What Is THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) ?
THC is the most well-known compound of cannabis. The THC chemical structure has become very popular. It’s being printed on stoner shirts, included as a design element in jewelry pieces, and some people have even chosen to get tattoos of it. But how much you really now about this key component apart from that it is the one to get you high?
The Discovery of THC
Although the history of cannabis dates thousands of years back, THC was discovered quite recently. I bet you have heard of an Israeli scientist Raphael Mechoulam whose been called “The Father of Cannabis” and “The Man”. This guy has made headlines almost in every marijuana-friendly media available for several years.
Mechoulam and his colleagues, Dr. Yehiel Gaoni and Dr. Haviv Ederey, were the first ones to isolate and elucidate the active constituent of weed – THC. That day at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, in 1964 was the beginning of ganja revolution and modern medical marijuana movement. Besides, Mechoulam has made many other discoveries while studying the chemical secrets of the magical plant and its compounds interacting with the human body.
Along with the discovery of THC, the Israeli scientist deciphered the molecular structure of the non-psychoactive compound – CBD.
The Chemistry behind THC
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is the only psychoactive compound of cannabis out of more than 85 cannabinoids. As many other cannabinoids, THC concentrates in the resin that been secreted by glands of the cannabis plant.
Mechoulam was the one to discover the cannabinoid receptors in the human body and research their interactions with THC and CBD. He explained the science behind getting high. You’re probably thinking that he was toking like crazy. But the truth is – not even once he tried to smoke marijuana.
In an interview with VICE, he said that his wife made a cake with a high dose of THC. He just wanted to confirm that exactly this compound is responsible for the high. It was the only time when the „The Father of Marijuana” got high. He’s probably the first person ever to try edibles too.
Continuing about the cannabinoid receptors in the human body, it was discovered that THC binds well with the receptor CB1. THC and CBD fit together like two puzzle pieces. And, boom – there comes the high.
But Mechoulam and his team also found that a compound produced by the human body is responsible for that nice feeling of joy – Anandamide. A fellow scientist named the compound after a word from Sanskrit “ananda” that means – supreme joy. I guess that every stoner can only agree with this name because THC mimics the effects of that compound by interacting with CB1.
The Effects of THC
All these chemical processes create the sensations we feel when we’re high. But there’s another organic chemical THC gets working. As it stimulates the brain cells, the dopamine is being released, and, voila – we feel euphoric. The compound also interferes with the processes of the hippocampus. It’s the part of the brain that forms new memories.
According to Mechoulam, THC in high doses can cause an acute memory loss. But CBD counteracting with THC and CB1 blocks the negative effects including memory loss, paranoia, and dizziness.
Let’s not forget that since the 70s the potency of weed has increased 2 to 7 times. The effects of THC depend on the amount of it in a strain. Most ordinary strains contain only around 3% of THC. The highest measured amount of THC at the moment belongs to the strain called “Chiquita Banana”. It contains 33% of THC. I can only imagine that high.
When Mechoulam was observing monkeys on THC, they looked drunk and sedated. His friends’ reactions were a whole different story. He observed that every person has a different reaction to THC. The reactions ranged from paranoia to trance- like states. And he is totally right about that.
Apart from feeling euphoric and relaxed, or energetic, you can also get paranoid and dizzy. It depends on the potency of marijuana. However, the effects of THC usually last between 2 to 3 hours, depending on the way consumed. Many stoners get “munchies” – the feeling of being extremely hungry. During the withdrawal, many smokers start feeling tired and sleepy.
Probably the worst side effect is a dry mouth but not everyone gets it. I got it once after eating too much of a brownie. In my case, I started freaking out because of the dry mouth but drinking water saved me.
The Conclusion about “THC”
Just like any other substances, cannabis with its only psychoactive compound THC can get you hooked on it. And the negative effects only set in when it’s too much of this compound for your system to take. Many substances are harmful. You could end up dying from a heart disease because you consumed too many fatty foods while having munchies. Everything has a negative side to it. Not only smoking very potent strains might give you a dry mouth, you also might understand that happiness does grow on trees.
The majority of society can look down on cannabis as a recreational drug and medicine. But only the pro-marijuana scientists and researchers, activists and daily users of marijuana know the true potential of this plant. It’s power to alleviate all kinds of conditions and illnesses. And to raise spirits.