THC – Drug or Medicine?

THC is the most infamous of all cannabinoids and the reason why many people first experiment with cannabis. Let take a deep dive into the topic to figure out exactly what it is.
Person smoking THC

THC is the bad boy of cannabis – it’s the part of the plant responsible for all those funny feelings which stoners love and buzzkills hate. But it also has serious medical benefits. Let’s take a closer look…

WHAT DOES THC STAND FOR?

THC stands for “TetraHydroCannabinol”, which is the shortened version of “delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol” or “Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol” (Δ-9-THC).

WHAT IS THC?

THC is a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant – in fact, it is the most notorious of all cannabinoids, as it is the primary one which provides the “high” people associate with consuming the plant.  

There is also a certain amount of controversy, with many people asking “is THC a drug?”. We at Green Planet would answer “yes it is” (which this article discusses in depth), as it can be considered both a medicinal pharmaceutical drug and a recreational street drug.    

WHERE DOES THC COME FROM?

THC is produced by the flowers of the female cannabis plant (sometimes wrongly referred to as “marijuana”). It is found in the trichomes, which are the sparkly crystals which cannabis buds are covered in. Trichomes appear towards the end of the life cycle of the plant, and when they have reached their highest potency, growers will harvest the plant and hang the buds to dry.

While other parts of the cannabis plant contain other cannabinoids, it is the flowers which produce THC. In fact, the lovely crystals which end up as tetrahydrocannabinol begin as another cannabinoid, CBGa, which turns into THCa as the plant grows. When THCa is heated up (a process known as “decarboxylation”) it becomes THC. It is only intoxicating or psychoactive when it is dried and heated. THCa and CBGa in raw cannabis will not get you high, though they do have medicinal benefits.

HOW DOES THC WORK?

THC is psychoactive, meaning that it affects how you think and feel, unlike CBD, which is not psychoactive. This is why it can be associated with paranoia and skizophrenia, especially in strains bred to be extremely high in THC but low in CBD (which acts as a counterbalance to the psychoactive effects of THC). It works by interacting with the cannabinoid receptors in your endogenous endocannabinoid system (yep, it’s a mouthful! …learn about The Endocannabinoid System here)[link], and unlike most other cannabinoids, it effects both the CB1 and CB2 receptors. This is what leads to the variety of effects in the body.

WHAT DOES THC DO?  

Tetrahydrocannabinol tends to be popular as both a prescribed cannabis medicine and as a street drug because of its diverse and versatile effects. Many individuals “self-medicate” with it for ailments related to pain, stress, depression and the more mundane elements of daily life in the 21st Century such as boredom, isolation and loneliness.

As the most well-known and highly-desired cannabinoid, THC has been the subject of much research into medical cannabis. So far, it has been demonstrated to help with:

  • aches
  • anxiety
  • arthritis
  • chronic fatigue
  • chronic stress
  • depression
  • glaucoma
  • inflammation
  • insomnia
  • lack of appetite
  • muscle spasticity
  • nausea
  • pain

HOW DO PEOPLE CONSUME IT?

Smoking

THC is consumed in a variety of ways – the most common way is to smoke the dried buds. In the United States and the rest of the Americas it is most common to smoke it pure, while in Europe and Australia people generally mix it with tobacco. It has become increasingly popular to vape THC oil, but please be careful where you source it from – the wrong kind can be very toxic. Many people smoke it from a bong or pipe to intensify the effects.  

Eating

Some people don’t like the sensation of smoking, and so they prefer to eat it. This can be done in a variety of ways – the easiest way is in places where it’s legal and edibles can be purchased. A word of warning – if you choose to eat it, start with just a little bit and don’t have more until approximately one hour later. It can take a minute to kick in, and if you’re new to it, it may not be very nice to find yourself stoned off your brain and having to ride it out for a couple of hours. Just like adding salt when cooking, you can always add more later but you can’t take it out – so start low and go slow! 

THC Oil

Another popular way to consume it is as an extract made from the flowers of the cannabis plant. This is how many medical marijuana patients consume their THC, as it can easily be dosed and taken as drop under the tongue, or even applied directly to areas of pain. In most cases it’s a far more dependable way to orally ingest THC, as doses vary quite a lot with edibles. It can also be taken via a patch applied to the skin, as a capsule or pill, or as a spray.

If you’re looking for THC here in Australia, please refer to our Medical Marijuana In Australia guide. If you have further questions about it, feel free to leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you ASAP!

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