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Cannabis strains with more THC and less CBD are probably more harmful

Posted April 26, 2019

Popularity of cannabis is on the rise. Naturally, problems related to it are also increasing. Now scientists from UCL used functional magnetic resonance imaging to see how different strains of cannabis impact brain function. They found that the more cannabidiol (CBD) there is in a strain of cannabis, the lower the impairment to brain function is.

THC provides the “high” – it disrupts the brain. But CBD blocks some of these effects. Image credit: Cannabis Pictures via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0)

Cannabis has two main compounds that everyone’s been talking about – psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD, which is not psychoactive, but has a lot of health benefits. People are looking for THC, because it is what provides that high, which is encouraging people to smoke cannabis. However, although these cases are still rare, THC can cause addiction and even psychosis. Meanwhile CBD has a lot of health benefits that are worth exploring. However, because cannabis is mostly popular as a recreational drug, in the last couple of decades new strains have been made to contain more THC and less CBD. Now scientists say that it’s not good.

Scientists monitored brain activity at rest in 17 people after taking different strains of cannabis. They found that low-CBD strains impaired functional connectivity in the brain’s default mode, while high-CBD strain caused only a minimal disruption. Scientists say that this could mean that CBD counteracts some of THC’s harmful effects. Researchers also think that the posterior cingulate is actually where the “high” occurs, because the more it was disrupted, the more high participants reported to be. However, the relationship between the posterior cingulate and subjective effects was also blocked by CBD. All in all, scientists believe that strains with higher CBD content are less harmful. In places where cannabis is legal, CBD content should probably be regulated.

Cannabis has its own risks. As it is becoming more and more popular and legal around the world, people should be informed about those risk and use it responsibly. Professor Val Curran, senior author of the study, said: “If CBD can restore disruption to the salience network, this could be a neuroprotective mechanism to explain its potential to treat disorders of salience such as psychosis and addiction”. Of course, more studies are needed in order to fully understand how cannabis affects the brain, what the greatest risks are and how it can be made safer.

CBD is believed to have a number of health benefits. It reduces inflammation and could actually help fighting cancer and slow down the ageing process. Now scientists know that it can also prevent some of the more harmful effects of THC. Hopefully CBD concentration in new cannabis strains is going to get more attention and users will be provided with this information.

Source: UCL

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