What is THC? Benefits, Risks and Side Effects
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Cannabis, better known as Marijuana, is famous for the mind-altering effects it produces. In recent years, more and more people have been using this plant recreationally and medically to take advantage of its many benefits. The versatility of this plant makes it especially appealing — from Hemp-Based Clothing products and Hemp Protein Powder to oils, tinctures and topicals to treat pain — the Cannabis Plant and its products come in various forms.
Other products, like Edibles and Concentrates, typically include one or both of Marijuana’s primary active Cannabinoids — Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). Cannabinoids are compounds found in the cannabis plant; they interact with your Endocannabinoid System (ECS) and can, therefore, influence how your body and mind function. Buds (flowers) of the Marijuana plant are the primary source of these active Cannabinoid compounds, but they also contain several other compounds like terpenes, CBDA, THCA and CBN.
When Marijuana and its products are consumed recreationally, they produce Psychoactive Effects due to THC interacting with the ECS in your body. Although THC is famous for its effects, its scope also extends to medical benefits.
It is essential to educate yourself about the things you consume. This article will find almost everything you need to know about Marijuana’s most sought-after Cannabinoid compound: Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
What is THC?
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a compound in Cannabis Plants responsible for mind-altering effects. When people consume products that contain THC or smoke the buds of a Marijuana Plant, they feel “high” because of this compound.
THC is majorly found in three forms — delta-8-THC, delta-9-THC, and delta-10-THC. Delta-9-THC is usually what people refer to when they talk about the mind-altering effects of THC. Compared to delta-9-THC, delta-8-THC and delta-10-THC produce the same effects but are less potent; therefore, their effects are much milder. Moreover, delta-8 and delta-10 THC are found in low amounts in cannabis plants, so most products containing these compounds are produced synthetically.
Beyond its psychological effects, however, THC has shown great promise in providing certain benefits to the human body. A synthetic version of THC is often used to treat nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy. In small doses, when combined with CBD, both compounds have been found to be more effective in producing Therapeutic Effects.
How do you consume THC?
THC and CBD are primarily found in the flowers of Cannabis Plants. But, through several technological and scientific advancements, these compounds can be found in a variety of products. Depending on what you prefer, you can choose products based on their THC-to-CBD ratio or even select products with just one of the two compounds.
The most common way to consume CBD and THC, especially for recreational use, is to smoke a bud of marijuana. Buds are typically ground up into a finer, more powder-like substance to make it easy to smoke in the form of a joint, spliff, or blunt. Buds are often also substituted by hash, kief or weed wax — which are concentrated of THC and CBD and, therefore, highly potent. Similarly, vape juices that are infused with THC and CBD can be smoked using a vaporiser.
Other methods of smoking cannabis and cannabis products include taking bong rips, using a pipe, and dabbing. Sometimes, buds, hash, or oils are used to make edibles. Edibles are food items that can range from THC-infused cookies to chocolates and more. THC gummies and brownies are the most common forms in which people consume edibles, but almost any food item you can imagine can be turned into an edible.
Unlike smoking marijuana, which produces mind-altering effects relatively quickly (within 10-15 minutes), edibles can take up to 2 hours to start working. But the main difference between smoking and taking edibles is that the latter allows for your body to absorb more THC and CBD, therefore getting you “higher.”
THC oils and tinctures are products that contain a carrier oil or alcohol that can be consumed by putting a few drops under your tongue, which allows the compounds to act quickly inside your body. Similarly, capsules with these compounds are ingested orally, like a medicinal tablet. Lastly, marijuana topicals are lotions, ointments and oils that are applied to your body externally. Topicals are typically used for their therapeutic purposes and to target specific areas of your body where you may be facing issues.
How does THC work inside your Body?
When you consume THC, the compound becomes active in your endocannabinoid system (ECS), which has receptors across your brain and body. Your ECS includes Mechanisms in your body that regulate sleep, mood, memory, appetite and responses to pain and inflammation (amongst several other important functions of your body). This system consists of two primary receptors: CB1 and CB2, which regulate multiple functions of the ECS.
THC binds directly with both CB1 and CB2 receptors and, thus, influences the way your brain and body function. These cannabinoid receptors are especially numerous across various regions of your brain. Depending on which regions of your brain are more affected, consuming THC can produce a variety of effects.
Learn more about THCs effects on the body, here.
Its influence on the brain stem and the Hypothalamus can produce anti-nausea effects and increased appetite (sometimes referred to as getting the “Munchies”). In addition to this, THC can influence your Neocortex to alter the way you think, judge and perceive things — which elicits the altered state otherwise referred to as being “high.” When this compound interacts with the cannabinoid receptors in your nucleus accumbens, you may feel euphoric (a good feeling). Other than this, it alters the way you perceive pain (increasing or decreasing your sensitivity to it) by interacting with the receptors in your spinal cord.
Depending on the dose of THC, it can impair your memory related to day-to-day events and can even interfere with learning new things. This does not mean that you will struggle to remember most things; it simply means that specific memories may be more cloudy than others, depending on how much THC you have consumed. This does not apply to your short-term memory. Other adverse effects can include a slower reaction time and impaired coordination.
How long does THC stay in your Body?
The amount of time THC stays in your body can vary depending on various factors. How much you have consumed, and the frequency and method of consumption determine how long traces of THC may be found in your body. Another factor that can influence how much THC stays in your body is the amount of body fat you have.
THC can be detected in your hair, urine and blood for several days. It can only be seen through your saliva for a few hours after use. Since THC can bind with fat in your body, the more fat you have, the longer it takes for your body to get rid of THC.
If you are consuming THC for the first time, it can stay for 3 days in your body. But if you consume it a few times weekly, it can stay up to 7 days after your last use. If you use THC daily, it can remain in your body for up to a month.
The method of ingesting THC also matters — smoking may allow THC to act more quickly, but taking edibles allows more THC to enter your body. So, depending on the method you use to consume THC, it can be found in your body for various days.
Benefits of THC
The most famous Benefit of THC is its ability to reduce vomiting and nausea resulting from cancer chemotherapy. Other than this, it has been found to help with chronic pain and muscle spasms that are caused due to multiple sclerosis. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that THC is safe and effective in treating tics in patients with Tourette syndrome.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tourette Syndrome is a condition of the nervous system that causes people suffering from it to twitch, move, or make a sound repeatedly suddenly. These sudden movements, twitches and sounds are called tics. In this study, a dose of 10mg of THC a day significantly reduced tics in patients.
Another study conducted in 2014 found that low doses of THC can Enhance Mitochondria function. Additionally, this compound could be a potential treatment option for Alzheimer’s, a Debilitating Neurodegenerative Disease that causes brain cells to die.
Parkinson’s Disease is a condition that affects the Nervous System, Causing Motor, Cognitive and speech Dysfunctions. In 2008, THC can help improve hand-eye coordination in patients with Parkinson’s Disease. Other than this, research on the effectiveness and Benefits of THC is still ongoing. For example, many people report better sleep quality after ingesting THC. However, studies that have investigated this have yielded inconclusive results.
What are the Side Effects of THC?
Some side effects of THC include:
- Impaired memory
- Dry mouth
- Impaired Coordination
Although these side effects can be expected after consuming THC, they may not be as prevalent or present at lower doses or when THC is ingested with CBD. Your tolerance and mindset are two other factors that can influence whether or not and to what extent you experience the side effects of THC.
Is THC Legal in India?
In India, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985 makes it illegal to cultivate, sell or use cannabis for recreational purposes. But this law does not apply to using leaves and seeds to create CBD products. Although CBD products are derived from the cannabis plant, they usually do not contain THC in a ratio that would cause intoxication. Unlike CBD products, products with high THC content are relatively tricky to find in India — and more often than not, you may require a prescription to obtain such products.
Despite this, the production and consumption of Bhang, a paste made using the leaves and flowers of cannabis Sativa, is entirely legal. Consumption of Bhang produces mind-altering effects due to its high THC content. Thus, the Legality of THC in India is rather tricky to understand. The production, consumption and possession of Marijuana buds and hash are illegal. However, certain products like Bhang and full-spectrum Oils are Legal.
THC vs CBD
Both Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) are derived from cannabis plants and are the plant’s two main active cannabinoid compounds. But this does not mean that they work the same way. They differ in many ways, including in terms of the subspecies of the cannabis plant they are extracted from, their chemical structure, their effects and their health benefits.
Different subspecies of Cannabis contain a varying THC to CBD ratio. THC is usually extracted from Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica plants, which have more THC. On the other hand, CBD is more commonly extracted from Hemp and Cannabis Ruderalis, both of which generally have less than 0.3% THC.
The Therapeutic Effects of THC include its Antiemetic (Prevents Nausea and Vomiting), Muscle relaxant and appetite-stimulating properties. This compound’s side effects include impaired coordination, red eyes, slower reaction time, increased Heart Rate, Dry Mouth, Memory Impairment, Anxiety and Tiredness. CBD’s Therapeutic Effects are far more wide-ranging; from Chronic Pain to mental health conditions like Depression, Anxiety and PTSD, CBD has a variety of applications. CBD can cause side Effects like Diarrhoea, Low Blood Pressure, Drowsiness and Fatigue.