Cannabis consumption is on the rise in the United States. With the societal taboos about marijuana shifting and states legalizing its sale and consumption, the weed industry has seen a significant boom and is projected to reach 3 million kilograms by 2025.
The cannabis plant contains several compounds, known as cannabinoids, that interact with our body’s systems to alter our regular functioning. Cannabinoids are unique to cannabis and hemp and are a vital area of scientific research due to their potential effects on the body.
There are three classes of cannabinoids:
Phytocannabinoids refer to the cannabinoid compounds found in plants, primarily sourced from Cannabis sativa L. These compounds interact with our body’s endocannabinoid system and bring about a chemical balancing effect – homeostasis – in the body. Some common phytocannabinoids include Delta 9 THC and CBD. Delta 9 THC is the primary psychoactive ingredient of marijuana that causes its characteristic high, and CBD is also used in the vaping industry as CBD oil.
In mammalian bodies, the brain naturally releases endocannabinoids to coordinate bodily functions. For example, anandamide is involved in the early stages of pregnancy, and 2-archidonoylglycerol is present in mammalian milk and controls emotion and cognition.
The endocannabinoid system performs different bodily tasks, including pain sensation, appetite stimulation, energy balance, embryonic development, immune system development, memory, and learning. It consists of two receptors, the cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) and the cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2). CB1 is expressed primarily in the brain, liver, kidney, and lungs, while CB2 is expressed mainly in the immune system and blood cells. Early research shows that targeting this system can help with diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Though such studies suggest that compounds present in cannabis can have several health benefits, we need more research to achieve scientific consensus.
3. Synthetic Cannabinoids
Manufacturers can create artificial phytocannabinoid-derived compounds to stimulate the body’s endocannabinoid system. You’ll find them as Spice or K2 in marijuana stores. Though people often consider them legal and safer than natural cannabinoids, many synthetic cannabinoids are illegal and unsafe.
One typical synthetic cannabinoid class includes naphtoylindoles. These act on both cannabinoid receptors and produce a response similar to that of THC. It is used in the market drug Spice – a mixture of several synthetic cannabinoids. Spice acts more intensely on the cannabinoid receptors than THC, which makes it more dangerous. Due to the severe health risk it poses, it is a schedule I controlled substance, which means you cannot buy, sell, or possess any quantity of it.
Disclaimer: The Health Effects of Cannabinoids
Your body naturally produces endocannabinoids to maintain your bodily functions in an equilibrium state. Ingesting phytocannabinoids or synthetic cannabinoids, unless taken as a medicinal remedy and approved by the doctor, can disrupt the natural homeostasis. They can modify your natural appetite, perception, and energy.
Because they work as neurotransmitters, continued use of cannabinoids can impair your memory, cognitive function, and motor control. Cannabinoids can also cause drowsiness, nausea, and vomiting. Psychoactive cannabinoids like THC can cause distorted senses and hallucinations. THC can also cause addiction and dependence.
The widespread use of cannabinoids in vapes and cigarettes is a health concern. You must make an informed decision and understand the pharmacology behind ingesting these drugs.
While your body produces cannabinoids like endocannabinoids, smoking introduces external cannabinoids into your system. Always make sure you understand the health risks of ingesting cannabinoids. Do not be pressured into consuming marijuana; always research and understand how your body may react to its compounds.