What is THC, What Does THC Stand For?


THC also known as its scientific name, tetrahydrocannabinol is the main chemical responsible for cannabis’s psychological effects. When activated it acts much like the cannabinoid chemicals made naturally inside the human body.

THC is one of the many chemical compounds found in the resin, produced by the glands of the cannabis plant. These glands are found around the reproductive organs of the plant according to the National Centre for Biotechnology Information. These are the flowers a.k.a the “bud” that are produced by the cannabis plant. Here the trichomes grow in abundance and inside of the trichomes is where the THC is located. Trichomes look like clear-hair like structures. Depending on the strain and type of cannabis there will be more THC present. Hypothetically, the more trichomes produced on your bud, the more potent it is.

A green cannabis plant in the background. The chemical structure of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in front of it. Shows what is THC.
The chemical structure that makes up tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

How does THC affect the body

The human body houses the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid (ECS) system is responsible for regulating a variety of physiological and cognitive processes. These include fertility, pregnancy, appetite, pain-sensation, memory, and mood. It is in charge of mediating the pharmacological effects that cannabis has on the body.

There are two endocannabinoid receptors that have been discovered. The one that is affected by THC is called CB1. These receptors are found in the brain and nervous system. Also in peripheral organs and tissues (such as the stomach). This receptor is the main molecular spot of the endocannabinoid ligand (this binds the receptors together). Therefore, activated when tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is present.

The clear-hair like structures are the trichomes on the flower produced by the cannabis plant. Here the THC is located inside the resin. The plant is green with purple hairs growing out of it. Helps show what THC is.
The clear-hair like structures growing out of the cannabis bud are the trichomes. Inside the resin is where the THC is located.

Cannabinoid receptors are located in specific areas of the brain. This location’s associated with thinking, memory, pleasure, coordination and time perception. When present in the body, THC attaches to these receptors and activates them. In other words, when activated it alters and affects a person’s; memory, pleasure, coordination, movements, concentration, thinking, and sensory and time perception.

How THC affects the brain

Inside the human brain, there is a massive number of highly specialized cells called neurons. Neuron’s communicates to another by releasing chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are like electrical sockets in the brain. Only the right socket can fit in the desired location. This is true for neurons and their connections. Only specific chemicals can activate and be transmitted through these neurons. If it’s not the right fit, there will be no effect.

When you take cannabis. Either by inhaling vapour or taking an edible. An individual allows compounds originally produced by a plant to enter your body. Then the molecules travel through your bloodstream and enter your brain. Once present these compounds can influence brain activity by interacting with receptors on neurons. But they don’t interact with all neurons. Just the ones that have the appropriate receptor, a.k.a the CB1 receptors.

A green glass pipe is filled with cannabis in its "bowl". This is a common way of smoking the herb. When ignited the THC becomes active. Showing the uses of THC.
A glass pipe is packed with a “bowl” of cannabis. This is a common way of smoking the herb.

What do cannabis potency levels mean

Potency refers to the level of THC inside that particular cannabis bud. This level ranges depending on the strain, grower, location, and age.

Looking back in history the statistics show that from 1950-1990s the average level of THC was between 3-6%, now in 2019, the average range of high-grade cannabis is somewhere between 17-24% with a maximum of 30%. High THC levels are becoming more and more common due to excessive R&D. Scientists and researchers cross breed different strains to genetically engineer and create the most potent cross-over.

This generic engineering race has just started as companies are competing to grow and create the most potent bud. This is because recreational marijuana smokers and medicinal user alike are keen on getting the most out of their bud. With more potent strains a user can ingest less cannabis to feel the same effects. The opposite being the less potency means the more the user must consume to produce the desired effects. Regions become legalized, followed by more and more cannabis cultivated. This lowers prices while keeping the cannabis quality high. If all of this is new to you make sure to check out the beginner’s guide to cannabis to learn more.

This vibrant green cannabis plant has its trichomes fully developed. This is where the THC is located. These clear hair-like structures erect from the middle of the cannabis flowers, also known as the bud. Shows what the THC is made of.
This developed cannabis plant has its trichomes fully developed. These clear hair-like structures erect from the flowers of the bud and contain a majority of all the THC.

The medical benefits of cannabis

The legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada and the medical legalization in over half the states in the U.S. have created a rush of new scientific studies and research.

Some of the known medicinal benefits include:

  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Anorexia and Cachexia
  • Spasticity
  • Movement Disorders
  • Pain
  • Glaucoma
  • Epilepsy
  • Asthma
  • Dependency and Withdrawal
  • Psychiatric Symptoms (Depression, Anxiety and More)
  • Autoimmune Diseases and Inflammation
  • New benefits are being researched

The medical and therapeutic uses and benefits are overwhelming. Studies are still being confirmed and tested. This plant is known for being a scapegoat. Now it’s becoming mainstream and legalized worldwide. Scientists can legally study and do actual verified research. My prediction is in the next decade we will find hundreds of new uses and potential for this naturally occurring plant. The more people conducting research the more opportunity there will be to make discoveries.

A purple lighter ignites the cannabis that is packed inside the bowl of the pipe. The activated THC gives the desired effects. The ash is red hot and producing smoke. THC is activated when in contact with fire.
A person inhaling medical cannabis through a green glass pipe.

The medical risks associated with THC

THC stimulates cells in the brain to release dopamine, creating a euphoric experience. It also interferes with how information is processed in the hippocampus. The part of the brain responsible for forming new memories.

THC can induce mild hallucinations, alter individuals thinking and cause delusions. On average, the effects last around two hours and start to kick in 10 to 30 minutes after ingestion.

Depending on the individual, a psychomotor impairment may continue after the perceived high has stopped. A major possible risk of consuming THC comes in the form of impaired motor skills. Cannabis may impair driving or related tasks for approximately three hours after consumption. THC ranked second-most common psychoactive substance found in drivers, after alcohol. Furthermore, even if you think you can handle it, its probably best to call an Uber. Being safe is the top priority.

Many cannabis plants growing out of a field and being cultivated. The sun is setting in the background.
Cannabis plants that are being cultivated in a field.

The effects of cannabis make it a popular drug. But these effects also concern mental health advocates. THC can trigger a relapse in schizophrenic symptoms.

The use of cannabis may cause problems for younger people. “Some of the side effects of THC include a decrease in IQ, memory and cognition, especially in younger people.” Quoted from Dr. Damon Raskin, medical director at Cliffside Malibu Treatment Center.

A big glass jar that's filled up with vibrant green cannabis. A person in the background rolling the weed up into a joint.
A glass jar filled with cannabis. A recreational user rolling it up into a joint.

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