Cannabis is a genus of plants that incorporates a wide range of compounds in its structure. Most of these compounds belong to the cannabinoid family, which comprises over 100 different biochemically active substances, each with its own mechanism of action and effects, many of which remain unknown.
While some cannabinoids may have similar effects and mechanisms of action, others don’t; it’s the combination and ratio of different cannabinoids that ultimately gives a single one cannabis plant its effects. Therefore, not all cannabis plants have the same effects, and not all isolated compounds work the same way.
The stigma around cannabis use exists due to its association with increased episodes of psychosis, panic attacks, and other mental disorders. However, nowadays, the laws are slowly changing as cannabis use is being decriminalized in many countries, especially for medical purposes, and the market for medical cannabinoids is growing fast.
However, some of the stigma remains, due to the psychoactive side effects usually associated with long-term use of cannabis. But where do these effects come from?
One of the cannabinoids responsible is tetrahydrocannabinol (also known as THC). This compound stays in the blood for days to weeks after consumption, has known psychoactive effects, and is potentially addictive.
However, other cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (also known as CBD) have different effects and may very well be used in therapeutic ways. In other words, CBD and THC are not the same. In fact, they may even have opposite effects, thus conferring cannabis itself an interesting natural balance.
Here are some of those opposite effects, according to science:
- While THC is known to cause psychotic events by altering certain parts of the brain, CBC can prevent and reverse these effects, thus promoting anti-psychotic changes in the brain.
- Even at very high doses, CBD doesn’t cause cognitive and physical impairments like THC.
- While THC provides the “high” or “stoned” effect, CBD alone does not.
- CBD can improve facial affect recognition (that is, the ability to identify a person’s emotional state by looking at their face), but THC decreases this ability. Also, the combination of THC and CBD doesn’t produce any impairment in facial affect recognition, thus indicating that CBD may counteract the effects of THC.
- THC and CBD affect certain regions of the brain in opposite ways, thus providing evidence for different mechanisms of action.
Altogether, these findings suggest that CBD, besides having opposite effects to those of THC, may in fact be able to prevent or reverse these effects. Studies like these are crucial for changing mentalities regarding the medical use of cannabis and CBD.