Last updated: 09/20/2018
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 3 minutes
THC (delta 9 tetrhydrocannabinol) is the main psychoactive chemical found in marijuana that stimulates dopamine in the brain to induce euphoria. THC and other cannabinoids that are found in marijuana act on cannabinoid receptors to increase appetite and reduce pain, nausea, and vomiting.
Medical Use of THC and Marijuana
Prior to 2010, only synthetic forms of THC have been medically approved to treat these symptoms in patients suffering from cancer, AID’s, and Multiple Sclerosis (MS). In 2010, Sativex was approved in the UK as naturally extracted cannabis based prescription medication. Since then, other countries have approved its use for medical purposes and it is expected to be approved in the United States by the end of 2014.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse ” To be considered a legitimate medicine by the FDA, a substance must have well-defined and measurable ingredients that are consistent from one unit (such as a pill or injection) to the next.” Marijuana researches are quickly expanding research for approved medical purposes and variations of THC and other cannabinoids. While doing so, they are becoming more aware of the benefits and increased effectiveness of THC when derived directly from the use of marijuana. For example, a THC pill may take up to an hour to have the desired effects where as smoking or inhaling marijuana can produce the effects within minutes and the patient has better control over the amounts they need to ingest for relief.
Tolerance and Addiction to THC
THC, whether it comes directly from the marijuana plant or is a synthetic form, acts on cannabinoid receptors that influence pleasure, memory, cognition, perceptions, and coordination and leads to tolerance, with addition possible in cases of heavy use. It is estimated that anywhere from 9-50% of the marijuana user population will develop an addiction with the drastic differences occurring form early exposure and daily use. Psychological withdrawals may include dysphoric moods such as anxiety, depression, restlessness, irritability, disturbed sleep, decreased appetite and other minor gastrointestinal symptoms.
Are THC Addiction and Marijuana Addiction the Same?
When referring to THC addiction, most people think about marijuana addiction. THC and marijuana addiction differ only by the source of THC. A person may use only the synthetic form of THC and become addicted, but, the use of THC pills for medicinal purposes would normally outweigh the risk of addiction. They can be considered the same because they both react on the same receptors except in varying degrees and in when in combination with other cannabinoids, such as CBD, which reduces the psychoactive properties of the THC. There would also be a cross tolerance between the two sources.