THC Benefits & Side Effects: Just The Facts

February 06, 2024
THC Benefits & Side Effects: Just The Facts
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Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the substance in the cannabis plant that makes you high. It’s probably the most recognized compound in this plant, and also the most controversial, as studies show potential health risks of THC on the brain and body.

Some say THC’s positive benefit doesn’t outweigh the risks and side effects linked with consuming it. Others consider the compound’s psychoactivity a good thing and support the medical and recreational use of products containing THC.

So is THC good or bad for humans? Let’s take a deep dive into exactly what THC is, how it impacts CBD oil, and all the key THC facts.

What Is THC?

There’s a lot of information floating around about THC, especially in terms of how it ties in with CBD oil and other products. But what is THC? Similar to CBD, THC is a cannabinoid. Its full name is tetrahydrocannabinol and it is the compound responsible for most of marijuana’s psychoactive effects. When consumed, THC stimulates the release of dopamine, which produces a ‘high’. While THC & CBD are both cannabinoids, their effects, benefits and risks are very different. It’s difficult to define THC’s benefits and health risks concisely, as they are numerous and varied. There are also several legal limitations on the testing surrounding THC.

The extraction process for THC is similar to CBD extraction. Usually, cannabis is soaked in a solvent like alcohol, and then the alcohol evaporates, leaving THC behind. There are also other methods like CO2 extraction and butane extraction.

The Potential Benefits of THC

THC has been shown in studies to provide some level of physical comfort for its consumers. The psychoactive compound activates certain pathways in the central nervous system which prevent signals of discomfort from being sent to the brain. This benefit of THC is the main draw for many cannabis users.

Although THC has been associated with a negative influence on the brain, some research shows it also has some benefits, depending on the circumstances. THC has also been shown to promote deep relaxation and influence appetite in some individuals, which helps promote the substance as medicinal. THC benefits are still being researched as cannabis laws become more relaxed.

The Possible Negative Effects of THC

It’s important to acknowledge that while THC does have some benefits, THC can also have substantial side effects. THC side effects (on both the brain and body) can vary from person to person and can sometimes be difficult to predict.

THC influences specific brain cell receptors, which are involved in development and function. When these cells are over activated, the “high” feeling occurs, causing users to experience symptoms like changes in mood, altered senses, impaired body movements, difficulty thinking, and impaired memory. But these short-term manifestations aren’t THC’s only side effects. THC’s effects on the brain are coupled with its effects in the body.

THC can increase the heart rate by 20-50 beats per minute, and this increase can be dangerous for people with cardiovascular problems. In those with heart disease, rapid heartbeat (tachycardia) that continues for hours can raise the risk of heart attack. High levels of THC can make one more prone to stroke and cardiomyopathy--meaning having THC in the body can be fatal for some users that have specific health conditions.

Consuming THC-rich products may increase the risk of psychosis, especially in individuals with a history of mental illness. THC may even enable certain mental illnesses to manifest earlier than they might have without THC usage. If used before the age of 15, THC can be a factor in the development of serious mental disorders. THC’s effects on the brain can be serious and should be considered before using.

Heavy use of THC can lead to increased levels of triglycerides. By activating the brain receptors that regulate appetite, THC increases hunger, and in some situations, this can also be regarded as a negative effect.

Other potential THC side effects include impaired attention and learning skills, impaired driving skills and slowed reaction time, altered peripheral vision, increased risk of chronic bronchitis, lung and sinus inflammation, and disruption of the menstrual cycle.

Does CBD Contain THC?

CBD products can legally only contain up to 0.3% THC, and many forms of CBD don’t have any THC at all within them. This is possible thanks to the selection of individual hemp plants with low THC content, careful processing, and specific formulation that’s designed to give users more of the benefits (like relaxation and helping with pain) that are often associated with the THC without the same side effects or risks.

Can CBD Get You High?

Because CBD can only contain 0.3% THC, it doesn’t produce a ‘high’ in contrast to THC. That small trace amount isn’t enough to impair or intoxicate someone, even if they’re relatively sensitive in general.

CBD and THC do have similar chemical makeups, with only one atom being arranged differently, but this single atom makes a world of difference. The result is two completely different cannabinoids that interact with cannabinoid receptors in our brains differently. THC has intoxicating properties, which can cause the high, but CBD products do not.

There’s no intoxication and there’s no high, so CBD users are generally safe to use the products without worrying about whether or not they should drive, do work, or otherwise limit any of their normal routines.

Can CBD Cause You to Fail a Drug Test?

It’s unlikely that CBD would cause you to fail a drug test, even if the CBD oil happens to contain trace amounts of THC. In many cases, the THC wouldn’t be able to be detected if it was even there to begin with. That being said, it’s not impossible that CBD could cause you to fail a drug test, so precaution is needed.

This is one reason why it’s so important to know exactly where your CBD comes from, choosing a reputable company that you trust to regulate and clearly label products.

Brands like Elixinol, for example, provide certificates of analysis from independent third-party labs that show exactly how much THC if any is present in our products, giving you peace of mind.

If this is something you’re worried about, talk to your doctor and ask them what they think. This is a good practice before taking any new supplements, and that goes for CBD products, too.

How Long Does THC Stay In Your System?

This is a common question for folks who use both CBD and THC. While the THC in your system can stay in your system for up to 90 days, the longevity of THC in your body varies from person to person. How much THC you consume (and how frequently) will determine how long it will stay in your system. Generally, light THC use (a few times a week) will show up in a test for up to seven days after use. Heavy usage can cause THC to remain in your system for up to 30 days or more.

So is THC good or bad for you?

The ultimate question: is THC good or bad for your health? The answer can be complicated, and it really depends on how the substance is administered, how it’s used, how frequently it’s used, and how much of it enters the body. For those who want to avoid highs or any kind of intoxication, make sure to avoid products or drugs containing anything other than trace amounts of THC.

One key THC fact remains: in most states, products of any kind containing more than 0.3% of THC are illegal.

CBD products offer the calming benefits of THC without the same risk of side effects. The trace amount of THC that CBD products are legally allowed to contain won’t have an impact or cause a high or produce side effects. They’re also legal and easily accessible, and they can provide nutritional support without any of the intoxicating, addictive side effects of THC-rich products.

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