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THC - an acronym for tetrahydrocannabinol - is one of the 113 chemical compounds known as 'cannabinoids' that scientists have been able to isolate in cannabis. It is the most well-known and studied cannabinoid, due primary to its status as one of the more powerful parts of the plant in terms of medicinal benefits and psychoactive effects. When cannabis is consumed, it is the THC in weed that gets the user high. THC is one of the oldest hallucinogenic drugs known to man.
Although there are different versions of cannabinoids, the molecules created by plants are known as 'phytocannabinoids.' These compounds manifest in the natural world as essential oils within the trichomes of many plants and are sometimes involved in the formation of aromas, vitamins, steroids and pigments. The perfume industry uses these compounds for scenting enhancements and the food and pharmaceutical industries use cannabinoids to improve flavor and odor. Cannabinoids found in cannabis interact directly with the peripheral and central nervous system via cannabinoid receptors in the complex cell-signaling system known as the endocannabinoid system. Even if you don't use cannabis, the endocannabinoid system is constantly in action and plays a critical role in the regulation of overall health and mitigation of disease. It also assists with the regulation of the body's physiological function and other physical signals such as:
When cannabis is consumed, cannabinoids enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body and into the brain. Scientists have detected key receptors throughout the body which the cannabinoids link with and activate special neurotransmitters that subsequently produce changes across the entire neurological system and link with those receptors. CB1 and CB2 receptors are the two types of receptors that communicate with the body's neurotransmitters. When the receptors are activated, they influence how the systems and organs in the body operate and how we feel physically and emotionally, thus altering the body's normal operating system.
As noted above, THC is unique because it causes a psychoactive reaction in the brain, altering the way the mind works. Since the brain and the body are symbiotic, intertwined and interdependent, THC also alters the way the body feels. THC binds with CB1 receptors, which are found in great numbers in certain regions in the brain. When THC is consumed it binds to the CB1 receptors, which then creates the intoxicating effects. It also binds with the CB2 receptors located on the cells of the immune system; one of the reasons medical marijuana can be so beneficial and continues to be researched and advanced today. THC's anti-emetic properties inhibit vomiting and are particularly useful in the treatment of cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. THC also increases appetite and reduces nausea, so it can be used in the treatment of anorexia and other eating disorders.
When THC links with CB1 receptors, it mimics the natural chemical produced in the brain called anandamide and changes the standard process of how the brain communicates with the body and produces behavioral and physical effects such as:
These sensations and/or a combination of these physiological changes are what results in what we call the "high." The endocannabinoid system normally regulates these aspects of bodily function but when THC is introduced the functions are altered, enhanced and changed. It is also why the "high" can vary greatly from one individual to another. With so many different factors at play there are myriad opportunities for different reactions or outcomes to manifest themselves in different ways from person to person.
Despite a variety of uses that have many in the industry - including physicians - excited and optimistic about the benefits of THC use, scientists have outlined some potential negative effects of THC consumption, especially when it comes to long-term use. There is some evidence that heavy use at a young age can contribute to the onset of psychiatric disorders and people who regularly smoke cannabis may be at higher risk for respiratory issues such as chronic bronchitis. There is also evidence that THC can impair motor coordination and cause depression and suicidal thinking. Evidence also points to the potential for a reduction in short-term memory capabilities, but this effect can actually be beneficial for those suffering from traumatic memories or coping with PTSD.
What are your experiences with THC? Do you prefer marijuana with high levels of THC or are you more inclined to enjoy cannabis with lower levels of tetrahydrocannabinol? If you have been using cannabis for a long time, have you noticed any side effects or changes to your system? Take a second to let us know your experience with and enjoyment of THC in the comments section below.