Maybe you have some idea, maybe you have no idea, but regardless — we put together our insight on THC. As often as it’s in the news, it’s no wonder that this close relative of CBD has a reputation that proceeds it. Media exposure aside, we wanted to tackle the question: What even is THC?
THC is a cannabinol
That’s right, THC is a cannabinol, just like CBD. It’s one of 113 chemical compounds of the plant genus Cannabis or the hemp plant. What’s different about THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is that it’s psychoactive.
Psychoactive substances, according to the WHO, affect mental processes, such as cognition or affect (basically, a person’s demeanor).
How quickly these effects take place has to do with how a person uses cannabis. The severity or desirability of the effects also varies by person. It’s common that cannabis can mellow some people out while it can make others more anxious.
- If a person inhales or smokes marijuana — actually a Mexican slang term adopted by the U.S. in 1937 to refer to cannabis — THC quickly travels from the lungs to the bloodstream.
- If a person ingests marijuana or isolated THC via an edible, the effects can take 30 minutes to an hour to kick in. This is why some people run into trouble, especially if they are not acclimated to using marijuana. It may be easy to over-indulge since the “high” is not immediately felt.
What forms does THC come in?
As mentioned above, THC is a chemical compound that exists naturally in cannabis. However, THC and other substances called terpenes, are often extracted and transformed. With such flexibility, THC can be snuck into just about anything — making a legalized industry an undeniably lucrative one — however, this can also make it dangerous. THC concentrates can:
- Simply occur in higher quantities in some marijuana strains than others
- After extraction, be mixed in oils, tinctures, and waxes
THC’s effects on the mind and body
First and foremost, THC is a mind-altering drug. As the mind controls all bodily processes, there are extenuating effects. It’s practically impossible for someone who has used a THC-containing substance to hide it. Not to mention, how long THC lasts in the body varies by both the individual and specific substance used.
Effects on the mind
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the following short-term symptoms occur with marijuana use, specific to your mind:
- Altered senses: For example, users may see brighter colors.
- Altered sense of time
- Changes in mood
- Difficulty with thinking and problem-solving
- Impaired memory
- Hallucinations, delusions, or psychosis: These effects occur with high doses.
Effects on the body
In addition to mind-related symptoms, symptoms that impact the body include the following:
- Red eyes
- Increased appetite
- Impaired body movement
- A lingering odor of marijuana
- Breathing problems: As with cigarette smokers, people who smoke marijuana are more likely to experience a persistent cough and phlegm as well as other issues.
- Increased heart rate: An increased heart rate occurs for 3 hours following marijuana use, which puts people with heart problems or who are older in age at risk of a heart attack.
What are the long-term effects of THC?
The long-term effects of THC are determined by how heavily or frequently substances are used. Furthermore, the type of substance used — whether someone inhales or ingests it — also comes into play, as well as an individual’s family history, lifestyle, and overall health.
Chronic or sustained marijuana use has a host of potential negative effects. This likelihood will probably increase, as the potency or concentration of THC in marijuana has increased steadily over recent decades and will likely continue to do so. Issues include:
- Problems with child development during and after pregnancy
- Lung cancer
- Worsening symptoms of schizophrenia and other mental health issues
- Lifelong, impaired brain function and development, when used in the teen years
- Dependence, on either marijuana or harsher substances
Why do people use THC?
Now that you’re more aware of the short-term and long-term effects of THC, you may be wondering why people use it in the first place. To put it into perspective, you assume some risk any time you do just about anything.
People commonly use marijuana for recreational or medicinal purposes. Recreational use, of course, treats marijuana as a way to unwind or celebrate. Medicinally, it has shown benefits such as pain-relief, soothing nausea, boosting appetite, calming digestive upset, aiding in better sleep, and more, especially in people with chronic or terminal illnesses such as cancer.
A key reason why marijuana has been used for so long — more than 3,000 years, in fact — comes down to our biology. The receptors in our brains that allow for euphoria or a “high” after running, for example, can also be activated when cannabinol is introduced, such as CBD or THC. These receptors, called CB1 receptors, are 10 times more populous in our body than opioid receptors activated by morphine.
Is THC always psychoactive?
Without the addition of heat, THC, in its “raw form” is essentially inert. Eating dried cannabis flowers would not produce any effect other than a probable stomachache. This is part of the reason why edibles are a bit more complex than sprinkling in cannabis as one would sugar or spices. THC can’t become too hot during the cooking process or else it’s “desired effects” wouldn’t occur. This is also why marijuana needs to be smoked or inhaled instead of just eaten as a salad.
Takeaways about THC
The legality of THC is something that will be prominent in legislation circles for years to come. With several areas of the world, including several U.S. states, already legalizing it, this will make further research about its effects easier to come by. Using THC can be a promising avenue for symptom management — who knows, maybe even more — and we will make it our mission to update our research accordingly. When using any substance or product that you are unfamiliar with, always use caution, and stick to the buddy system.