THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the component in marijuana that makes you high. THC, one of over 400 chemicals present in cannabis, is a lot more nuanced than that. So, what exactly is THC and how does it work? The Street consulted with experts to provide readers with an insight into THC’s applications so they could better comprehend the substance.
What is THC?
The chemical that makes you high in marijuana is known as THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol. THC’s chemical makeup, C₁H₃O₂, is very similar to its relative CBD, which helps counteract THC’s effects.
THC, on the other hand, mimics the natural chemical anandamide (which is formed in the brain) in structure, altering functionality. As opposed to typical brain communication via neurons, the THC molecule binds to neurons and modifies how they operate.
THC has been shown to impact such functions as thinking, memory, pleasure, movement, attention, coordination, and sensory and time perception by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). It’s no surprise that operating heavy equipment or driving while intoxicated with THC is dangerous.
Despite the fact that cannabis may be harmful, it remains a powerful economic engine for many legitimate markets. And while THC has been linked to mental health issues, there’s more to the story. While smoking marijuana is illegal in most countries, its components have still been shown to assist with a variety of ailments including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), epilepsy, and eating disorders.
The chemical formula of THC is C₁₀H₁₃O, with a molecular weight of 314.464 g/mol. It has a structure and molecular size that are essentially the same as those of its counterpart CBD, which reduces the impact of THC.
THC has a long history of medical and recreational use. THC can be found in medicines, topicals such as lotions and balms used for anti-inflammation, oils utilized via tinctures, drops, edibles and syrups. THC and cannabis can also be utilized to treat animals like dogs with pain and anxiety. Marinol, a medication produced by combining synthetic THC with other chemicals, is the only presently FDA approved THC medicine.
THC is legal in 29 states as of now, while recreational marijuana is permitted in nine states and Washington D.C. However, several studies indicate that legalization may soon become more widespread.
In reality, according to The New York Times, this month the New York State Health Department released a research that claims “the beneficial impact of a regulated marijuana market … outweighs the potential negative consequences.”
Nonetheless, the discussion for legalization of marijuana (within marijuana) is heating up. And its supporters come from a high perch.
“This is especially concerning because people with certain medical conditions are more at risk of being charged if they have normal interactions with police, such as being pulled over or searched,” said Sen. Gail Phoebus (D-Newport News), co-sponsor of the bill, in a press release. “We must not allow prejudice to cloud our judgment.” The process to legalize and properly regulate marijuana should be thoroughly reviewed and advanced, according to New York Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Westchester) in 2018. More and more New Yorkers realize the harm caused by criminalizing marijuana, arresting and giving records to millions of our youth, and allowing shadow markets to flourish. We need to begin undoing the damage done
However, because the compound is so contentious, it’s impossible to predict when these cycles of “common sense” legalization will occur.
THC vs. CBD
Despite the fact that both chemicals have nearly identical chemical compositions and are components of marijuana’s active ingredients, THC and CBD function in very distinct ways. The psychotropic component in marijuana, which gives you a feeling of being high, is THC. CBD, on the other hand, acts as a counterweight to THC’s effects. While THC makes you drowsy and induces a body high, CBD can actually boost your energy levels. By reducing anxiety or stress, CBD may help to temper the effects of THC. You may learn more about how CBD and THC differ here.
THC Effects on the body
THC stimulates the release of dopamine by brain cells, producing euphoria in accordance with neuroscientist Dr. David Nichols, who was selected to the Washington State Cannabis Advisory Board by Governor Jay Inslee. It also inhibits memory formation in the hippocampus, which is one of two parts of the brain that aids memory storage.
THC can induce hallucinations, change thinking and cause delusions. On average, the effects last about two hours, and kick in 10 to 30 minutes after ingestion. Psychomotor impairment may continue after the perceived high has stopped, however.
“Elation, anxiety, tachycardia, short-term memory recall difficulties, sedation, relaxation, pain relief, and more are among the reported THC side effects,” stated A.J. Fabrizio of Terra Tech Corp., a California agricultural firm focused on local agriculture and medical cannabis. “However, other types of cannabinoids as well as terpenes (compounds that generate flavor and fragrance in plants) have been shown to modulate and minimize undesirable effects in a study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology.”
Marijuana is a sought-after drug due to its effects. It is actually one of the most widely used illicit drugs in the world. However, mental health experts are worried about these consequences as well. According to NIDA, THC may induce schizophrenic symptoms.
Another potential danger of taking THC is poor motor skills. After smoking marijuana, drivers may be unable to drive or perform other activities for approximately three hours, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Medical marijuana patients are discouraged from driving until it has been confirmed that they can tolerate it and perform basic motor functions effectively.
According to doctors, marijuana use might result in negative effects on the adolescent brain. “Some of the side effects of THC include a loss of memory and cognitive function, especially in younger people,” said Dr. Damon Raskin, medical director at Cliffside Malibu Treatment Center. “However, long-term implications remain unclear because insufficient research has been done on it yet. There is some speculation that it might stunt fertility in men and women and obstruct airways; however, the studies are not conclusive.”
According to a study published in Development and Psychopathology in 2016 by the University of Montreal, marijuana usage early on can have an impact on teenagers. Smokers who begin at age 14 do worse on some cognitive tests than those who do not smoke. The research included almost 300 high school students and found that pot smokers had a higher dropout rate as well. Those that delayed smoking until after age 17 did not appear to have the same issues.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, rats that were given THC before birth, soon after birth, or during adolescence have had difficulties with certain learning and memory activities later in life. The drug can also cause pharmacological interactions.
THC Health Benefits
There are numerous reports of the many health advantages of THC and cannabis. Although it is still uncertain, THC has been found to help people with eating disorders eat more food, as well as treat neurodegenerative illnesses and possibly aid cancer patients. THC has been shown in studies to assist Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease patients, as well as some individuals experiencing chronic pain.
In fact, Dr. Checkley discovered that THC and cannabis have a long list of documented advantages, including chemotherapy nausea alleviation and pain relief. While there is some doubt, other experts think there’s potential in where THC applications may be extended.
Although many physicians are hesitant to utilize the seemingly polarizing chemical, others have only nice things to say about its efficacy in treating a variety of medical conditions. Dr. Aung-Din, M.D., a general neurology and neuro-psychiatry specialist who is also board-certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and is a member of the American Academy of Neurology, is one such advocate. He was formerly against cannabis and THC – but a key case made him reconsider his position.
Dr. Aung-Din was persuaded by the patient’s mother to try cannabis medication as a therapy when confronted with a case of a 23-year-old male who had previously suffered brain injuries at 15 and was experiencing intractable seizures.
Dr. Aung-Din has continued his studies and now claims that cannabis or cannabinoid-based medications have a lot of promise.
THC and cannabis, on the other hand, appear to work in a manner that is entirely different from traditional medications by capitalizing on natural mechanisms.
“When we consume cannabis, we are capitalizing on our own endocannabinoid system,” Dr. Aung-Din explains. “We make endocannabinoids and possess CB1 and CB2 receptors, so when you use cannabinoids, you’re actually utilizing the receptors. But rather than blocking or stimulating activities like pharmaceuticals do, modulation is what cannabinoids utilize, which is a lot better.”
Despite the fact that numerous studies have demonstrated it to be beneficial, only one THC-based medicine has been authorized by the FDA, whereas Epidiolex is the first CBD-based drug to obtain approval.
Despite the fact that Marinol, a THC-based drug manufactured by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, has been authorized by the FDA for many years, Dr. Aung-Din claims that the lab-grown THC it contains may not be as effective as natural THC or cannabis. There have been several anecdotal testimonies about how marijuana and THC are utilized to treat illness.
THC and cannabis’ potential to cure cancer have long been recognized, but widespread usage in the field has yet to occur.
Because of overdosing, edibles, foods containing THC, have grown to be a major problem in states that have legalized marijuana. “Edibles can cause overdoses since people frequently consume the entire serving of a cookie rather than a known lesser amount. I mean, who eats half of a cookie? It’s simpler to swallow down a cookie, and it’s especially appealing to younger people or individuals who don’t want to smoke it.” Raskin added.
Raskin went into further detail, explaining that edibles are extremely powerful and can last longer and with more intensity when taken orally. “The impact of THC smoking will last 45 minutes to a few hours, but edibles may endure for six to eight hours and are more likely to result in an ER visit due to overdose,” he stated.
Concentrations of THC in cannabis
When THC is exposed to air, it decomposes into cannabinol, a cannabinoid with separate psychological effects. The concentration of THC also depends on the cannabis plant’s growth technique scientifically known as Cannabis sativa L.
Hemp is a kind of cannabis that contains little or no THC, with levels as low as 0.5 percent, according to the North American Industrial Hemp Council. Hemp is used for industrial and medical applications.
Strains of cannabis with low amounts of THC are becoming increasingly popular. Some have as little as 0.3 percent THC by weight. THC makes up 20% to 30% of the weight in some samples. The average THC concentration in marijuana is 1 to 5%, according on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, whereas hashish has a minimum content of 5%, and hashish oil contains an average of 20%. When it comes to recreational doses of marijuana, THC content is extremely variable, thus the less THC there is in the marijuana, the more the user must consume to achieve desired effects.
While it is still not legal throughout the United States, many jurisdictions have approved the usage of marijuana and THC for medical and, in some cases, recreational purposes. Before buying any items containing THC, you should always verify your state’s regulations.