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CBD Vs. THC: What’s the Difference?

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) are two compounds found in cannabis plants. THC is responsible for the psychoactive effects, making you feel “high,” while CBD doesn’t produce that sensation. Essentially, THC is associated with the recreational aspect, and CBD is more about potential therapeutic benefits without the high. It’s like THC gives you the buzz, while CBD offers relaxation without the altered state.

What Is Cannabidiol (CBD)?

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a natural compound derived from the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, it doesn’t produce a euphoric “high.” CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system in the body, which regulates various physiological processes. It’s renowned for its potential therapeutic benefits, such as reducing anxiety, alleviating pain, and promoting better sleep.

CBD is available in various forms to cater to diverse preferences and needs. Common options include CBD oils, which are administered sublingually, CBD pills for convenient oral ingestion, and CBD tinctures, which involve placing drops under the tongue. Additionally, CBD can be found in topical creams, edibles like gummies, and even inhaled through vaporizers. This versatility makes CBD accessible to a wide range of users seeking its potential health and wellness advantages.

What Is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)?

Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis responsible for the euphoric “high” associated with marijuana use. It interacts with the brain’s cannabinoid receptors, specifically the CB1 receptors, altering neurotransmitter release and affecting cognitive functions.1 THC is primarily found in the resin produced by the cannabis plant’s glandular trichomes, concentrated in the flowering tops, or buds, of the female plant.

The production of THC is a natural defense mechanism for the cannabis plant, deterring herbivores with its psychoactive effects. Through selective breeding, cannabis cultivators have developed strains with varying THC levels to cater to different user preferences, from those seeking a mild experience to those desiring more intense effects. It’s essential for consumers to be aware of THC content when using cannabis products, especially as the legal landscape surrounding marijuana continues to evolve.

Are THC & CBD Legal?

The legal status of THC and CBD varies significantly. THC is the psychoactive compound responsible for marijuana’s intoxicating effects and remains illegal in many jurisdictions. However, some regions have decriminalized or legalized recreational and medicinal use, reflecting shifting attitudes towards cannabis.

On the other hand, CBD enjoys a more favorable legal status. Derived from hemp, a variety of the cannabis plant with low THC content, CBD is legal in many places, including the United States, as long as it contains less than 0.3% THC.1 This has led to a burgeoning market for CBD products, including oils, edibles, and topical solutions, available over the counter or online. It’s crucial for consumers to be aware of local regulations, as the legal landscape surrounding both THC and CBD continues to evolve.

“In my experience as a therapist, the exploration of THC versus CBD raises critical considerations in the realm of mental health and well-being. The article navigates the complexities of these compounds, emphasizing the need for a nuanced understanding of their effects on various conditions. As a mental health professional, I believe that the decision to incorporate THC or CBD into one’s treatment plan should be approached with caution, considering individual differences, medical history, and therapeutic goals. While both substances show promise in addressing certain mental health issues, it is essential for clients to engage in open dialogue with their healthcare providers to make informed decision. 

Are CBD & THC Addictive?

CBD is generally considered non-addictive. Numerous studies suggest that it lacks the psychoactive properties that lead to dependency. The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that CBD exhibits no potential for abuse or dependence in humans.2 It interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system in a way that doesn’t create a craving for continued use, making it a promising option for those seeking therapeutic benefits without addiction concerns.

In contrast, THC has the potential for addiction in some individuals. Its psychoactive effects can lead to a psychological dependence, especially in frequent or heavy users. However, physical withdrawal symptoms associated with THC are typically milder compared to substances like nicotine or opioids. It’s important for individuals using cannabis products containing THC to be mindful of their consumption habits and to be aware of the potential for dependency, especially in cases of prolonged and excessive use.

Does CBD Feel Different From THC?

Using THC typically induces a psychoactive “high” characterized by altered perceptions, euphoria, and relaxation. Users often experience a sense of heightened creativity, increased sensory perception, and a general feeling of euphoria. However, it can also lead to anxiety or paranoia in some individuals, particularly with higher doses.

In contrast, CBD does not produce the same intoxicating effects. Users report a more subtle influence, often describing a sense of relaxation, stress relief, and a calmer state of mind without the mental fog associated with THC. CBD is prized for its potential to provide therapeutic benefits without the euphoria, making it suitable for individuals seeking relief from various conditions without the altered consciousness that comes with THC use. Ultimately, the choice between THC and CBD depends on individual preferences and the desired effects, whether for recreational enjoyment or targeted health and wellness benefits.

Medical Benefits of CBD & THC

CBD and THC both offer a range of potential medical benefits. CBD, in particular, has gained attention for its anxiolytic properties, showing promise in reducing anxiety and stress levels. Many users turn to CBD oil for anxiety relief, as it interacts with receptors in the brain associated with mood regulation and stress response. Research suggests that CBD may help manage symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), making it a popular choice for those seeking a natural and non-intoxicating approach to anxiety management.

THC, on the other hand, is known for its analgesic properties and is commonly used to alleviate chronic pain conditions. It interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system to modulate pain perception, making it effective for conditions like neuropathic pain and pain associated with conditions such as multiple sclerosis or arthritis. Additionally, THC has demonstrated anti-nausea effects, making it a valuable option for individuals undergoing chemotherapy or experiencing nausea due to other medical treatments.

It’s important to note that while CBD and THC offer potential medical benefits, individual responses can vary, and more research is needed to fully understand the extent of their therapeutic applications. Consultation with a healthcare professional is advised for personalized advice on using these compounds for specific medical conditions.

Examples of medical issues that could be treated by THC and CBD include:

  • Anxiety

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • Eating disorders

  • Chronic pain

  • Multiple sclerosis

  • Arthritis

  • Insomnia

  • Epilepsy and seizure disorders

  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

  • Migraines

  • Neuropathic pain

  • Cancer-related symptoms (nausea, loss of appetite)

  • Depression

  • Muscle spasms

  • Glaucoma

  • Alzheimer’s disease

  • Parkinson’s disease

  • Crohn’s disease

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Asthma

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

  • Bipolar disorder​

It’s essential to note that while there is promising research on the potential benefits of CBD and THC for these conditions, individual responses can vary, and these substances may not be suitable for everyone. Consulting with a healthcare professional is advisable before incorporating CBD or THC into a medical treatment plan.

Adverse Effects Of CBD & THC

CBD and THC, while generally well-tolerated, can have side effects that vary from person to person. CBD is typically associated with mild side effects such as drowsiness, dry mouth, and changes in appetite. In some cases, it may interact with certain medications, affecting their metabolism.3 It’s crucial for users to consult with a healthcare professional, especially if they are on other medications, to avoid potential interactions.

THC, as the psychoactive component of cannabis, can cause more noticeable side effects. These may include impaired coordination, increased heart rate, dry mouth, red eyes, and memory impairment. Additionally, some individuals may experience anxiety or paranoia, especially with higher doses or in those prone to such conditions. Long-term, heavy use of THC has been associated with potential cognitive impairments. It’s essential for users to be mindful of their tolerance levels and to start with low doses when using THC-containing products, especially if they are new to cannabis. As with any substance, individual responses can vary, and responsible use is key to minimizing potential adverse effects.

Possible adverse effects of THC include:

  • Problems with concentration

  • Impaired coordination

  • Increased heart rate

  • Dry mouth

  • Red eyes

  • Memory impairment

  • Anxiety or paranoia (especially in susceptible individuals)

  • Distorted perception of time and space

  • Altered judgment and decision-making

  • Respiratory irritation (when smoked)

  • Potential for dependence with prolonged, heavy use​

It’s important for individuals using THC-containing products to be aware of these potential adverse effects and to exercise caution, especially if they are new to cannabis or have pre-existing health conditions. Responsible and moderate use can help minimize the risk of adverse effects associated with THC consumption.

Possible adverse effects of CBD include:

  • Nausea

  • Dry mouth

  • Changes in appetite

  • Fatigue

  • Diarrhea

  • Drowsiness

  • Interactions with other medications (due to effects on liver enzymes)

  • Low blood pressure

  • Lightheadedness

  • Irritability

  • Potential for allergic reactions (rare)​

While CBD is generally well-tolerated, individual responses can vary. It’s important for users to start with lower doses and monitor their reactions. Additionally, consulting with a healthcare professional, especially for those on other medications, is advisable to avoid potential interactions and ensure the safe use of CBD for specific health concerns.


Here is a table summarizing the key differences between CBD and THC, highlighting their distinct properties, effects, and potential medical applications for a clearer understanding of these two prominent compounds derived from the cannabis plant.

Criteria                                                        CBD                                                                             THC

Psychoactive Effects                                   Non-intoxicating; no "high"                                        Psychoactive; induces a euphoric "high"

Medical Applications                                    Anxiety, pain, insomnia, epilepsy                            Pain relief, nausea reduction, muscle spasm

Legal Status                                                     Generally legal, with restrictions                            Varies by jurisdiction; often controlled

Adverse Effects                                              Mild, such as dry mouth, fatigue                             Noticeable, including impaired coordination

Source                                                                Hemp plant with low THC content                          Cannabis plant, concentrated in the buds

Addiction Potential                                       Generally considered non-addictive                     Potential for psychological dependence

Is it legal?                                                           Legal in many places, restrictions apply            Varies by jurisdiction; often controlled

Detectable on drug test                              Unlikely                                                                               Likely, depending on the THC content

Produces a "high"                                            No                                                                                         Yes

Is it addictive?                                                 Generally not considered addictive                       Potential for psychological dependence


When To Get Professional Support

Knowing when to seek professional support for substance use is crucial for effective intervention. If someone experiences persistent difficulties controlling their substance use, encounters negative consequences in various aspects of life, or struggles with withdrawal symptoms when attempting to cut down or stop, it’s an indication that professional help is needed. Changes in mood, behavior, or physical health related to substance use are also warning signs. An online therapist directory or online therapy platform can be a helpful resource for finding a therapist specializing in substance use. These platforms offer accessibility, convenience, and a wide range of qualified professionals who can provide counseling and support for individuals facing substance use challenges.

In some cases, considering consultation with a psychiatrist may be necessary, especially when there are co-occurring mental health issues complicating substance use. Psychiatrists can assess and diagnose mental health conditions, prescribe medication if needed, and offer comprehensive treatment plans. Online psychiatrist options can be a viable choice for those seeking substance use medication management, offering remote consultations that enhance accessibility and may reduce barriers to seeking help. However, it’s essential to ensure that the chosen online platform adheres to professional standards and regulations to guarantee the quality and effectiveness of the psychiatric care provided.

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