Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the primary psychoactive component in cannabis, responsible for the drug’s euphoric effects. THC’s potency varies with the cannabis strain and consumption method, whether smoked, vaped, or ingested. Raphael Mechoulam and his team discovered and isolated THC in the 1960s, revealing its chemical structure and effects, which advanced understanding of cannabis and its medical potential. While THC has recreational and medicinal uses, awareness of its risks, particularly concerning addiction and recovery, is crucial.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive component in cannabis and one of over 113 cannabinoids identified in the plant. Its chemical formula is C21H30O2, but it’s commonly known as the delta-9-THC isomer. THC is believed to help the cannabis plant protect itself against insects, UV light, and environmental stress. It was first isolated in 1964 by Raphael Mechoulam, an Israeli chemist.
When smoked, THC enters the bloodstream and affects the brain, particularly areas involved in thinking, memory, pleasure, coordination, and movement. THC is one of three cannabinoids regulated by the UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Initially listed as a Schedule I substance in 1971, indicating high potential for abuse and no medical use, it was reclassified to Schedule II in 1991. The WHO has since suggested moving it to the less-restrictive Schedule III.
Cannabis, as a plant, is under strict international controls. In the U.S., it remains a Schedule I drug under federal law, signifying no accepted medical use and a lack of safety. However, a pharmaceutical form of THC, dronabinol, is FDA-approved as an appetite stimulant and antiemetic under the names Marinol and Syndros.
For centuries, cannabis has been grown for hemp production and its believed medical and mind-altering effects. Delta9 tetrahydrocannabinol (delta9-THC), one of the main active chemicals in cannabis, is largely responsible for the effects of smoked marijuana. In the mid-19th century, cannabis-based products were introduced in Western medicine for treating conditions like anxiety, insomnia, rheumatic diseases, migraines, painful menstruation, strychnine poisoning, and opioid withdrawal. Although cannabis is a controlled substance, delta9-THC is sometimes used to manage nausea and vomiting in cancer chemotherapy patients. It also stimulates appetite, helping AIDS patients combat weight loss. Additionally, it’s considered potentially useful in treating glaucoma by lowering eye pressure.
What is the difference Between THC and CBD
CBD and THC are both cannabinoids derived from the cannabis plant, but they have different effects and legal statuses. THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is psychoactive and responsible for the “high” associated with marijuana use. It’s considered a Schedule 1 controlled substance by the U.S. DEA, indicating a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, despite some legalizations for medical purposes. THC is found in marijuana, hash, and hash oil.
On the other hand, CBD (cannabidiol) is non-psychoactive and doesn’t cause a high. It’s more accessible in the U.S. and comes in various forms like oils, extracts, patches, vapes, and lotions. CBD is known for potential health benefits and is the active ingredient in Epidiolex, an FDA-approved medication for epilepsy.
What is delta-8 and delta-9 THC?
In regions where it’s legal, recreational and medical marijuana dispensaries often sell a variety of products containing delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-9 THC). Another compound, delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-8 THC), which is similar but less potent than delta-9 THC, is also available legally in some places.
Both delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC are derived from the cannabis sativa plant, which naturally produces over 100 cannabinoids. The plant has a higher concentration of delta-9 THC compared to the much smaller amount of delta-8 THC, a less prevalent cannabinoid.
While both delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC can induce psychoactive effects or a ‘high’ depending on their quality and quantity, they have key differences. It’s important to be aware of these distinctions before using either of these substances.
Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-8 THC), a psychoactive component of the Cannabis sativa plant, is increasingly used but presents potential risks. This cannabinoid, typically derived from hemp-derived CBD due to its low natural occurrence, has not been approved for safety by the FDA. The FDA warns that delta-8 THC products are often mislabeled and pose significant public health risks. From December 2020 to February 2022, there were 104 reports of adverse effects, including hallucinations and loss of consciousness, with many incidents involving children, as noted by poison control centers. Delta-8 THC has similar psychoactive and intoxicating effects as delta-9 THC, the main psychoactive element in cannabis, and can result in higher exposure levels. The manufacturing process of delta-8 THC is concerning due to the use of potentially harmful chemicals, leading to unsafe contaminants. Moreover, these products are often packaged in ways that attract children and pets, leading to accidental exposures. In response to these rising issues, particularly the increase in adverse event reports, appealing marketing to children, and contamination concerns, the FDA is actively working with various partners to address these challenges and enforce regulations against non-compliant products.
Other Cannabis Compounds
The Cannabis sativa plant makes many active substances that could have health benefits. These include terpenes, flavonoids, and cannabinoids. The most well-known of these are THC and CBD. THC is what makes people feel high when they use cannabis. In the past, people mainly used cannabis for fun because of this effect. But now, there’s growing interest in how it can be used for health reasons. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sees the possible benefits of cannabis for medical use and highlights the need for more research to avoid any bad side effects.
Cannabis products are increasingly common as more U.S. states relax their laws on medical and recreational use. Millions use marijuana, derived from the cannabis sativa plant, for relaxation and treating various conditions like pain, anxiety, and insomnia. However, more research is needed to understand its full impact. Neuroscientist Staci Gruber is at the forefront of this research.
Gruber, a Harvard Medical School associate professor, leads the Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery (MIND) program. Her team uses cognitive tests and neuroimaging to study how cannabis affects the brain. They’ve found that early, heavy marijuana use can impact cognitive functions like memory and judgment. Gruber’s research also focuses on medical cannabis, especially its long-term effects, as this area is largely unexplored.
Early findings from the MIND program show that patients using medical cannabis for various conditions have improved cognitive function over time, contrasting with the cognitive decline seen in some heavy recreational users. These patients also report better mood, energy, and sleep, and a decrease in conventional medication use. This improvement might be due to symptom relief and reduced use of other medications. Older medical cannabis users might also benefit from its effects on the aging endocannabinoid system, which regulates key body functions.
Gruber’s lab is conducting further studies, including the first clinical trial comparing two CBD formulations for treating anxiety. This work is part of a broader effort to understand cannabis’s effects and potential medical applications.
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