Is THC really just the recreational cannabinoid? And what about CBD..is it really all its cracked up to be?
So now that you know all about our Endocannabinoid System let’s talk about the cannabinoids found in cannabis, which are called phytocannabinoids.
Did you know the cannabis plant contains over 700 chemicals in including over 100 Cannabinoids (like THC and CBD), Terpenes (taste, smell – potential biochemical effect) and Flavanoids (phytonutrients found in cannabis and other plants). As you probably know, the most well studied and abundant cannabinoids found in cannabis are THC (Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol)
Other cannabinoids such as CBG, CBC, THCA, CBDA, CBCV, CBGV, CBDV, THCV etc. may also play a role in the medical use of cannabis, however, THC and CBD are the two that we know the most about.
THC and CBD interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, along with other receptor systems, modulating various neurotransmitters. The ratio of THC:CBD in cannabis varies from strain to strain (or product to product) and produce different medicinal effects.
What can THC be used for?
THC is the primary psychoactive phytocannabinoid in cannabis, meaning that THC can produce a feeling of euphoria, and the intoxicating effects of cannabis are mainly associated with THC. For medical purposes, the goal is not to experience intoxication or euphoria, and most negative side effects are dose dependant. THC may be used with sleep disorders, muscle spasticity, chronic pain, nausea/vomiting and appetite stimulation.
Most short-term side effects of THC (euphoria, dizziness, dry mouth, etc.) are usually dose dependant and can be mitigated in most patients through slow titration and by building their THC tolerance over time. Patients canals use medical products that have small amounts of THC (or by using a tactic called “microdosing”) Long term effects of THC are still being studied, but we do know that certain molecules in cannabis can have affects on basic motor coordination to more complex executive function tasks, such as the ability to plan, organise, solve problems, make decisions, remember, and control emotions and behaviour. These deficits differ in severity depending on the quantity, recency, age of onset and duration of use. You can read more about the acute and long term effects of cannabis use here.
What can CBD be used for?
CBD is another well known cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. It is considered non-intoxicating, and the WHO has stated that it has no dependence potential. This means, that in general, it does not produce euphoria or loss of cognition and motor control, although, individual responses may vary and drowsiness can occur in large doses. CBD may be used to help with anxiety, pain, inflammation, and spasticity, and seizures. CBD is thought to increase levels of the body’s own natural cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) and affects levels of other neurotransmitters. CBD is believed to counteract some of the “negative” side effects of THC, although more research is required to support this theory.
Described as sister molecules, THC and CBD exert their effects more effectively when used in synergy with each other; this is referred to as the “Entourage Effect”. We recommend full plant extract products rather than isolates or synthetic cannabis. Multiple clinical studies have proven full plant extracts to be more effective and easier to dose.
Side Effects of THC and CBD
Generally speaking, cannabis is a well-tolerated drug with side-effects normally. Side effects are usually dose-dependent and occur during the first few weeks of titration period.
It’s important to note that variations of your cannabis dose (sometimes, just 0.1ml) can produce opposite effects for patients. For example, low doses of THC can help alleviate anxiety, high doses can exacerbate it. Low doses of CBD can cause alertness, high doses can cause drowsiness, but side effects can vary greatly from patient to patient.
MacCallum CA, Russo EB. Practical considerations in medical cannabis administration and dosing. Eur J Intern Med 2018; 49: 12-19 2012.
It’s important to remember that cannabis is still deemed as an experimental drug in Australia and caution must be taken before jumping in head first, especially for cannabis naïve users, or those in sensitive patient populations. Treatment is unique for each of our patients, and requires a medical opinion for patient safety and best outcomes.
Risk of Dependence
The TGA has stated that cannabis has a low-to-moderate dependence, and the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine published in 2017 that cannabis has a lower risk of dependence than coffee, alcohol, nicotine and morphine.
It’s important to remember that a typical therapeutic dose of THC can be as low as 2.5mg, depending on the indication. Does that mean that you can take too much or experience a side effect? Of course – with any drug, there is always a risk of adverse effects. That said, when compared to other drugs, cannabis is shown to have a superior safety profile, with no reported deaths, potentially due to the lack of CB1 receptors in our brainstem cardiorespiratory centres.
As the Department of Health states, “..because of the large effective to lethal dose ratio in humans (in excess of 1:1000 in non-tolerant users) the risk of experiencing severe toxic effects of cannabis is limited to the euphoric / psychotropic effects of high doses – which would lead to cessation of use before the onset of any dangerous physical consequences.”(Read, you might experience unwanted side effects, but it would be very hard for a human to consume the amount of cannabis needed to lead to a lethal dose)
That leads us to observe the overall acute toxicity of THC is low. The mean lethal dose (that which kills 50% of animals) of oral THC in rats is 800 mg/kg to 1900 mg/kg. When compared to the LD50 of other drugs that cannabis can sometimes replace or reduce, we realise the potential of treatment options under appropriate medical supervision.
It’s important to remember that a healthcare professional weighs a number of different variables when deciding if cannabis is an appropriate treatment option for you. Remember, cannabis can interact with a number of different drugs which must be monitored, there are contraindications to use, and lots of different types of medications to choose from.
Talk to a medical professional at Tetra Health to discuss all options prior to starting your medical cannabis journey.
Interested in Getting started? This is how the process works with Tetra!