Should You Smoke THC, CBD, or Both Together?

The pros and cons of these two major cannabinoids

Although marijuana is now legal recreationally in nine states, some advocates of the herb believe it is best used medicinally. Even so, millions of people around the world enjoy smoking a joint or using a bong to get high and forget their troubles. Research into the cannabis plant has grown in recent years, and as its focus turns to the analysis of individual cannabinoids, it appears as if marijuana IS potentially a viable medical treatment for conditions such as fibromyalgia, depression, and PTSD.

THC is the most famous cannabinoid because of its psychoactive effects, but CBD is running a close second. The thing is, one doesn’t consume CBD alone if they are chasing a high because this non-intoxicating cannabinoid acts differently to THC. Unlike THC, which acts directly on CB1 and CB2 receptors in the body, CBD acts indirectly.

The discovery of what these cannabinoids in the cannabis plant can do has now yielded the inevitable question: “Should I smoke CBD, THC, or both together?” In this article, we’ll focus on what happens when you use all three options, and whether any of them are ideal for your specific circumstance.

Using CBD Only

Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, is the second most prevalent cannabinoid in the majority of marijuana plants, although certain types have been developed to keep THC to a minimum, thus ensuring that CBD is the #1 cannabinoid. It only really came to national and international prominence due to the efforts of the Stanley Brothers.

They used a CBD-rich strain (which they renamed Charlotte’s Web) to help a little girl named Charlotte Figi who suffered from Dravet Syndrome, a condition that involves having hundreds of seizures. After consuming the CBD tincture created by the Stanleys, young Charlotte’s seizures were reduced to a couple per month, all during the night. Once the news of this remarkable medical feat was made public, CBD was cast into the spotlight.

However, CBD was actually sold back in the 1930s by Roger Adams, an organic chemist. After he filed for a patent, growers began creating CBD-rich plants in the hope that they would enjoy a nice high. When nothing happened, CBD was disregarded as a disappointment and interest in it waned for decades.

But it is back with an almighty vengeance. A surprising amount is known about CBD’s effect on human physiology. To date, scientists have identified more than 60 molecular pathways through which cannabidiol operates. It acts via multiple receptor-independent channels and binds to different receptors in the brain, such as TRPV1 (aids the cannabinoid’s antipsychotic effect), and 5HT1A (helps with CBD’s anti-anxiety effects).

CBD may have a similar molecular structure to THC, but it does not stimulate the CB1 and CB2 receptors directly. The CB1 receptor was discovered in 1988, and it was long assumed that CBD had no direct impact on it. However, it appears as if CBD attaches to an allosteric binding site on the CB1 receptors in the brain which deal with pain, emotions, mood, memories, and other things. CBD also directs the body to use more of its own endocannabinoids.

What you receive is ‘healing without the high.’ Therefore, you should consider a CBD-only tincture or capsule if you are looking for relief from a condition such as epilepsy, chronic pain, mood disorders, or any condition that causes inflammation. It can be used on children because there are no intoxicating effects. You will also pass a drug test, and should have no issue driving while using CBD as it does not show up on breathalyzer tests.

Using THC Only

First and foremost, you MUST NOT provide children with THC. Even in states where weed is legal recreationally, it is only for adults.

THC offers a similar array of medical benefits to CBD including relief from chronic pain, glaucoma, muscle spasticity, anxiety, low appetite, and insomnia.

The BIG difference between the two cannabinoids is how they work on the body, and in particular, the endocannabinoid system (ECS), and CB receptors. When you smoke marijuana with THC, the cannabinoid overwhelms the ECS and rapidly attaches to the cannabinoid receptors throughout the body and brain. This process interferes with the capacity of natural cannabinoids to perform the task of fine-tuning communication between neurons.

As CB receptors are in so many areas of the brain and body, THC has an enormous array of effects. For example, THC slows down your reaction time, reduces your ability to remember things that have just occurred, and occasionally impacts judgement. The psychoactive high you experience is very different to what you feel with CBD alone because of the way THC binds with the CB1 receptor in particular.

You can use THC to treat a variety of medical conditions, but you must be aware that it could impact your ability to perform certain tasks. Indica strains are more likely to make you feel sleepy, whereas sativa strains could perk you up a little. Although there are CBD-sensitive drug tests on the market, the vast majority of employers are only concerned with tests that can find THC-metabolites in your system.

If you wish to use THC, make sure you check your state’s laws, along with your employers’ stance on drug testing. If you are suddenly called on to provide a urine sample, you could lose your job, even if you have a valid medical marijuana card or live in a state where weed is legal.
Here is a quick table to help break down CBD versus THC:

Provides a psychoactive highNoYes
LegalityLegal in most states; Hemp Farming Act will effectively legalize CBD Legal recreationally in nine states and D.C. Legal for medical use in 21 more states. Federally illegal.
Side EffectsMinimal, and usually occur when interacting with other pharmaceutical drugsIncludes increased heart rate, paranoia, red eyes, dry mouth, memory loss, slow reaction time
Shows Up on Drug ScreenNoYes
Reduces NauseaYesYes
Relieves Chronic PainYesYes
Reduces Frequency of SeizuresYesNo
Eases Migraine PainYesYes
Increases AppetiteNoYes
Eases AnxietyYesYes

Using CBD & THC

The combination of CBD and THC is an intriguing one, not least because of CBD’s apparent ability to reduce the psychoactive effects of THC. It is an issue that has been studied for over 40 years, right back to the 1976 study by Dalton et al. which was published in Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics.

In the study, the researchers gave 15 male volunteers either a placebo or 25 mg/kg of THC along with either a placebo or 150 mg/kg of CBD. According to the study, “CBD significantly attenuated the subjective euphoria of THC.”

As we already mentioned, THC has a high binding affinity with the CB1 receptors located in the central nervous system, glands, brain, and other organs. CBD works with CB1 and CB2 receptors, although its greatest function is in the CB2 receptors. When THC and CBD combine, they enhance the beneficial qualities of one another in what is known as the ‘entourage effect.’

For instance, while high levels of THC could result in stress and anxiety, the addition of CBD helps to relax and destress the user. CBD also enhances the painkilling properties of THC. Remember when we said that THC could reduce memory function? A study by Morgan et al., published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in October 2010, found that marijuana strains with a higher than normal CBD content are better for memory than strains low in CBD.

Another study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, this time by Morgan and Curran in April 2008, tested the psychotic effects of THC and CBD by dividing their 140 volunteers into three groups:

  1. Consumed THC only
  2. Consumed THC and CBD together
  3. Consumed neither

The researchers discovered that the group who consumed THC and CBD together had the lowest levels of psychotic feelings. There are numerous other studies which suggest that combining THC and CBD is better for patients seeking relief from anxiety, pain, stress, PTSD, and a number of other medical conditions.

Final Thoughts on Whether You Should Use CBD, THC, or Both

A growing body of evidence is beginning to suggest that it may be prudent to use either THC or CBD for medical issues rather than falling foul of addictive opioids. While THC reacts directly with cannabinoid receptors, CBD acts as an agonist but still has an impact. The nature of these reactions with the body’s receptors is the reason why THC gets you high, and CBD does not.
CBD is the best choice for children and those seeking to achieve medical benefits without the high. However, a combination of THC and CBD could provide the greatest medical impact. You receive the healing benefit of both cannabinoids, but CBD helps counteract some of THC’s less desirous effects.

Strains such as Harlequin have been specifically bred to contain reasonable amounts of both cannabinoids. You will experience a high of sorts, but it won’t be as potent as that with a high THC strain.

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