How Does THC Affect the Body?
Humans have used cannabis for a variety of reasons since the dawn of civilization. THC has a history of being used for both recreational and medicinal purposes. Understanding how THC affects the body removes some of the mystique and myths that surround its use.
While cannabis has been cultivated and used by humans for thousands of years, knowledge of the plant’s pharmacological properties is limited and based on studies performed within the past century. Cannabinol was the first cannabinoid isolated from the plant. At the time of its discovery, in the late nineteenth-century, cannabinol was wrongly believed to be the ingredient that gave marijuana its psychoactive properties. In 1963 cannabidiol (CBD) was discovered and one year later the psychoactive ingredient, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), was identified.
The next significant milestone in cannabinoid research occurred in the 1990s when specific cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) were identified. This discovery is what confirmed the existence of the human body’s endocannabinoid system.
How THC Works
Both CB1 and CB2 receptors play role in regulating serotonin transporter activity. These cannabinoid receptors mediate the inhibitory action and ongoing release of several excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters. CB1Rs also modulate movement, memory, cognition, sensory perceptions and even time perception.
CB1 receptors are found in the nervous system, liver, thyroid, uterus, bones and testicular tissue but primarily in the brain, while CB2 receptors inherently affect the immune system. When cannabis enters the body, the plant’s psychoactive cannabinoid THC activated the CB1 receptors causing the euphoric feeling associated with marijuana.
How THC Affects the Body
Upon ingesting cannabis, the THC molecule binds to CB1 receptors and inhibits the release of neurotransmitters usually modulated by other endocannabinoids. THC is believed to increase the release of dopamine, glutamate, and acetylcholine in the brain by inhibiting the release of an inhibitory neurotransmitter. The release of these chemicals in the brain is what causes the euphoric feeling associated with marijuana. Most of the sensations experienced when consuming cannabis are the result of changes in the brain.
THC can produce hypoactivity, hypothermia, short-term memory impairment as well as the well know euphoric feelings. The function of cannabinoid receptors is complicated due to complex interactions with other neurotransmitter systems. The effect of THC on the body is also affected by the availability of other cannabinoids such as CBD, found in the product.
Research indicates that the two primary cannabinoids found in cannabis, THC, and CBD, have similar effects in some areas, but have opposite effects in other aspects. The full range of cannabinoids each has a unique effect on the endocannabinoid system and each other. Studies show that higher levels of CBD, which does not affect body temperature off memory alone, can optimize the impact of lower does of THC.
The most common medical use of cannabis is to control chronic pain. THC and the other cannabinoids effectively reduce inflammation, relieving chronic pain, muscle aches, and soreness. The proper ratio of THC and CBD also relieves stress and anxiety.
As with any medicine, the effects of THC varies among individuals. Unlike other medications, THC has no serious short or long-term side effects. The most significant health concern associated with cannabis and THC has always been inhaling burnt plant material. New delivery methods have provided healthy and practical alternatives to smoking cannabis.
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