THC is an active ingredient in Nabiximols, a specific extract of Cannabis that was approved as a botanical drug in the United Kingdom in 2010 as a mouth spray for people with multiple sclerosis to alleviate neuropathic pain, spasticity, overactive bladder, and other symptoms. Nabiximols (as Sativex) is available as a prescription drug in Canada.
The actions of THC result from its partial agonist activity at the cannabinoid receptor CB1 (Ki = 10 nM), located mainly in the central nervous system, and the CB2 receptor (Ki = 24 nM), mainly expressed in cells of the immune system. The psychoactive effects of THC are primarily mediated by the activation of cannabinoid receptors, which result in a decrease in the concentration of the second messenger molecule cAMP through inhibition of adenylate cyclase.
The presence of these specialized cannabinoid receptors in the brain led researchers to the discovery of endocannabinoids, such as anandamide and 2-arachidonoyl glyceride (2-AG). THC targets receptors in a manner far less selective than endocannabinoid molecules released during retrograde signaling, as the drug has a relatively low cannabinoid receptor efficacy and affinity. In populations of low cannabinoid receptor density, THC may act to antagonize endogenous agonists that possess greater receptor efficacy. THC is a lipophilic molecule and may bind non-specifically to a variety of entities in the brain and body, such as adipose tissue (fat).
Due to its partial agonistic activity, THC appears to result in greater downregulation of cannabinoid receptors than endocannabinoids, further limiting its efficacy over other cannabinoids. While tolerance may limit the maximal effects of certain drugs, evidence suggests that tolerance develops irregularly for different effects with greater resistance for primary over side-effects, and may actually serve to enhance the drug's therapeutic window. However, this form of tolerance appears to be irregular throughout mouse brain areas. THC, as well as other cannabinoids that contain a phenol group, possesses mild antioxidant activity sufficient to protect neurons against oxidative stress, such as that produced by glutamate-induced excitotoxicity.
THC is metabolized mainly to 11-OH-THC by the body. This metabolite is still psychoactive and is further oxidized to 11-nor-9-carboxy-THC (THC-COOH). In humans and animals, more than 100 metabolites could be identified, but 11-OH-THC and THC-COOH are the dominating metabolites. Metabolism occurs mainly in the liver by cytochrome P450 enzymes CYP2C9, CYP2C19, CYP2D6, and CYP3A4. More than 55% of THC is excreted in the feces and ≈20% in the urine. The main metabolite in urine is the ester of glucuronic acid and THC-COOH and free THC-COOH. In the feces, mainly 11-OH-THC was detected.
A total synthesis of the compound was reported in 1965; that procedure called for the intramolecular alkyl lithium attack on a starting carbonyl to form the fused rings, and a tosyl chloride mediated formation of the ether.[third-party source needed]
In the Cannabis plant, THC occurs mainly as tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA, 2-COOH-THC, THC-COOH). Geranyl pyrophosphate and olivetolic acid react, catalysed by an enzyme to produce cannabigerolic acid, which is cyclized by the enzyme THC acid synthase to give THCA. Over time, or when heated, THCA is decarboxylated, producing THC. The pathway for THCA biosynthesis is similar to that which produces the bitter acid humulone in hops.
The Median lethal dose of THC in humans is not known because no human has ever been known to have died from it. A 1972 study gave up to 9000 mg/kg of THC to dogs and monkeys without any lethal effects. Some rats died within 72 hours after a dose of up to 3600 mg/kg.
THC and its 11-OH-THC and THC-COOH metabolites can be detected and quantified in blood, urine, hair, oral fluid or sweat using a combination of immunoassay and chromatographic techniques as part of a drug use testing program or in a forensic investigation.
Recreational use of cannabis is legal in many parts of North America, increasing the demand for THC monitoring methods in both personal and law enforcement uses. Breath sampling as a noninvasive method is in development to detect THC, which is difficult to quantify in breath samples. Scientists and industry are commercializing various types of breath analyzers to monitor THC in breath.
At its 33rd meeting, in 2003, the World Health Organization Expert Committee on Drug Dependence recommended transferring THC to Schedule IV of the Convention, citing its medical uses and low abuse and addiction potential. Prior to August 21st 2020, in 2018 the federal farm bill was passed allowing any hemp derived product not exceeding 0.3% Δ-9 THC to be sold legally. Since the law formerly counted for Δ-9 THC, Δ-8 THC is considered legal to sell under the farm bill and is currently being sold online. After August 21st, 2020, all forms of THC are deemed illegal above 0.3% due to the CSA (Controlled Substances Act) according to the DEA. The ruling is currently being debated and companies that formerly sold forms of THC are lobbying to keep other forms of THC (other than delta-9) legal for commerce.
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Female cannabis plants contain at least 113 cannabinoids, including cannabidiol (CBD), thought to be the major anticonvulsant that helps people with multiple sclerosis; and cannabichromene (CBC), an anti-inflammatory which may contribute to the pain-killing effect of cannabis.
As of October 2018 when recreational use of cannabis was legalized in Canada, some 220 dietary supplements and 19 veterinary health products containing not more than 10 parts per million of THC extract were approved with general health claims for treating minor conditions.
The status of THC as an illegal drug in most countries imposes restrictions on research material supply and funding, such as in the United States where the National Institute on Drug Abuse and Drug Enforcement Administration continue to control the sole federally-legal source of cannabis for researchers. Despite an August 2016 announcement that licenses would be provided to growers for supplies of medical marijuana, no such licenses were ever issued, despite dozens of applications. Although cannabis is legalized for medical uses in more than half of the states of the United States, no products have been approved for federal commerce by the Food and Drug Administration, a status that limits cultivation, manufacture, distribution, clinical research, and therapeutic applications.
In April 2014, the American Academy of Neurology found evidence supporting the effectiveness of the cannabis extracts in treating certain symptoms of multiple sclerosis and pain, but there was insufficient evidence to determine effectiveness for treating several other neurological diseases. A 2015 review confirmed that medical marijuana was effective for treating spasticity and chronic pain, but caused numerous short-lasting adverse events, such as dizziness.
Based upon several nationwide epidemiological studies, marijuana’s dependence liability has been reliably determined to be 8 to 10 percent.Cite journal requires
Dronabinol has a large apparent volume of distribution, approximately 10 L/kg, because of its lipid solubility. The plasma protein binding of dronabinol and its metabolites is approximately 97%.
Δ9-THC and many of its derivatives are highly lipophilic and poorly water soluble. Calculations of the n-octanol-water partition coefficient (Ko/w) of Δ9-THC at neutral pH vary between 6,000, using the shake flask method, and 9.44 × 106, by reverse-phase high-performance liquid chromatography estimation.
Because they are extremely lipid soluble, cannabinoids accumulate in fatty tissues, reaching peak concentrations in 4–5 days. They are then slowly released back into other body compartments, including the brain. ... Within the brain, THC and other cannabinoids are differentially distributed. High concentrations are reached in neocortical, limbic, sensory and motor areas.
THC is highly lipophilic and initially taken up by tissues that are highly perfused, such as the lung, heart, brain, and liver.
In dogs and monkeys, single oral doses of Δ9-THC and Δ8-THC between 3000 and 9000/mg/kg were nonlethal.