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What Does THC Do To The Brain And The Body?

January 11, 2022

Cannabis has become a highly favored herb in the world of natural medicines. It can attribute its results to the many cannabinoids found in marijuana. The main one is THC. What does THC do to the brain and body?

Mentioning THC sometimes evokes mixed responses from people. While it has positive effects, some believe it to have an unfavorable impact, especially on the brain. 

Continue reading to discover the answer to this question and whether THC is bad or good for you. You’ll also learn about the health benefits and any side effects.

What does THC do to the brain and body
What does THC do to the brain and body

What is THC?

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is one of over a hundred cannabinoids present in marijuana. You’ll find it in the sticky substance secreted by glands in the cannabis plant. THC is a psychoactive compound, unlike the others. It’s responsible for the psychotropic effects experienced when consuming cannabis. 

If you wondered, “what does tetrahydrocannabinol do” it’s the chemical responsible for you enjoying the feeling of euphoria. THC’s also structurally similar to the natural cannabinoid chemicals created in your body. The similarity makes THC familiar to your endocannabinoid system and can therefore easily attach itself to the receptors. 

You can consume THC in various forms. The most popular method used is smoking or vaping. In recent years, consuming edibles has become part of the herb lovers’ diet and much more enjoyed because of its discreet way of ingesting marijuana.

Is THC bad for you?

Is THC bad? It’s a question many ask. THC’s psychoactive properties allow many to regard it as not being beneficial. Nothing could be further from the truth.

THC has many benefits when used correctly. The effects do, however, vary from person to person and depend on the following factors:

  • The method of consumption
  • The strain of cannabis used will determine the THC level
  • The THC dosage you choose
  • Your tolerance level
  • Your metabolism

When most of these components, if not all, are considered and carefully monitored, you'll be able to achieve an optimal experience.  What THC does to your brain is create a feeling of relaxation and joy.

Consuming THC can elevate your heart rate, and some may experience other symptoms. First-time consumers should take extra care. Start with low doses to assess the effects before increasing the dosage, known as “start low, go slow.” You can always add more but can’t take back what you’ve already consumed.

You can also try microdosing THC,  finding a minimum dose possible but still achieving satisfying effects. Consuming a few microdoses during the day can help you achieve your goals without overindulging. 

Finding an ideal dose can be challenging with many factors to consider. There are various strains of cannabis with different THC content. Choosing the ideal one will help avoid THC effects on the brain that aren’t pleasing.

Pregnant mothers who ingest THC face a greater chance of their infant being premature or underweight. There isn't any further research to determine how it might affect the baby’s future growth. Those who have health-related concerns should first consult their health professional before consuming any THC. 

Cannabis vape
Cannabis vape

What does THC do to the brain?

Cannabis is still illegal under federal law and regarded as a schedule 1 controlled substance. The legal status of marijuana limits the research on how THC affects the brain. 

Most of the information regarding the effects of THC is therefore restricted to an individual's experience. So, how does THC affect the brain?

There’s sufficient anecdotal evidence to determine that it does stimulate you mentally. On the other hand, some believe that it may lower your IQ.

Let’s have a closer look at how THC affects the brain and what part of the brain THC does affect:

What part of the brain does THC affect?

When we look at what part of the brain THC does affect, we also need to look at the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

ECS is a communications network running throughout the brain and body. The natural cannabinoids produced in the body interact within the ECS to regulate the body’s functions. 

THC, which is a foreign cannabinoid, also has a similar form to the natural ones, enabling it to attach to the ECS in the brain. The ECS covers various areas of the brain, and the part that THC affects is responsible for how you feel, react and move.

THC’s effects on the brain may disrupt the ECS normal function and result in difficulties with memory and focussed attention. You might find engaging in physical activities, like driving, challenging due to these impacts.

Another reaction THC has on the brain is the activation of the brain’s rewards system. The stimulants released during consumption may result in your body wanting to repeat the behavior, leading to addiction.

How does THC work?

After consuming marijuana by smoking, vaping, or ingesting edibles, THC makes its way into your bloodstream and to your brain. It connects to various cannabinoid receptors affecting your mood and behavior.

The amount consumed will determine how THC affects the brain and body. THC, being a psychoactive cannabinoid, may result in hallucinations when the dosage is too high.

The time it takes for the effects to settle in depends on which method of ingesting you prefer. When inhaling cannabis, you can feel the impact within minutes, and it can last for one to four hours or longer if it’s your first time smoking marijuana

How does THC work when you add it to a snack or beverage? Depending on your metabolism, it can take up to 30 minutes to an hour to set in. These reactions can last between six and eight hours. 

Smoking weed
Smoking weed

What receptors does THC bind to?

As previously mentioned, you can find endocannabinoid receptors throughout the brain and body. There are two prime receptors; CB1 receptors are in the central nervous system, and CB2 receptors are in the peripheral nervous system.

Endocannabinoids generated by the body can attach to both receptors to maintain homeostasis (a state of equilibrium). What receptors does THC bind to?

THC has a similar structure to anandamide, a naturally formed cannabinoid. Therefore, it’s easily accepted by the ECS and able to bind to both CB1 and CB2 receptors

What THC does to the body is based on its ability to bind to both receptors. Being connected to both allows your entire body to benefit from its effects or disrupt it. The areas where you find these receptors are responsible for and regulate a range of functions:

  • Spinal cord - responsible for transmitting information between brain and body
  • Neocortex - regulates complex thinking, movement, and feeling
  • Brain stem - communicates signals from your brain to your body
  • Amygdala - responsible for anxiety, fear, and emotions
  • Cerebellum - maintains balance and coordination
  • Nucleus accumbens - interacts between motivation and action or reward
  • Hippocampus - responsible for new information
  • Basal ganglia - sees to motor function
  • Hypothalamus - regulates internal functions, such as body temperature and weight

THC and dopamine

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter known as a “chemical messenger.” Its main job is to send messages between nerve cells. 

One of the areas of the brain that THC activates is the reward system. The neurons stimulated by THC start releasing dopamine, responsible for the euphoric feeling experienced when consuming cannabis. Does THC increase dopamine?

THC triggers the release of dopamine in larger amounts than when naturally generated. The surge of dopamine and the associated feeling of pleasure prompts the brain to repeat the behavior.

The problem with this action is that consuming THC may become addictive. It’s not very common but is a possibility. The relationship between THC and dopamine can be described as a “love-hate relationship,” where it creates a wonderful feeling, but you can hate the act that follows. 

Does THC release serotonin?

Like dopamine, serotonin is also a neurotransmitter known as the “happiness hormone.” Its effects can be felt throughout the body, creating a feeling of well-being. 

Does THC release serotonin? Yes, it does, but it’s not quite clear how this happens. After attaching to CB1 receptors, THC prompts the release of this hormone.

Evidence has proven that people diagnosed with depression have low levels of serotonin. Although THC can assist in relieving the symptoms of this condition, it can cause long-term side effects if used over a prolonged period.

How does THC affect the nervous system?

THC has a widespread effect on the nervous system because of the cannabinoid receptors found throughout the body and brain. By attaching to these receptors, THC can interrupt the communication between neurons.

The broken connection between nerve cells can result in undesired THC effects on the brain and nervous system. When these cells can’t send correct messages, it can impair your ability to remember and your reaction time.

The disruption in communication between these neurons can also have beneficial consequences. Using marijuana for pain activates connections between different parts of the nervous system, preventing pain signals from reaching the brain.

Research has determined a positive connection between THC and alleviating pain. There are favorable tetrahydrocannabinol effects on the brain and the nervous system.

The increased dopamine levels triggered by THC benefit your nervous system by increasing time and sensory perception. The surge of this hormone’s discharge can also lead to addictive behavior.

Smoking marijuana
Smoking marijuana

What does THC do to the body?

THC can affect your body in many different ways, subject to your method of consumption. Inhaling cannabis impacts your body much faster than ingesting it in edibles.

The way you ingest marijuana can also affect your body. Smoking or vaping can irritate your lungs, mouth, and throat. It can also exacerbate a respiratory condition if you have one.

What does THC do to your body? The answer differs from person to person. THC brings much-needed pain relief to some, while it may increase anxiety levels in others. 

THC may increase the user's heart rate, posing a risk to someone with a cardiac condition. For these people, the chances of a heart attack may increase when consuming marijuana.

Your body can enjoy immediate benefits from THC, but there are also long-term effects that may develop if used too often and for too long. 

How to get rid of THC in your brain

The length of time weed remains in your system relies on a few things, including the dosage and how often you consume THC. 

Knowing how to get rid of THC in your brain can prove useful when you find yourself consuming more THC than intended, especially when enjoying edibles. The delay in experiencing the effects of THC in a snack or meal can compel you to have more and result in overdosing.

One of the best ways to eliminate THC is sometimes to wait it out and allow the THC effects on your brain to wear off on their own. If you want to accelerate the process, you could try a few other things:

Distract yourself from the feeling of being high. Start by trying a creative activity like painting, watching a movie, or listening to your favorite music

Another option to reduce tetrahydrocannabinol’s effects on the brain is to remain hydrated. Consuming plenty of liquids, excluding alcohol, can help, especially as marijuana can leave your mouth feeling dry. 

Terpene limonene found in lemons has a positive effect on your brain’s neurotransmitters. Ingesting this is another good antidote. Add some lemon zest to hot water, and consume it after you’ve let it brew. These suggestions also come in handy if you need to know how to sober up from marijuana or recover from a cannabis hangover.

Weed vape
Weed vape

THC health benefits

THC has many benefits to many people’s disbelief other than giving you a high. Together with other cannabinoids, they can alleviate several conditions, both mental and physical

The following are a few examples of how THC affects the brain and its health benefits:

  • Pain reliever 
  • Alleviates vomiting and nausea—an FDA approved pill called Marinol is available to treat this condition 
  • It’s a neuroprotectant—it protects the brain cells
  • Assists with insomnia and sleep apnea
  • Eases symptoms associated with PTSD
  • It’s an antioxidant
  • Has anti-inflammatory properties
  • It’s a muscle relaxant

THC can serve as a supplement when used in the correct dosage. There are more health benefits of marijuana which vary according to the THC and CBD levels.

THC short-term side effects

Not everyone has a pleasant experience with THC. There are varied reasons for this, such as being new to marijuana, underlying health issues, or a low tolerance for THC.

Below are a few side effects you may experience:

  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Distorted memory, impaired concentration, and coordination
  • Anxiety, confusion, fatigue, and paranoia
  • It can trigger psychotic episodes
  • Red eyes and a dry mouth
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased appetite, known as “the munchies”

These temporary side effects could also result from marijuana’s interactions with other medications. Consuming large doses of THC might occasionally lead to severe side effects, including seizures and psychotic episodes.

THC long-term side effects

Long-term use of THC may have adverse effects on your mental and physical health. When teenagers use cannabis for a long period, they risk having negative effects of THC on the brain.

Marijuana may affect the development of the brain. It’s not certain whether these effects are permanent, only that it’s more prevalent in teens.

Users in general, who consume THC for a very long period, also face the possibility of their memory being affected and impaired concentration. Balancing your THC intake with CBD can help reduce some risks and lower the THC levels in your consumption.

Those who ingest THC by smoking might develop a respiratory condition. THC may also weaken certain individuals' immune systems, leaving them vulnerable to lung infections.

If edibles are a regular part of your diet, they can increase your calories intake and negatively affect your health. You can avoid these two side effects by changing your method of consumption.

Bud in nature
Bud in nature

Healthy mind, healthy body

You can experience beneficial THC effects on your brain and body. Looking after your well-being is important for a happy and healthy life. 

THC is a great alternative to traditional medicine. Once you’ve eliminated all the potential causes of the short and long-term side effects, you’ll find THC can help you maintain a healthy mind and body. 

How THC affects your brain and body is in your control, and we’re happy to assist. If you need advice on which strain of cannabis to choose or which is the highest THC percentage flower, our team at Homegrown Cannabis Co. is available and looks forward to hearing from you.

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