THE BASICS OF TETRAHYDROCANNABINOL (THC)
You’re reading this blog, so it’s likely you’ve heard the term ‘THC’, which stands for Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Most people only know the very basics of THC and how it reacts with the body. THC is just one of more than 100 different cannabinoids currently known to science, almost all occur naturally in the cannabis plant. While some of these compounds have been discovered only recently, others have been known to researchers for some time.
Two of the best-known are delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol, commonly referred to as CBD. These two cannabinoids are well known for good reason: there are high concentrations of them in cannabis. THC is so well known largely because it’s the intoxicating component that gets the user “high”. Because of its fame, we’ll be focusing on THC.
Because THC is one of the most recognized cannabinoids, more research has been conducted on it than other, less common cannabinoids. In theory, different cannabinoids have different effects on the body. As such, many of them likely have unique, undiscovered medical uses. We’ve talked about the basics of CBD in this blog here, so let’s get into understanding the basics of THC.
Where Does THC Come From?
Whether it’s THC or CBD that you’re interested in, there is one cannabinoid responsible for both, and that’s cannabigerol acid (CBGA). CBGA is the “mother of all cannabinoids” and is found naturally within the cannabis plant in high quantities while it is being grown, and in low quantities come harvest time. Without CBGA, there would be no THC or CBD, as these two cannabinoids are created when CBGA goes through a process called decarboxylation. Decarboxylation is a process that occurs over time, or under immense heat, causing the chemicals within the plant to drop components creating new ones!
The use of cannabis as a medical remedy dates back thousands of years across many cultures around the world. However, due to relatively modern restrictions and regulations, the research into the use of cannabis as a medicine in the modern world has been severely limited. As cannabis acceptance increases around the world, the ability to research THC is opening up and we are discovering many exciting medical applications of the cannabinoid.
Why is THC Becoming so Popular for Patients?
THC’s Pain and Sleep Management Abilities
Medical cannabis is considered an effective treatment for pain management, primarily due to THC’s properties. THC also tends to make people drowsy, often helping patients fall asleep. The way THC interacts with brain cell receptors has shown to have profound effects on the body’s sleep cycle. This means that insomnia sufferers and patients with chronic pain alike may benefit from THC.
If pain is keeping you from falling asleep, THC could be an effective tool to help you get a good night’s rest. It could also help you sleep longer and achieve better-quality sleep. Many patients report feeling more relaxed with the use of THC-dominant strains of medical cannabis which can help with many types of anxiety and muscle spasms.
Some other medical symptoms THC can help with:
· Suppress muscle spasms
· Reduce the risk of nerve damage
· Help with relaxation and decrease anxiety
· Appetite stimulant
Continuing Research with THC
There are some suggestions THC (as well as other cannabinoids) could play a role in the treatment of symptoms of dementia and anorexia. Researchers are also interested in discovering the effectiveness of treatment when THC and CBD are combined. Patients have reported that combining the two compounds are better than those only containing THC. However, more research on THC and how it interacts with other cannabinoids in the human body is needed before anything conclusive is determined.
The Downsides of THC
Over Medicating with THC
As mentioned, THC is intoxicating, meaning it directly acts on the brain, causing a ‘high’. While this isn’t necessarily bad, it can cause some patients to experience negative effects. As cannabis has only legally been allowed for medical purposes for a short time, it’s easy for patients who are inexperienced with medical cannabis to overmedicate.
THC Overdose (What is a THC “Overdose”?)
Too much THC can produce anxiety, dizziness, nausea and, in some cases, vomiting. In rare circumstances when patients have pre-existing genetic markers for psychosis, THC can trigger a psychotic event or state.
Another concern many prescribing doctors have to consider is how to prescribe and dose a patient with enough THC to be effective, but not enough to impede everyday patient quality of life, or the ability to continue to operate at a ‘normal’ level. Because THC is the intoxicating agent in cannabis, driving while medicated or “under the influence” is both illegal and very dangerous.
Apart from the stigma involved, these are the reasons many doctors and other medical professionals treat the use of THC-dominant strains with caution. Given these risks, some patients with pre-existing mental health issues should avoid THC. Always talk to your doctor about what is right for you and your condition.
The most important part of using THC as medicine in any form is dose control. Listen and work with your doctor to understand how to dose appropriately, and what a safe starting dose is for you, and your specific needs.
Curious about how else cannabis may be able to help with your ailment? Book an appointment with our doctors or sign up to our newsletter and follow us on social to stay up to date on cannabis developments.