There is plenty of good to be said about cannabidiol, or CBD — the non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis plants. CBD consumption doesn’t result in marijuana’s famous high, but it does seem to affect the body’s systems in meaningful and positive ways. For example, many who use CBD attest that it relieves pain, relaxes muscles, reduces stress and more. Research has found many potential medical applications for CBD, most notably in the treatment of severe epilepsy but also potentially as a therapy for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
However, all that talk about CBD tends to ignore the other dominant cannabis compound: THC. Tetrahydrocannabinol — or, more specifically, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol — is the most common cannabinoid, or compound unique to cannabis. It is also the main cannabinoid responsible for getting cannabis users high. Still, there are roughly as many health benefits to using THC as there are to using CBD. Read on to learn a bit more about how THC can positively impact health.
Pro: THC Is Remarkably Effective at Eliminating Nausea
As early as the 1970s, doctors and nurses recognized that cancer and AIDS patients using cannabis were able to maintain higher body weight and thus improve their outcomes. This is because the THC in cannabis is effective at reducing feelings of nausea, and THC can inspire feelings of hunger, as well. Though attempts have been made to generate a synthetic THC for nausea relief, the natural compound is most effective at stimulating the metabolism and reducing digestive distress, which is why medical marijuana continues to be an invaluable tool in helping patients with certain wasting conditions maintain or gain weight.
Pro: THC Relieves Pain More Successfully Than CBD
CBD is popular for its ability to relieve pain without any negative side effects, but researchers aren’t exactly sure how CBD alleviates pain — or whether it is just a placebo. In contrast, THC’s pain-relieving properties are much better understood. THC interrupts signals of pain before the brain can process them; additionally, THC inspires feelings of euphoria, which can further mask pain or make it more tolerable. Sufferers of chronic pain need more powerful pain management methods, and THC is simply more effective than CBD and safer than other pain relievers like opiates and tranquilizers.
Pro: THC Comes in More Forms, Giving Patients Greater Choice
Most medications come in a single form: pill or capsule. This means users must rely on their doctor or pharmacist for dosing instructions, and it also means they are subject to any downsides of this use method, like delayed effects or digestive trouble. In contrast, THC has dozens of forms of consumption, from smoking and vaping to ingesting to absorbing through the skin or oral tissues. Patients tend to benefit when they have more control over their treatment because it means they can better fit medicine into their unique lifestyle. THC users can experiment with different forms on their own, or they can talk to budtenders at Chicago dispensaries for more information.
Con: THC Isn’t Safe to Use in All Circumstances
While medical marijuana is often touted as a completely safe and natural treatment solution, the truth is that using THC can be risky to some patients. The best example of this is pregnancy: THC is considered a developmental neurotoxin, meaning it damages developing nervous tissues and thus can be detrimental to fetuses in utero as well as young children. Though pregnant people experience many symptoms that could be alleviated by THC — nausea, pain — it is simply not safe for them to consume it. The same is true for users taking medications that have contraindications with THC or those with health conditions worsened by THC’s effects.
Con: THC Carries a Small Risk of Non-life-threatening Overdose
It is possible to overdose on THC. Fortunately, a THC overdose isn’t a death sentence the way overdoses tend to be with other medications; still, too much THC results in severe discomfort and negative symptoms like confusion, paranoia and panic as well as low blood pressure and rapid heart rate. It is important to note that there have been no confirmed deaths from THC alone, but because every cannabis user’s THC tolerance is slightly different, only experimentation can reveal to an individual medical marijuana patient the line between appropriate dose and overdose.
Con: THC Can Be Addictive
As is true of any substance or behavior that inspires a positive feeling in users, THC can be addictive. The American Psychiatric Association defines cannabis use disorder using nine patterns of behavior, many of which concern uncontrolled use and neglected responsibilities. Cannabis use disorder can be avoided with careful consumption practices, but even medical marijuana patients need to be cognizant of the ever-present risk of addiction.
Some patients might find CBD to be the right treatment choice for them, but it is important to remember that THC has value, too. Ultimately, the more information we have about all compounds within cannabis, the better we can address health conditions with effective cannabis treatments.