Is Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that scary, unhealthy, and damn-right dangerous substance the governing and regulatory bodies in the US (and beyond) want you to think?
It’s supposedly the gateway to other harder drugs (with no substantial evidence to support this) and it’s the substance that turns people’s minds to mush every time they take it (even though it has some really useful health benefits).
You see, THC’s reputation isn’t great, especially amongst people who don’t understand what it can do. Just because it’s intoxicating and can impair your judgment doesn’t mean that’s all it’s useful for.
TL;DR: THC benefits and side effects
- THC is one of 113 cannabinoids in varieties of cannabis — it’s also the only intoxicating cannabinoid
- THC is federally illegal as a class I substance, but legal in all forms recreationally in 11 states (as well as D.C.) and medicinally as medical marijuana used in 34 states.
- THC interacts with your endocannabinoid system (specifically the cannabinoid receptors) to provide you with a whole host of benefits
- THC is known to combat multiple sclerosis (MS symptoms), neuropathic pain, insomnia, glaucoma, and chemo-related nausea and vomiting
- Side-effects include anxiety, nervousness, paranoia, dry mouth, red eyes, impaired thinking, and memory loss (amongst others)
- Severity of side-effects depends on the dose and your own tolerance to THC — my dosing guide further below is useful here
What is THC?
THC is short for tetrahydrocannabinol. It’s one of 113 known cannabinoids in varieties of cannabis and also the most intoxicating. It’s also the most abundant cannabinoid with cannabidiol (CBD) a close second.
As I mentioned in the introduction, THC has a bit of a “bad boy” persona. It’s disliked by regulatory and governing health bodies in the U.S. due to the fact it gets you high as hell. It’s also snubbed by the general public as a substance only for stoners, potheads, and layabouts. This just isn’t true.
THC is a fascinating cannabinoid and the way it works in your body is equally fascinating.
How does THC work in your body?
THC interacts with what’s known as your endocannabinoid system (ECS).
What is the endocannabinoid system?
Your ECS is a naturally-occurring biological system composed of cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids, and enzymes.
It’s found in every mammal walking the earth and helps keep your body balanced, in-check, and working properly by regulating core physiological functions such as:
- Reproductive and immune systems
This regulation results in homeostasis — or, rather, physiological equilibrium.
How does THC interacts with your endocannabinoid system?
Ok, so I’ve mentioned the three components of your ECS above: cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids, and enzymes.
When THC interacts with your ECS, it targets your cannabinoid receptors, specifically your cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors. These receptors are found in various areas of your brain (hippocampus, orbitofrontal cortex, etc) and the central nervous system (CNS).
When THC binds to CB1 receptors, it impairs and alters the functionality of various brain regions, which causes impaired thinking, intoxication, memory loss, coordination issues, balance, and posture. It also causes an intense high, of course.
THC’s benefits are well-documented (and incredibly compelling)
Although studies into THC (and cannabis as a whole) needs more research and clinical studies to really determine its effectiveness as a solid treatment for a number of ailments, what we know so far is incredibly compelling.
1. Multiple sclerosis
THC as a treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS) is incredibly well-documented. In fact, Sativex (the first CBD/THC-based medication) is one of the only cannabis-derived drugs to be used medicinally.
Research into Sativex and its positive effects on MS is fascinating. Clinical studies reveal patients experience reduced neuropathic pain, muscle stiffness, and urination frequency associated with the condition.
Unfortunately, Sativex is not available over-the-counter. You definitely won’t find it in your local pharmacy. You need a signed prescription from your healthcare practitioner/doctor to get your hands on it.
2. Chemotherapy-related nausea & vomiting
Sativex has also been used for patients experiencing delayed chemotherapy-induced nausea and sickness with a high level of success. Research shows Sativex prevented 71% of patients from experiencing nausea and vomiting after chemotherapy had ended. Patients used the spray 3-5 times a day for a 5 day period after chemotherapy.
These results are staggering and show how effective cannabis-related medicines could potentially be used for cancer-induced ailments.
3. Chronic pain
Despite what THC skeptics and naysayers may say about THC’s effectiveness for treating chronic pain, many users report improved pain management and sleep when consuming THC-rich medical marijuana.
One small study of 984 medical cannabis users was promising. Over two-thirds of patients said they take medical cannabis to combat chronic pain (lower back/neck pain, neuropathic pain, post-surgery pain) and believe it helps them successfully manage the symptoms.
4. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an oftentimes debilitating autoimmune disease that causes pain and inflammation of the joints. Approximately 1.3 million Americans currently live with RA and roughly 14 out of every 100,000 are diagnosed each year.
Symptoms of RA are joint stiffness, joint pain, joint swelling, weight loss, fever, fatigue, and weakness. It can also affect the lungs, skin, and eyes. These symptoms can be mild or severe. It can leave sufferers unable to physically function, which may lead to depression and anxiety.
Unfortunately, there isn’t enough conclusive evidence surrounding THC’s effectiveness for tackling symptoms of RA. However, researchers found a higher level of CB2 receptors in patients with RA, leading them to believe medical marijuana (on the whole) may be effective.
5. Neuropathic pain
THC is known as a potential treatment for neuropathic pain. Researchers believe THC’s can positively affect the overall intensity of neuropathic pain associated with HIV, chemotherapy, and diabetes symptoms, particularly when inhaled at around 10-96 mg on a daily basis.
However, this isn’t a permanent solution by any means. THC can alleviate symptoms in the short-term (up to two weeks) but there’s little evidence it’s a long-term solution. The researchers also note THC’s potential negative mental effects if used frequently over a long period of time.
Research into THC and neuropathic pain as a result of spinal cord trauma and injury are also positive. The team found a THC dose ranging between approximately 3-6.7% alleviated symptoms for roughly two hours.
6. Insomnia & sleep-related issues
THC’s effectiveness for insomnia and sleep-related issues is somewhat inconclusive. There are very few clinical studies for me to make an accurate assessment. However, from what’s known right now, researchers believe it can shorten the length of time it takes someone to fall asleep and enter a deep sleep phase.
The problem is, THC also affects REM sleep, which, in turn, affects dream phases. REM is vital for healthy cognition and immune system strength. High-strength marijuana with heavy THC content can also impair your sleep altogether.
If you’re using THC to help you sleep, I recommend using CBD-rich THC cannabis oil an hour or two before bed.
The link between THC and its effectiveness against glaucoma isn’t set in concrete. There are very limited studies and most evidence is purely anecdotal.
One 2016 study explored this link and revealed THC’s ability to reduce intraocular eye pressure (IOP). Interestingly, 5 mg of THC reduced IOP temporarily, whereas 40 mg increased IOP.
THC’s side-effects can range from mild to somewhat severe
The side-effects of THC can range from mild to pretty damned severe — never life-threatening or fatal, however. First-timer users typically have a harder time with THC consumption when their tolerance is low.
Effects of short-term use of THC:
- Red, puffy, bloodshot eyes
- Impaired short-term memory, making it difficult to learn and to retain information
- Impaired motor coordination — balance, hand-eye coordination affected
- Impaired thinking and reasoning — anxiousness, nervousness, paranoia
- Impaired mood — can experience lethargy (or the opposite)
- In high doses, paranoia and psychosis
Effects of long-term or heavy use of THC:
- Addiction (in about 9% of users overall, 17% of those who begin use in adolescence, and 25 to 50% of those who are daily users)
- Symptoms of chronic bronchitis
- Increased risk of chronic psychosis disorders (including schizophrenia) in persons with a predisposition to such disorders
Addiction and Withdrawal Symptoms
While much better than most class 1 substances and even alcohol, there are some notable side-effects with cannabis, particularly THC. 9% become addicted — 1 in 6 who begin at early ages according to New England Medical Journal research.
There is also recognition of a bona fide cannabis withdrawal syndrome (with symptoms that include irritability, sleeping difficulties, dysphoria, craving, and anxiety), which makes cessation difficult and contributes to relapse.
What to do when you’ve taken too much THC
Consuming way too much THC sucks. There’s no other way to describe it. Even though it won’t kill you, it’s still quite a scary experience and has the ability to be very off-putting for new users.
If you’re currently experiencing an overwhelming high or you want to know how to manage your high, follow these steps below.
1. Relax and just breathe
The first port of call is the one that’s easier said than done, but it’s very effective. Relaxing and breathing through the high offsets the frantic and often chaotic mind and body sensations. I personally put on some very calming music and lay in a dark room. It also helps to have someone who’s sober with you (preferably someone with experience smoking marijuana).
Once the high starts to subside, you’ll start to feel more relaxed and “in the moment” as opposed to being stuck in your own head. Sleep if you need to. That’ll help as well.
2. Drink a non-alcoholic drink (preferably water)
Taking a few sips of water helps too. It’ll not only counteract the horrible dry mouth feeling but will also give you something else other than your wild high to focus on.
Try not to drink alcoholic drinks, though. It’ll amplify your high. And, as a side note, be careful with drinking alcohol before you smoke. It can instantly make you feel very nauseous, which can lead to vomiting.
3. Take a swift dose of CBD
CBD is known to counteract the effects of THC by modulating how it interacts or “binds” with your cannabinoid receptors (mainly CB1). There’s also the suggestion that CBD inhibits THC’s conversion into 11-hydroxy-tetrahydrocannabinol (11-OH-THC) by preventing cytochrome P450 from metabolizing it.
It’s, therefore, worth your while having a bottle of CBD oil with you just in case. You could even dab a CBD concentrate or vape some CBD e-liquid for faster results.
Optimal THC dosing (remember to not overdo it!)
To avoid the dreaded negative side-effects of THC, you have to know how much to take. There’s absolutely no point taking more than you need to. It’ll ruin your experience and you probably won’t want to try it again.
While it’s certainly difficult to provide a 100% accurate guide to THC dosing, certain physiological indicators provide a good idea of how much you should take. These indicators include body fat percentage, body weight, and overall tolerance to THC. I’ve personally smoked bowls with way too much THC in it and I’ve instantly regretted it. Don’t make the same mistake as me.
So, with this in mind, here’s my rough THC dosing guide.
2-3 mg of THC
- Perfect if you’re a beginner or you microdose during the day
- Relieves mild pain and inflammation
- Combats mild stress & anxiety symptoms
- Can help with concentration and focus
- Won’t be overwhelming
3.5-10 mg of THC
- Much stronger. Better for beginners looking to transition to a higher strength without being overbearing
- Fantastic for mild euphoria
- Does have the capacity to alter your mind frame and impair judgment
- Useful for more chronic pain and inflammation
10-25 mg of THC
- Not for beginners. Starting here will probably make you unpleasantly high
- Helpful for chronic pain and inflammation, though it may make anxiety and stress symptoms worse
- Typically given to medical patients with a higher tolerance to THC
25-50 mg of THC
- Suitable for seasoned THC/marijuana users. Beginners should stay away from this. You won’t enjoy the high at all unless you have a Superman insensitivity to THC
There are several ways to consume THC
Cannabis oils (THC oils, marijuana oils)
Cannabis oils are no different to CBD oils in terms of how they’re created (aside from the fact they’re derived from marijuana and not hemp).
Manufacturers distill a marijuana extract into a carrier oil ready to be placed under your tongue (sublingually) or swallowed normally — the former is more effective.
We highly recommend Absolute Xtracts or Papa & Barkley for cannabis oils.
Cannabis capsules/pills/softgels (THC capsules, marijuana capsules)
Cannabis capsules, pills, and softgels are so easy to consume. Simply put one or two in your mouth and swallow with a sip of water. No fuss. No effort. Just good old fashioned slow-absorbing THC for a gradual pick-me-up throughout the day.
Level’s own cannabis pills, complete with a modest 2mg per dose, is definitely recommended here, particularly if you’re a beginner. Absolute Xtracts do a stronger cannabis capsule product with 5 mg of THC.
Cannabis edibles (THC edibles, marijuana edibles, etc)
Cannabis edibles are just as easy to consume as capsules, pills, and softgels — in fact, I’d argue they’re easier, especially if you choose to consume something sweeter. Cannabis gummies, for example, always contain delicious flavorings alongside the THC content.
Be careful here, though. Just because they’re delicious doesn’t mean you should consume above your recommended THC dosage. Too much THC and you’ll be flying high in the sky — oftentimes higher than you’d like. Go steady with them.
Kush Queen has created a really great cannabis gummy product filled with 15 mg of THC per gummy alongside amazing natural flavorings — Kanha also does a pretty awesome THC-rich cannabis gummy as well.
Smoking cannabis (THC flower, marijuana flower)
Smoking cannabis is one of the most popular ways people consume THC. You simply take dried marijuana bud, crush it up in a grinder, and place it between joint papers or tobacco leaves (pre-made or from an emptied cigar to make a blunt). Once that’s all prepped and ready, you light it up and begin smoking.
For beginners, we suggest starting with low-THC, high-CBD strains — ACDC, Ringo’s Gift, and Harle-Tsu each contain roughly 15-20% CBD and 1% THC.
Dabbing/vaporizing cannabis (THC concentrates, marijuana concentrates, THC e-liquid, etc)
Dabbing or vaporizing THC (specifically via cannabis concentrates) is the go-to delivery method for users wanting a short, sharp, and extremely potent dose of THC. Many THC concentrates contain a whopping 40-80% THC, which is way, way higher than any other method of delivering marijuana into your body.
We suggest checking out Surterra Wellness’ Granddaddy Purple Drift Cannabis Crumble.
Each of these THC products has been given the full comprehensive CBD Oracle stamp of approval by cannabis experts in the field. Each product has been properly vetted because, of course, we wouldn’t want you consuming shitty, ineffective products. You can thank us later.