Confused about the difference between CBD and THC? You’re not alone. The CBD vs THC conversation has been happening since CBD has exploded on the market. There are thousands of products infused with CBD. But a lot of people still think that CBD will get you high, like THC does. Both of them come from a similar (yet different) plant. Both are three-letter words. And both of them seem to have a bit of stigma and cultural baggage. It’s all very confusing!
There has been a lot of growing interest and legalization in cannabis and marijuana products. As well as a great deal of talk about their therapeutic potential for conditions like chronic pain, anxiety, and insomnia. But they are actually very different. So knowing the difference between CBD vs. THC is important.
What is CBD?
CBD is short for cannabidiol. It’s commonly the second most prevalent active cannabinoid in the cannabis plant.
There are more than 113 types of known cannabinoids in cannabis. Cannabinoids are compounds that interact with our endocannabinoid system and help support a wide variety of issues and ailments. We need more research on the benefits of CBD. But the current research seems promising.
What is THC?
THC—short for Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol—is the compound in cannabis that produces the psychoactive effects that people usually associate with marijuana and getting high.
The euphoria or “high” is the result of THC triggering a release of high amounts of dopamine in the brain.
Also Read: Is CBD a great option for nausea?
CBD vs THC: The similarities
CBD and THC are both cannabinoids. And both have been shown to have therapeutic benefits.
Both have the same molecular structure and both interact with your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which helps regulate several functions including mood, sleep, reproduction, appetite, and memory.
This is where the similarities end because of how each of them interacts with the cannabinoid receptors in the ECS.
Also Read: How long does a dose of CBD last?
CBD vs THC: The differences
The key difference between CBD and THC is the way it affects the user. The effects of THC are a lot more obvious because you feel them—sometimes within seconds depending on how you consume it. With CBD, the effects aren’t as obvious even though it’s working in the body.
That’s because of the way each one interacts with cannabinoid receptors in the body:
· THC binds to the cannabinoid receptors and activates them, producing a sense of euphoria.
· CBD, on the other hand, has the opposite effect and blocks the receptors, which is why CBD doesn’t produce a high.
The other notable difference between CBD and THC is their source.
Both are found in the cannabis plant and the hemp plant, but cannabis has a considerably higher concentration of THC.
This is good information to have when shopping for CBD products, especially if you’re trying to avoid THC either for its effects or are concerned about testing positive on a drug test. Hemp-derived CBD contains almost no THC. We’re talking 0.3 percent or less. CBD products made from cannabis can contain a lot more THC.
CBD vs THC: Therapeutic benefits
Even though they work differently in the body, CBD and THC appear to offer many of the same benefits.
More research is needed—and underway—into the medicinal benefits of cannabinoids, but the anecdotal and clinical evidence available so far has been mostly promising.
People often turn to CBD and/or THC to alleviate:
- trouble sleeping
CBD may help with:
THC may help with:
- nausea and vomiting
- low appetite
- muscle spasticity
There’s a good amount of evidence for CBD and THC for these uses, but researchers continue to investigate the effectiveness of cannabinoids as treatment for these and dozens of other conditions.
That said, there’s strong evidence for the use of CBD and THC for certain conditions. The FDA has approved a few cannabis-derived drugs for medical use, including:
- Epidiolex, which contains CBD and is approved for the treatment of seizures associated with a genetic disorder. As well as two rare and severe forms of epilepsy.
- Marinol and Syndros, which contain synthetic THC and are approved to treat chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting and weight loss and loss of appetite in people with HIV/AIDS.
- Cesamet, which contains a THC-like synthetic substance and is approved for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
There are several other cannabis-based medications approved or undergoing clinical trials in other parts of the world. For instance, Sativex, a spray that contains CBD and THC and is available in Canada, the United Kingdom, and several European countries for the treatment of pain and spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis.
CBD vs THC: Safety and side effects
CBD and THC are considered generally safe.
Both can cause side effects. The side effects and their severity depend on factors like a person’s tolerance, the amount consumed, body chemistry, and the use of other medications or substances.
CBD is well-tolerated according to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO). There’s no evidence suggesting that it has the potential to cause physical dependence – even in large doses. Although we always recommend consuming the recommended dosage of CBD. In other words, CBD is a general safe compound with no known risk of addiction.
Also Read: Do flavorings alter CBD’s effectiveness?
Temporary side effects may include:
- appetite changes
- weight loss
THC is more likely to produce unwanted side effects, especially in large amounts.
According to a report on THC by the WHO, THC can cause the following temporary side effects:
- dry mouth
- impaired attention
- short-term memory impairment
- increased appetite
In high doses, THC can cause these short-term side effects:
Excessive use of THC has also been linked to long-term psychiatric effects, primarily in adolescents.
All that said, when used as directed, CBD and THC are typically safe and unlikely to cause any serious or lasting effects.
To minimize the chances of side effects by starting with the lowest dose and gradually increasing the dose until you reach a dose that you’re happy with.
CBD vs THC – In Summary
In short, THC gets you high, and CBD does not. CBD has a lot of purported benefits. But we need more research to have more definitive answers to all our questions around sleep, pain and anxiety.
Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a freelance health and lifestyle writer that has written for Healthline, Medical News Today and Verily Magazine just to name a few.