Keeping track of the difference between CBD and THC can be tricky, especially since the science is inconclusive in many areas. Here’s a breakdown.
Both Piomelli and Weiner say that CBD has virtually no potential for abuse and very few side effects. However, long-term, high-dose use of CBD has not been studied enough to say definitively that it is safe, Piomelli says, adding that it could potentially affect liver function.
“THC is really not a very dangerous substance when you look at it pharmacologically,” Piomelli says. For example, it would take a massive dose of THC to cause an overdose, so realistically it’s extremely unlikely that a person would overdose on THC, he says.
Many states have legalized marijuana to treat conditions ranging from anxiety to glaucoma. However, it’s important to recognize that chemically, there is no distinction between recreational and medical marijuana, says Aaron Weiner, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist and addictions specialist.
CBD vs THC
“In states that have both recreational and medicinal programs, the difference between the two generally only extends to the amount that can be purchased at one time, and how high the taxes are on the product,” he says. “The cart is very much before the horse right now in terms of the medical marijuana industry.”
With CBD no effect has been demonstrated on the neurotransmitter dopamine, however, THC has been shown to impact dopamine levels, which may lend to its psychoactive effects. CBD has no psychoactive effects, Piomelli says.
The differing amounts of CBD and THC, as well as the concentration of each compound, explain the claimed variations in different strains of CBD and THC, Piomelli says.
The relationship between CBD and THC
Hemp is higher in CBD, while any cannabis that has a THC concentration of greater than 0.3% is classed as marijuana, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
The research on CBD is limited because for years researchers thought that it did not affect the body, according to Piomelli. However, there are potentially three scientifically recognized uses for CBD, he says. They are:
Despite varying public feeling on marijuana, 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.
What's the Difference Between CBD vs. THC?
THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, induces sleep or drowsiness (a common effect of most strains of marijuana), whereas CBD keeps you up and increases energy. And THC is responsible for the feeling of being high or body-high.
Side Effects of CBD
The debate around its legality, however, remains fairly complicated. Marijuana remains a federally illegal drug, and some states, like New York, have sought to crack down on the sales of food and drink that contain CBD. That said, there are states that have legalized medicinal use of CBD by itself, albeit these states have very strict standards for what medical conditions it can be used to treat.