Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main ingredient in marijuana that gets people “high.” THC attaches to certain receptors in the brain called cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are normally activated by chemicals that occur naturally in the body (called endocannabinoids).
By attaching to cannabinoid receptors, THC alters how you think and feel. It can make some people feel relaxed, while others may experience an increased amount of anxiety. Another effect is when THC affects motor skills, which can make it hard for someone to walk in a straight line or make other coordinated movements.
There are over 480 natural components in marijuana. The main psychoactive component is THC. Other important compounds include cannabinol (CBN), cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV).
You experience these effects because THC affects the way your body processes dopamine, a naturally occurring chemical in the brain that helps regulate your emotions, thinking and pleasure. When you get high, dopamine is released in greater amounts than usual.
Exposure to THC also impairs the ability of a particular area of the brain (hippocampus) to respond appropriately to stimuli. For example, the nucleus accumbens normally receives information about pleasure or satisfaction. However, when under the influence of THC, these messages can become uncoordinated and even confused with pain signals.
THC enters the body mainly through the lungs (in cigarette form) and also by consuming marijuana in foods like brownies or tea. Once you eat it, your liver changes THC into a different substance called 11-hydroxy-THC. This substance is more potent and stays in your body longer than regular THC.
How is THC different from CBD?
THC and CBD are both found in marijuana. Although they interact with the same receptors, their effects on these receptors are quite different.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive ingredient that gives you the “high” feeling associated with marijuana use. THC acts like an exclamation point at the end of a sentence.
It is very intense and temporarily shuts off all the other receptors in the brain, leaving you with a feeling of euphoria that can be accompanied by anxiety or paranoia after THC levels subside. This may be why many people consider marijuana use to be more recreational than medicinal; it tends to amplify your emotions (both good and bad).
Cannabidiol (CBD) works more like a period at the end of a sentence. It is very calming, even sedating. CBD brings balance to the mind by enhancing coordination between areas of the brain responsible for sensory perception and motor skills.
Both THC and CBD are known to interact with receptors in your body’s endocannabinoid system. This system plays a major role in regulating everything from mood, memory and appetite to pain, sleep and immune response.
Since CBD doesn’t interact directly with the receptors that get you high, it’s not intoxicating. However, some think it may increase your body’s absorption of THC when consumed together. This means it might increase your high, but not by very much.
In general, THC is more potent than CBD. For example, to achieve the same effect as a 10 mg dose of THC, you would need to consume somewhere around four times as much CBD. But keep in mind each person’s sensitivity level can be different. So if you are smoking marijuana with both CBD and THC in it, be wary of the effects.
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