Medical Marijuana: What Is CBD and How Is It Different Than THC?

By Andy Heikkila | Published 4/19/2018 0

As the medical marijuana debate rages on, more and more people are beginning to question the legitimacy of the Schedule I controlled substance status that the DEA has classified cannabis under.

Part of the debate is fueled by the fact that cannabis has two main active ingredients that have shown medical potential. The first is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound responsible for the psychological effects and the “high” associated with ingesting marijuana. The other is cannabidiol (CBD), which doesn’t hold any psychoactive properties but has shown promising medical application of its own. There are multiple benefits associated with using either, according to the experts at Canmedi:

The Benefits of THC:

  • Gives users a relaxing or euphoric sensation
  • Helps in treating pain, both chronic and temporary, such as muscle or joint pain, headaches or PMS
  • Helps treat and prevent nausea, commonly used to help cancer patients with chemotherapy
  • Helps with insomnia and sleep-related issues
  • Increases appetite
  • Helps reduce stress or anxiety (while it is well-known to relax users, be aware that some users can experience increased anxiety)

The Benefits of CBD:

  • Not psychoactive, meaning it can provide benefits and a calming effect without the “high” associated with marijuana
  • Can be used to treat anxiety for people whose symptoms are increased by THC or don’t enjoy the “high”
  • Can also be used to treat and prevent nausea
  • Can help with inflammation and pain, including taking internally or applied externally as a cream or oil
  • Has shown evidence it works as an antioxidant
  • When applied externally, it can help with skin conditions such as eczema and acne
  • Has shown promise in treating medical conditions and mental health issues such as epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, PTSD and depression

To sum it up, research has found that THC, while helpful in reducing stress, anxiety, nausea, and stimulating the appetite, produces strong psychoactive effects that not everybody is prepared for and can be uncomfortable to some. It’s also pretty universally agreed upon that THC is inappropriate for consumption in children. CBD, on the other hand, helps with many of the same conditions without an associated high and has been shown to be potentially effective in reducing seizures and other symptoms of disease — even for children.

Related Content: Cannabidiol Approved to Treat Rare but Severe Forms of Epilepsy

The Fight for CBD and Ties to THC

Because it’s so hard to extract CBD without also extracting trace amounts of THC, federal law still prohibits the manufacture and sale of many of these products. Nevertheless, state and local governments sympathetic to pro-CBD initiatives have allowed the sale of edible or topical products containing said compound with certain caveats attached.

For example, Chris Moore, writing for Merry Jane, explains that “in 2017, Tennessee legislators legalized the sale of hemp-derived CBD edibles or topical products, as long as said products contain less than 0.3 percent THC … But despite this law, Gov. Eric Holcomb ordered state excise police to raid several stores and seize CBD products, and demanded that stores remove any CBD products containing even trace amounts of THC.”

Unfortunately, the demonization of THC is being extended to CBD as well, even though there are often very few facts to back up the claims that THC is indeed more dangerous than it is helpful.

“Despite rhetoric from one side or another, one thing remains an objective reality on the subject: overdosing on marijuana alone is unlikely, if not entirely impossible,” write the experts at The Recovery Village. “Unlike other drugs that are notorious for binding to areas of the brain that control vital functions like breathing, marijuana mostly affects memory and coordination.”

This isn’t to say that loss or impairment of motor function isn’t a serious concern — but even those who point to increased rates of drugged driving in states where recreational marijuana is legal aren’t proving that it’s dangerous. The University of Reno Nevada’s online resources show that, indeed, the first states to pass recreational marijuana initiatives showed similarly strong figures relating to driving under the influence: Self-reporting of past-year driving while under the influence of marijuana was 43.6 percent among respondents, with past month driving being almost 25 percent. However, they also mention this:

“Crucially for public health officials looking to make sense of the data, the perception of danger is at odds with the number of accidents that can be attributed to the drug. According to the American Public Health Association, the NHTSA stated they were unable to find a causality between legal marijuana and fatal traffic accidents — a finding echoed in the aforementioned Washington Drug Policy Alliance report, which showed that traffic accident fatalities remain flat in states with recreational marijuana.”

So even though there is a miniscule amount of THC generally found in CBD concentrates, it’s not enough to cause a psychoactive reaction, and THC hasn’t actually been proven to cause harm to patients using it.


What Does the Future Hold for CBD?

It’s hard to say what will come of CBD’s potential, though many are extremely interested. CBS reports that a California couple, Dan and Jennifer Kubisz, had been looking for medication to halt their child’s seizures. The boy, Zack, had tried 12 to 14 different medications, but nothing seemed to work and all produced devastating side effects.

Then, Dan heard about CBD. Zach’s neurologist told the couple that they had nothing to lose, as prescription drugs weren’t alleviating the seizures or the suffering associated.

“Within three weeks, a month – he stopped seizing,” Jennifer told CBS.

“CBD had been our shining light that it really was for us. That miracle that changed his world,” confirmed Dan.

The good news is that stories like Zach’s are driving advocates to action and fueling the fight for change, and could set the precedent for pro-CBD legislation in the future. With the possible benefits that this drug has displayed, it seems absolutely absurd that regulators would hide behind legislation and embody apathy when they could be researching potential solutions to diseases affecting millions. The fight for CBD has just begun, and it would be absurd not to give the children of this country the medication that they deserve.

Andy Heikkila

Andy is health, tech, and futurism enthusiast from the Pacific Northwest. When he's not writing, you can find him on a run, drinking craft beer, or reading Kurt Vonnegut. Follow him on Twitter @AndyO_TheHammer.

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