THC, short for tetrahydrocannabinol, is the primary psychoactive constituent of cannabis. It is one of the more than hundred identified cannabinoids in cannabis. Users can consume THC in many ways, including smoking it, eating it, applying it topically, or swallowing it in capsule form. THC is not legal federally but is legal medically in some states.
How THC Works
Tetrahydrocannabinol binds with the cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors in the brain to produce a high sense of euphoria. According to scientists, THC attaches to CB1 receptors and activates them, thereby affecting a person’s movements, memory, concentration, thinking, pleasure, sensory perception, time perception, and coordination. Operating heavy machinery while under the influence of THC may, therefore, be dangerous.
THC stimulates brain cells to release dopamine, which creates a euphoric feeling. This cannabinoid also affects the hippocampus, part of the brain responsible for forming new memories, interfering with how information is processed. It can change thinking, induce hallucinations, and cause delusions. It usually takes about 10 to 30 minutes after consumption for it to kick in; the effects last about two hours on average.
FDA-approved Dronabinol—a drug synthesized from tetrahydrocannabinol — helps treat or prevent nausea and vomiting associated with cancer treatment. It may also increase appetite in people with AIDS and those with eating disorders. Some people also give it to pets for pain and anxiety relief. However, we do not recommend this due to the extreme sensitivity of most animals to the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol.
Several clinical trials involving thousands of patients have shown that Sativex, a spray containing tetrahydrocannabinol, can improve self-reported symptoms of spasticity and muscle stiffness, urination frequency, and neuropathic pain associated with multiple sclerosis.
Using THC may cause temporary side effects such as dry mouth, increased heart rate, coordination problems, red eyes, memory loss, and anxiety.
THC has medical benefits and is considered safe, but users must consider the possibility of side effects.
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