The Science Behind Cannabinoids and THC
What are cannabinoids? Well cannabinoids are class of complex naturally occurring chemical compounds, they act with cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are found in the brain cells that repress neurotransmitter release. There are three types of cannabinoids: endocannabinoids (found in humans and animals), phytocannabinoids (found in certain plants) and synthetic cannabinoids (they are man made).
Cannabinoid receptors, discovered in 1988, which lead to the search for the binding chemical that binds with them. The receptors have been identified into two groups CB1 and CB2. They have many locations throughout the body including the Brain, liver, lungs, kidneys, immune system and hematopoietic cells. They are associated with various physiological responses such as appetite, pain sensation, mood and memory.
Endocannabinoids were first discovered in 1992, called the Anandamide. It has similar chemical properties to the most well known cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The anandamide can be found in variety of animals, some plants and in small amounts in chocolate. The function of endocannabinoids are as intercellular lipid transmitters (they are messengers) that activate the cannabinoids receptors in other cells. It is believed that they are made on demand that they are not stored in the cells. It is believed that they most greatly affect the areas of the brown that affect They affect brain areas that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, movement, coordination, and sensory and time perception.
THC from the marijuana plant is mostly commonly known and used cannabinoid, it is part of the phytocannabinoid family. Even though THC is not a naturally found chemical in the body because it is a cannabinoid and it uses the same receptors to bind to in the brain. According to the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA) “THC is able to alter the functioning of the hippocampus and orbitofrontal cortex, brain areas that enable a person to form new memories and shift their attentional focus. As a result, using marijuana causes impaired thinking and interferes with a user’s ability to learn and to perform complicated tasks. THC also disrupts functioning of the cerebellum and basal ganglia, brain areas that regulate balance, posture, coordination, and reaction time.”
The cannabinoid receptors also interact with your opioid receptors in your brain, which in turns activates your dopamine response. Dopamine is the “happy” hormone, it is released when you feel happy, satisfied, sexual aroused, etc. For THC users is it the activation and body’s response to the dopamine that will give the “high” feeling, which when the drugs wear off the brain will crave the next release of the dopamine hormone. Marijuana users who have taken large doses of the drug may experience an acute psychosis, which includes hallucinations, delusions, and a loss of the sense of personal identity.”
Researchers are currently studying the effects of THC on the developing brains of animals, and humans affected in utero. According to the NIDA studies are showing “Substantial evidence from animal research and a growing number of studies in humans indicate that marijuana exposure during development can cause long-term or possibly permanent adverse changes in the brain. Rats exposed to THC before birth, soon after birth, or during adolescence show notable problems with specific learning and memory tasks later in life. Cognitive impairments in adult rats exposed to THC during adolescence are associated with structural and functional changes in the hippocampus.”
Although in the US marijuana is a schedule 1 drug, research is showing that there are many medical benefits to THC. It Is being used to treat eating disorders, pain, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, chemotherapy side effects, nausea, and many more conditions. The above stated effects on the brain help to give the patients a sense of euphoria and alleviate their pain, increase appetite and decrease nausea.