Scientists who found THC to be more therapeutic than CBD in a groundbreaking study have called for all types of cannabis to be de-scheduled.
“Despite the conventional wisdom, both in the popular press and much of the scientific community that only CBD has medical benefits while THC merely makes one high, our results suggest that THC may be more important than CBD in generating therapeutic benefits,” said Jacob Miguel Vigil, associate professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of New Mexico.
“In our study, CBD appears to have little effect at all, while THC generates measurable improvements in symptom relief. These findings justify the immediate de-scheduling of all types of cannabis, in addition to hemp, so that cannabis with THC can be more widely accessible for pharmaceutical use by the general public.”
The groundbreaking research used mobile software technology to measure the real-time effects of actual cannabis-based products used by millions of people every day. An app called ReleafApp, developed by three of the researchers, has, since its release in 2016, been the only publicly available, incentive-free app for educating patients on how their type of product (eg, flower or concentrate), combustion method, cannabis subspecies (indica, sativa, and hybrid), and major cannabinoid contents (THC and CBD) affect their symptom severity levels.
Across around 20,000 measured user sessions and 27 measured symptom categories, ranging from depression to seizure activity, the average patient showed an immediate symptom improvement of 3.5 points on a 0-10 scale. Dried flower was the most commonly used product and generally associated with greater symptom improvement than other types of products.
“We were able to fill the most significant absence in the previous medical literature, understanding the ‘efficacy, dose, routes of administration, or side effects of commonly used and commercially available cannabis products in the United States’,” said Vigil, quoting from the recently released report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Committee on the Health Effects of Marijuana.
By studying products containing both THC and CBD, the authors were able to analyze the relative importance of these cannabinoids for symptom relief and side effect prevalence, advancing previous research examining either chemical in the absence of the other.
THC was generally associated with a more intense user experience, as measured by symptom relief and the prevalence of both positive and negative side effects.
“More broadly understanding the relationship between product characteristics and patient outcomes is particularly important given the lack of medical guidance received by medical cannabis patients,” said Sarah See Stith, assistant professor in the university’s Department of Economics. “Most receive only a referral for cannabis treatment from their healthcare provider with all other treatment advice coming from prior recreational experience, the internet, social interactions, and/or often minimally trained personnel working in dispensaries.
“This is very different from how patients receive treatment using conventional pharmaceuticals that come with clear dosing instructions and a standardised, uniform product.”