Both of these cannabinoids, THC and CBD, bind to a receptor in the brain named by neuroscience researchers as cannabinoid receptor type 1, or CB1.
The CB1 receptor exists on the surface of neuron cells and is very closely tied to the fight-or-flight response and the complex array of neurotransmitters that regulate it.
When researchers studied this CB1 receptor, they discovered that when normal neurotransmitters, which exist naturally in the brain in the absence of any marijuana use, bind to CB1, there was a lower tendency of the brain to initiate the fight-or-flight response in reaction to a threat.
Cannabinoids mimic these naturally occurring neurotransmitters in physical molecular-level structure, allowing them to bind to CB1.
However, the effects of these binding interactions are much more complex.
Additionally, despite their structural similarity, the effects of THC and CBD on anxiety differ greatly from one another.
Let’s first take a look at THC. This is the psychoactive compound of cannabis.
In other words, it’s the compound known as being responsible for inducing the desired “high”.
For those looking to use marijuana recreationally, this is the cannabinoid of interest.
However, THC has been shown to have what is known as a bi-phasic dosage effect. In small doses, users experience that pleasant mellow.
Too much, especially for first-time or infrequent users, and it can bring on cannabis-induced anxiety.
Regular users can build up a tolerance and raise their threshold of the line between pleasure and panic.
However, the threshold does exist, and additional ingestion of THC does eventually bring on the paranoia.
CBD is a non-psychoactive compound and is instead typically of interest to medical marijuana users.
This component is known to be beneficial in treating conditions such as chronic pain, anxiety disorders, depression, and epilepsy.
The key takeaway here is that CBD can actually counteract the anxiety-inducing effects of large larger doses of THC.
Previously, strains of marijuana that were high in THC were more desirable for those looking for a quicker high.