Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol: The Receptor Behind the High 

Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol is the receptor behind the the effects of cannabis on your brain, and how it defines your experience.

Cannabis contains molecules that resemble those produced in our very own brain called cannabinoids, a natural substance in our mind in low qualities. Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and the active ingredient in cannabis resembles anandamide, a natural transmitter. Your body even makes its own, called endocannabinoids, that are involved with modulating your appetite, mood, memory, and pain. These cannabinoids are specific neurotransmitters that are released by neurons that had just ignited. Neurons temporarily become unresponsive after being ignited to prevent them from overreacting or becoming too dominant, allowing the brain to function calmly. Instead, cannabinoids interrupt this approach in some parts of the brain. The refractory period of neurons that are already active is removed, causing your thoughts, your imagination, and ideas to magnify. These cannabinoids also offer levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in your brain. Levels of dopamine and norepinephrine increase euphoria, relaxation, pain modulation, and overall enhancement that may lead to anxiety. Cannabinoids also control concentration, memory, learning, movement, and higher cognitive functions.

THC Receptors

Neurons are the cells that process information in the brain.

By releasing neurons called neurotransmitters to the axin of one neuron to the dendrite (a short branched extension of a neuron) of another, they change the electrical charge of the receiving neurons, consequently exciting or inhibiting it. If the neurons are excited, the signals pass through the brain. The compounds work together, and the effect is quickly compounded into complex configuration within milliseconds, igniting neurons throughout the brain. This is precisely what happens as we think, breath, and move.

THC is the active substance in cannabis and what causes the high feeling.

Once ingested or inhaled, the THC gets absorbed into the bloodstream where it travels to the brain and attaches to cannabinoid receptors. As we already carry cannabinoid receptors naturally, these receptors frequently receive chemical signals from other cells, including pain signals, nausea, and euphoria. When THC attaches itself to the cannabinoids receptors, the brain becomes overwhelmed and prevents natural chemicals from doing its job. That is what leads THC’s pain, and nausea-relieving properties and makes you high. How high you get depends on the plant’s potency. The higher level of THC in the cannabis, the higher you get. Unlike over the counter pharmaceutical drugs, we can’t just look at the label and see the ingredients and see how potent it is. But that will change over time as marijuana testing labs continue to bloom across the globe.

Cannabis Testing

via Canna Test

Bethany Halford, C&EN Chemical and Engineering News, talked to chemists at Analytical 360, a marijuana-testing lab in Seattle, about how weed is tested for quality control. Some labs use a technique called liquid chromatography to test the THC levels in marijuana. Dried cannabis plants, food, and cannabis extract infused personal care products are all tested for potency and labelled accordingly to its benefits. Other labs do safety testing with a method called gas chromatography to inspect the plant for pesticides and residual solvents. Technicians are also needed to examine for mildew and mould on the plant visually.

Cannabis contains cannabidiol, as well as acidic forms of these compounds known as THC-acids and CBD acids. THC and CBD levels aren’t regulated yet, but each jurisdiction will have their laws. With names like Gorilla Glue, Sunshine, and Red Headed Stranger, it’s hard to take weed seriously. However, serious scientists are working together to make marijuana a little safer to smoke up, legally.

Photo by Medical Cannabis Clinic