Cannabis is fast becoming accepted in different places around the globe. Over the past three years, we’ve seen more states that created medical cannabis laws. That’s despite the fact that cannabis is still federally illegal. With growing acceptance of cannabis, it’s time that we become educated about what the plant can really do.
THC is the main cannabinoid responsible for the plant’s psychoactive effects. But is this everything you need to know about this cannabinoid? How does it work? What are the benefits that make it so popular? Is it even dangerous to our health?
What is delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol?
THC is found in female cannabis flowers. Though male cannabis plants also produce a small amount of THC, it usually doesn’t produce sufficient amount that can get people’s attention. Cannabinoids are produced by cannabis plants as secondary metabolites. It simply means that it doesn’t have any role in its growth and other primary functions.
Though it lacks in the role regarding primary functions of the plant, research suggests that these secondary metabolites have a role in protecting the plant from pathogens and herbivores. On the part of THC, it is known for its anti-microbial properties. In fact, when ingested, its antimicrobial properties even work wonders for humans. These secondary metabolites are known to function in lieu of an internal immune system.
History of THC
THC was first discovered in the 1960s by Raphael Mechaoulam. The time he extracted THC for the first time triggered a revolution of scientific inquiry to what the cannabinoid can do. In the year 2000, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam was given the Israel Prize, an award given to those who went beyond their field.
But of course, research didn’t come easy for Mechaoulam. The first problem he encountered was where to obtain his supply of cannabis for research? Fortunately, he had the Israel Police for that. He was given a five-kilo stash which enabled him to make the necessary progress for his studies.
Though it was discovered in the 60s, it wasn’t until 80s when we found out that THC actually binds in the brain. Allyn Howlett discovered that THC binds itself in areas such as the hippocampus, frontal cortex, and cerebellum. Each site has some cannabinoid receptors which are part of the body’s endocannabinoid system. This further expanded our understanding how THC works in the body. It explained a lot how THC is used in today’s medical field.
The endocannabinoid system
To appreciate how THC and other cannabinoids work, it is important first to have an understanding of the endocannabinoid system. For starters, there are two types of cannabinoid receptors. The body has CB1 and CB2 receptors. This is where cannabinoids such as CBD and THC latch.
So why does the body have an endocannabinoid system in the first place? It’s because the body produces cannabinoids internally. The endocannabinoid system is responsible for keeping the body’s ability to fight infection, control our mood and control other physiologic functions such as sleep. Basically, its function is to promote homeostasis to the body.
What made THC special?
What makes THC special and useful? And why does it have psychoactive effects? You can blame the molecular structure of the cannabinoid for that. Because of the cannabinoid’s structure, it simply fits into the different receptors of the endocannabinoid system including the ones found in the brain.
According to research, THC has a higher tendency to latch on CB1 receptors found in the brain. This is responsible for the psychoactive effects of the cannabinoid. The most common medical use of THC is its ability to modulate pain. It is also believed that it has an effect in helping the body’s inflammatory response.
The body can produce cannabinoids that can also latch in the cannabinoid receptors found in the body. The body can create a THC-like substance called anandamide. Originally, anandamide helps in the body’s ability to forget. How exactly is this helpful? What this endocannabinoid does is to screen all the clutter and just let you remember the important things.
Understanding the function of anandamide is crucial in learning about the possible use of THC in conditions such as PTSD. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a condition wherein a person can’t overcome negative thoughts from a particular event.
So why consume THC when you have anandamide that is almost the same as THC? The key difference between the naturally occurring cannabinoid and THC is the ability of the latter to last longer. Anandamide is known to a breakdown in just a few minutes once it binds to cells. THC, on the other hand, can last for days in the body.
Anandamide, THC, and CBD
CBD is another cannabinoid that is becoming just as popular as THC. CBD gained mainstream popularity after CBD based cannabis were able to help cure children suffering from Dravet Syndrome, a rare case of epilepsy that causes seizures of over 100 episodes in one day.
How exactly does CBD work? CBD is a different type of cannabinoid. Unlike THC that acts on cannabinoid receptors, it stops the enzyme fatty acid amide hydroxyls (FAAH). This enzyme is the one responsible for breaking down anandamide. With fewer cannabinoid receptors where THC could latch, CBD has also been known to decrease the intoxicating effects of THC. The problem with CBD-only medical cannabis laws is the fact that it undermines the synergistic effects with other cannabinoids and terpenes.
One of the main uses of THC-rich cannabis strains is for pain relief. Unlike narcotic based products, cannabis is a far safer option as an analgesic. According to studies, THC can block pain signals in the central nervous system. This means that it can be used to help treat neuropathic pain.
What makes it better than other pain medication? Researchers from Australian National Drug and Alcohol Center believed discovered that cannabis is a better option than opioid pain medication in treating chronic pain.
In addition to this, there’s no known overdose caused by cannabis. It is a common problem that you’ll eventually need a higher dose as you take opioid medication. This alarming problem increased the number of people in the US who suffered from opioid overdose.
And why doesn’t cannabis cause fatal side effects? The location of cannabinoid receptors is mainly located in parts of the brain that has nothing to do with breathing, and heart rate.
THC is also known as an anti-emetic. Since the 1980s, cannabis has been used to help patients undergoing chemotherapy. However, there have been some problems that people experienced using THC. For instance, how do people avoid getting high? Today, Marinol, a synthetic form of THC, is being used in some places where you THC or cannabis is still illegal.
Glaucoma affects around 3 million Americans. This condition, if remained untreated, could lead towards blindness. THC has been discovered to help patients suffering from glaucoma by reducing intraocular pressure potentially. However, there’s a need for further research given the need for THC to be present constantly to have its benefits.
Possible Cons of THC and Cannabis
HC’s biggest roadblock towards legalization is its effects on the brain. This is also the reason why CBD has been the cannabinoid that re-opened mainstream interest to legalize cannabis. In addition to this, there are some studies that suggest that THC can predispose you to have an earlier onset of the psychotic disorder.
Just like any other substance that is abused, cannabis may require a larger dose if used in a regular manner. But of course, it isn’t as bad as other substances. Getting a tolerance break from cannabis is easier than other substances to shy away from. All you need to do is to simply keep yourself busy such as exercises, and you are ready to go.
What’s next for THC and Cannabis?
Cannabis today is considered schedule 1 substance. As a schedule 1 substance, it means that it is federally illegal. It is considered not to have any medical value and is highly addictive. Is THC’s psychoactive effect giving cannabis a bad name?
If you’ll read the research regarding cannabis, it has some medical benefits that are worth looking into. Despite THC’s psychoactive effects, it still has some benefits to the body which can compete with other drugs currently in the market.
There are state laws that have singled out CBD in their medical cannabis law. Though it sounds good that a cannabinoid is accepted and recognized for its medical purpose, THC’s overall benefits are not yet fully explored, given rules that exist towards cannabis.
There’s a shift regarding popular opinion when it comes to cannabis. Today, support for cannabis has reached an all-time high. It has even been reported that 58% of Americans are now for having a law to legalize cannabis.
As a result of this clamor, despite being federally illegal, states have made the necessary efforts in creating cannabis laws to address the demand for medical cannabis. The United Nations is also about to re-evaluate international drug laws.
Can this lead towards re-scheduling the substance? Could it be the perfect time to do more research to fully understand the potential benefits of THC and other cannabinoids?