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THC: Everything You Need to Know About Cannabis’ Psychoactive Compound

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People new to cannabis assume that its use in any form makes you high. This is such a gross oversimplification. For beginners, it’s important that they understand the many compounds that make up the cannabis plant. You cannot truly understand marijuana without learning about THC. This is especially true for recreational users.

What Is THC?

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is a type of cannabinoid. It’s in most strains of cannabis plants albeit in varying degrees. There are an estimated 85 to 100 cannabinoids in a typical marijuana. Each has its own beneficial and medicinal properties as they interact with the brain’s receptors. Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is one of the more well-known forms of cannabinoids. Most medical users use a strain high in CBD. Visit our previous post for information on medical cannabis and CBD.

THC, on the other hand, is the cannabinoid with the psychoactive effect. If you’re a user and got high while vaping, smoking, or ingesting marijuana, then the strain was high in THC.

Researchers classify THC and other cannabinoids as secondary metabolites. This means they are chemical byproducts that don’t aid in the plant’s growth. Scientists believe, though, that the cannabinoids may act as a sort of immune system for fending off parasites and predators.

Back in the 1960s, an Israeli chemist discovered a way to isolate THC and other cannabinoids from cannabis. This marked the beginning of cannabinoid research. Once researchers identified THC as the psychoactive compound, you can bet it received the lion’s share of attention.

How THC Works

When smoked or ingested, THC binds with receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The THC activates the receptors in the ECS, brain, and nervous system. This is what produces the euphoric high.

Here’s the deal; THC has a similar effect as anandamide. The latter is a compound the body produces naturally during intense bouts of aerobic exercise. Anandamide is responsible for the runner’s high you feel after a good jog. What this means is that anandamide is essentially the body’s natural THC. You can probably infer, then, that THC from cannabis produces a similar effect.

The exact mechanisms are far more complex, but for the laymen, the above explanation is the gist of it.

What to Expect When Using THC

Multiple factors affect your response to THC. This includes the oil or dab’s concentration levels, the strain type, and your own sensitivity. Some people report feeling an extraordinary sense of peace and calm. Others feel euphoric but with a slight tinge of anxiety.

If you choose to use THC, then please start slow with a small dose. Whatever sensations you feel will last anywhere from minutes to hours. Regular users have also reported the following:

  • A giggly feeling
  • A skewed perception of time
  • Bodily relaxation and an unusual ease of physical movement
  • Increased mental alertness or the opposite, feeling drowsy
  • Heightened awareness or amplification of the five senses

The cannabis oil, dab, or wax may also contain other cannabinoids, including CBD. This means you may experience other positive side effects, such as pain and stress relief. THC, though, has medicinal qualities of its own. One study1 showed that THC may have anti-inflammatory qualities. This has huge implications as inflammation is linked to a number of diseases. This includes ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, and arthritis just to list a few.

Where Can I Find Cannabis with THC?

If you want to experience getting high, then we have bad news. THC is actually banned under federal law. Lawmakers have categorized THC as a controlled substance, and cannabis products cannot have THC levels above 0.3%. There are, however, medical exceptions, though these exceptions differ state to state.

The legal status of marijuana is unnecessarily complex thanks to inept and uninformed politicians. We have discussed cannabis laws at the federal and state level in previous posts. See our article on cannabis legality where we go over the laws regarding THC and CBD.

In any case, don’t expect to find CBD oil with sufficient THC concentrations in any site. Cannabis products primarily contain hemp extract. Hemp is derived from a cannabis strain with high CBD and very little THC.

While you may not get high from a CBD supplement, we still recommend you give CBD a try. Many users report positive effects, ranging from anxiety relief to pain management. We must mention, though, that even CBD is not completely legal. Currently, CBD for medical use is only legal in 28 states. Again, we recommend seeing our previous post on CBD legality to learn more about this complex issue.

Regardless of state of residence, we advise you to be cautious if you do find a store carrying THC oil. Be absolutely certain the store is a registered dispensary. You should also be wary if the store does not ask to see a prescription.

We don’t recommend you get THC products on the black market either. You have no idea about the exact THC concentrations or the presence of dangerous chemicals or solvents. If you know a friend of a friend who sells the stuff in a dark alleyway, we advise keeping away.

Our Final Word

Our advice here is not to get too curious about THC. We totally understand that the thought of getting high sounds like an awesome way to unwind. However, the legal issues really throw a wrench into the subject matter. If you really want to experiment, then we suggest sticking with CBD. See our Where to Buy page for links to certified and reputable suppliers that follow the law to the letter.

Medical References

1.
Nagarkatti P, Pandey R, Rieder S, Hegde V, Nagarkatti M. Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Future Med Chem. 2009;1(7):1333-1349. [PMC]
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Melissa Miller

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