Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is commonly known and popularized by its significant presence in the cannabis plant, a.k.a., marijuana. Raphael Mechoulam and Yechiel Gaoni, two Israeli scientists working at the Weizmann Institute of Science, first isolated the organic drug in 1964. THC has many forms and can be consumed orally, smoked, or vaporized. It appears as a greasy yellow substance. THC is nonpolar and has a low solubility in water and a high boiling point, at 200 C. THC’s pure isomer, Dronabinol, is sold as a pharmaceutical drug known as Marinol, which is used to help AIDS patients with anorexia and chemotherapy patients with nausea. While THC can be used to significantly help the ill, other effects can include relaxation, alteration of visual, auditory, and olfactory senses, fatigue, and appetite stimulation. THC has become a very commonly known substance, as well as a very commonly enjoyed substance, and its presence in our hospitals, as well as society, will only continue to expand. THC can be produced through a natural process, as well as in a lab through synthesizing different compounds. As mentioned earlier, the synthetic form of THC is called Dronabinol. THC has two main functional groups: a phenol group and an ether group. The phenol group is a benzene ring with the attachment of an OH to the ring; the ether group is oxygen bonded to two R groups on either side of it. THC contains 20 sigma bonds and four pi bonds. Three rings are present as well, two cyclohexene rings and one benzene ring. Attached to the first cyclohexene ring is one methyl group. On the second cyclohexene ring, two methyl groups are present as well as the ether group. On the benzene ring, the hydroxyl group is the substituent, and a pentane chain is attached to the ring as well. THC contains two chiral centers, both being on the ring carbons that are bonded to hydrogen, the other atoms present on the ring, and also the atoms of the surrounding rings.
The most significant psychoactive substances in cannabis are cannabinoids, specifically THC. THC is converted rapidly to 11-hydroxy-THC, which is also pharmacologically active, so the drug effect outlasts measurable THC levels in blood. As shown through research with rats, THC is a neuroprotective antioxidant and prevents hydroperoxide-induced oxidative damage just as well, if not better than other antioxidants. The chemical typically interacts with glycine receptors. It was in 1990 when cannabinoid receptors were discovered throughout the brain and body, suggesting that the use of cannabis affects the brain in close relations to a naturally occurring brain chemical. There are two types of cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2. It is the CB1 receptor that is primarily located in the brain and responsible for facilitating the psychological effects of THC. THC, as well as most cannabinoids, are lipophilic, meaning they possess the ability to dissolve in fats, oils, lipids, etc. Due to this, the THC molecule can be detected in drugs tests from three days to three months, depending on the user and their habits. No fatal overdoses of solely cannabis have ever been reported. THC has an extremely low toxicity and no amount that is able to enter the body through the consumption of cannabis plants has life-threatening effects. It is reported that even in lab animal tests, scientists consistently struggle with dispensing a dosage of THC high enough to be fatal.