulates the excitatory glutamate and inhibitory GABA and directs the signals transmitted. This altogether affects several body functions, including stress levels, sleep, immune system, and memory.
The Psychological Effect
CBD and THC are not similar to each other in their psychological effects. While both are psychoactive compounds, they still act differently.
CBD has a relaxing effect on the central nervous system and helps deal with anxiety, improve sleep, treat seizures, and manage chronic pain. On the other hand, THC directly interacts with the CB1 (cannabinoid 1) receptor present in the brain and gives a feeling of excitement or euphoria, making a person "high."
CBD requires THC to bind with the CB1 receptors. Thus, it is free of psychoactive effects like sedation and euphoria. It is therefore clinically recommended in the treatment of drug-resistant epilepsy.
The Laws; CBD Vs. THC
With increasing research and experiments in the medical field, the laws against Cannabis are being regulated regularly. Some states have passed laws and legalized the use of Cannabis products for medical purposes. However, the United States still classifies CBD as a Schedule I drug the federal government has tightly regulated that.
On the other side, although the Controlled Substances Act has removed hemp from controlled substances, yet it is categorized into Schedule I drugs by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Medically approved Cannabis, which has a high THC quantity, has been legalized by more than 33 states, including Washington, D.C. Doctors may now prescribe it to their patients for treating various medical conditions. Moreover, the use of Cannabis and THC for recreational purposes has now been allowed by multiple states.
You can easily purchase CBD in those areas and states which have legalized its use for medical and leisure activities. However, it is suggested to look into the state's laws and regulations before purchasing any product.
In case Cannabis products have been purchased without a prescription or illegally in a state that has not permitted its use, you might face severe penalties and fines. What's more, you might even end up in jail in some states which highly prohibit its use.
The Therapeutic Effects; CBD Vs. THC
Some of the medical benefits of CBD and THC are similar to one another. Both of them can help treat the same medical disorders like depression, anxiety, sleep, etc. Nevertheless, CBD is mostly preferred by people because, unlike THC, it does not produce euphoria and is free of this side effect.
The first prescribed drug, Epidiolex (cannabidiol) that comprised CBD, was launched by a recognized source and had the approval of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June 2018. It was recommended for the treatment of severe forms of epilepsy that were untreatable and rare. As of now, it is only used in the treatment of epilepsy and not any other medical condition.
Other drugs include dronabinol (THC), nabiximols (THC + CBD), and nabilone (THC).
THC is being used for the treatment of conditions such as:
- Chronic pain
- Muscle spasticity or stiffness
- Eye conditions like glaucoma
- Sleep disorders, specifically insomnia
- Decreased appetite
- Vomiting and nausea
- High stress and anxiety
Likewise, CBD is used for treating medical conditions, including
- Disorders of the central nervous system such as seizures
- Inflammatory conditions
- Chronic or un-treatable pain
- Psychosis and mental disorders like hallucinations
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Nausea and emesis
- Migraine and cluster headaches
- Depression and anxiety
The After Effects
The tolerance level of CBD by the body is remarkably well and has no severe side effects even when ingested in larger doses. The only side effects associated with CBD are related to its interaction with other drugs you might be used simultaneously.
These all are due to the psychological effect of the compounds on the body. However, none proves to be fatal.
The side effects of both may differ from one another as
The minor side effects of CBD include
- Changes in appetite
- Increased tiredness and fatigue
- Decreased weight
- Vertigo and dizziness
- Change in bowel habits like diarrhea
Comparatively, the temporary adverse effects of THC include
- Dry mouth
- Increase in heart rate
- Muscular un-coordination
- Red eyes
- Slow and depressed reflexes
- Memory issues
- Anxiety and depression
You may notice, THC is associated with increased psychiatric side effects. This is specifically seen in children and teenagers who consume large quantities of THC. However, there is still no specific study suggesting the Cannabis usage cause mental disorders.
How to Detect the Drug?
CBD and THC can be detected in our body even after days and weeks of ingestion through various tests as it is deposited in the body's adipose tissues.
Only CBD-sensitive tests can be used to detect the compound as it does not show in every other test. Likewise, the other standard drug testers detect the chemicals related to THC, so the compounds can sometimes be exposed at the screening.
Similarly, hemp contains CBD and THC, and so even when a person has not ingested THC, he might test positive for it.
Therefore, it is essential to check products that are termed as THC-free as they might not be completely free of it, and you might end up testing positive for the drug.
Food for Thought
A common question that arises in our minds when we study the differences and similarities of THC vs. CBD is that why other people ask about the content of THC in CBD oil and its euphoric effect when these two are claimed to be different in action from one another.
As we learned previously, CBD and THC are found in Cannabis and hemp; they are two of the most frequently present cannabinoids in the Cannabis plant. There is a higher concentration of THC and CBD in Cannabis and hemp, respectively.
As studied, there is about 12% of THC found in Cannabis on average. Likewise, CBD oil may also contain a minor THC percentage because of its presence in the hemp plant in trace quantities; thus, CBD oil may also produce euphoria.
This is a matter of concern for people who use CBD oil as they want to avoid the euphoric effect thus need to be updated about the percentage of THC present in the oil.
To be legal, CBD can only have 0.3% or less THC.
The Different Strains; CBD Vs. THC
The second most prevalent cannabinoid in Cannabis is CBD, but both the compounds are found within a single strain; however, the quantities may differ.
1. High THC Strain (10-30% of THC with trace amounts of CBD)
2. Balanced THC/ CBD Strain (it has 5-15% THC along with 5-15% CBD)
3. High CBD Strain (5-20% CBD with THC being under 5%)
CBD and THC's effect on a person's body and its therapeutic effects have made it to be accepted for medicinal purposes. They are now being claimed as safe for usage, but this cannot overshadow the side effects associated with them.
All the information mentioned above is sufficient to classify the compounds and differentiate them despite their similarities.
Both the compounds can interact with the drugs we might be taking and produce possible adverse effects due to drug-to-drug interactions.
It is therefore suggested to take Cannabinoids only when prescribed by a qualified physician or doctor, and you have no lingering questions in your mind related to its use and effects.
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