THC (short for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is a cannabinoid molecule in marijuana (cannabis, pot, weed) that causes the effect of feeling high. THC has long been recognized as the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
How does THC work exactly?
THC works by attaching to cannabinoid receptors, which have been mapped throughout the brain and nervous system.
THC can be detected in the body much longer than most other drugs: although the psychoactive effects only last for a few hours, it can be detected in the blood up to 20 hours after ingestion, and it's stored in the body fat and organs for three to four weeks after ingestion.
THC can be detected in the body much longer than most other drugs.
Hair follicle testing may identify THC after even longer periods of time. However, urine testing has been found to be an unreliable method of detecting THC.
Is THC addictive?
Despite the belief by many chronic marijuana users that the drug is not addictive, THC tolerance and dependence have been demonstrated in numerous animal studies, and experimentally at the cellular level.
It's interesting that heavy pot smokers or stoners will vehemently deny dependence, despite daily use, whereas cigarette smokers rarely have difficulty acknowledging their addiction—both to themselves and others.
The reason for this is unclear; it may relate to the relatively low activation of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which has been recognized as central to the reward cycle in many other drug and behavioral addictions. Then again, it's possible that the belief that marijuana is non-addictive rests on certain myths about marijuana people tend to believe.
Is THC Harmful?
There is considerable research evidence that THC is associated with increased risk of developing psychosis, particularly among adolescents.
A meta-analysis, which is a type of study that combines the results of many previous studies, found some evidence that THC may be neurotoxic, as there are differences in the brain structure of chronic marijuana users who do not have psychosis.
Research into the effects of THC is complicated by many factors, but it appears that there is sufficient evidence that THC can be harmful to younger people whose brains are still developing.
As with many things, too much of something is never a good idea. So use responsibly and avoid frequent use of extremely high doses of THC.