What is THC?

Delta-9 THC is a naturally occurring compound from the cannabis plant. It’s commonly known as THC and is the substance that causes the classic "high" feeling. It stands for Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ-9-THC). The average cannabis strain has 12% of THC content.

What is Delta-9 THC?

Discovery of THC

The cannabis plant has been used for millennia, even before scientists discovered its properties.

Ancient people used THC, including the Chinese, Indians, and Persians. They used cannabis preparations as medicine and as a psychomimetic drug.

In the 1830s, an Irish doctor, William Brooke O’Shaughnessy, discovered that cannabis could help stomach pain and vomiting.

In the late 1800s, the benefits of cannabis plant extracts have boosted. It was then sold to almost every pharmacy throughout Europe and the United States for medicinal use.

Afterward, scientists discovered one of the compounds found in the cannabis plant, which is THC. They found out that THC was the substance that gives marijuana medicinal properties.

It began when Harvard-trained chemist, Roger Adams, explored THC’s relationship to CBD. However, he did not isolate THC from the cannabis plant. Instead, he synthesized it from the laboratory.

The official discovery of THC was in 1964 by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam with his colleagues. They isolated THC and described its structure.

Recreational Cannabis

Of course, the famous use of cannabis is for recreational purposes.

In the United States, immigrants from Mexico introduced this use of the cannabis plant. As a result, Americans adopted the recreational use of marijuana in their culture. However, this resulted in the resentment of Mexican immigrants and public fear of marijuana.

This led to the creation of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. It’s the first federal law to criminalize marijuana use in the United States.

After a few years, in 1970, the Controlled Substances Act was signed into law. This law repealed the previous Marijuana Tax Act. In addition, it listed marijuana as a Schedule I drug, which means it’s categorized as a drug with no medical uses and has a high potential for abuse.

However, in 1972, a report entitled "Marijuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding." recommended a partial prohibition on marijuana.

Then in the late 1900s, some states welcomed the use of cannabis, especially for medicinal use. Presently, eleven states legalized marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use.

The Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a system in the body widely discussed in cannabis communities. The ECS has cannabinoid receptors throughout the body, which are CB1 and CB2.

Both CB1 and CB2 are receptors that work throughout our body. You can find them in the muscles and tissues. Receptors usually communicate with the tissues and send signals to the nerves and cells of the body. Moreover, these receptors bind with endocannabinoids and produce reactions. Common reactions are the psychoactive or "high" effects, pain alleviation, increase in appetite, and inhibition of nausea and vomiting.

In addition, our ECS binds with many cannabinoids. So, it’s possible to achieve several reactions coming from each receptor. These reactions depend on the properties of the compounds that bind with them.

How does Delta 9 THC Work?

Delta-9 works by attaching to the body’s cannabinoid receptors. Compared to its other compounds, Delta-9 can be detected longer. It’s because Delta-9 is stored in body fat for about 3-4 weeks.

Taking THC causes a "high" or euphoric feeling which lasts fr only a few hours. But how does it do that? First, it binds with the cannabinoid receptors, specifically the CB1, located in the brain. Afterward, it produces a sense of euphoria in that area.

This "high" feeling can affect thinking, movements, memory, and other sensory parts of the body. Therefore, it is recommended not to engage in activities requiring you to stay alert, such as working, driving, and outdoor activities.

Forms of THC



Taking THC by inhalation is the fastest and most famous method. Most human THC use is via this inhalation. However, while you can achieve the effects faster, it can only last within minutes. In addition, inhales THC comes in the form of vapes or cigarettes. Presently, even e-cigarettes are available.

Inhaled THC’s downside is lung irritation.

There are many ways to smoke marijuana. Such methods include the following:

Handrolled Marijuana Cigarettes

These have categories defined by their content and rolling material used.


Joints are an iconic way of smoking weed. It’s a type of smoking that rolls marijuana in a thin rolling paper. They usually have crutches or filters. Additionally, these filters add stability to the roll and enable the user to smoke to the end without burning their fingers.


Spliffs are like a joint. The difference is that they use tobacco. In addition, spliffs use cannabis mixed with tobacco and rolled in a rolling paper. Additionally, these also utilize crutches. In using spliffs, users can customize their ratio of cannabis and tobacco.


Hash Oil or Hashish Oil

Has oils are concentrated cannabis that can be smoked, eaten, or rubbed on the skin. Has oils are potent, containing up to 90% THC.


Dabbing uses a special pipe to heat or vaporize cannabis. The pipe usually contains a hollow "nail" that fits in the pipe’s gauge. Alternatively, some utilize a small metal plate or "swing."

The user usually heats the nail or swing, then adds the hash to the surface using a dabber. Afterward, the hash vaporizes, and the user inhales it through the pipe.

In Pipes or Water Pipes



Inhaling marijuana in pipes usually uses bongs. Bongs are filtration devices used to smoke cannabis, herbs, or tobacco. These are typically composed of a tube, base, downstem, carb, and bowl.

Rolled in Cigar Leaves



Blunts are cigarettes that are hollowed out and replaced with marijuana. Alternatively, some also use tobacco leaf wrappers to roll the cannabis.

Oral Ingestion

Oral forms of THC are in capsules, edibles, tinctures, tablets, oils, etc. These forms are typically mixed with other cannabis compounds. Usually, most folks use marijuana or hashish mixed into food and edibles like muffins or brownies.

The effects of THC take orally last longer. However, it takes longer to produce effects. Another thing about oral THC is that there is limited information about its effects and other properties compared to inhaled forms of THC.


Topicals are products meant to be applied to the skin. It only produces local effects and does not enter the bloodstream. Examples of topical cannabis products include lotions, creams, balms, salves, etc.

Since we apply topicals on the external parts of the body, it doesn’t produce the same psychoactive effects as ingested or inhaled. However, it still depends on your tolerance and the potency of THC in the product. Products with higher doses of THC can permeate the skin and reach the capillaries, which can move to the bloodstream. In turn, it can also cause psychoactive effects.

Most cannabis products in topical formulations are made to help in reducing pain and inflammation.

Presently, the growth and popularity of the cannabis plant have made their way into the skincare industry. As a result, you can now even find skincare products such as facial washes, soap, creams, and serums infused with cannabis.


Most sublingual products are in the form of lollipops, oils, lozenges, sprays, or dissolvable strips placed under the tongue. It produces faster effects, and the absorption starts in the mouth. The mucus membranes absorb the products under the tongue that makes their way to the bloodstream. Hence, absorption and production of effects

What are the Uses of THC?

THC is often referred to as an illicit drug. That’s why most states and countries ban the use of cannabis.

However, other countries have adopted its use in medicine. Some medical professionals even prescribe some—for instance, the FDA-approved THC drug Marinol.

Marinol is a man-made compound derived from the marijuana plant. It’s also called Dronabinol, which is a man-made component from marijuana. Although it does not contain all the plant’s components, it contains Delta-9 THC. Additionally, this drug is used to treat nausea and vomiting of chemotherapeutic patients.

Another drug, Nabiximol (Sativex), contains both CBD and THC. It’s an oral spray used to treat muscle control problems associated with multiple sclerosis. It’s not yet FDA-approved. However, countries like Canada and some European countries have approved it for medical use.

study stated that the most promising uses of any form of THC are to counteract nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy and to stimulate appetite.

Another use of Delta 9 THC is for the entourage effects or the ensemble effect. It is believed that the whole cannabis plant has many extracts that have great medicinal value. Therefore, it also has better benefits than taking isolates. Moreover, the entourage effect is the way cannabinoids magnify the effects of one another.

THC is used to help with the following:

Pain Relief

2012 study (published on PubMed) shows cannabis compounds interact with CNS that block pain signals to the brain. Therefore, reducing felt pain and improving the patient’s quality of life. It is also beneficial in aiding conditions associated with pain like osteoarthritis and for cancer patients.

Nausea & Vomiting

There is an approved THC pill called Marinol, which treats nausea and vomiting in cancer patients since the 1980s.

study highlighted the effective use of cannabis as an antiemetic drug for children with cancer.

Low Appetite

2007 study indicated that THC is an effective appetite stimulant. In this study, the researchers used Dronabinol. The result is that 26% of the subjects gained weight. Hence, it’s an effective alternative to gain weight by increasing appetite.

However, smoking marijuana is difficult to justify because of the dose inconsistency. It’s difficult to come with a safe and effective dose for smoked THC. Furthermore, inhaling marijuana gives the user risk for lung irritation.

What are the Side Effects of Delta 9 THC?

Of course, any drug, whether plant-based or synthetically derived, has its side effect. THC causes temporary side effects, such as:

  • increased heart rate
  • coordination problems
  • dry mouth
  • red eyes
  • slower reaction times
  • memory loss
  • anxiety

THC Tolerance

One common side effect is tolerance. So it when the user needs to increase the dose to feel the same effect because the usual dose isn’t working anymore.

High doses of THC can also lead to addiction, wherein regular strong amounts are ingested, leading to dependence.

It’s always best to take small doses first and gradually increasing them until you get the desired effect.

How Long does Delta 9 THC Stay in the Body?

Delta 9 THC is lipid-soluble. It can stay in the body for several days or even weeks. The length of time THC stays in the body depends on many factors, such as fat content, how often you consume the drug, how much you smoke, and the type of test. It can also influence the result of a drug test.

If you have high body fat content, then Delta-9 THC will bind to these, increasing the length of time to eliminate THC in the body completely.

Drug Test

Drug tests are usually done to screen or confirm an individual’s marijuana use. In addition, it’s essential to detect drug intoxication, overdose, and abuse.

Drug tests usually look for the metabolites of THC that stay in the body for a longer period than THC. Most of these metabolites are present in the urine. However, some tests, like saliva and blood test, can also detect the active compound of THC.

Detecting THC in the body includes different drug testing types:

Hair Test

Of all other tests, this is the most sensitive. Hair tests can detect THC up to 90 days after use. The hair test is done by testing the oil in the skin that transfers to hair. This often shows false-positive results because some THC users who contact non-THC users can transfer some of these oils, leading to a positive result.


This test is done by obtaining a sample by collecting it in an absorbent pad or swab placed between the lower cheek and gums. The test sample is then sent to the laboratory to be tested. In saliva tests, it’s recommended not to put anything in your mouth 10 minutes before collecting the sample. In addition, this method is often used in workplace marijuana testing. Moreover, saliva tests detect THC about 24 to 72 hours after use.


A urine test is a common method for drug testing. A urine sample is collected in a clean, sterile container and then given to the laboratory. Trace amounts of Delta 9 THC can be detected in urine for about 3 to 30 days after using THC.


Blood tests can detect THC for about 3 to 4 hours after use.

Blood tests can detect THC for about 3 to 4 hours after use.

Factors for Detection

Detection of trace amounts of Delta 9 THC or THC includes the following factors:


Drug tests usually only look for THC. The dose is a significant factor that influences a positive test on THC. Taking THC at higher doses is likely to test positive.

Body Fat

Since THC is lipid-soluble, it is stored in fat. Therefore, those with higher body fat concentrations metabolize THC slowly than those with less body fat. This leads to the slow elimination of THC in the body and may affect drug testing.

Test Sensitivity

Tests that are more sensitive can detect lower doses of THC in the body. For instance, the hair test can easily detect THC in the oils of the skin. However, it can also affect those who don’t use THC, who can get false-positive results in the drug test.


Metabolism is the way the body eliminates THC from the system. In short, people with faster metabolisms eliminate THC in the body quickly.

Where is Marijuana Legal?

Many states have legalized the use of marijuana in the U.S. There are also areas that only legalize less than 0.3% THC in cannabis products. However, some still ban the use of cannabis because of its mind-altering effects.

States where medical and recreational cannabis is legal:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Guam
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • South Dakota
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Washington, D.C.

States that only Allow Medical Use of Cannabis:

  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia*
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana*
  • Iowa*
  • Kentucky*
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Texas*
  • Utah
  • Virginia*
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin*

States marked with (*) indicate that they only allow low levels of THC for medical use.

States with Full Prohibition of Cannabis:

  • Alabama
  • Idaho
  • Kansas
  • Nebraska
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Wyoming

Remember to always check your state laws before purchasing cannabis-infused products.


Delta-9 THC may sound different, but it’s still THC. It’s an illicit drug that contains the euphoric effects of THC, which is commonly used for recreational use. Though THC has acquired negative impressions to the public, some started acknowledging its medicinal benefits. THC now has an available FDA-approved drug to help ease symptoms of patients. Like its sister component, CBD, I hope further research and development can discover its potential and beneficial effects.

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