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Difference Between Synthetic Cannabinoids and CBD

The Difference Between Synthetic Cannabinoids and CBD

Although CBD and synthetic cannabinoids may sound like similar products, the two are very different. CBD is growing a body of evidence that is starting to show its possible health benefits concerning certain medical conditions and has been given legal status in many states. Synthetic cannabinoids, on the other hand, may have originally been legal, but the serious adverse effects they cause have seen swift action taken to outlaw the products. Keep reading to explore the difference between Synthetic Cannabinoids and CBD.


CBD stands for cannabidiol, the second most prevalent active ingredient from the Cannabis Sativa plant, also known as marijuana. Still, unlike the main ingredient, THC, CBD does not have any psychoactive effects.

Legal Status

The legal status of CBD is slightly grey in the US despite the product being available in most states, with all of the states having laws that have legalized the use of CBD to varying degrees. On the other hand, the federal government places CBD in the same class as marijuana but does not typically take enforcement action against users.

Marijuana and CBD are fully legal in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Washington D.C for medical and recreational purposes. A further 23 states allow CBD in some forms, usually for medicinal purposes, while 14 states permit the use of CBD oil. The exception to the rule is Idaho, Nebraska, and South Dakota, where marijuana and CBD are illegal.

Medical Uses 

CBD and its medical uses have been widely publicized in recent times; however, there has been a degree of exaggeration around the conditions that it can be scientifically shown that CBD has a role in treating.


One of the areas where CBD is known to be effective is in treating seizures, particularly childhood seizures that do not respond to anti-seizure medication. Several studies have shown CBD to be effective in reducing the intensity and frequency of these seizures.

Anxiety and Insomnia 

Other common uses for CBD are in the treatment of anxiety and insomnia, with CBD having been shown to be effective in helping people fall asleep and assisting in maintaining sleep.

Chronic Pain

The final main use for CBD is in relation to chronic pain. Although research is still in its infancy in this area, one study identified CBD’s mechanism to treat both inflammatory and neuropathic pain.


While there have been claims that CBD is an effective cancer treatment, the evidence to date does not support this claim. There is a real need for further comprehensive research into the benefits of CBD if the product is to be used to its full potential.

CBD Products 

There has been an influx of CBD products into the market over the last couple of years. The products include CBD lattes, beauty products, edibles, and oils.  Consumers are advised to pay attention to the claims made concerning each product. 

If there is a wide range of disease claims made by a product, then it may be worth steering clear of it as it suggests the company is either willing to break the rules or doesn’t understand the rules around this type of marketing.

CBD and Drug Tests

With the increasing prevalence of drug testing, one common question is will CBD result in a positive test. In most circumstances, the answer is no, but expert advice says this is on the basis that the product has undergone third-party testing for safety.

There is also a provision in respect of athletes who are required to undergo drug testing. Those tests are typically more sensitive, and there is a possibility trace amounts of THC may be found.

Synthetic cannabinoids

Synthetic cannabinoids are a very different product from CBD. The main difference between Synthetic Cannabinoids and CBD, they are typically artificial products used as an alternative to THC products for the psychoactive traits they possess. Some of the more well-known types of synthetic cannabinoids include K2, spice, and synthetic cannabis.

They began appearing in convenience stores in the mid-2000s and were marketed as a legal alternative to marijuana. While at the time they were technically legal, several well-publicized negative effects have seen authorities take action to reign in this market.

Legal Status

As synthetic cannabinoids have no medical application and the propensity for harm is high, the federal government has banned many of the ingredients in synthetic cannabinoids. The difficulty has been that a synthetic cannabinoid is not one product; there are literally hundreds of products, all with slightly different formulations.

For this reason, many states have also created laws banning general categories of ingredients rather than specific chemicals. Manufacturers try to get around the laws by creating products with different ingredients or labeling them not fit for human consumption while clearly aiming them at consumers for consumption.

What Ingredients Are in Synthetic Cannabinoids

As there are no standards around packaging or identifying the ingredients in synthetic cannabinoids, there is no real way of knowing what is in the product. What this can mean is the same product can vary considerably depending on the batch.

Serious Health Effects 

Products of this nature should be avoided. There is almost no research regarding the efficacy, and there have been multiple instances where synthetic cannabinoids have had serious health consequences.

Synthetic cannabinoids are known to be toxic and can result in tachycardia, sweating, agitation, vomiting, hallucinations, and in extreme cases, death.

There are also reports that synthetic cannabinoids are addictive, with many users reporting withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the product. For the consumer, CBD is a product that shows promise. Although there needs to be caution shown around products that make outlandish claims, for the most part, these products are a welcome addition to the medical arsenal. No such claims can be made about synthetic cannabinoids, which are marketed as a legal alternative to cannabis, where legal loopholes allow the product’s sale. However, these products are risky at best, dangerous at worst and extreme caution should be shown around them.

Difference Between Synthetic Cannabinoids and CBD

Now that you know the difference between Synthetic Cannabinoids and CBD. The choice should be clear as to which one is the best for you.

You should always consult with your doctor before adding CBD into your regimen. Figure out which product is best for you, and shop our CBD products here.

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FDA Disclaimer

The statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from health care practitioners. Please consult your health care professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any product. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act require this notice.

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