Difference Between CBD and THC

CBD and THC are both derived from cannabis or hemp. But studies show a difference between CBD and THC in the effects each has on the body and mind. These differences have impacted legalities and accessibility for medical use. Here’s what you need to know.

Different Psychoactive Components

CBD and THC have similar chemical structures but don’t have exactly the same effects psychoactively. CBD actually is nonpsychoactive, which means it doesn’t produce the “high” associated with THC.

THC binds with CB1 (the cannabinoid 1) receptors of the brain to produce the sense of euphoria people often refer to as a “high.” CBD, rather, binds very weakly to CB1 receptors, if at all. It can interfere with the THC binding and dampen psychoactive effects.

Varying Medical Benefits

CBD and THC share much of the same medical benefits and provide relief for many of the same conditions. But because CBD doesn’t cause the “high” found from THC, some people prefer CBD. This is the biggest difference between CBD and THC.

In June 2018, the Food & Drug Administration approved the first prescription medication to contain CBD to treat rare, difficult-to-control forms of epilepsy. CBD has also been found to help with other conditions like seizures, inflammation, pain, psychosis, inflammatory bowel, nausea, migraines, depression, and anxiety.

THC is found to help with pain, muscle spasticity, glaucoma, insomnia, low appetite, nausea, and anxiety.

Side Effects

Most people can tolerate CBD very well, even in large doses. Research suggests side effects may occur from drug-to-drug interactions. This means you may find side effects if you are taking other medications with CBD.

THC has temporary side effects on its own, such as increased heart rate, coordination problems, dry mouth, red eyes, slowed reactions, and loss in memory. These side effects come with its psychoactive properties. Neither compound is fatal. However, high THC could be connected to long-term negative psychiatric effects, especially in adolescents, and when consuming large amounts.


Cannabis-related laws are being adjusted and changed regularly in the United States. Marijuana and THC are listed as controlled substances and prohibited under federal law. However, some states such as Washington D.C. have passed laws to make medical marijuana with high levels of THC legal, but it may need a prescription from a licensed physician.

Recreational use of marijuana and THC has been legalized in several states. Where it is legal for recreational use or medical purposes, you can also buy CBD. Check your state’s laws.

In Essence

CBD and THC are both cannabinoids found in marijuana.

The most important difference between CBD and THC is the “high” side effect associated with THC. CBD does not cause this effect.

Be sure to familiarize yourself with local laws before using either compound. Both CBD and TCH are still federally illegal and only approved for medication or recreational use in certain states.

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