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What is THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol)? Benefits and Side Effects

What is THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol)? Benefits and Side Effects

What is THS

THC has numerous medical benefits. But, THC is severely psychoactive and has many detrimental effects, which carry high risks for humans. But there is a lack of sufficient studies and research for adequate knowledge and clear ideas. This article is full of essential information about the good and bad sides of THC for both medical and recreational uses.

Enjoy this article with good attention and learn the basics and the details about the natural cannabis cannabinoids-THC, delta-8, and delta-9 THC, methods of work with the medicinal effects of THC, and how it affects the body and brain. Know about the comparison and interaction between CBD and THC, risks of THC, ways of consuming, and legality of THC.

What is Cannabinoid?

Cannabinoids are natural chemical compounds that are found in cannabis plants. There are at least 113 different cannabinoids segregated from cannabis, exposing varied effects. Cannabinoids, in general, interact with receptors in the brain and body to create various effects.

The most notable and famous cannabinoid in cannabis plants is the phytocannabinoid- tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), especially Delta9-THC and Delta8-THC. THC is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis, which can get you high.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is another most important and most well-known natural chemical constituent of the cannabis plant. CBD is a phytocannabinoid discovered in 1940 by Roger Adams. CBD is one of the most popular and most beneficial cannabinoids for humans in cannabis plants, along with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD may account for up to 40% of the cannabis hemp plant’s extract, with absolutely no psychoactive effects.

Synthetic cannabinoids are artificially made cannabinoids, which encompass a variety of different chemical classes such as:

  • The classical cannabinoids structurally related to TH
  • The nonclassical cannabinoids (cannabimimetic), including
  • The aminoalkyl indoles
  • 1,5-diaryl pyrazoles
  • Quinolines
  • Aryl sulfonamides
  • Eicosanoids related to endocannabinoids

Medical uses of cannabinoids add the treatment of nausea due to

  • Chemotherapy
  • Spasticity
  • Neuropathic pain

Some common side effects included:

  • Dizziness
  • Sedation
  • Confusion
  • Dissociation
  • Feeling high

What is THC?

THC is most widely known among all the cannabinoids in cannabis plants for its abundance and euphoric attributes. Raphael Mechoulam, an Israeli chemist, was the first to bring out the isolation of THC. In 1964, Mechoulam made the isolation and synthesized THC from the Lebanese hashish.

Molecule of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC- a principal mind-changing ingredient found in the Cannabis plant. Humans use THC to get high, but cannabis marijuana plants use THC to guard against many different natural predators like parasites, bacteria, and viruses.

THC stands for the natural chemical compound tetrahydrocannabinol, one of the 113 cannabinoids identified in the cannabis plant. Any cannabinoid detected in cannabis plants interacts with the body’s natural endocannabinoid system (ECS).

Trans-delta9-THC or delta-9-THC and delta-8-THC are the other names for tetrahydrocannabinol. The chemical formula for THC is C21H30O2. THC is the principal psychoactive component of the cannabis plant and is a partial agonist.

This substance initiates a physiological response when combined with a receptor of both the CB1 and CB2 receptors. The meaning of this is that THC can partially turn on CB1 receptors in the brain by applying the psychoactivity and the CB2 receptors in the immune system using the anti-inflammatory effects. This turns THC into an effective painkiller that can also be helpful as-

  • An anti-inflammatory
  • Spasticity
  • Antiemetic (nausea/vomiting prevention)
  • Appetite stimulant
  • Treatment for an overactive bladder

THC oils are another newfound way to enjoy cannabis. Usually, THC oils are produced using various extraction methods to pull out the valuable THC and other cannabinoids from the cannabis plant and then push those cannabinoids in a carrier oil, like MCT or hemp oil.


What is Delta-8 THC?

Delta-8 THC is the short form of Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol, one of the other names of the psychoactive cannabinoid- THC. As mentioned earlier, it is a naturally occurring chemical compound called a cannabinoid, with slight traces in cannabis hemp and marijuana plants.

Delta-8 THC is an isomer of Delta-9 THC , generally known as THC. Delta-8 THC has some essential properties such as-

  • Antiemetic
  • Anxiolytic
  • Orexigenic
  • Analgesic
  • Neuroprotective

The two primary forms of THC are Delta-8 and Delta-9. But when people mean THC, they generally mean the Delta-9, which has high concentrations in marijuana. Both Delta-8 and Delta-9 produce a euphoric, fuzzy feeling, but Delta-8 can cause a milder high.

Delta 8-THC is a little less potent than Dwlta-9 THC, although its psychological and physiological effects remain qualitatively the same. The popularity of delta-8 is reaching higher over time. It can be available everywhere, starting from boutique weed dispensaries to convenience store shelves.

The main reason for the growing demand for Delta-8 is its chemical structure, similar to its widely known cousin- Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or Delta-9-THC, the primary psychoactive compound present in marijuana. Both of them can get you “high.”

There is another reason for Delta-8’s growing popularity. Delta-8 THC is legal to use in most states as it is extracted mainly from hemp-derived CBD, which is legal to farm across the U.S. Delta-8 THC is prevalent in a legal gray area. It is easy to buy Delta-8 products at gas stations, convenience stores, weed, vape shops, and online. Delta-8 products are sold as gummies, vaping pens, candies, oils, edibles, tinctures, joints, or beverages.

You should remember that there’s no quality control for those Delta-8 products and their ingredient list. Another crucial point is that it’s easy to confuse Delta-8 products for CBD, which does not have the psychoactive effects to cause a high.

Delta-8 THC is referred to as “marijuana-lite” or “diet weed.” Other common less potent side effects of Delta-8 THC are paranoia, anxiety, and drowsiness.

Many people have stated that they use Delta-8 and their prescription medications to help with depression. Many users say that Delta-8 can also:

  • Calm nausea
  • Ease pain relief
  • Boost appetite
  • Boost mental health
  • Prevent vomiting during cancer treatments

However, experts inform that these benefits are mostly word of mouth, and there’s still a lack of research on how it affects your health.

How Does It Work?

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the chemical compound that is responsible for the drug’s euphoric effects. The brain and many parts of the body contain lots of cannabinoid receptors, which control bodily functions. THC works by attaching to the body’s cannabinoid receptors, prevailing throughout the brain and nervous system. This harms the ability of natural cannabinoids to do their job smoothly of fine-tuning communication between neurons and turn the entire system off balance.

Although the psychoactive effects only last for a few hours, THC can be prevalent in the body much longer than most other drug compounds (up to 20 hours after ingestion). THC can also stay in body fat and organs for three to four weeks. It has evidence that hair follicle testing may identify THC after even more extended periods, like 90 days.

After entering into the bloodstream, THC from marijuana starts traveling to the brain and influences the brain receptors in communicating with the body. THC interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system has a role in-

  • Regulating stress recovery
  • Protecting our nervous system
  • Activating our immune system response
  • Regulating our homeostatic balance, which is our overall state of optimal health, function, and stability.

The ECS comprises of two things:

1.Cannabinoid receptors, existing in nearly every region of your central nervous system and brain, and many other areas of the body, including the immune system.

2.Cannabinoids, which you naturally produce (endocannabinoids)

The Endocannabinoid (EC) System and THC

By sending chemical “messages,” the brain cells (neurons) communicate with each other and the rest of the body. Your natural endocannabinoids, then being fit into your ECS receptors like a key in a lock, help convey messages from cell to cell.

These messages begin to help in coordinating and regulating everything that you feel, think, and do. Usually, in the presynaptic cell, the neuron releases the chemicals called neurotransmitters that travel across a small gap- the synapse, and then attach to specific receptors staying on a nearby neuron- postsynaptic cell.

This motivates the receiving neuron into action, triggering a set of events allowing the message to be passed along. THC works in the same way, just temporarily replacing the body’s own natural endocannabinoids, but with different effects, like it-

  • Releases dopamine in the brain, resulting in feelings of euphoria
  • Makes physical responses, such as reduced inflammation or an increase in hunger
  • Keeps effects on various regions of the brain
  • Hippocampus (memory)
  • The frontal cortex (thinking and decision-making) and
  • The cerebellum (physical movement and coordination)

People may also experience:

  • Altered perception of time
  • Feelings of relaxation
  • Heightened sensory perception
  • Increased appetite

While acting on presynaptic cells, the cannabinoids can control what happens next after these cells are activated. Typically, cannabinoids work like a “dimmer switch” for presynaptic neurons, limiting the number of neurotransmitters like dopamine getting released, affecting how messages are sent, received, and processed by the cell.

How Does It Affect the Body and Brain?

Although THC has many medical benefits, it can affect body and brain development and functionality. When THC gets released into your blood and swims quickly upstream, it reaches your brain in a matter of seconds affecting brain cell receptors responsible for everyday functionality. THC then follows cannabinoid chemicals occurring naturally in the body and gets itself attached to the cannabinoid receptors.

These areas, identified in the cerebral cortex, cerebellum, and basal ganglia, are connected to some processes such as-

  • Thinking
  • Memory
  • Motor movements
  • Mleasure
  • Moordination, and
  • Moncentration

THC then affects these areas much more than other active cannabinoids, like CBD. Because of its specific molecular structure, THC attaches like a bud in a rug with the neurotransmitters, which are the spaces that carry communicative messages between the neurons. It then follows the bliss molecule- anandamide, which is a body’s natural cannabinoid.

Once firmly attached, THC takes on anandamide’s role, stimulating the brain cells to release more dopamine. When THC over-activates the receptors in the brain, it can cause a euphoric high that makes users feel happy, productive, or sleepy. It can also cause a range of sensory side effects, such as-

  • Alertness
  • Calmness
  • Fragmentary thoughts
  • Light-headedness

Other side effects of THC intake including:

  • Heightened senses
  • Impaired memory and thinking
  • Changes in mood
  • Slowed judgment
  • Difficulty problem-solving
  • Cardiac complications

Sometimes you may feel so good that the feeling may overshadow your short-term memory. As a result, THC can be blamed for fuddling your hippocampus, the control center for memory.

THC has a large variety of short-term effects, which may or may not be experienced depending on the individual. For example, while some people may experience the intense feelings of calm and peace elicited by THC, others may find an increase in their anxiety levels. The difference is due to one’s body chemistry. But certain strains and different concentrations of THC can also create various outcomes in one’s feelings.

In case of an intense high, other buzz-killing short-term side effects may include-

  • Elation
  • Relaxation
  • Sedation
  • Pain relief
  • Memory impairment
  • Energy
  • Hunger
  • Drowsiness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dry mouth
  • Red eyes
  • Slowed perception of time
  • Laughter
  • Dizziness
  • Couch-lock,’ or feeling heavy
  • Anxiety/paranoia
  • Tachycardia

Using extensive THC also disturbs long-term cognitive abilities. The brain keeps developing well till a person’s 20s. So any type of influence or interference on the brain from youth can have detrimental effects. Studies say that frequent use of marijuana or THC from adolescence through adulthood can result in a loss of up to eight IQ points that remains unrecoverable.

Moreover, using THC during youth can affect verbal ability and the ability to learn new information. Typical effects of THC can worsen symptoms of common mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia.

Other long-term effects of THC include:

  • Temporary hallucinations
  • Temporary paranoia
  • Disorganized thinking
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Fertility issues

Some of the probable long-term effects include the following:

  • Memory loss
  • Lung irritation
  • Concentration and memory issues in the womb
  • Possibly lung cancer, although more research support is essential
  • Development of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome
  • Nausea and vomiting

Some of the most common effects on physical health from using THC include:

  • A higher probability of developing bronchitis when a person smokes THC
  • More phlegm
  • Lung irritation from irritants
  • A weakened immune system for THC
  • Pain relief
  • Reduction in vomiting and nausea
  • Faster heart rate by 20–50 beats per minute
  • Red eyes from the increase in blood flow
  • Relief from the symptoms of glaucoma
  • Aggravation of existing lung conditions, such as asthma
  • Interference with tumor growth
  • Interference with fetal development during pregnancy
  • Interference with brain development among teenagers
  • When people use THC medically, it is often helpful for the following:
  • Reducing pain associated with certain medical conditions
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Helping with glaucoma
  • Reducing nausea in people undergoing chemotherapy

How Do CBD and THC Interact With Each Other?

Cannabinoids and terpenoids found in cannabis plants are thought to interact with each other as well as the brain’s receptors. This interaction between phytocannabinoids and terpenes is called “the entourage effect.”

Some evidence proves that the entourage effect makes taking THC and CBD together more effective than either alone. CBD interacts with THC and enhances many of its properties.

Combining THC and CBD enhance each other’s positive effects. For example, a lot of pure THC can cause anxiety and stress. If you add CBD to the mix, its relaxing effects will tone you down. On the other hand, CBD is well known for developing the pain management properties of THC.

A combination of THC and CBD has shown better results in preclinical cancer research than either cannabinoid alone in some forms of cancer. Adding CBD to a high-THC treatment of glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer, enhanced the anti-proliferative effects of THC in cell cultures.

The interaction between THC and CBD is complicated. But here’s a general guide based upon mostly anecdotal reports:

  • All THC, no CBD = Short-lived but intense psychoactive effect.
  • Lots of THC, some CBD = Longer-lived but less intense psychoactive effect.
  • Equal THC and CBD = Few psychoactive effects.
  • A high quantity of CBD with little or no THC = No psychoactive effects.

CBD is a CB1 antagonist. A weak affinity for the CB1 receptor can block or buffer THC’s effects to some extent, depending on dosage and ratio. A 1:1 CBD: THC ratio effectively reduces the psychoactive effects of THC. More CBD than THC can reduce THC’s psychoactivity to a minimum if felt at all. Other terpenes and cannabinoids also impart their effects.

Hundreds of cannabinoid receptors are prevalent throughout the human body. They cause some specific physiological effects. CBD and THC interact with cannabinoid receptors to help treat or limit the effects of various conditions.

Potential uses of these cannabinoids for treating the conditions are as follows:

  • Pain
  • Cancer
  • Nausea
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Appetite loss and eating disorders
  • Glaucoma
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Muscle spasms


Just after THC, CBD is the most prevalent cannabinoid in marijuana. Both THC and CBD have the same molecular structure (C21H30O2) but the opposite effective properties, meaning THC and CBD act differently.

THC is the psychoactive component in marijuana that gets you high. On the contrary, CBD is non-psychoactive and acts as a counterbalance to the effects of THC. When THC induces drowsiness and gets you high, CBD increases energy.

According to Jordan Tishler, MD, President of the Association of Cannabis Specialists, CBD does not stimulate cannabinoid receptors in the brain like THC; instead, it changes the reactions of those receptors to THC. For instance, researchers have found CBD to weaken THC’s anxiety-causing effects. While THC causes anxiety and stress, the added CBD to the mix will help moderate THC’s effects by reducing anxiety or stress.

Another significant difference between THC and CBD is that cannabis THC from marijuana is federally illegal in the United States. At the same time, CBD from industrial hemp or cannabis with less than 0.3% THC is legal.

THC creates intense cerebral euphoria, while CBD lacks intoxicating or maddening effects in total. The gist is that THC activates CB1 receptors in our brain while CBD does not. CBD’s soothing effects are primarily in pain, inflammation, anxiety relief, and other medicinal benefits.

What are the Medicinal Effects of THC?

THC is typically used for recreation. But it also has numerous medicinal uses as well. Many people have been using marijuana for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. But research on its use for alleviating and treating illness is still relatively low and recent.

THC may offer benefits for a variety of conditions. When dosed appropriately, THC has multiple medical effects and benefits. After being released in the brain, this psychoactive compound can cause an order of positive symptoms-

  • pain relief
  • nausea and vomiting calmer
  • muscle relaxant
  • mood enhancer
  • appetite stimulator, and more

THC can also help treat many disorders-

  • PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • Neuropathic and chronic pain
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Inflammation
  • Arthritis
  • Migraines
  • Cancer
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Glaucoma
  • ADHD
  • Sleep apnea
  • Appetite loss
  • Chemotherapy
  • Eating Disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Symptoms associated with AIDS/HIV
  • Autoimmune diseases and disorders
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Depression
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Muscle spasticity
  • Reducing opioid use
  • Seizures

Some believe that the THC-containing pill, Dronabinol, is more effective than smoking a cannabis cigarette, but you should test it out for yourself. THC can help reduce or eliminate pain, increase the time and quality of sleep, increase appetite, and decrease muscle spasticity and tremors. In older people, little THC can be used to improve memory and promote neurogenesis.

THC is, in general, more useful for adults aged 25 or over, except in some particular medical cases. This is because of THC’s negative impact on the development of the brain. The recommendation is to consult a doctor before trying THC for any minor case or if you are under the age of 25.

Schematic showing high-level multi-step process of neurogenesis and gliogenesis. Neural stem cells can generate all neural cell types, such as neurons (neuronal progenitor), astrocytes, and oligodendrocytes (glial progenitors). Author: Audrey Effenberger. Source | CC BY-SA 4.0

There is a lot of tetrahydrocannabinol acid (THCA), an inactive compound existing in the trichomes of living cannabis plants. THCA is the most plentiful non-psychoactive cannabinoid got in cannabis. The health benefits obtained from THCA are great as the body most well absorbs them through a raw method of ingestion like cannabis juicing.

THCA is believed to offer a repository of medicinal benefits and is generally used as a nutritional supplement and dietary enrichment for the following properties:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Neuroprotective
  • Antiemetic
  • Anti-obesity

Are There Any Risk?

The psychoactive effects of marijuana or THC help it become a popular drug. It is now among the most commonly used impermissible drugs in the world. NIDA expresses that THC can trigger a recurrence in schizophrenic symptoms.

Try to avoid THC entirely if you have schizophrenia, a schizotypal disorder, or any mental health problem causing mania, extreme delusions, or hallucinations. For the antipsychotic effects, CBD may be more beneficial for such mental health problems.

THC is an increased risk of developing psychosis, especially among adolescents. THC is potentially harmful to younger people whose brains are still developing. It can also be responsible for increased anxiety, impairment of learning and decreased memory formation.

Another potential risk of taking THC appears in the form of impaired motor skills. THC may impair driving or similar tasks for approximately three hours after ingestion. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration informs that it is the second-most common psychoactive substance detected in drivers after alcohol.

Drivers should not drive at least 3 hours after consuming THC. THC usually alleviates pain. But it can also increase sensitivity to pain in some people.

Too much THC can cause

  • Drowsiness
  • Cotton-moutheuphoriatachycardia
  • Lethargy
  • Slurred speech
  • Decreased motor coordination
  • Anxiety/paranoia
  • Postural hypotension

THC also interferes with the metabolization or increases the effects of:

  • Opioids
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Sedatives
  • Anti-rejection medication for organs

Research into the long-term effects of THC now includes the following potential effects:

  • Anatomical Brain Changes
  • Bronchitis
  • Memory
  • Psychosis
  • Cancer
  • Overdose

What are the Different Ways to Consume THC?

Countless ways are there to consume THC. The most common, clear, and easiest one is smoking. Decarboxylation that occurs with heating is the key to enjoying THC works, whether one intends to smoke or eat it. In its raw form, cannabis is non-intoxicating, containing THCA. Applying heat, by lighting it in a pipe or cooking it into oil, the THCA is converted to THC, and the magic begins.

You can decide your options and choose the method from the different ways to enjoy THC that is right for you and the conditions you’re treating.

THC is mainly smoked as marijuana (dried leaves of the Cannabis plant). But actually, THC can be used or consumed in the following different ways.

  • Inhalation: This method is the fastest for delivery and the quickest for psychoactive effects, best for people who want to feel effects within minutes. There are a couple of different ways of inhaling THC with smoking or vaping among the chief ones. However, some recent reports reveal that vaping may pose safety risks. But further investigation is required.
  • Oral Ingestion: You can take THC by mouth in the form of capsules, edibles, tinctures, or oils. Although this delivery method takes a little longer to have effects, the effects tend to last longer.
  • Topical application: This method is applicable for the use of THC onto the skin only. THC is mixed with lotions, balms, salves, oils, and bath salts and then applied to the skin. The effects of this method are usually localized and probable to have no psychoactive effects. However, such topical products of THC may help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Sublingual administration: THC can also be consumed as lozenges, sprays, or dissolvable strips, placed under the tongue for use.

Is It Legal?

The legality of THC for medical and recreational use is not the same everywhere. It differs from country to country in terms of its possession, distribution, cultivation, medical methods of consumption, and medical conditions for its use. Most countries regulate or control these policies according to the three United Nations treaties:

  • The 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs
  • The 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances
  • The 1988 Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances

Most countries disallow or ban the use of cannabis for recreational purposes. Countries legalizing cannabis for recreational use are Canada, Mexico, Georgia, South Africa, and Uruguay, plus 18 states, two territories, the District of Columbia in the United States, and the Australian Capital Territory in Australia.

Commercial sale of recreational cannabis is legalized throughout Canada and Uruguay and all subnational U.S. jurisdictions having legalized possession except Washington, D.C. Many countries also have adopted a policy of limited enforcement.

The sale of cannabis is tolerated at licensed coffee shops, particularly in the Netherlands. Many countries have legalized the medical use of cannabis In the United States, THC is legal medically in 36 states, four territories, and the District of Columbia.

In contrast, recreational marijuana is legal in 18 states and Washington D.C. plus two territories, the District of Columbia and the Australian Capital Territory in Australia.

Only people over 21 have the right to purchase or possess marijuana for recreational use in these states. Adults may even grow a specific number of plants for personal use occasionally. Other 19 states allow for medical marijuana use with a doctor’s prescription only under a particular set of circumstances.

THC is also found in synthetic form in the United States by the name dronabinol under the trade name- Marinol or Syndros. It is usually prescribed for cancer patients, AIDS/HIV patients, or those undergoing chemotherapy, despite the drug being more psychoactive and less tolerable than THC. Another form of synthetic THC called nabilone (brand name- Cesamet) is also available or permissible on prescription.

Is THC a Good Choice for You?

THC has medical benefits and is considered safe. But you should consider the possibility of side effects and interactions when combined with other drugs you’re taking. If you think THC goes well with your conditions, it is a good choice for you. If you have any questions, talk with your doctor or a qualified cannabis professional before using it.

Wrap Up

THC has both medical and recreational benefits despite its severe psychoactive effects. You should think of the potentially harmful effects before choosing it to use.

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