Delta-9 THC is a very powerful substance. In the early 1970s, it was found to be about 100 times more potent than marijuana, and in the 1980s it was found that Delta-9 THC levels had increased from 1% to 10% over the past 20 years.
In a study published in 1998, researchers tested the impact of Delta-9 THC on laboratory rats and showed that Delta 9 THC has a significant effect on their behavior. The rats were given a small amount of Delta-9 THC and then placed in an empty cage. The rats were observed for several hours, and the researchers monitored their behavior when they were not being monitored by other people. They saw that the rats had no fear of other people and did not attempt to escape the cage when they were alone.
Delta-9 THC is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis. Our body has its own cannabinoid system, called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The brain produces cannabinoids on its own and it has two types of receptors that Delta-9 THC can bind to: CB1 and CB2.
CB1 receptors are found in high concentrations in the central nervous system, especially in areas of the brain that influence how we feel pleasure and pain. This is why Delta-9 THC causes a euphoric high when it binds to these receptors. They’re also found in our internal organs, where they can help reduce pain, nausea and inflammation.
CB2 receptors are found mostly in our immune system and play a role in reducing inflammation and pain. Delta-9 THC binds to both CB1 and CB2 receptors, but it acts differently on each one. It’s possible that interacting with both types of receptors at once could make Delta-9 THC more effective at easing pain than if it only interacted with one type alone.
The delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, is the most abundant cannabinoid in the cannabis plant. As a psychoactive cannabinoid, it affects the brain and mood when it binds to CB1 receptors in the endocannabinoid system.
Delta-9 THC is an effective pain reliever, anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant. It is known for its euphoric properties and for having hallucinogenic effects.
We also know that Delta-9 THC has a direct effect on the brain’s hippocampus, which regulates memory formation.
When you smoke marijuana, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) passes from your lungs into your bloodstream and throughout your body. Within minutes, your heart rate speeds up, the arteries in your lungs widen (dilate), and the blood vessels in the eyes expand (become dilated). Other effects include:
The psychoactive effects of THC can last 1 to 3 hours. If you eat marijuana instead of smoking it, it takes longer for effects to begin and they are often less intense but longer lasting.
The body contains a system of cannabinoid receptors, part of the endocannabinoid system. These receptors are not only found in humans but also in animals and even plants. The most famous cannabinoid receptor is called CB1, it is located in the brain and is responsible for the euphoric effects of Δ9-THC. Another one, called CB2, is present in the immune system and seems to be involved in pain-killing properties.
CB1 receptors are present in very high levels in the brain and are thought to be responsible for mediating the effects of cannabis consumption. It’s important to note that CB1 receptors are notorious for their low affinity for Δ9-THC, with activation requiring concentrations way above those achieved after smoking or ingesting cannabis. However, consumption of cannabis results in higher levels of Δ9-THC in tissues than circulating blood due to its ability to accumulate in fatty tissues. This phenomenon is known as fat binding (or lipophilicity) and contributes to a more prolonged effect of cannabis when compared to other drugs such as alcohol which can only bind up to 2% with plasma proteins.
According to a 2005 paper, THC has the ability to “bind with the cannabinoid receptors in the brain and block the release of neurotransmitter responsible for inflammation.” Inflammation is usually caused by an overactive immune system.
It can also reduce pain levels. In a 2014 study, patients who used a cannabis-based mouth spray reported pain relief that was similar to that provided by prescription opioids such as morphine. If you’re wondering how THC works in the body, this is it. It’s clear that THC has a direct effect on your immune system and nervous system.
THC is also known for its ability to increase appetite and decrease nausea. This makes it an effective treatment for people going through chemotherapy. Although it is not completely understood how THC works in these cases, it is known that it binds with certain receptors and triggers them to release chemicals that increase appetite or decrease nausea.
How THC Works
THC (or tetrahydrocannabinol) is the psychoactive chemical in marijuana that gives users a high. But how exactly does it work?
The brain has billions of neurons that communicate with each other through electrical and chemical signals. THC activates specific sites in the brain, called cannabinoid receptors, short-circuiting nerve cells to alter their activity.
It turns out that our brains already produce some endogenous cannabinoids (called endocannabinoids) similar to THC. These endocannabinoids are involved in various mental processes including memory and pleasure, so when we introduce THC into the equation, our brains natural chemistry becomes deranged.
When THC enters the body and begins to exert its influence on the brain, you’ll notice changes in behavior, perception, and mood – all of which are controlled by your brain’s neurotransmitters.
THC works by mimicking the effects of anandamide, a neurotransmitter produced naturally by the human body. It activates cannabinoid receptors in the brain and throughout the body to produce a wide range of effects.
In 1988, researchers discovered that THC “fits” like a molecular key into specific receptor sites on neurons in areas of the brain associated with thinking, memory, pleasure, coordination, and time perception. In 1992, researchers also identified cannabinoid receptors in other parts of the body, setting off a search for naturally occurring neurotransmitters that fit these receptors.
Scientists have now discovered two types of cannabinoid receptors: CB1 receptors are found predominantly in the brain (especially the basal ganglia, hippocampus and cerebellum) as well as the central nervous system, and CB2 receptors are located mostly in immune cells in the spleen and gastrointestinal system. CB1 receptors are activated by THC or naturally occurring endocannabinoids like anandamide; CB2 receptor activation is stimulated primarily by compounds found in cannabis known as phytocannabinoids.