Marijuana has been a leading drug among teenagers and kids for years. And with more and more states legalizing it, many kids are wondering about the drug. While legal marijuana is age-restricted, children can still get ahold of it.
As a parent, it’s only natural to worry about this. While marijuana is one of the safest drugs available, it still comes with its own risks. If you suspect your child is using marijuana, it’s important to understand the subject.
What is THC, and what role does it play? What are the dangers of THC? Finally, and most importantly: is THC addictive?
Let’s take a look.
What Is THC?
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol as it is known scientifically, is a psychoactive chemical found in marijuana. It is the main chemical responsible for the mental effects associated with marijuana high.
THC attaches to receptors in the brain. These receptors are responsible for regulating feelings such as memory, pleasure, and perception of time. By reacting with these receptors, THC activates them.
Activating these receptors is what triggers the various effects of a marijuana high. The most common effects include euphoria, temporary short-term memory loss, and altered sensory perception.
The effects of THC last between 1-3 hours. The strongest effects occur during the first one to two hours. This is followed by a period known colloquially as “coming down.”
This phase happens as the THC begins to wear off in the body. During this period, people often feel drowsy and lethargic. However, after a few hours, the THC should have worn off.
What Is the Difference Between THC and CBD?
You’ve likely seen many products in recent days advertising CBD. There are lotions, creams, shampoos, and many other products that contain CBD. Many people confuse CBD with cannabis. However, this is not the case.
While marijuana does contain CBD, it is not the primary cause of a marijuana high. As we stated earlier, THC is the compound responsible for causing those effects.
CBD on its own will not get a user high. CBD has relaxing properties but does not cause the other psychological effects associated with being high.
Many products make use of CBD. Typically, products include CBD to treat things such as anxiety and depression. It is also useful as a treatment for inflammation, muscle aches, and digestive issues.
Oftentimes, medical marijuana is specifically grown to be high in CBD and low in THC. This is because most medical uses of marijuana come from the CBD content rather than the THC.
For this reason, CBD on its own is legal in most places. You can find it in items that can be purchased at your local pharmacy or grocery store. THC, on the other hand, is only legal in some places.
The Legality of THC
Marijuana legalization has become a popular issue throughout the country. And while many states have legalized it to some degree, not all states have done so. Is THC legal?
THC, and marijuana in general, are legal in 16 states across the country. Medical marijuana, on the other hand, is legal in 36 states.
In every state where THC and recreational marijuana are legal, it is highly regulated. Just like alcohol and tobacco, strict age requirements govern who can and cannot purchase THC products.
The age to purchase THC products in states where it is legal to do so is 21. Businesses that sell THC products have to check ID before making the sale.
Where Is THC Sold?
Even in states where THC and marijuana are legal, you can’t purchase them everywhere. Specific stores sell these products.
The only businesses that can sell actual marijuana plants are dispensaries. These businesses specialize in the sale of marijuana and must have a license to do so.
However, there are many other products that contain THC that are not marijuana. Gummies and other THC-infused candies are popular. There are also e-cigarettes that contain THC.
For the most part, these products are sold at smoke shops. These businesses typically have a section dedicated to THC products. They may sell accessories for THC and marijuana consumption as well.
As previously stated, federal law requires these businesses to check ID before selling THC products. If a customer is under 21, they cannot legally purchase items containing THC.
There is more information on the legality of THC. However, that information varies on a state-by-state basis. The age requirements are federal law and apply across the country.
What Are the Different Types of THC?
There are a few different types of THC available on the market. While they are all similar, they have different effects on the mind and body.
THC-a: Non-psychoactive THC
The most common form of THC is called THC-a. The pure acidic form of THC is the basis for all of the other kinds on the market.
When THC-a is exposed to heat, it changes states in a process known as decarboxylation. In this new state, the THC is then processed into other varieties of the compound.
THC-a has no psychoactive effects. In fact, when derived from hemp, THC-a is federally legal. THC-a that comes from marijuana plants is not federally legal. However, it is legal in several states.
Delta-9 THC is the form of THC most commonly found in over-the-counter THC products. It is famously associated with the psychoactive effects of a THC high.
Delta-9 comes with all of the effects associated with smoking marijuana. These include euphoria, impaired short-term memory, relaxation, and increased appetite.
Delta-8 THC is related to Delta-9 but is distinct. It is much rarer than Delta-9 THC. In fact, it is estimated that it makes up less than 1% of the THC content of marijuana.
Delta-8 has far less potent effects than Delta-9 when discussing a high. It is estimated that it is only half as strong as its counterpart. As a result, it is sometimes used medically, as the therapeutic properties are more noticeable.
The final two forms of THC are THCP and THCV. These two forms are more recent discoveries. THCP is widely regarded as the most potent form of THC, having effects that are 33% stronger than Delta-9 THC.
THCV, on the other hand, is different from the other variants. The difference comes in its potency. In low doses, it has almost no psychoactive effects. However, in high doses, it becomes much more powerful.
Is THC Use Dangerous?
As a parent, your first thought regarding THC is likely to wonder whether or not it is dangerous. While marijuana is thought to be safer than other drugs, there are still some concerns to be had regarding its use. So, is THC harmful?
While THC and marijuana are relatively safe, there are some negative effects that they can have on the body. These can vary based on the method of THC use, as well as the type of THC.
First, there’s the issue of how people use THC. The most common method of THC use involves smoking it. This is done either by smoking marijuana directly or through e-cigarettes that contain THC.
There are concerns that much like smoking and vaping, using THC in this way can cause respiratory issues. Inhaling the smoke of any kind is damaging to the lungs.
Cannabis smoke contains many of the same harmful chemicals that cigarette smoke contains. These chemicals irritate the throat and lungs, leading to coughing and increased phlegm.
Cannabis smoke also contains carcinogens. However, cannabis and THC are also believed to have anti-carcinogenic properties. This is unconfirmed, and research is inconclusive on if smoking marijuana increases the risk of cancer.
Despite its reputation for relieving stress and promoting relaxation, THC elevates the heart rate. Heart rate typically rises within minutes and can stay elevated for several hours.
There are also suspicions that THC use could have an adverse effect on the immune system. However, there is little research on the subject, and no conclusive verdict has been reached.
Side Effects of THC Use
In addition to the previously mentioned effects, THC use can cause other side effects. These can occur in addition to, or as a result of, the other effects of THC.
The most commonly known side effects of THC are paranoia and anxiety. Paradoxically for a substance known as a stress reliever, THC can cause extreme anxiety in some people.
This is most common when a person who is inexperienced with THC takes too high of a dose. It is also more commonly associated with ingesting THC through food rather than smoking it.
THC use also causes dry mouth and dry, red eyes. People who are high on THC may feel dehydrated and drink large amounts of water or other beverages.
Similarly, THC can cause increased appetite. Also known as the munchies, people who are high on THC often have cravings for certain food. Excessive THC use has been linked to weight gain, largely because of this tendency.
Perhaps the most concerning side effect of THC use is drowsiness. People who are high on THC often experience drowsiness and lethargy. This is especially pronounced during the “come down” phase, when the THC is wearing off.
This drowsiness can severely impact cognitive function, coordination, and reflexes. As a result, driving while high is just as dangerous as driving while drunk.
Is THC Addictive?
The last question we have to answer is also one of the biggest. Is THC addictive? Many people claim it isn’t but is that the case?
The truth is somewhere in between yes and no. Marijuana isn’t addictive in the physical sense, the way that cigarettes or harder drugs are. However, a person can become mentally dependent on THC.
THC addiction, also called cannabis use disorder, occurs when a person abuses THC to the point of impacting their daily life. There are a few signs to watch out for that signal an issue with marijuana use.
A person who abuses marijuana will use it heavily and in ever-larger amounts. They will often plan their day around when they can get high and will spend money on THC over other more important things.
They will also typically have mood swings when they go too long without THC. These mood swings manifest as periods of irritability or sadness.
THC abuse typically results from an increased tolerance built up over repeated use. As a person uses more THC, their body becomes accustomed to the effects. This means they require more of it to achieve the same results.
Some people exhibit signs of withdrawal when they go without THC. THC withdrawal symptoms include irritability, anxiety, and insomnia. People may experience reduced appetite, decreased heart rate, and fatigue as well.
Thankfully, THC abuse is relatively rare when compared to many other substances. Compared to other legal substances such as alcohol and tobacco, THC abuse is uncommon.
However, this doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. THC abuse is a real problem and can affect anyone. It’s important to keep an eye out for any signs of it.
The Truth About THC
Is THC harmful? Is THC addictive? As THC and marijuana become legal in more places, parents are looking for answers regarding them.
While THC does have many uses and is safer than many alternatives, it still has plenty of concerns surrounding its use. It can affect a person’s mental and physical health in the short and long term.
And if used too much, a person can develop an addiction to THC that can negatively impact their entire life. For these reasons, it’s important for parents to be aware of their kids using THC and to take measures accordingly.
If this helped answer your questions, be sure to check out our other articles. Whether you’re looking for more information on CBD and THC, or you have other lifestyle questions, we have an article for you.