Everything You Need to Know About THC

Everything You Need to Know About THC

THC is short for Tetrahydrocannabinol, is a type of chemical compound known as as cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Alongside CBD, THC is one of the most common cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. It’s the main psychoactive component of cannabis, meaning it’s responsible for the “high” or altered state of consciousness that people often associate with the plant.

THC can help treat the symptoms of a range of conditions. Although psychoactive, its role in the medical use of cannabis is very important and people do not get high from using measured low doses of THC. Unlike traditional pharmaceuticals, this natural, plant based medicine does not come with a long list of possible side effects.


How Do You Get a THC Prescription in NZ? 

THC is legal in NZ with a prescription from a registered doctor. If you want to try THC in NZ as part of your medical treatment, talk to your doctor or speak with us.

The Medicinal Cannabis Scheme came into effect in NZ in April 2020, making it easier for doctors to prescribe medical cannabis products for patients who need them.

At your doctor’s appointment, you will be able to discuss your options with them. You may also want to bring additional research with you to help present your reasons.

Ultimately, your doctor will decide whether THC is the best option for your health needs. Suppose you feel that you need a second opinion. In that case, you can talk to another doctor or seek out a specialist for your condition.


What THC Products are Available in NZ? 

Generally, medicinal cannabis products are only available on prescription if they have:

  • been assessed by the Medicinal Cannabis Agency as meeting the minimum quality standard under the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Regulations 2019, or
  • obtained consent for distribution under the Medicines Act 1981 (approved and provisionally approved medicines)

Medical grade THC products are available in many forms—the option you choose is purely based on your preferences. The primary way THC is used is via medicinal cannabis flower which can be vaped or made into tea, or via a tincture, where a few drops can be taken orally or placed under the tongue to increase absorption rates. THC can also be found in some skin products and applied directly on the skin, known as topical application.

There is now are a wide range of THC products available in New Zealand that meet the Ministry of Health’s minimum quality standard. You can see the most up-to-date version of the list here.

The main difference is in how concentrated the products are. Some are designed to be used at higher doses and are cheaper on an ongoing basis whereas others are more dilute, allowing those just starting THC to use low doses and monitor it over time. 


Where Can I Purchase THC Products?

THC products are prescriptions medications and therefore you must have a prescription for it to get it from the pharmacy.


What Conditions Does THC Treat?

THC is used for many different health concerns. While some people remain sceptical about THC because it is still a relatively new research area, cannabis-based infusions have been around for centuries. 

Today, cannabis products are prepared in more advanced ways while still retaining the plant’s unique properties, resulting in numerous possible medicinal benefits. Some of these possible benefits are listed below.

It is important to note that the evidence to prove them is not conclusive and that more research is needed. 

Possible Relief from Chronic Pain

One of the most common uses of THC is to try and help in pain relief. About 1 in 6 New Zealanders live with some chronic pain, and treatment for this can be expensive, inconvenient, and come with a whole host of side effects.

THC is rising in popularity among people looking for natural, alternative pain relief methods. THC has been shown in one study to relieve neuropathic pain, particularly from nerve damage, cancer, and fibromyalgia.

THC has also been shown to promote the production of hormones that affect mood, like serotonin and dopamine. Because of this, THC oil may possibly reduce both the physical cause of pain and the perception of it, allowing you to get your mind off the pain.

Possibly Improves Sleep Problems

Cannabinoids like THC have been known for their relaxing and possible anxiety-reducing properties. Its sedative-like effects make it a good option around bedtime for soothing a busy mind or any additional stress you may be facing. 

Researchers found that people who used THC-rich cannabis products before sleep reported falling (and staying!) asleep faster, compared to those who didn’t.

In addition to this, sleep quality was also enhanced, with fewer nightmares throughout the night recorded. The reason behind this is pretty simple; cannabis use before bedtime has been shown to reduce the time spent in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. The result? Fewer dreams of a vivid nature, which often occur during REM. This can be excellent news for those who have insomnia or PTSD.

This is promising evidence and more research is needed to prove the benefit.

Possibly Reduces Inflammation

Reducing inflammation across the body has been growing in importance across the medical field. Chronic inflammation is considered a significant risk factor for many diseases, ranging from cancer to arthritis.

THC has shown promising results in easing inflammation. This can be achieved in several ways. The endocannabinoid system is a complex system within the body that is responsible for many functions, including inflammation. Cannabinoids like THC can act on this system to possibly lower inflammation rates.

Another popular way THC is thought to possibly lower inflammation is through THC’s interaction with cytokines and chemokines. These immune system compounds can trigger inflammation rates, so cannabinoids like THC are useful since they can decrease these compounds’ production.

THC’s possible anti-inflammatory properties can also reduce pain levels since inflammation and chronic pain often walk hand in hand.


How Much THC Should I take?

For those who have never tried cannabis, we would start with 2 drops or 1mg at night time.

For those who self medicate with cannabis, a starting dose of 5mg at night time is reasonable, increasing based on response. 

The ‘correct’ THC dose will depend on several factors. Your doctor will assess your health needs to determine how much and how often you should take THC. Usually, the more severe your needs are, the more THC you will take.

Your body composition can also affect how the THC acts within your body. Factors like how fast your metabolism is, your body weight, and how tolerant you are to the THC compound will affect how it is processed. For those who haven’t used cannabis-based products before, the effects may be more potent than in seasoned users.

Another reason why the recommended dose of THC is hard to determine is because of the large variety of product options and amounts used in studies. Many THC products will also have different amounts of cannabinoids present, affecting how it is processed in your body.

Ultimately, THC use will require a bit of testing around. An excellent way to do this is to start with low doses taken a long time apart, then work your way up increasing in dosage. Doing this method means you give your body time to adjust to the THC. This limits any side effects that may occur while giving you time to observe how it benefits your health.


Is THC Safe to Use?

THC is generally considered safe when used appropriately and as prescribed by your doctor.

More studies are needed to examine the long-term effects of cannabis-based products. Some researchers believe that THC use in teenage years can be linked to the development of mental health disorders in later years. This is because THC is thought to affect the brain’s normal development in people under 25 years. However, scientists cannot make conclusive claims yet.

THC use is not recommended for people who currently have or have a family history of anxiety and mood disorders, mental health conditions, or substance abuse. THC is a psychoactive substance, and because of this, it may trigger anxiety, paranoia, or stress in some patients.


Can I Drive After Taking THC?

No, you can’t. Many studies have found a direct relationship between THC concentration in the blood and a decreased ability to drive. In fact, cannabis is a common substances associated with car accidents.

This is because the THC compound found in cannabis impairs motor coordination, reaction time, and judgment, all crucial factors needed in a safe driver. 

In NZ, driving while under the influence of THC-rich cannabis products comes with consequences. Any drivers who test positive for this can be fined and suspended from driving for some time.

So how long after taking THC can you safely drive? To play it safe, wait at least 24 hours after using THC to drive. While the effects of THC generally go away within six hours, research has shown that novel and complex driving tasks can still be negatively impacted after this length of time. Research also shows that THC can be detectable long after the effects have worn off, especially with chronic and heavy use, so it’s important to keep this in mind.


Does THC Have Side Effects? 

Generally, THC only produces minimal and temporary side effects. These side effects are often the cause of interactions with other drugs, so talk to your doctor before trying THC oil, especially if you are on over-the-counter medication. 

Side effects of THC include reduced reaction times, anxiety, memory loss, increased heart rate and coordination issues. More research is also needed to investigate the effects of long-term THC use in younger adults. 

While it is unavoidable that minimal side effects will occur, you can reduce your risk of developing any additional adverse effects by buying high-quality THC products. There are many cannabis companies that have THC products available for purchase. However, not all are made equally.

High-quality THC products are often more expensive but are the result of rigorous safety testing and made from good quality ingredients. The lack of contaminants also means the effects experienced will be stronger and more potent. It’s a win-win.


What’s the Difference Between CBD and THC?

Both CBD and THC are cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. While both compounds interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) within the body, they have different effects. 

Cannabinoids like CBD and THC can interact with the receptors in the ECS. THC can bind tightly to the brain’s receptors to produce a ‘high’ feeling often associated with cannabis use. CBD can also bind, but very weakly, therefore causing no psychoactive effects compared to THC. 

Both CBD and THC may provide medical benefits. However, some people prefer one or the other, depending on if they want the euphoric effects or not. CBD is also considered to have fewer side effects than THC. 


Do CBD Oil and THC Work Together?

Yes, CBD oil and THC work together well. While it may seem counterintuitive, combining THC and CBD can increase the potency and possible therapeutic effects.

This synergy is part of the ‘entourage effect‘. This term describes the idea that all compounds within the cannabis plant work in conjunction with each other. Because of this, they provide more benefit when working together compared to their individual effects.

In fact, the partnership between THC and CBD has proven so successful that researchers have found CBD plus THC showing possibly more benefits over a range of symptoms than THC alone. 

Many studies have confirmed this. While THC comes with numerous benefits, overuse can be associated with a rapid heartbeat and a prolonged ‘high’ feeling, which may be uncomfortable for some users. Researchers found that CBD could possibly counteract some of these side effects, with the bonus of increasing the half-life of THC resulting in extended pain relief.


The Bottom Line 

THC may be helpful for treating the symptoms of pain, improve sleep, and lower inflammation. THC’s unique properties make it a popular option for easing many symptoms, especially when used in conjunction with CBD to enhance benefits. More research is needed to prove these possible benefits.  

As THC can produce some side effects, especially for first-time users, it is essential to talk to your doctor before use.

To speak to one of our experienced doctors about using THC in NZ, please click here.

MBChB (Otago), BSc (Auckland) - As our tele-medicine doctor and author, Dr. Waseem keeps busy educating both patients and doctors about medicinal cannabis. He also consults with people from all over New Zealand, offering a listening ear and giving the most relevant advice.

4 thoughts on “Everything You Need to Know About THC

    • Cannabis Clinic says:

      Hi Terry, we hope you’re doing well! Unfortunately, Sativex isn’t currently available in NZ due to the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme making changes this year. The only THC products we have available to prescribe are from Tilray. You can read more about the regulations here – https://cannabisclinic.co.nz/2021-regulation-changes/

      If you’re travelling to NZ, you can bring your medication with you along with a prescription from your doctor but you can only bring up to 1 months supply. Read more about what you need if coming to NZ with medication near the bottom of this article – https://cannabisclinic.co.nz/is-cbd-oil-legal-in-nz/

      If you’re in NZ for longer than that, we’d be more than happy to help you find a treatment plan that works for you. If you need more advice, get in touch with our experts here – https://cannabisclinic.co.nz/contact/

    • Cannabis Clinic says:

      Hi Melina, pure CBD oil will not be detected on a drug test as it does not contain THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis. However, if you’re taking CBD products containing THC, it will depend on the concentration level of THC that’s in the CBD products. For example, if you’re taking a CBD product with a high concentration of THC, you will get a positive drug test.

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