Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two of the more well-known constituents found in certain species of the plant genus, Cannabis. THC has been studied for many years for its potential therapeutic effects on a wide range of ailments, including anxiety and depression. In more recent years, CBD has also gained ground as a promising treatment for certain mental health disorders. 

While both CBD and THC appear to have positive effects in anxiety patients, they do so quite differently and at different doses. In this article, we will examine the mechanism of action by which CBD and THC exert therapeutic benefit while looking at the current research supporting their use separately or concurrently in anxiety patients. 

Cannabidiol vs THC Method of Action

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of 113 identified cannabinoid compounds within the plant species Cannabis sativa and its subspecies (C. indica and C. ruderalis). Unlike THC, CBD does not produce any appreciable psychoactive effect. In fact, it can negate the psychoactive effects of THC in some cases, when both compounds are present. 

The exact mechanism by which CBD produces a therapeutic outcome is still being studied. THC is known to act upon and stimulate the cannabinoid receptors (CB1 ,CB2) within the brain, which results in both its therapeutic and psychoactive effect. By contrast, CBD appears to act as a partial antagonist of both the CB1 and CB2 receptors, the result of which is a reduced binding ability for THC and other compounds at those sites. 

CBD has been shown, at least partially, to act upon the serotonin receptor (5HT1A). This particular action has been found in studies to “mediate anxiolytic and panicolytic effects.” It may also act on a receptor known as “CB1R” to help reduce fear response and negative effects due to long-term stress. 

Can THC or CBD Make Anxiety Worse?

At lower doses, THC can be quite effective at reducing symptoms of anxiety. At higher doses, however, it can have the opposite effect and exacerbate symptoms of anxiety. One study compared the responses of individuals when faced with accomplishing a psychosocial stress task. At a low dose (7.5 mg), the subjects reported a reduced negative response to the task. Interviews following the task also tended to describe the task as having been less challenging and threatening. 

At a higher dose (12.5 mg), however, test subjects had appreciable increases in anxiety and fear response before, during, and after the task. 

CBD has not been shown to have a worsening effect on anxiety symptoms, though further studies may be warranted. 

THC in Combination with CBD for Anxiety

As mentioned above, higher doses of THC can have a negative impact on anxiety patients. CBD, on the other hand, does not appear to increase symptoms of anxiety at any dose. It does, however, have a cap on its therapeutic benefit. This is to say that, past a certain dose, CBD does not appear to exert any additional anti-anxiolytic effect (Blessing et al, 2015). 

It would seem, then, that CBD and THC work best in tandem. In addition to acting on two different receptors both critical in the brain’s response to stress, CBD may help mitigate any exacerbating effect of THC by reducing its binding capacity at the CB1 receptor. More studies are currently underway regarding dosing and therapeutic regimen, and it will be exciting to see how these treatments progress as a safe alternative in the treatment of mental health disorders. 

Medical Marijuana Clinic Destin, FL

Our providers at the Crane Center work with patients to find the therapy that best works for them. We recommend both traditional and non-traditional therapies, such as ketamine assisted psychotherapy and medical marijuana, to achieve the best outcomes possible. If you are struggling with symptoms of anxiety or another mental health disorder, please contact our office to schedule a consultation. Our compassionate providers are here to help.