Synthetic Cannabinoids: Are They the Same as CBD?

Synthetic Cannabinoids

Natural CBD has only come into the limelight over the past 5 or 6 years, but synthetic cannabinoids have been available for the past 18 years or more and were created as a designer drug. What is the difference between synthetic cannabinoids and CBD extracted from whole cannabis plants? Well, one of the main differences to note is that whole plant CBD extracts are not just single molecule derivatives but contain a number of cannabinoids and other healthful compounds. CBD Isolate and synthetic CBD manufactured in a laboratory are made up only of single molecule CBD and, while they appear to be identical, there are a few differences that can be noted.

What Is Full Spectrum Or Whole Plant CBD?

Full spectrum or whole plant CBD or Cannabidiol is a blend of compounds extracted from the cannabis plant (marijuana or hemp or combinations) which mostly contain CBD, plus a mixture of other cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpenes, vitamins and minerals.

CBD is extracted from cannabis plants by a number of different means, with the most effective, toxin-free method being supercritical CO2 extraction. This method preserves the compounds such as the CBD, fatty acids (Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids) and various other cannabinoids such as CBDVA-C3 (cannabidivarinic acid) , CBD-C1 (cannabidiorcol), CBDV (cannabidivarin), CBD-C4 (nor-cannabidiol or cannabidiol-C4) and others.

Most of the studies done so far have been on CBD and THC, with minimal focus on the lesser-known cannabinoids. What has been noted is that full spectrum CBD works better for most applications due to the entourage effect of CBD, other cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpenes, minerals, vitamins and fatty acids as opposed to single molecule CBD.

What is synthetic CBD?

Synthetic cannabinoids (such as synthetic CBD) are manufactured in a laboratory as opposed to being extracted from plants. While this synthetic cannabinoid appears molecularly similar to natural CBD, the efficacy, potency and pharmacokinetic properties of synthetic cannabinoids may not be the same as the natural cannabinoids. In fact, they may actually have harmful side effects that are not experienced when using natural cannabinoids.

The reason why most pharmaceutical companies manufacture synthetic cannabinoids is due to the law which allows you to patent a manufactured substance while it is not possible to legally patent a plant which appears in nature. So natural CBD cannot be monetized in the same way as manufactured synthetic CBD products can.

What are The Dangers of Synthetic Cannabinoids?

Studies were done in 2015 to examine the adverse effects of using synthetic cannabinoids reported a number of adverse reactions including:

  • Abnormally rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy or drowsiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Heart palpitations
  • Seizures
  • Poor coordination
  • Death

Wait, “Death”? Yes, death. To date there have been 15 fatalities from the use of synthetic cannabinoids. Examination by the FDA of various synthetic cannabinoids found contamination with toxic substances such as brodifacoum, a rat poison, which is added to extend the length of time that the effect of the drug continues. This is one of the main causes of the deaths from synthetic cannabinoids.

That being said, there are some synthetic cannabinoids which have been approved by the FDA such as Marinol. This product is, however, a lot more psychoactive than naturally-extracted cannabis compounds. These synthetic cannabinoids cause extreme euphoria, moodiness, dizziness, anxiety and depression, drowsiness, agitation, panic attacks, confusion, mood swings and irritability. While it has shown some success in treating nausea in people undergoing treatment for cancer and in treating cachexia in patients that are suffering from AIDS, the effects are limited when compared to the natural cannabinoid extracts.

Synthetic CBD Versus Whole Plant CBD, which is Better?

To date, there have been no fatalities from the use of whole plant CBD, compared to at least 15 deaths from the use of synthetic cannabinoids. Levels of effectiveness are much higher with the entourage effect experienced with whole plant CBD, which also contains a number of other compounds when compared to synthetic CBD.

This was especially evident in a study comparing full spectrum CBD and synthetic CBD for the treatment of pain and inflammation. Whole plant CBD was a lot more effective and at higher doses, continued to offer more benefit whereas synthetic CBD eventually plateaus and loses effectiveness after a certain level is reached.

The conclusion of these studies was that natural CBD is far superior to laboratory-created CBD molecules. Full spectrum CBD also offers more therapeutic benefit at the same doses and is a lot more efficient in treating various maladies.

The benefits of the many other phytocannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and other compounds in the whole plant CBD extracts cannot be overlooked as they provide a synergy-making CBD work more efficiently and effectively.

Other Risks of Using Synthetic Cannibinoids

One of the risks of using synthetic cannabinoids is that there is a higher dose availability than with natural CBD and the potency of synthetic cannabinoids – such as THC – can cause many harmful reactions. It is also easier to take doses far higher than the body can cope with that would be experienced with natural cannabinoids.

Ingesting large quantities of synthetic cannabinoids can cause severe reactions such as convulsions, seizures, ischemic stroke and hallucinations on a level which is not experienced when using natural cannabinoids.

Using synthetic cannabinoids over a long period of time can actually exacerbate conditions that they are being used to treat, such as anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses.

Natural cannabinoids stay constant and there is no evidence of overdose with these compounds to date. Studies have also shown that most people react in the same way to natural cannabinoids even at higher doses, whereas synthetic cannabis at different potencies can actually be life-threatening and unpredictable.

All-natural cannabinoids have many additional benefits from the extra compounds that have health and nutritional value as well. Synthetic cannabinoids have none of these extra benefits and may actually contain harmful substances that can be addictive and life-threatening. Keep in mind, you cannot overdose with natural cannabinoids but you can overdose on synthetic cannabinoids.

There are also actual withdrawal symptoms associated with synthetic cannabinoids, similar to those experienced from other narcotic substances while natural cannabinoids are metabolized differently and do not cause addiction, or withdrawals.

From an examination of all the factors involved in using synthetic cannabinoids as opposed to natural cannabinoids, it is quite clear that natural cannabinoids are far healthier and less risky to use. While synthetic cannabinoids appear to be made purely on the basis of strength and control of dosage as well as monetary gain, full spectrum cannabinol offers many health benefits, at a lower cost and with apparently no chance of overdosing. So, it makes more sense to use the natural product which should be extracted from the plant in a beneficial way so that there are no chemical additives or residue in the oils and other products manufactured with whole plant CBD. While the molecular structure of synthetic cannabinoids may appear identical, the actual function of natural CBD is far superior.

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