By / August 10, 2022

CBD vs. THC — Which One’s Most Effective?

In a now-famous study, researchers at the University of New Mexico (UNM) set out to fill a significant gap in scientific literature by using mobile software technology to measure the real effects of daily cannabis use by millions worldwide.

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Forget the Dogma, Look at the Science

Contrary to widespread media reports and scientific dogma that continues to this day, the psychoactive chemical tetrahydrocannabinol or “THC” showed the most substantial therapeutic effect. Conversely, the research showed a much weaker medical effect by the more-recently popular cannabidiol (CBD).

The study, titled “The Relationship Between Cannabis Product Characteristics and Symptom Relief,” was published in Scientific Reports by UNM researchers Sarah See Stith, associate professor in the Department of Economics, and Jacob Miguel Vigil, associate professor at the Department of Psychology. It concluded that the proportions of THC and CBD are essential in optimizing symptom relief in a variety of health conditions.

The findings were based on data from the largest real-time database of measurements, where patients provide information on the effects of cannabis in the United States. Data was collected using the ReleafApp, developed by co-authors Franco Brockelman, Keenan Keeling, and Branden Hall.

CBD and THC Data Collected By ReleafApp

Since its release in 2016, ReleafApp has been the only publicly available, free application for patient education and measuring the therapeutic effects of cannabis. It contains information on dried and concentrates, smoking methods, cannabis subspecies (Indica, Sativa, and hybrids ), and detailed content of cannabinoids (THC and CBD) in individual varieties and products. In addition, the data provided by the app provides invaluable user feedback on their health status, treatment choices, and their effects as measured by symptom relief and side effects.

The study aimed to address issues related to the knowledge of how the primary cannabinoids found in frequently used cannabis products influence consumer choices and how they affect symptom intensity levels. After 20,000 user sessions and 27 measured symptom categories, from depression to epilepsy, patients experienced an immediate improvement in symptoms by an average of 3.5 points on a 0-10 scale. Dried flowers were the most commonly used product, and using them was associated with a more significant improvement in symptoms than other types of products.

Cannabis is rapidly gaining ground as a moderate pain reliever. It is a promising substitute for prescription opioid drugs and other medications that often have unwanted side effects, dangerous drug interactions, and the risk of death. Currently, however, legal barriers prevent scientists from conducting cannabis research in the United States.

THC Delivers Greater Benefits

By examining THC and CBD products, the authors analyzed the relative importance of these cannabinoids in treating specific symptoms and the frequency of side effects. The research method also made it possible to determine how the two cannabinoids work at different concentrations. One of the most striking findings from the current results was that THC was generally associated with a more intense user experience as measured by symptom relief and the occurrence of both positive and negative side effects.

The authors warn, however, that cannabis use carries a risk of short-term cognitive and behavioral disorders and may not be effective for everyone. However, they added that only 9% of cannabis users become addicted to it, and the addiction itself is weaker than in the case of tobacco and pharmacological drugs.

(Featured image by Shelby Ireland via Unsplash)

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