Technische Universität München

The Entrepreneurial University

Cannabinoids are a group of natural substances present in the herb of Cannabis Sativa as well as their synthetic analogues or metabolites. Chemically, they are derivatives of dibenzopyrene or monoterpenoids. Cannabis Sativa consists of over 420 chemical compounds among which the most important are: Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), Δ8-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ8-THC), cannabinol (CBN) and cannabidiol (CBD).

THC is the main psychoactive component of the Cannabis Sativa responsible for the development of psychic changes similar to those manifested in the course of psychosis (psychotomimetic effect). Inhalation of cannabinoids provokes almost immediate influence on the central nervous system. Oral application causes prolonged effects with decreased effectiveness of about 25-30% of the inhalatory dose. THC accumulates in fat tissues and quickly crosses the blood-brain barrier concentrating in the limbic system and sensomotoric structures of the brain. Its concentration in the brain is 3-6 times higher than in blood. Cannabinoids are used mainly in the form of hashish, hashish oil or marijuana. Sensations of euphoria, relaxation, amplified auditory and visual perceptions produced by marijuana are almost entirely due to its effect on the cannabinoid receptors in the brain. Similarly like in the case of opiates that bind directly to the receptors for endorphins, the cannabinoid receptors bind to their specific molecule – anandamide.  Anandamide is involved in the regulation of mood, memory, appetite, pain, cognition, and emotions. THC also increases dopamine released by compensation of the inhibitory effect of GABA neurons. Chronic consumption of cannabinoids could lead to destruction of some neuron receptors in the brain resulting in attention deficits, memory loss and impaired learning ability.

Cannabinoids are metabolized in the liver. About 85% of an applied dose is removed from the body within 5 days but total clearing of its metabolites would last up to 30 days. Usually, cannabinoids are used in the form of cigarettes (“joint”) or pipe smoking. Hashish is added to marijuana or to tobacco (“reefer”). Since threshold level for THC is about 2 mg smoking of one cigarrete can cause some psychic symptoms in the user.