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What is THC?

By on November 27, 2012

Summary (click to view)

  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is one of over 60 chemicals called cannabinoids found in marijuana
  • THC acts on the endocannabinoid system of the human body to elicit its effects
  • THC is produced by the female Cannabis plant
  • THC acts mostly on the brain and is responsible for the “high” that users experience
  • THC is medically beneficial in a long list of disorders
  • THC is non-toxic
  • To date, there is little conclusive evidence of any long-term side effects of THC
  • Chemical structure of tetrahydrocannabinol

    Chemical structure of tetrahydrocannabinol – THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the active ingredient in marijuana. It is the chemical responsible for many of the drug’s effects.

    THC is best known for causing the “high” associated with marijuana. But THC is responsible for a number of its medical properties too.

    THC belongs to a larger class of chemicals known as cannabinoids. Marijuana contains over 60 different cannabinoids, but THC is usually present in the largest amounts.

    THC was first isolated in 1964. In the early 90s, scientists uncovered a unique system of the body that could explain how THC works. THC was shown to mimic the activity of natural compounds in the body. These compounds, known as endocannabinoids, are part of the body’s endocannabinoid system.

    THC and endocannabinoids affect the body similarly by targeting the same pathways. These pathways are called cannabinoid receptors.


    THC is produced by the flowers of the female cannabis plant. Different plants produce different amounts of THC. As a result, there is a wide range of THC levels among plants.

    Some varieties of cannabis, like hemp, have almost no THC. Others contain large amounts of THC. Plants rich in THC are cultivated mainly for recreational purposes.

    Short-term Effects

    Although cannabinoid receptors are found throughout the human body, THC acts mostly on receptors in the brain. This is why THC has such strong psychoactive properties.

    Along with causing feelings of euphoria, THC is known to stimulate appetite and induce relaxation. It may alter certain sights, sounds and tastes. THC can also cause temporary impairments in cognition and motor coordination.

    Long-term Effects

    Studies documenting the long-term effects of THC intake have produced inconsistent results. Although highly debated, certain studies have found long-term use to result in the following negative side effects:

  • Short-term memory loss
  • Lower mental aptitude scores
  • Higher rates of psychosis and schizophrenia
    However, there has yet to be conclusive evidence of any negative, long-term effect associated with THC intake.

    Medical Properties

    Extensive research over the past few decades has found THC to possess many medical properties. In fact, THC has been suggested as a treatment for a long list of disorders, some of which include:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Stroke
  • Glaucoma
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Sleep apnea
  • ADHD
  • Tourette syndrome
  • PTSD
  • Cancer (various forms)

    Despite its therapeutic potential, THC’s psychoactive effects are commonly cited as a barrier to its use as a medicine. Yet, a number of THC-based medications exist today.

    Marinol, a synthetic THC pill, has been available in the United States since 1985 for treating nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy. In 1992, the FDA approved Marinol as a treatment for appetite loss in AIDS patients.

    Cesamet, another synthetic form of THC, is available in Canada, Mexico and the UK for treating nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy.


    Although the toxicity level of THC has never been tested on humans, animal studies have demonstrated it to be remarkably non-toxic.

    Studies involving small animals such as rats have shown that a tremendous amount of THC (around 1000mg/kg) must be administered in order for death to occur. Other studies involving larger animals failed to result in death even when doses of THC of up to 3000mg/kg were administered.

    Likewise, a fatal overdose in humans has never been reported.

    • pharma

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      • Steve

        Hey wats up hw much are you selling your weed for and kinds do you have

    • StonersRetreat

      How about THC being lipophilic in nature – it can easily get in the fat tissue and stay there. Can THC build up in the system and cause some other problems?