When a patient buys a medicine from a pharmacy, he receives a leaflet with it. It contains information on about the medicine (constituents, dosage, effects, indications for the use of drug interactions, and the undesirable effects that may occur after using it).
Similarly, when a patient purchases Sativex (an extract of THC, CBD, other cannabinoids and terpenes in minimal amounts), or Marinol (containing dronabinol ), they should expect to experience certain complications that come with these drugs..
THC side effects
In the case of substances purchased outside the pharmaceutical space”, like RSO oil, it is hard to gauge what may occur after using the product.
All reactions that occur while taking THC for recreational purposes may also appear when using THC for medicinal purposes – it is the same substance. So what are the side effects of THC?
THC is considered a safe substance
We currently have numerous clinical trials that confirm the benefits of using THC (marijuana). As reported by clinical trials:
A separate issue is its effectiveness in specific indications. However, it is noteworthy that some of the participants in a recent study gave up THC – due to the side effects. Even though they are not classified as serious, yet they are perceived as persistent.
Which side effects of THC are most often described by clinical trials?
- The feeling of being “high“
- Increased drowsiness
- Increased appetite, weight gain
- Impaired ability to drive motor vehicles
- Slight increase/decrease in blood pressure
- Red eyes
- Pupil dilation
- Psychosis attacks and other psychiatric disorders (in susceptible individuals)
The above mentioned are the most frequent side effects of THC, and most of them are difficult to consider as life-threatening.
How many people experience these side effects?
In a clinical study on the effectiveness of THC in spasticity, and other symptoms of multiple sclerosis 17% of patients experience the side effects of THC. In addition, it is worth mentioning that many of these “side effects” for some patients may have therapeutic significance.
Therapeutic importance of THC
1. A person suffering from insomnia will benefit from the calming and drowsy effects induced by THC after all.
2. Another example is, the increased appetite induced by THC will be of great benefits for teenagers suffering from anorexia nervosa, and also for those people that are debilitated (i.e. due to cancer or inflammatory bowel disease).
Individual sensitivity. Each of us experiences and react to certain symptoms differently. For some, these side effects will not be an obstacle in their day to day life and for others, it may interfere with their everyday life and could possibly make them abandon the drug completely.
A typical example of this is how people react differently to medications that cause dizziness/drowsiness ( for some it is minimal for others it may cause them to sleep).
Many side effects of THC go away with time
At the beginning of a THC therapy, side effects can be significantly increased, but over time – their intensity is clearly reduced. This is called induction of tolerance and this concept is used not only in medicine but also by people involved in the illegal marijuana trade.
Thanks to the tolerance over time, you can also increase THC doses. With less risk of serious side effects that would force the medication to be more severe.
With a single dose, some patients could not tolerate the side effects (i.e. “high”). However, in the case of vomiting associated with chemotherapy, where THC is administered over longer periods of time – patients were able to cope and the side effects wore off over time.
Can you become addicted to THC using medical marijuana?
Studies on the addiction to marijuana concern people who have taken it recreationally. This is a completely different issue if THC is used for healing purposes.
Marijuana for pleasure is less addictive than nicotine or alcohol, and the chance that this effect will occur is estimated at around 9%. Meanwhile, in the case of alcohol, it is about 15%, cocaine – 17%, and nicotine – almost 1/3. Again, these are people who take THC for pleasure, not as a medicine.
How many people will become addicted to “medical” THC?
At the moment, it is difficult to answer this question. However, it is possible, if compared to opiates (such as morphine).
For people who are looking for a feeling of euphoria, which is caused by morphine, the risk of addiction is estimated to be very high. For those using it is a pain medication, the percentage of opiate addicts, as reported by Annals of internal medicine, ranges from 0% to 3.75%.
This is less than the estimated number of addictions in the general population (where approx. 10% are addicted to “some” substance).
Opiates Vs THC addition
Opiates are very similar to THC in the sense that they give anesthetic effect, tolerance is produced on side effects, and the dose used in treatment increases over time (the so-called “titration”).
Both of these drug groups also work together to treat pain, so you can reduce the dose of opiates with the addition of THC – and therefore the risk of side effects.
Psychotic attacks after THC use
In people genetically predisposed to schizophrenia and psychotic states, marijuana smoking accelerates the development of symptoms, but this does not mean that THC causes schizophrenia. A study published in Schizophrenia Research has shown that cannabis use speeds up the development of schizophrenia only in people whose families have this mental illness, and therefore – having a genetic predisposition to it.
It can be concluded that the genetic susceptibility to schizophrenia will be a contraindication to the use of THC in these people, even for therapeutic purposes.
THC side effects exist, but for the most part, they are not dangerous
Serious side effects associated with THC are rare, usually in a few patients.
In a large clinical trial, involving 337 people with MS. Only 5% resigned from serious adverse effects from drug use, compared with 3% in the placebo group. In another study, at least one episode of serious adverse effects affected 35% of people treated with oral THC, compared with 28% of those treated with placebo (out of 493 participants).
Is that a lot?
The authors argue that it isn’t – most of them were associated with the symptoms of multiple sclerosis and infections. Therefore not related to the treatment.
Numerous supporters of medical marijuana stress that it is a completely natural and safe medicine, but to a certain extent (i.e. in the case of people genetically predisposed to schizophrenia). THC is not different from other drugs, and also causes side effects.
Clinical studies, however, demonstrate that they are not important enough to abandon the treatment. Nevertheless, anyone interested in using medical marijuana therapy should keep these side effects in mind.
Hope this article has increased your knowledge of THC side effects and therapeutic importance? If No, tell us how we may be of help in the comment section below.