With the legalization of cannabis for medicinal and recreational purposes in many parts of the world, there has been a growing demand for strains with higher THC levels. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the primary psychoactive compound found in weed that produces the characteristic “high” commonly associated with its use.
The purpose of this article is to explore whether the percentage of THC in cannabis affects the strength of the high. Many people believe that THC-dominant strains lead to more intense and longer-lasting highs. However, there is also a growing body of research that suggests other factors, such as the terpene profile, may play a more significant role in determining the strength and duration of the high.
To fully understand this relationship, it is essential to first understand the effects on the body.
What is THC and how does it affect the body?
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is one of the many cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. It is a psychoactive compound that produces the euphoric and mind-altering effects commonly associated with cannabis use. When THC enters the body, it interacts with the endocannabinoid system, a complex network of receptors and neurotransmitters that help regulate various physiological processes, including mood, appetite, pain sensation, and more.
When THC binds to the CB1 receptors in the brain, it activates a series of events that result in the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. This flood of dopamine is what produces the characteristic “high” associated with cannabis use. The effects of THC can vary depending on the individual, the method of consumption, and the strain of cannabis used.
Factors that affect the strength and duration of the high
The strength and duration of the high produced by THC can be influenced by a variety of factors. For example, the method of consumption can affect the onset and intensity of the high. Inhalation methods, such as smoking or vaping, tend to produce faster onset and more intense highs, while ingestion methods, such as edibles, can take longer to take effect but may produce longer-lasting effects.
In addition to the method of consumption, other factors that can affect the strength and duration of the high include the individual’s tolerance to THC, the potency and percentage of THC in the strain, and the presence of terpenes and other cannabinoids. Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in cannabis that can also have an impact on the effects of THC, with some enhancing or modulating the effects.
The THC percentage debate continues
One of the most hotly debated topics in the cannabis community is whether the percentage of THC in a strain affects the strength of the high. Some people argue that higher THC percentages lead to more intense and longer-lasting highs, while some believe that other factors, such as the terpene profile, may play a more significant role.
Those who support the idea that higher THC levels lead to stronger highs often point to the fact that THC is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis. They argue that the more THC present in a strain, the more potent its effects will be. Some studies have also suggested a correlation between higher THC percentages and greater levels of intoxication.
On the other hand, there are those who believe that the terpene profile of a strain may be a more important factor in determining the strength and duration of the high. Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in many plants, including cannabis. They can modulate the effects of THC, potentially enhancing or mitigating its effects.
Some studies have suggested that certain terpenes, such as myrcene and limonene, may enhance the effects of THC and increase its bioavailability, leading to stronger and longer-lasting highs. Other terpenes, such as beta-caryophyllene, may act as CB2 receptor agonists, producing anti-inflammatory effects that could mitigate the psychoactive properties of THC.
Research studies on THC percentage and the strength of the high
Several studies have been conducted to investigate the relationship between THC percentage and the strength of the high. One study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that higher THC doses produced greater levels of intoxication in both occasional and regular cannabis users. The study also found that there was a dose-dependent relationship between THC and subjective ratings of intoxication.
Another study published in the journal Addiction found that higher THC concentrations in cannabis were associated with greater impairment on tasks assessing attention, working memory, and psychomotor speed. The study involved administering both low- and high-potency cannabis to participants and measuring their cognitive performance.
However, some research has suggested that other factors, such as the terpene profile, may be more important in determining the strength of the high. One study published in the Journal of Cannabis Research found that the terpene profile of a strain had a more significant effect on the subjective effects reported by users than the THC percentage. The study involved administering four strains of cannabis to participants and measuring their subjective ratings of the high.
Limitations and gaps in the research
While these studies provide some insight into the relationship between THC percentage and the strength of the high, there are limitations and gaps in the research. Many of the studies have used relatively small sample sizes, limiting the generalizability of the findings.
Additionally, there is a need for more research exploring the effects of different terpene profiles and their interactions with THC.
Other factors that may influence the strength of the high
While THC percentage and the terpene profile are important factors in determining the strength of the high, there are other factors that may also play a role. Some of these factors include:
- Method of Consumption: The way cannabis is consumed can have a significant impact on the strength and duration of the high. Smoking or vaporizing cannabis delivers THC directly into the bloodstream, resulting in a faster onset and a more intense high. In contrast, edibles take longer to take effect and may produce a stronger and longer-lasting high due to the conversion of THC into its more potent form, 11-hydroxy-THC, in the liver.
- Individual Tolerance: Individual tolerance to THC can also affect the strength of the high. Regular cannabis users may have a higher tolerance, which can result in a less intense high even when consuming strains with high THC percentages.
- Presence of Other Cannabinoids and Terpenes: Cannabis contains a variety of other cannabinoids and terpenes that can affect the strength and quality of the high. For example, CBD has been shown to moderate some of the effects of THC, such as anxiety and paranoia. Terpenes, on the other hand, can enhance or diminish the effects depending on their chemical composition and concentration.
In this article, we explored the relationship between THC percentage and the strength of the high, as well as other factors that may influence the experience. Based on the available research and anecdotal evidence, it seems that THC percentage does play a role in the strength of the high, but it is not the only factor. The terpene profile, method of consumption, individual tolerance, and presence of other cannabinoids and terpenes can all influence the experience as well. Therefore, it is important for cannabis users to be aware of these factors and to consume responsibly.
References and further reading
- Grotenhermen, F. (2003). Pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of cannabinoids. Clinical Pharmacokinetics, 42(4), 327-360. doi: 10.2165/00003088-200342040-00003
- Russo, E. B. (2011). Taming THC: Potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. British Journal of Pharmacology, 163(7), 1344-1364. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.x
- Solowij, N., Broyd, S. J., & Beale, C. (2018). Cognitive and brain effects of cannabis use in high-risk populations. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 31(4), 243-251. doi: 10.1097/YCO.0000000000000429
- Freeman, T. P., & Winstock, A. R. (2015). Examining the profile of high-potency cannabis and its association with severity of cannabis dependence. Psychological Medicine, 45(15), 3181-3189. doi: 10.1017/S0033291715001178
- Englund, A., Freeman, T. P., Murray, R. M., McGuire, P. K., & Curtis, V. (2017). 5-HT(2A) receptor agonist effects on cognition and psychopathology in schizophrenia patients – A randomized controlled trial. Psychopharmacology, 234(13), 1997-2008. doi: 10.1007/s00213-017-4617-3
- Brunt, T. M., van Genugten, M., Höner-Snoeken, K., van de Velde, M. J., Niesink, R. J. M. (2014). Therapeutic satisfaction and subjective effects of different strains of pharmaceutical-grade cannabis. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 28(10), 971-979. doi: 10.1177/0269881114548562