Study on CBD for Cannabis Users
A new study published in April 2018 has suggested that giving CBD to long-term cannabis users could help to repair some of the damage caused to specific areas of their brain through cannabis use.
Regular and prolonged cannabis use has been connected to morphological and functional brain changes, cognitive impairment, and increased risk of adverse mental health problems including the acceleration of psychotic symptoms and disorders.
Chronic cannabis use is also associated with neuroanatomical alterations in the hippocampus. The hippocampus belongs to the limbic system and plays important roles in the consolidation of information from short-term memory to long-term memory, as well as spatial memory that enables navigation.
In layman’s terms, long-term users of cannabis may ultimately suffer from changes, or damage to their brain, typically affecting memory, spatial awareness, and mental health.
The adverse impacts of cannabis use are generally attributed to THC or cannabis with a particularly high rate of THC, but recently emerging evidence suggests that CBD is actually neuroprotective and may improve or help to repair damage to the brain, including protection from hippocampal volume loss.
The main purpose of this study was, therefore, to discover whether prolonged administration of CBD to regular cannabis users could help to reduce or even reverse the typical hippocampal issues normally associated with chronic cannabis use.
Before we discuss the results of the study, let’s take a closer look at THC and its relationship with CBD.
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The Relationship Between THC and CBD
Although THC and CBD are two distinctive compounds found within the cannabis plant, they actually work together, enhancing each other’s qualities. CBD has been found to enhance THC’s painkilling properties while it also helps to reduce the paranoia and anxiety that THC can sometimes induce.
CBD interacts with THC in a variety of complex ways, diminishing certain effects (the high, sleepiness or the munchies) while heightening others. CBD actually helps to balance the effect and soften the euphoria, as well as the potential dysphoria that is sometimes induced by high quantities of THC.
The Changing Face of Cannabis
Back in the 70’s, recreational cannabis contained, on average, between just 2%-8% THC. However, in 2018, the average THC levels in recreational cannabis range from between 15% to as much as 30%.
As we already know, THC is the psychoactive compound responsible for the “high” typically associated with smoking cannabis.
So basically, the cannabis smoked back in the days of Woodstock and Jimi was not nearly as strong, potent, or potentially harmful as that which is being smoked in the US today.
Essentially, the cannabis now being grown for recreational use is specifically cultivated to contain as much THC and as little CBD as possible, thus inducing a stronger effect on the user.
As we begin to see more and more cannabis strains produced to contain virtually no CBD and as much as 30%-35% THC, we have to wonder at what the possible long-term effects might be for a generation who are now consuming a strain of cannabis significantly stronger than that experienced by their parents.
High % THC Cannabis Potentially Harmful?
Like many things in life, we usually want the biggest, the brightest, the fastest, or in this case, the strongest quality of product. Cannabis consumers are no different with many only looking for the highest quantity of THC available.
While a higher percentage of THC is generally perceived to be the holy grail for the typical cannabis smoker, there can be a distinct lack of understanding and education on the possible side-effects, when THC is consumed at this level or without the counterbalancing effects of CBD.
So, the question we must now ask is whether high-THC strains of cannabis are potentially harmful?
Research would certainly seem to indicate that. In 2015, scientists at King’s College London studied a population of south Londoners and discovered that those who smoked a high-THC strain of cannabis every day had five times the normal risk of psychosis.Another study from the same scientists found that those who smoked the higher strength cannabis on a daily basis had some subtle changes in their white matter thus causing an impairment in communication between the two sides of the brain.
Revealingly, those changes were not evident in non-smokers, or in those who smoked a low-strength cannabis.
THC and Anxiety
While THC is known to relieve anxiety in smaller doses, it can, in fact, increase anxiety when consumed in larger doses. This is because of it’s biphasic effects, meaning it can have two opposite effects in high doses. Additionally, some users are genetically predisposed to experience anxiety with cannabis as a consequence of their brain chemistry.
While a lighter dosage of THC may only induce mild paranoia or some light social anxiety, stronger strains may cause more exaggerated reactions while the increasing popularity of edibles also increases the chance of dangerous reactions, especially for newer users.
Edibles take longer to digest and to produce the high. Therefore, some people may consume too much having not felt any effect within the first hour or so. For someone who is inexperienced with cannabis use, this can result in overconsumption and ends up with a really unpleasant reaction for the user.
Study Provides Positive Outcome
In the study discussed at the beginning of this article, a 10-week trial involving 18 regular cannabis users was conducted with CBD added to their normal cannabis consumption.
The results of the study indicated that there was indeed a restorative effect on the user's brain following the addition of CBD to their regular cannabis intake.
The study’s findings were the first to demonstrate that CBD could well prove to be useful in treatments for cannabis dependence, as well as being potentially therapeutic for a range of clinical disorders that are characterized by hippocampal pathology (e.g schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease, and major depressive disorder)
While further testing on a wider scale is clearly required, the study found that CBD performed a protective role against potential structural harms to the brain that is typically caused by chronic and long-term cannabis use.
With many parts of the country (and the whole of Canada) now introducing recreational cannabis, it is vital that our population inform themselves on the potential risks that come with a particularly high levels of THCThere is an increasing danger associated with long-term cannabis usage in the shape of the increasingly powerful forms of cannabis that users are now consuming. If CBD can help to reverse those effects, it must be analyzed in far greater depth and detail with more funding and analysis required at a government level.
While the cannabis industry is now experiencing a resurgence thanks to its changing legal status, it remains essential that the general public become fully educated and informed on all of the potential benefits and associated risks with cannabis in the 21st century.
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