THC

(Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol)

The best-known cannabinoid Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) is responsible for the renowned ‘high’ and for most people enjoyable psychotropic effects of cannabis. Since March 2017, THC and THC-containing substances have been classified in Germany within Appendix III of the narcotics law as prescription drugs. This article reviews the therapeutic potential of THC.

Chemical formula: C21H30O2

Molecular weight: 314.2246 g/mol

Boiling point: 157 °C

The best-known cannabinoid is Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), which was isolated by Yehiel Gaoni and Raphael Mechoulam at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel in 1964.1 It is responsible for the renowned ‘high’ and by most people enjoyed psychotropic effects of cannabis. THC amplifies sensory experience (such as hearing, sight, colour perception) and the consumer usually experiences a feeling of general well-being. THC can also trigger episodes of euphoria and mental focus, and consumers often report about an increase in their creativity.2

The therapeutic potential of cannabis in the treatment of psychiatric disorders is likely based on these effects: Adults with ADHD benefit primarily from an improved concentration, sleep, and impulse control. Similarly often, cannabinoids are used in adults as mood enhancers (antidepressants). THC from cannabis can bring significant relief in various other serious mental illnesses, especially post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Among the hundreds of cannabinoids contained in the cannabis blossom, Δ9-THC is the most common cannabinoid in most varieties, as the black market has been breeding cannabis mainly for THC-rich genetics in the last decades. In March 2017, THC and THC-containing substances have been classified as prescription drugs within Appendix III of the narcotics law in Germany.

THC increases appetite, which can be exploited for the therapy of cachectic diseases, among others.3 For anorexic patients, THC seems to have at least positive psychological effects.4 THC can – especially in synergy with other phytocannabinoids – stop the growth of certain types of cancer cells, including the much-feared glioblastoma.5,6 Scientifically unconfirmed case reports that can be found on the internet even claim complete remissions.

In any case, medicinal cannabis and its preparations, in contrast to cannabis from the black market or home-grown cannabis, follow strict quality standards in terms of active ingredient content and stability, and guarantee the absence of pesticides, moulds and thinners. This makes research and specific application of cannabis-based medication possible in the first place. Furthermore, the supervision of cannabis therapy by a medical doctor serves to minimise potential harm, which is not the case in an attempted self-therapy with cannabis (e.g. interaction with other medication, individual assessment of risks and benefits, intervention options in the event of undesired side effects…).

Inflammation is responsible for a whole range of lifestyle diseases.

In the treatment of chronic pain, especially of the neuropathic spectrum, THC shows promising prospects. This is likely in part due to the anti-inflammatory effect of THC, (inflammation causes pain) and its influence on neuronal pain transmission. Furthermore, THC seems to increase individual pain tolerance (emotional evaluation of pain, limbic system), so that life with pain becomes practically more ‘bearable’ for the patient – cannabis may therefore at least increase quality of life.8

There are also clues for the effectiveness of THC in the treatment of glaucoma, this is recommended however only after careful consideration of the individual risk-benefit ratio.9

THC (also: dronabinol) has potentially numerous therapeutic benefits and is therefore utilised in the treatment of many diseases (including off-label), for example:

  • Alzheimer’s
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Chronic pain
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • PTSD
  • Cancer
  • Crohn’s disease

The known useful therapeutic effects of THC are:

  • Pain-relieving
  • Mood-lifting
  • Neuroprotective
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anticarcinogenic
  • Appetite enhancing
  • Relaxing
  • Anticonvulsant

[1] Y. Gaoni, R. Mechoulam: Isolation, Structure, and Partial Synthesis of an Active Constituent of Hashish. In: Journal of the American Chemical Society. 86, 1964, S. 1646, doi:10.1021/ja01062a046

[2] https://1000seeds.info/wordpress/die-wichtigsten-cannabinoide-im-marijuana-im-ueberblick/

[3] Badowski ME, Yanful PK. Dronabinol oral solution in the management of anorexia and weight loss in AIDS and cancer. Ther Clin Risk Manag. 2018;14:643-651. doi:10.2147/TCRM.S126849

[4] Avraham Y, Latzer Y, Hasid D BE. The Impact of Δ9-THCon the Psychological Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa: A Pilot Study. https://cdn.doctorsonly.co.il/2018/05/08_The-Impact-of.pdf. Accessed October 2, 2018.

[5] Dumitru CA, Sandalcioglu IE, Karsak M. Cannabinoids in Glioblastoma Therapy: New Applications for Old Drugs. Front Mol Neurosci. 2018;11:159. doi:10.3389/fnmol.2018.00159

[6] Velasco G, Hernández-Tiedra S, Dávila D, Lorente M. The use of cannabinoids as anticancer agents. Prog Neuro-Psychopharmacology Biol Psychiatry. 2016. doi:10.1016/j.pnpbp.2015.05.010

[7] E.B R, Russo EB. Taming THC: Potential Cannabis Synergy and Phytocannabinoid-Terpenoid Entourage Effects. Vol 163.; 2011:1344-1364. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.x

[8] Sharon H, Goldway N, Goor-Aryeh I, Eisenberg E, Brill S. Personal experience and attitudes of pain medicine specialists in Israel regarding the medical use of cannabis for chronic pain. J Pain Res. 2018;11:1411-1419. doi:10.2147/JPR.S159852

[9] Mathalone N, Wolf A, Geyer O. CANNABIS AND GLAUCOMA: AN ANCIENT LEGEND OR A NOVEL THERAPEUTIC HORIZON?. Harefuah. 2015;154(6):394-397, 403. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26281086. Accessed October 2, 2018.