In Defence of THC

CBD has been rehabilitated in the eyes of most of society, it's about time we reassessed the merits of THC...

by Ruby Deevoy

Our bias against THC is ludicrous. It’s time to see it for what it is, and stop the nonsense.CBD products are now largely accepted. The cannabis leaf image has been given a makeover.

But THC remains tarnished with a stigma that just won’t quit. Quite frankly, the misinformation so many are led by, and the negative press that continues to spur on the mass hysteria over this valuable medicinal compound, make fools of all of us.

Last month, Kent Scientific Services, the Official Control Laboratory operated by Kent County Council made headlines when they announced that the results of testing 61 CBD products showed that 72% contained illegal psychoactive cannabinoids, including THC.

While it’s not at all acceptable that a consumer product is inaccurately labelled, that’s where the scandal should end. Customers deserve to know exactly what they’re putting into their bodies, but the fact that it was THC should not be such an alarming issue. If we were to go with the science, many of those products would almost certainly be more effective for reducing pain and aiding with sleep (two of the most common reasons people use CBD oil) than if they had been free from THC as the law requires.

There are endless scare stories about THC, but the scariest thing by far is how easily we’ve been duped as a society into believing this actually pretty miraculous compound is dangerous. The result is not only untold harm to the patients who need THC as part of their medication to survive and thrive (or even just enjoy using THC fun and relaxation, perhaps instead of considerably more harmful alcohol).

But also a country in which we now blindly follow unjust, immoral, unenforceable drug laws that are not based on science, but fear-mongering and profits and lies. Concerns over cannabis use still exist, they probably always will. And, as a matter of fact, that’s a good thing. Anyone who wants to use cannabis themselves, or wants to provide cannabis for someone who needs it wants to know they are safe in doing so. If using for medicinal reasons, they want to know their chosen medication is safe, well tested and understood.

They want to feel assured that the dose they’re taking, or the type of cannabis they’re using, is best for their needs. And it’s important to acknowledge the potential risk of abuse, which does exist and does negatively impact people. 

But we now know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that cannabis has immense therapeutic value and that it’s considerably safer than many standard pharmaceutical medications it stands to replace. As the most abundant cannabinoid in cannabis, THC is well and truly included it that. The WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence has even published a Critical Review of THC which states”

“The toxicity of Δ 9 -THC is very low compared to most other recreational and pharmaceutical drugs….It has been calculated that a lethal dose in a 70 kg human would be approximately 4 g and that such a dose could not be realistically achieved in a human following oral consumption, smoking or vaporising the substance”

Perfectly legal alcohol, on the other hand, is referred to as “a toxic and psychoactive substance with dependence producing properties” by the World Health Organisation, and contributes to 3 million deaths each year globally as well as being responsible for 5.1% of the global burden of disease.

But, apparently we’re fine with that.

Even looking at other areas of concern, the review states:

“Higher doses of Δ 9 -THC are associated with anxiety, panic, confusion, and disorientation in some users….However, these effects were modest in magnitude and reversible. In one study of 22 participants, any psychosis-related effects completely resolved and did not prompt hospitalisation…. RCTs in which Δ 9 -THC has been sometimes given daily to participants for periods of years, generally report low to moderate toxicity and a low incidence of serious adverse events.

One of the largest and longest running trials to date assessed the efficacy of daily, oral Δ 9 -THC administration (up to 28 mg/day) for 3 years in multiple sclerosis patients. Δ 9 -THC was generally well tolerated in the 329 patients receiving the drug [47] with no difference in the median number of adverse events in the placebo group and Δ 9 -THC group.”

While the roll out of the multi-billion dollar CBD industry over the past few years has finally started to show cannabis in a positive light for the first time in nearly a century, many still have blinkers firmly in place when it comes to THC – the most infamous cannabinoid, which is best known for getting you high.

But THC doesn’t only get you high. In fact, it doesn’t have to get you high at all – that just depends on the dose you take. Furthermore, ‘getting high’ isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are plenty of patients who find this experience to play an important role in managing their condition and people with substance abuse disorder who find they’re able to replace potentially lethal drugs (often legal drugs like alcohol and prescription opioids) with far, far safer cannabis, partly due to this effect.

Despite its bad rap and illegal status (without a prescription), THC provides a mine of medicinal properties that have been utilised for millennia. In the right dose, THC can reduce pain, inflammation and nausea, ease insomnia and PTSD nightmares. It can improve metabolism, protect the brain by reducing neurotoxicity and reducing markers associated with neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, provide significant improvement in Tourette’s and Epilepsy, and much more. For some, CBD alone doesn’t cut it – there are millions of people who need THC as a key part of their medicine, and holding onto this bizarre double standard where some parts of cannabis are accepted but others aren’t, only heightens the low risk some are so concerned about.

If, like CBD, THC was legally available without a prescription, regulated and labelled with the mg dosage, and there were a wide variety of THC containing products with different cannabinoid and terpene ratios, those who feel they benefit from THC could use it far more accurately and safely.

The only real risk THC poses is very low compared to alcohol, tobacco and many legal prescription drugs, and only really presents a risk at all if it’s used every day in very high doses. This scenario is far more common when patients and other who enjoy cannabis are forced to use this incredible plant in secret, and rely on an unregulated black market supply with no guidance or knowledge of what their cannabis contains.

It’s time for us all to realise that what we think we know about THC is simply what we’ve been led to believe – and so much of it is not true. If you’re concerned about THC, do your own research, there’s plenty of it out there. You might be extremely surprised by what you find.

Ruby Deevoy is a U.K. cannabis journalist with years of experience covering CBD and cannabis in mainstream publications such as The Independent, The Mirror, The National, Elle, Red, Top Sante and Natural Health magazine. She’s also the U.K’s only CBD columnist, writing monthly for Top Sante magazine, cannabis agony aunt for Leafie, writes the Indybest CBD product lists, is founder of The CBD Consultancy and is the primary press member for The Cannabis Industry Council. Tweets @RDeevoy.

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