You probably already know that THC is a psychoactive substance. It affects the brain in profound ways. With such an interconnected relationship between the mind and other systems, it only makes sense to wonder: how does THC affect the body? What are the positives and negatives of these effects?
THC is one of the more than 100 cannabinoids — including our friend CBD — in Cannabis sativa, also known as the hemp plant. Even though THC substances aren’t legal everywhere, prescriptions for this drug are still on the rise, particularly among cancer patients. Why? THC provides a wide range of benefits because it targets the body’s endocannabinoid system. How integral is this system when it comes to your pain and stress levels, sleep habits, mood, appetite, and more? Keep reading.
Responding to pain
Your body has an extremely high concentration of endocannabinoid receptors, even more so than the type of receptors that respond to opioids. This high concentration is the motivation behind many ongoing studies regarding THC and pain. THC is often prescribed in conjunction with opioids but also shows anti-inflammatory effects.
THC is not effective for all types of pain, the CDC claims. However, there is evidence that THC helps cases of neuropathic pain, which occurs from nerve damage. When several studies found THC ineffective when subjects were exposed to sharp or extreme pain (through heat, shocks, etc.), there is room for debunking. This data shouldn’t hold much weight as it covered special circumstances, not pain that people typically encounter, according to NCBI.
Similarly, for arthritic pain, the Arthritis Foundation approves of continued research into CBD as a pain-reliever. The foundation’s attitude addresses the substance as a promising one since patients are already finding success — science is what needs to catch up. It’s likely that attitudes from the medical community toward THC will continue to mirror this as legalization gains ground.
Nausea is another common and severe symptom of individuals with cancer or undergoing chemotherapy. Treating nausea and vomiting associated with cancer and other illness isn’t merely for the comfort of the individual, though important. If you are too nauseous to maintain activity levels or eat, you become weak. The weaker you become, the harder it is to battle the disease.
THC is effective in addressing nausea and vomiting in these cases. Dronabinol, for example, is a synthetic cannabinoid approved by the FDA for these symptoms. Different strains all have some sort of effect on nausea and other ailments. Sativas tend to provide relief from nausea, for example. Effects also depend on the individual, their health specs, and usage habits. In some heavy-THC users, (emphasis on heavy, prescriptions are often tamer) can experience severe nausea and abdominal pain in a condition called Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) that is relieved by hot showers.
Relief from seizures
You may have heard of the FDA-approved treatment Epidiolex for epilepsy, particularly in children. The drug is the first of its kind for people with Dravet syndrome. Similarly, studies that examine THC’s effects on epilepsy have existed for many years, and also weigh in THC’s favor. Many people with epilepsy do not find relief with more traditional treatments. The Epilepsy Foundation considers CBD and THC reasonable avenues of treatment.
Anti-inflammatory properties are one of the main selling points of CBD. It turns out, THC can also serve as a powerful anti-inflammatory. What conditions can this potentially help? Multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s and colitis, and rheumatoid arthritis. THC can also inhibit tumor growth or suppress inflammation associated with some cancers.
The list of symptoms covered here is not exhaustive. As research efforts become easier to tackle as THC’s legality changes, this list will surely grow. The best way to find out more about how THC can help you or someone you love is to ask a trusted physician. Feel free to get a second opinion, but remember, they’re the experts.
As more research is published, we’ll keep you up-to-date and in-the-know on all things THC.