ANJA Presents: What is THC?
November 07, 2022
Have you ever experienced a “runner’s high”?
Did you know that an endocannabinoid- Anandamide- is responsible for giving you that runner’s high? That’s right! Similar to how the molecular structure of THC makes you feel, anandamide participates in the body's endocannabinoid system by binding to the same cannabinoid receptors that THC acts on.
So what is THC?
There are a seemingly overwhelming number of cannabis terms and jargon being thrown about. While most people know what a joint is, it’s a safe bet that fewer people could describe the main chemical that creates the famous “high” associated with cannabis. Today, we would like to discuss the notorious tetrahydrocannabinol; also known as THC.
A Quick Overview of the” Other” Major Cannabinoids
There are over 100 known cannabinoids found in cannabis flower, with more being discovered with every passing year. While today’s focus is on THC, it is worthwhile to mention a few other cannabinoids found in cannabis- so that the effects are truly distinguishable from one another.
CBD is perhaps one of the most “mainstream” cannabinoids, and can be found in grocery stores, pet products, and even shampoos! CBD has also been approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the form of a prescription oil called Epidiolex. It's approved to treat two types of epilepsy.
CBD does not have a psychoactive effect- meaning that it is not responsible for creating a mental “high” feeling. CBD is being studied as a treatment for many conditions, including Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and anxiety, but more research is needed before the FDA approves CBD as an immediate treatment for these conditions.
CBG, or cannabigerol, is a minor cannabinoid that is produced in trace amounts in standard cannabis and hemp plants. Research indicates it can bind to both CB1 and CB2 receptors within the body’s endocannabinoid system, and can also counteract the effects of other cannabinoids, such as THC. Research also suggests that CBG is an agonist to alpha-2 receptors, which are primarily found in the nervous system and regulate blood pressure and heart rate, as well as sympathetic nervous system activity. Studies also suggest that CBG has the potential to help with skin disorders like psoriasis, and may also contain antifungal properties.
While CBG shares some similar properties to CBD, there are stark differences in the molecular structure and the affected receptors that the molecule touches. Because CBG can bind to the same receptors as THC, noticeable effects revolve around the nervous system and may address conditions such as glaucoma, migraines, muscle soreness, and appetite. CBD, on the other hand, may be more effective for immunity-related conditions and regulating mood disorders- such as anxiety and MS. More research is needed on all cannabinoids before medical suggestions can be given.
Imagine THC past its prime, and you’ll get CBN. CBN is formed when the cannabis plant ages and begins to break down THC. Instead, CBN is a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) metabolite formed as cannabis ages. THC degrades into CBN over time and exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. Thus, CBN has about 25% of the potency of THC, making it mildly psychoactive in larger doses. Unlike many other cannabinoids, cannabinol (CBN) does not stem from cannabigerol (CBG). THCA converts into cannabinolic acid (CBNA), which is converted into CBN when decarboxylated or heated.
Insufficient research exists for scientists to say definitively whether CBN causes similar side effects to CBD or other cannabinoids. However, one of the main reasons people use CBN, to reduce insomnia, may be viewed as a side effect. Be aware that CBN can make you intensely sleepy.
THC Overview: What to Expect?
THC is the chemical compound responsible for cannabis’ euphoric effects. While there are multiple factors that influence the potency and experience of cannabis (check out our terpene blog post!), a higher THC percentage level generally correlates with a more intense “high” feeling.
Generally speaking, consuming THC will affect everybody differently depending on their tolerance and experience with the cannabinoid. Newer users may feel giggly, hungry, sleepy, and/or spacey. Flower and wax will have a faster onset than edibles will, but will also have a shorter effect than edibles will (this is due to the fat solubility of cannabis; THC binds to fatty lipids and is more fully digested than just smoking the cannabinoids alone). More experienced users generally feel a slight buzz, but tend to be more functional than newer users.
Anecdotally speaking, some first-time users may not feel high immediately after trying a THC product. Researchers are not sure why this is, but know that there’s nothing wrong with you if you don’t feel anything after trying cannabis for the first time. It’s best to feel too little rather than too much- and you can always try again at a later time!
It’s worth noting that while THC is often associated with recreation, it also carries wellness benefits. nausea relief, insomnia, appetite loss, and inflammation are just some of the ailments that THC may assist with.
Truthfully, the best way to understand how THC will make you feel is to experience it first-hand. Don’t worry, there have literally been zero deaths that have occurred from legal cannabis consumption! There is no known fatal limit for THC consumption.
THC Safety: A High Level
While there is practically zero chance of a THC fatality occurring, it is important to note that too much THC may induce negative side effects, and may not be ideal for everyone. If you or your family have a history of schizophrenia or similar mental health disorders, speak with a physician before trying cannabis.
For those without a familial history of schizophrenia, too much THC may lead to a temporary increase in anxiety and unease. Fortunately, this too shall pass as soon as your high dies down. In the meantime, focusing on breathing and having water will get you through the worst. Next time, look for a strain with more CBD content and/or less THC content. Even better, ask one of our friendly budtenders for advice!
THC Safety: Things to Avoid
Cannabis without a Source
While grey market cannabis may be cheaper, it has a higher chance of containing unsafe and unregulated ingredients from its grow cycle. There is no immediate way for consumers to know if their grey market cannabis product has been flushed of any dangerous pesticides or chemicals. While it’s true that the legal market owes everything to the legacy market, it is undeniable that dispensary cannabis is held to a safer and more regulated standard across the board than unregulated cannabis products are.
Without a lab report and quality control (see ANJAs “Is My Cannabis Safe?” for more information), there’s no way to ensure that the edible you’re eating is accurately dosed. That means that- while you may have a good time- you may also have a really bad time. It is a risk that can otherwise be mitigated by getting ANJA for your ganja needs.
Conclusion: A Recap of THC
THC is a wonderful, potent cannabinoid with so much potential for good. Newer users should take it slow when experimenting with THC products for the first time; it is better to be underwhelmed than overwhelmed when it comes to most new experiences. Newer users should also be aware that they may be less efficient and productive than usual when first trying a THC product; if the user is new, ANJA recommends buying snacks and drinks in advance and making sure you have no work to do for the rest of the day.
Some friendly advice to cap off this blog: don’t mix cannabis with alcohol or other substances until you are aware of how cannabis alone makes you feel. As the age-old adage goes: “Grass before beer ad you’re in the clear; beer before grass and you’re on your ass.” Make sure you are in a safe, comfortable location if you are experimenting with THC for the first time. Depending on your tolerance and what you've eaten that day, it may take a bit of time before you really understand your limits and preferences. It's not a race, it's a journey.
Best wishes and enjoy! Remember- when you have questions- we have ANJA.