THC: A Beginner’s Guide
Although many have heard of the term THC and its association with the marijuana plant, not all are familiar with what THC actually is and what function it serves. Today’s article is here to help you understand everything there is to know about the THC molecule including how it affects our brain and our body, all of the benefits that it offers and the possible side-effects if any.
What is THC?
THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is a cannabinoid or an active chemical compound of cannabis, and it’s actually the most abundant compound of all cannabinoids. The way that THC works are it binds to cannabinoid receptors promoting homeostasis in our body.
Tetrahydrocannabinol can be found in medical marijuana strains; it’s psychoactive and leads to feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and elation. It’s also known to provide many more therapeutic effects and benefits, but more on that later on.
What is Synthetic THC?
Unlike Marinol, which is a legal synthetic THC, these synthetic cannabinoids are not FDA-approved and are not without their risks. They are known among people as Spice, K2 or synthetic marijuana and they usually mimic the effects of cannabis, which is why they became really popular among those who were more concerned about the legality of the drugs, rather than the health risks.
Synthetic marijuana became popular because people always found a way for it to stay legal, simply because it was made from many different ingredients and herbs sprayed with designer drugs, and labeled as “herbal smoking blends”. Their packages were also labeled “not for human consumption” which hasn’t stopped some from using these mixtures in an attempt to avoid legal restrictions.
How Does THC Get You High?
By consuming cannabis, you introduce its cannabinoids into your system, which also includes the most abundant cannabinoid of all, THC.
Once THC enters your system, it gets metabolized and into the bloodstream. It then connects with CB receptors in the brain (CB1 and CB2), releasing dopamine and making you feel relaxed and euphoric.
Here’s a closer look at what THC does to your body and your brain, and how it makes you feel high.
What Does THC Do To The Brain?
The CB1 receptors’ function is to modulate cognition, short-term memory, movement, sensory and time perception. The easiest way to describe what THC does to them is to say that it basically “over activates” some of those functions.
That’s why some of the sensations that people experience when they are “high” include feeling hungry, losing track of time, impairing memory and cognition, slowing down their reaction time, altering their thinking process and much more sensations that are particularly beneficial to people suffering from traumatic events, PTSD and so on.
Those are some of the effects that THC has on the user, but if we have a closer look at the brain’s structure and check out what parts can actually be affected by THC, we’ll notice that this particular cannabinol can regulate:
- Fear, anxiety and other emotions
- Information transmission
- Body movement
- Motor coordination and balance
- Complexed thinking and feeling
- Eating and appetite control
- Learning and obtaining new information
Now that you’ve gotten a clearer picture of how THC affects the brain, let’s see what it actually does to the body.
What Does THC Do To The Body?
Although different methods of taking marijuana will have different effects on the body, there are a few ways in which THC affects most users. Although there are many misconceptions regarding the effects of cannabis on the brain, particularly the effects of THC, there are a few scientifically proven symptoms and effects that people experience from the THC in the cannabis plant.
Here are some of those effects:
- Red eyes: The THC in marijuana expands the blood vessels. Expanded blood vessels in your eyes cause you to have red eyes.
- Burning mouth: When smoking marijuana, it’s possible to burn your throat or mouth.
- Bronchitis: Frequent smoking of marijuana can irritate your bronchial passages and make you prone to bronchitis.
- Pain relief: Smoking or ingesting marijuana helps relieve pain and inflammation in the body.
- Accelerated heartbeat: Studies show that marijuana can increase the heartbeat by 20-50 beats per minute immediately after consumption. This can last up to a few hours after consuming the drug.
- Altered perception: You may experience colors a bit more intensely.
- A sense of time: Your sense of time may become distorted.
- An increase of appetite/ “the munchies”: Hunger is one of the things people experience soon after the CB1 receptor is activated. Unlike with Cannabis Sativa, Indica leads to a “body high” rather than a “head high” and one of the effects that people usually experience is an increase in appetite.
What Are The Long-term Effects of THC?
I’m sure we are all familiar with the short-term effects of cannabis that include: euphoria, happiness, altered perception, increase of appetite and many more, but not all are familiar with the long-term effects of THC.
To start with, marijuana is still classified as a schedule I drug according to the DIA. “Schedule I drugs have a high potential for abuse and the potential to create severe psychological and/or physical dependence.” – says the DIA.
There has been a lot of controversy around the long-term effects that cannabis can have on our brain and body. This is mainly due to the fact that schedule I drugs are difficult to study and there simply isn’t enough research to support each side.
Some of the negative effects that are often associated with longer and frequent use of cannabis include:
- Increased anxieties
- Alterations to pleasure, emotion, and movement
- Memory issues
- Mood and sleep problems
- According to some researchers, the daily use of marijuana is not recommended at least until the science becomes more conclusive.
What Benefits Does THC Provide?
Putting the negative effects aside, cannabis provides a variety of health benefits to those who are healthy, as well as those who are struggling with various conditions and illnesses.
The efficacy of THC as a medicine is becoming clearer and clearer and it’s finally getting the overdue recognition it deserves. THC has proven to possess medical benefits for conditions like:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Nausea, and even
Are There Any THC Side Effects?
Although THC has a lot of healing properties, as I’ve already mentioned before, there are some side effects of THC, some of which are pretty common:
- Dry, red eyes
- Dry mouth
- Increased anxiety
No one should be under the illusion that marijuana can do no harm. The question here isn’t if the substance is or isn’t harmful; the questions is how much harm can it cause, and does that harm outweigh the benefits so much so that it needs to be illegal?
There is a growing body of evidence that marijuana has in many medical conditions to greatly improve the quality of a patient’s life.
THC vs. CBD
Two of the most common cannabinoids found in cannabis are THC and CBD.
When you consume cannabis, cannabinoids bind to receptor sites throughout the brain and body causing the user to experience different effects, depending on the amount, the type and strain, the environment and so on.
How THC and CBD Work.
THC binds to receptors in the brain, whereas CBD usually binds to receptors throughout the body. By aiming the right cannabinoid at the right receptors users can experience a wide variety of different typed of relief.
This is actually the cornerstone of the use of cannabis as medicine. The results are so amazing that some cannabinoids have even been synthesized for legal prescription use. Each of the cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant effect systems associated with a particular condition.
To put things into perspective, let’s have a look at the two most prevailing cannabinoids, known as THC and CBD.
THC has been proven to offer pain relief, combat sleep disorders, nausea, stress disorders as well as appetite loss. However, if used in high doses it can cause anxieties and paranoia in some users.
Unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive which allows patients to be focused and clear-headed while using the drug, and avoid showing positive for THC in drug tests as well. It produces a calming effect, which makes it perfect for people suffering from sleep loss and anxieties.
It can help people suffering from diabetes and shows a lot of promise when it comes to treating sleep disorders, epilepsy, stress, pain, MS and inflammation.
How Can You Consume THC?
As I mentioned before, there are different types of cannabis as well as many different hybrids.
The three main types of cannabis, however, are Sativa, Indica and Ruderalis. Each of these species has many different strains with their own effects, smells, tastes and their own levels of THC and CBD, as well as different CBD and THC concentration and ratio.
Each of these types can be consumed and prepared in a few different ways including smoking, inhaling/ vaping using vape pens, eating it in edible form or consuming it in oil form.
Studies show that smoking is the most common way of consumption, although vaping is also a popular way of consuming weed, which has an additional benefit of removing the possible negative effects that smoking can cause in people with repertory problems.
Another common method of consumption is by using cannabis in oil form. Cannabis oil can be put into capsules, vaporized, eaten or even smoked. The most commonly used medical marijuana is generally in the form of cannabis oil, although THC oil is also used by cannabis enthusiasts who are seeking a stronger high.
Cannabis edibles are another popular way of using cannabis. They are controversial though because it’s easy for people to consume too much and have unpleasant effects due to the large dose of the drug. This most frequently occurs among new, inexperienced users, because it takes 30 to 120 minutes for users to notice any effects.
Moreover, cannabis edibles have a longer-lasting and stronger high than other ways of consumption. The effects of smoking or vaping cannabis usually last around 1-3 hours, while the effects of eating it can last up to 10 hours. This is due to the fact that eaten cannabis gets metabolized by the liver, while smoked or vaporized doesn’t.
According to Mitch Earleywine, author of Understanding Marijuana, THC in eaten cannabis can pass the blood-brain barrier much faster and easier, which will lead to a stronger high and a stronger psychedelic effect.
Cannabis is also used to make ointments and creams, which is a less common way to use the plant. These kinds of creams are usually used to treat some medical conditions, and they do not have any psychoactive effects for you to worry about.
Cannabis affects each person differently and can lead to varying “highs” depending on dosage, methods of usage, tolerance, type of strain, environment, and state of mind.
It’s also important to keep in mind that although cannabis can affect users in profound ways, its effects are always temporary.