The Anatomy and Side Effects of THC

anatomy and side effects of thc cannabinoid receptors central nervous system chemotherapy induced nausea mental health condition nausea and vomiting psychoactive effects Mar 31, 2023

Overview of Cannabis

Cannabis (Marijuana) consumption has been debated and discussed for decades. While some people swear by the drug's benefits, others remain skeptical about its effects on human health. With legalization sweeping across the United States and other parts of the world, it is more important than ever to understand the impact of cannabis on our bodies and minds.

Cannabis is a fascinating and complex plant with a long and varied history of human use. From ancient medicine to modern-day recreation, people have been consuming cannabis for many years. But what exactly happens when you consume cannabis? What are the effects on your body and mind?

Uses of Cannabis

Several NCCIH-funded studies are investigating the potential pain-relieving properties and mechanisms of action of substances in cannabis, including minor cannabinoids (those other than THC) and terpenes (substances in cannabis that give the plant its strain-specific properties such as aroma and taste).

Perspectives on cannabis (marijuana) use are shifting throughout the world, politically and scientifically.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, cannabis is the most commonly cultivated, trafficked, and used illicit drug worldwide, with an estimated 284 million users (3.9% of the global population). With cannabis medicalization and legalization increasing, the prevalence of cannabis use in various forms is also predicted to increase. Several studies indicate that recreational cannabis use can harm physical and mental health.

On the other hand, continued work on cannabinoids for medical use resulted in the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) approval of cannabidiol (CBD), in the form of Epidiolex, for treating rare and severe forms of epilepsy, and of synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), dronabinol, and nabilone, for preventing nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy. Several pieces of evidence from the Elverdin lab pointed out the adverse action of cannabinoids.

What is Cannabinoid?

Cannabinoids are a group of substances found in the cannabis plant. Cannabis, commonly termed marijuana, weed, pot, and ganja, is the most widely used illicit recreational drug worldwide.

Chemical Substances in cannabinoid

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) are the most well-known and widely studied cannabinoid in the cannabis plant. These compounds interact with the body's endocannabinoid system, which regulates various physiological processes, including appetite, mood, sleep, and immune function.

The most well-known cannabinoid in cannabis is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), but there are over 100 different cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, each with unique effects. THC is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis and is responsible for people's "high" when they consume it. CBD, on the other hand, is not psychoactive and is often used for its potential therapeutic benefits.

What is the Endocannabinoid system?

The endocannabinoid system is a complex network of receptors, enzymes, and endocannabinoids (naturally occurring cannabinoids produced by the body) that maintain homeostasis, or balance, throughout the body. When THC and CBD bind to these receptors, they can have various effects on the body, ranging from pain relief and relaxation to altered perception and increased appetite.

Studies on the Impact of Cannabinoids on the Body

Cannabinoids have always been provided to patients for pain treatment and management, as well as treatment for other types of diseases. However, acute and long-term cannabinoid intoxication has several adverse effects. Acute and chronic use of cannabis is associated with different harmful effects on the central nervous system and peripheral system, including hyperemesis syndrome, impaired coordination, and performance, anxiety, suicidal/tendencies, psychotic symptoms, mood disorders, cannabis withdrawal symptoms, exacerbation of psychotic disorders, neurocognitive impairment, cardiovascular, neurological, respiratory, cerebrovascular, peripheral vascular diseases, pneumomediastinum, pneumothorax, pneumopericardium, bullous lung disease, increased risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, desquamated interstitial disease, and appearance of brown pigmented macrophages.

Existing studies of medical cannabis suggest symptom relief can vary from patient to patient. Side effects are common. The most common side effects are dizziness, fatigue, dry mouth, light-headedness, drowsiness, and nausea. Side effects are usually mild or moderate and usually stop quickly, but sometimes severe side effects occur.

THC's Interaction with the Heart

THC interacts with the heart by accelerating the heart rate and increasing blood pressure shortly after consumption. This effect is due to THC's interaction with the endocannabinoid system, which regulates various physiological processes, including cardiovascular function.

However, the initial heart rate and blood pressure increase are eventually followed by a decrease in both measures. This phenomenon is thought to occur because THC's activation of cannabinoid receptors in the brain causes vasodilation, decreasing peripheral resistance and blood pressure. THC's effect on the parasympathetic nervous system also slows the heart rate.

One common side effect of THC's interaction with the cardiovascular system is the reddening of the eyes. This occurs because THC causes vasodilation, which can increase blood flow to the eyes and cause them to appear red.

THC and Dry Mouth

Saliva is a clear liquid secreted by salivary glands in the mouth. It is essential in maintaining oral health by moistening the mouth, aiding food digestion, neutralizing acids, and preventing bacterial growth. When consumed, THC can bind to the cannabinoid receptors in the salivary glands, causing a down-regulation of saliva production. This reduction in saliva production can lead to a condition known as xerostomia or dry mouth.

A dry mouth can be uncomfortable and lead to problems such as difficulty swallowing, speech problems, and an increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease. The severity of dry mouth depends on the amount of THC consumed and the individual's sensitivity to its effects. Additionally, certain strains of cannabis may cause more severe dry mouth than others due to their varying THC and CBD content.
It is essential to stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids when using cannabis to help alleviate dry mouth. Chewing gum or consuming hard candies can also help stimulate saliva production. Regular oral hygiene practices, such as brushing and flossing, are essential to maintain oral health when experiencing dry mouth.

Other Effects of THC

In addition to the abovementioned effects, THC can produce other side effects when consumed. One of the most commonly reported effects is the "munchies," which refers to an increased appetite and craving for food. THC interacts with the endocannabinoid system, which plays a crucial role in regulating appetite, in increasing feelings of hunger.

THC can also produce euphoria, relaxation, and an altered perception of time and space. These effects are believed to result from THC's interaction with the brain's reward and pleasure centres and its impact on neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin.

In some cases, THC can also cause adverse side effects such as anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations. The precise mechanisms behind these effects are not fully understood, but they are believed to be related to THC's impact on the brain's neurotransmitter systems and its interaction with receptors such as CB1 and CB2.

Effects of THC

It is worth noting that the effects of THC can vary significantly depending on factors such as dosage, method of consumption, and individual differences in biology and tolerance. As such, it is essential to exercise caution when using cannabis and to start with low doses until the effects are better understood.

Effects of Cannabinoid on Body Cells

Cannabinoids, notably THC, are the active ingredients in the cannabis plant that can cause psychoactive effects in the central nervous system. While the FDA has approved medical marijuana to help with chemotherapy-induced nausea and chronic pain, it is still a federally illegal drug. The use of marijuana can lead to adverse effects, mainly when used in high doses.

Cannabinoids interact with cell receptors in the body, including CB1 and CB2 receptors. These receptors are found in various organs and tissues throughout the body and regulate various physiological processes. When cannabinoids bind to these receptors, they can affect cells differently by reducing inflammation or inducing apoptosis (cell death).

THC and Mitochondria

THC has been shown to have a complex impact on mitochondria, the organelles responsible for producing energy in cells. It can decrease mitochondrial respiration, increase mitochondrial reactive oxygen species production, and affect mitochondrial membrane potential, potentially leading to mitochondrial dysfunction and cell death. However, the effects of THC on mitochondria are dose-dependent and require further research to fully understand the mechanisms and potential consequences.

Effects of Marijuana and Weeds on Adults and Pregnant Women

Marijuana use can also lead to mental health problems, particularly in young adults. Research suggests that people who smoke marijuana regularly are more likely to develop mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, psychotic disorders, and other mental health problems. Moreover, marijuana use disorder is common, particularly in individuals who abuse other drugs and alcohol.
Another potential risk of marijuana use is its effect on brain development. It can cause long-term marijuana effects, particularly in young people. Pregnant women who use marijuana can increase the risk of premature birth and other adverse effects on the fetus, including altered brain development.

Effects of Smoking Weed

Besides, smoking weed can affect blood vessels and blood clotting, leading to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. High doses of marijuana can also cause a drop in blood pressure, which can be dangerous for individuals with underlying medical conditions.
High doses lead to adverse effects such as lung cancer, mental health problems, and altered brain development. Moreover, marijuana use disorder is common in individuals who abuse other drugs and alcohol. It is essential to understand the risks associated with marijuana use and consult a healthcare professional before using it for medical purposes.

Final Thoughts

THC, the primary psychoactive compound found in cannabis, has various effects on the body. It interacts with the heart, leading to an initial increase in heart rate and blood pressure, followed by a decrease. THC also binds to the salivary glands, reducing saliva production and causing dry mouth. Other common side effects of THC include altered perception, increased appetite, and impaired coordination.
All these effects are produced by the interaction of THC with the body's endocannabinoid system, which plays a crucial role in regulating various physiological processes. While there is still much to learn about the endocannabinoid system and its interactions with THC and other cannabinoids, further research holds promise for developing new therapeutic interventions.