At CBD School, we focus primarily on educating our audience about cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive compound within cannabis that is assisting many people with ailments they have.
Yet, we often get requests to cover CBD’s more dominant sibling, THC. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, is the cannabinoid within cannabis responsible for making marijuana users high, and though many CBD products contain only trace amounts of THC — or, sometimes, no THC at all — it is still beneficial for CBD users to understand and appreciate THC for the good it can do.
There are plenty of online posts that pit THC vs. CBD, but in this article, we are going to shine the spotlight on THC and give you a brief cannabis explanation.
When THC enters your bloodstream, it rushes to every nook and cranny of your body — and in some spaces, it interacts with a natural system within you called the endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS).
First discovered in 1990, the ECS seems to be a system integral to at least all mammals and possibly the group of animals that developed into mammals. The ECS in humans is incredibly complex, connected to a number of other systems within the body, to include the immune system, the reproductive system, the endocrine system, the digestive system, the nervous system and more.
As far as we can currently tell, the ECS is responsible for facilitating communication between these systems and for maintaining internal balance, called homeostasis. To accomplish these tasks, the ECS sometimes produces compounds, called endocannabinoids, which bind to different receptors to produce different effects.
The structure of THC is remarkably similar to one of these endocannabinoids, called anandamide. Anandamide is often called the “bliss molecule” because it helps the body and mind relax and enjoy pleasure.
Thus, THC successfully binds to ECS receptors around the body, inspiring similar effects to anandamide. Those effects are what make up the experience of being high: euphoria, muscle relaxation, hunger, increased libido, physical sensitivity and more.
However, there tends to be much more THC in your body at one time than there ever is anandamide, which means THC binds in greater quantities to ECS receptors and produces much more intense effects. If you use more THC than your ECS is accustomed to, these effects are likely to be overwhelming, shifting from enjoyable to concerning.
You might experience the symptoms of a THC overdose, which include panic, paranoia, nausea and hallucinations. These effects in and of themselves are not dangerous to your health, but they could put you in dangerous situations.
For example, you are at greater risk for vehicle collisions or dangerous falls when you are especially high. Thus, you should understand your tolerance and increase your dosage slowly, and you should not drive or otherwise put yourself in dangerous situations when you use THC.
Why Is THC Illegal?
It is a mistake to believe that THC is illegal because of its effects. In truth, cannabis has long been used recreationally in the U.S. — not to mention in countries around the world. African slaves brought with them the practice of smoking cannabis in water pipes for both spiritual practice and recreation, and White Americans used cannabinoids in cannabis tinctures sold as health cures throughout the 19th century. Cannabis, and therefore THC, as was legal all this time.
It wasn’t until America experienced a great immigration from Latin America that marijuana became suspect. Learning the practice from Black slaves, Latin Americans widely used cannabis recreationally, both in water pipes and in paper-rolled cigarettes.
At the turn of the 20th century, many Latin Americans were eager to benefit from the profitable industrialization in America, and they brought their families and cultures to the U.S.
Everything about the newcomers frightened and angered White Americans, who rapidly began passing laws to gain control over the Latin people within their borders. Making marijuana illegal allows American states to incarcerate People of Color, essentially eliminating whatever perceived threats they present.
Essentially, THC is illegal due to racism in the early 20th century, and it remains illegal today for many of the same reasons. You need only look at comparisons of White and Black marijuana usage and incarceration rates through history to demonstrate this fact.
As early as the 1940s, research demonstrated that marijuana posed a threat to neither individual health nor the wider community, and many studies since have reinforced that cannabis is at least as safe as alcohol, if not safer. Then as now, there is no evidence that THC causes short- or long-term damage to the body, mind or community.
Can THC Be Beneficial?
THC can in fact be beneficial to some users. While CBD is largely touted as a potential wonder drug, there are many patients that rely on medical marijuana not for CBD but for THC.
THC is much better than CBD at disrupting ongoing processes and forcing the body and mind to experience something new. This is a primary reason THC is used in the treatment of clinical depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress syndrome and more; it interrupts harmful thought patterns and replaces them with feelings of contentment, even bliss.
Additionally, THC is extremely beneficial to those suffering from appetite-related issues. Cancer treatments, HIV/AIDS and some mental disorders cause patients to have food aversions, which can result in an inability to obtain sufficient nutrients to thrive. THC stimulates appetite, helping these people consume a healthy number of calories.
What stoners call “the munchies” is in actual fact an incredibly useful tool to those suffering from extreme nausea or low appetite.
More research will likely reveal more applications of THC in medicine, and it is likely that THC will be developed into an FDA-approved drug, as CBD has. Until then, the best way to utilize THC for its benefits is within marijuana products.
Should You Use THC?
Your consumption of THC should depend on your interest and your health. You might talk to a doctor about sampling marijuana before you start, to be certain that the drug won’t cause any existing health conditions to get worse or conflict with any of your medications. THC isn’t inherently dangerous — no more than CBD — but it is wise to start with a low dose and a high amount of education.