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What is THC? A Beginner’s Guide To Marijuana’s Psychoactive Cannabinoid

The therapeutic benefits, side effects, and risks of THC. Welcome to cannabis 101.

There are three certainties we accept in life: death, taxes, and that THC gets you high. If you know anything about THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, it’s probably as the cannabinoid responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive effect. This is very much true, but newcomers and experienced consumers alike still have much to learn about this cannabis compound.

How does THC work?

Located throughout your body exists tiny receptors that specifically respond to cannabis compound. This is what’s known as your endocannabinoid system (ECS). These receptors allow THC to bind with your body and affect various functioning systems. Similar to neurotransmitters in your brain, endocannabinoids influence how a person feels, reacts, and moves. They don’t dictate different processes in your body, but they do act as a control center of sorts. Think of them like a light dimmer in your house: it doesn’t flip the switch on or off, but the amount of light possible.

When working properly, the ECS strive to maintain homeostasis throughout your body. It facilitates communications between cells and nerves, while also serving as a bridge between your mind and body. Humans don’t naturally produce phytocannabinoids, or cannabinoids produced by plants. This is why consuming cannabis can produce such dramatic effects on how you think or feel.

How will THC make me feel?

When you ingest THC, it instructs the brain to release dopamine. This produces the euphoric rush often associated with cannabis. Some positive effects THC is known to cause include relaxation, sedation, hunger, drowsiness, pain relief, and elation.

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There are possibly negative effects as well. Consuming too much THC could induce anxiety, paranoia, memory impairment, scattered thinking, and more. It’s often recommended new marijuana users find balanced cannabis products that include CBD to avoid these side effects. CBD can counteract the sensations caused by THC, and actually produce more therapeutic benefits.

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Possible Risks

Do not let the most high-minded hippie tell you otherwise: There are risks to smoking marijuana. If you know what they are, you should be able to prepare for them. Too much smoking and vaping can disrupt your respiratory system and result in pulmonary complications in some cases. Worth noting: A 2012 study found smoking a joint per day for up to seven years had no impact in adverse lung functioning. You can always use alternative consumption methods to avoid the possibility, however.

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You can also develop a tolerance to THC. This might cause you to smoke more, which will cause all the lung problems above. We advise taking breaks and some other methods to maintain your tolerance levels.

It is possible to overdose on marijuana, though take some calm knowing no fatal overdoses have ever been recorded. Common overdoses involve edibles, where individuals overindulge or assume the cannabis isn’t working, so they eat another gummy. Don’t worry, we have some tips so you don’t become a statistic.

Therapeutic benefits

As the National Cancer Institute notes, cannabis has been used as medicine for over 3,000 years. Prior to marijuana prohibition, many Americans actually had cannabis tinctures as household remedies for nausea and rheumatism.

Some well-known uses for THC today include:

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