It seems that nearly everyone now is using cannabis—not only to get high but also to self-treat everything from anxiety to skin rashes. It’s critical to differentiate between two two main types of cannabis, in order to make an informed decision whether or not to use it. 

Type 1: Cannabis with THC

Commonly known as marijuana, this product contains a psychogenic / psychoactive chemical called THC that produces a “high.” THC has limited medical applications, although it can serve as a catalyst in CBD products that activates the health benefits of CBD. THC has been most studied in the treatment of chronic, neuropathic pain. It does, unfortunately, come with serious health risks, including memory loss and and psychosis. A recent NIH report showed that it actually INCREASES anxiety and depression in people who use it daily use over a six-month period. The US Surgeon General in 2019 issued a statement that it should never be used by young people (whose brains are still developing) due to known risks of permanent brain damage.

Type 2: Cannabis without THC

Commonly known as “pure CBD,” this product must contain less than .3% THC by federal guidelines to be sold outside of a pot shop—at a pharmacy over the counter, at a cafe, or at a spa. It can be made into a capsule, a cream, an oil, or a tincture. It does not produce a “high” but does generate effects throughout the body, including the immune system, the gut, the lungs, and the reproductive organs. It is not addictive but can increase appetite and cause fatigue. It has been shown in research studies to improve sleep, reduce anxiety, and decrease symptoms of some GI disease (such as colitis). It can also alleviate inflammation of the skin and help treat rashes. Veterinarians now recommend it for medical and behavioral problems in pets. In 2019, the FDA approved the first pure CBD medication for the treatment of pediatric seizures.

Bottom Line

I advise all my patients to avoid THC—it carries far too great a health risk given its limited benefit. CBD, however, has shown great promise in treating a variety of common physical illnesses and carries no significant risks for most people. It is critical, however, to ensure the quality and purity of the CBD product that you purchase; therefore, ask for certification from a third-party laboratory that testing has been performed and that the product sold is as advertised.

Written by: Dr. Mark McDonald

Sydney Sharon