The Complete Beginners Guide to THC | cannabisMD

What Is THC? The Complete Beginners Guide to THC

THC Beginners Guide

THC is also known as tetrahydrocannabinol. It is one of the most widely known cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant along with cannabidiol (CBD). “Marijuana” is colloquial term for the dried leaves, flowers, stems and seeds from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. Marijuana is one of the most commonly used illicit drugs in the world due to the recreational and medicinal benefits of THC.

THC is the main mind-altering chemical compound found in the cannabis plant which causes the psychoactive effect or “the high” associated with smoking marijuana. THC is one of many cannabinoids found in the resin secreted by the glands of the marijuana plant. More of these glands are found near the reproductive organs of the plant than anywhere else on the plant.

Other cannabinoids are also present in this resin. This includes the second most famous cannabinoid from the marijuana plant which is the non-psychoactive chemical called cannabidiol (CBD). According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information CBD actually blocks the psychoactivity associated with THC. CBD and THC are widely used for medicinal purposes but their effects still require more human clinical studies before they can become mainstream treatments.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), THC acts much like the cannabinoid chemicals made naturally by the body. Cannabinoids naturally made by our body are called endocannabinoids and can be found in the endocannabinoid system. Most of us are short on our natural endocannabinoids. The cannabis plant also has similar cannabinoids and therefore holds therapeutic value although it still remains poorly understood.

The endocannabinoid system incorporates neurotransmitters in your brain, immune system and spine that are responsible for pain sensation, mood and more. Dr. Richard Kaufman who is the Chief Science Officer of NanoSphere Health Sciences and Evolve Formulas explains how cannabinoids work “with your endocannabinoid system to make things happen. [As they] bind [to] and activate receptors in the brain called ‘cannabinoid receptors 2’ (CB2) and selectively blocks other receptors in the brain – the CB1 receptors.”

Cannabinoid receptors are located in specific areas of the brain associated with thinking, memory, pleasure, coordination and time perception. THC attaches to the cannabinoid receptors, activating them and affecting a person’s “memory, pleasure, movements, thinking, concentration, coordination, and sensory and time perception.”

Raphael Mechoulam, the grandfather of medical marijuana, is accredited for the discovery of the endocannabinoid system and the discovery that THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is the specific psychoactive compound within the cannabis plant.

Bodily Effects of THC

THC stimulates cells in the brain, causing them to release dopamine and create a sense of euphoria. On average the effects of THC last about two hours and kick in 10 minutes after use, or an hour after consumption in edible forms. More studies are required to properly access the long-term effects of THC.

Reported side effects of THC include:

  • Elation
  • Anxiety
  • Tachycardia
  • Short-term memory recall issues
  • Sedation
  • Relaxation
  • Pain-relief

A.J. Fabrizio, a marijuana chemistry expert at Terra Tech Corp, a California agricultural company focused on local farming and medical cannabis, said: a study in the British Journal of Pharmacology found that other types of cannabinoids, as well as terpenes (compounds that produce flavor and fragrance in plants), can modulate and reduce negative effects.

Consuming THC can impair motor skills. Marijuana may impair driving or ability to operate heavy machinery for up to three hours after use. It is the second most common psychoactive substance found in drivers, after alcohol, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. As a result, people prescribed medical marijuana are instructed to not drive until it has been established they can tolerate it and successfully use their motor skills, with speedy response time, walking, speech, etc.

In 2016, a study by the University of Montreal published in the journal Development and Psychopathology found early use of marijuana can negatively affect teens. Smokers that start around age 14 do worse on cognitive tests than non-smokers. The study focused on 300 students and also found young cannabis users had a higher school dropout rate. To determine the social or physical connotations of this, we will require further studies. However, participants who waited until around 17 to start smoking did not seem to have the same impairments.

It may have to do with the stage of brain formation as rats exposed to THC before birth, soon after birth, or during adolescence have shown delays in specific learning and memory tasks later in life, according to NIDA. However, THC may be able to improve memory when taken in small doses, according to a 2016 study on mice. THC’s impact on memory remains muddled but the ability of THC to impact our memory has been used for PTSD treatment.

THC may also negatively interact with some prescription medications so be sure to communicate and consult with your doctor about it before purchasing or using THC. You should also research local and national laws to assure you are within the laws limitations regarding cannabis purchasing and use.

THC as Medicine

Marijuana has been used for medicinal purposes for over 3,000 years, according to the National Cancer Institute. As of early 2017, more than half of the United States had legalized medical marijuana. Many states also went as far as to legalize the drug recreationally.

THC degrades into cannabinol (CBD) when it is exposed to air. CBD is a cannabinoid that has its own medical effects. THC concentration depends on the marijuana plant. According to the North American Industrial Hemp Council, a family member of the cannabis plant that has a minimal amount of THC (as low as 0.5 percent) is the hemp plant. Hemp is used for industrial and medical purposes and can also be used for car parts, clothing and making rope. Some strains of cannabis can have as little as 0.3 percent THC by weight. In others, THC makes up 20 percent of the weight in a sample.

THC can be extracted from the cannabis plant as a light yellow resinous oil or, as is the case with FDA-approved drug dronabinol, synthetic THC can be chemically engineered. Dronabinol is used to treat nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy and to increase the appetites of people AIDS.

Before using THC it is important for you to consult with your doctor or a medical professional. You should check your state or national laws to assure you are acting within the confines of the law. If you cannot acquire THC within your state or country, you may benefit from looking into CBD.

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