As marijuana becomes less of a taboo, more and more people begin to openly indulge in it. Modern medicine now recognizes the therapeutic potential of cannabis it long denied. However, the public is still not that well informed about what does THC do to the brain exactly? What are the precise effects it has on your mind? If you consume or are thinking of consuming marijuana, you’d want to know all about this.
What is THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol)
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a naturally occurring psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant. It is also the compound responsible for the ‘high’ you get when consuming. Thus, the impairment it gives out is also the actual reason authorities banned cannabis in the first place. THC is just one of over a hundred cannabinoids, many of which are not psychoactive. The THC interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) by binding on to CB1 receptors in the brain. The interaction between them results in you getting ‘high.’
While marijuana, the primary source of THC, is a federally controlled substance, medical marijuana is legal in many states. Doctors may prescribe medical marijuana for patients with:
- Nausea from chemotherapy.
- Muscle spasms.
- Loss of appetite.
- Nerve pains.
- Seizure disorders.
- Headaches and migraines.
What Does THC Do to The Brain Cells?
There are billions upon billions of neurons and neural circuits in the human brain. Neurons use chemicals, also known as neurotransmitters, to transfer signals from one neuron to the other. The ECS and its receptors also play a part in this network. CB1 receptors, for example, modulates the process of communication between specific neurotransmitters and brain neurons. THC attaches to these receptors and, apparently, alters the relayed signal, forcing the brain to react differently.
Our brains have the highest concentration of CB1 receptors. This is especially true in parts responsible for memory, learning, reward, pain, anxiety, and motor/movement control. The presence of THC in the blood may thus affect some of these functions. It may cause the user to experience anything from pain relief and relaxation to hunger, physical impairment, and increase or decrease anxiety levels.
1. THC Is A Potent Antioxidant
Small doses of THC are quite effective in protecting brain cells from oxidative stress. The potent antioxidative properties help keep your brain cells healthy, improving their overall lifespan. Research and studies on the effects of THC on brain cells also reveal that small amounts of THC may help preserve your brain cells. However, the same is not true for higher doses of THC, which actually does the exact opposite. High levels of THC, according to research, may cause cell death.
2. It’s Anti-Inflammatory
Chronic inflammation can have a devastating impact on your brain and overall health. Medical marijuana packs potent anti-inflammatory properties. For this reason that marijuana can treat various forms of anxiety and depression. The potent anti-inflammatory properties also help alleviate pains related to severe headaches and migraines. Researchers also believe medical marijuana can help slow down or prevent the development of cancerous tumors in the brain.
3. Increased Brain Activity/Functions
A study conducted on the effects of delta-8 THC, a variation of THC, on rats and mice showed that the compound increased the rat and mice’s brain functions. Scientists are also looking into ways to use delta -8 THC on pets, especially dog training for specific tasks. Some researchers also believe that delta-9 THC is more potent in improving brain activity and learning in dogs. However, for dogs and rats to significantly enhance brain performance, they will need higher doses of delta-9 THC. THC may prove useful in improving memory functions and learning in animals. However, you might want to be careful with the dosage to avoid causing permanent damage to neurons and CB1 receptors. However, THC can have a devastating impact on people under the age of 21 because it remains illegal for them for the most part, even in marijuana-friendly states. Numerous studies also show fewer risks on individuals over the age of 35.
4. It Is an Anticonvulsant
CBD and medical marijuana are a common remedy for epileptic patients. These cannabinoids pack potent anticonvulsant properties that help reduce the frequency of epileptic seizures significantly. This is because the cannabinoids interact and latch on CB1 receptors, causing the endocannabinoid system to trigger a state of homeostasis. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by seizures episodes due to a sudden rush of electrical signals to the brain. CBD and THC, however, latch on the endocannabinoid system inhibiting the triggering signals. Thus, it can reduce the number of seizures significantly.
5. Relaxes Brain Cells – A Good Night’s Sleep
As mentioned before, THC packs many potent antioxidants, analgesic, relaxing properties. That comes in handy for people suffering from chronic stress, anxiety, and insomnia. Stress can make it almost impossible for one to get a good night’s sleep. Using THC-rich medical marijuana triggers a sense of relaxation in the brain cells, making it easier for you to enjoy a good night’s sleep. The increased production of dopamine due to the presence of THC further enhances the relaxing feelings. It’s also by enabling one to sleep well that brain cells repair themselves too.
What Does THC Do to The Brain? – Side Effects
THC does come with a number of side effects you need to be mindful of when deciding to use it. When asking what does THC do to the brain, keep in mind what their side effects do too:
1. It Can Get You ‘High’
THC is a psychoactive compound that triggers an increased response to various stimulants, including food, pleasure, and even sex. Most people will experience an impaired brain function or neural connectivity, hence the euphoric effect. Thus, one may have a distorted sense of time, senses, mood, and memory, among other effects. The delivery method (smoking, vaping, etc.) determines how fast the compound (THC) gets into the bloodstream and to the brain. The ‘stoned’ state is most evident in humans and domestic animals.
2. Impaired Brain Function (IQ)
Prolonged exposure to high doses of marijuana/THC can take a toll on an otherwise healthy brain. According to research, THC can make it difficult for the user to remember things, learn, or even stay focused. The side effects of using pot are, however, more pronounced in young people. Studies show that marijuana may physically change the brains of adolescents. Most of them will suffer from reduced alertness, memory, and learning.
3. Distorted Thinking
This is the most apparent and most pronounced side effects of THC. Most reported having clouded senses and judgment. Many lose the sense of time, experience heightened senses and might start acting silly as a result. Chronic exposure to THC may also cause one to become paranoid and anxious, with some individuals sort of losing their touch with reality. This renders them incapable of driving or operating most machinery.
4. It Might be Addictive Somehow
One in every ten people that use marijuana is likely to crave abnormally for it. Prolonged exposure to marijuana creates psychological-dependency. Thus, it makes it very hard for them to function without getting their regular dose first. The most common signs of THC addiction are irritability, restlessness, insomnia, and loss of appetite. Some can hurt both your mental health, as well as put staring on your relationships.
Potential Medicinal Uses Of THC
For a long time, the medical establishment completely denied THC had any medical application despite evidence repeatedly showing otherwise. This was part of a long smear campaign on the compound to keep it illegal. However, they now admit that the plant does have therapeutic effects, such as:
1. Reducing anxiety
THC packs several properties aside from its psychoactivity that make it a good candidate for treating some health conditions. Some types of THC, such as the delta-8 THC, show potential in reducing and relieving anxiety. Many people with anxiety issues can use medical marijuana to get some relief from it. As mentioned before, low THC levels trigger a sense of calmness, relaxation, and tranquility, pushing the anxiety away.
2. Epilepsy Treatments
THC interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to restore and protect brain activity from sudden electrical surges that arise from this condition. That allows the patient to live an almost normal life with a reduced number of episodes as long as they take their THC. Current research right now is looking for newer ways to better manage the psychoactive aspect of THC when treating epilepsy.
3. Boost Memory Functions
Delta-8 THC is the best candidate for this. In addition to having potent neuroprotective properties, delta-8 THC seems to trigger increased production of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is one of the key neurotransmitters that help with improved learning and memory. Although the compound happens naturally in the body, the level/rate of production declines as one gets older. Nevertheless, the presence of CBD and delta-8 THC triggers increased production of the same. This allows for faster and increased neurotransmitter efficiency, hence improved memory and learning capacity.
What Does THC Do to The Brain? – The Takeaway
So, what does THC do to the brain when you take it? Well, for starters, marijuana and, specifically, the THC it holds inside are useful for both pain managing and handling epileptic seizures. Furthermore, THC can help your brain attain a good night’s sleep easier and decrease anxiety when taken. However, it is only low doses of THC that are a good thing. High consumption of THC appears to have the opposite effect and appears to accelerate the rate at which your brain cells oxidate. Thus, better measure your intake.