The best-known cannabinoid Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) is responsible for the renowned ‘high’ and for most people enjoyable psychotropic effects of cannabis. Since March 2017, THC and THC-containing substances have been classified in Germany within Appendix III of the narcotics law as prescription drugs. This article reviews the therapeutic potential of THC.
Chemical formula: C21H30O2
Molecular weight: 314.2246 g/mol
Boiling point: 157 °C
The best-known cannabinoid is Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), which was isolated by Yehiel Gaoni and Raphael Mechoulam at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel in 1964.1 It is responsible for the renowned ‘high’ and by most people enjoyed psychotropic effects of cannabis. THC amplifies sensory experience (such as hearing, sight, colour perception) and the consumer usually experiences a feeling of general well-being. THC can also trigger episodes of euphoria and mental focus, and consumers often report about an increase in their creativity.2
The therapeutic potential of cannabis in the treatment of psychiatric disorders is likely based on these effects: Adults with ADHD benefit primarily from an improved concentration, sleep, and impulse control. Similarly often, cannabinoids are used in adults as mood enhancers (antidepressants). THC from cannabis can bring significant relief in various other serious mental illnesses, especially post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Among the hundreds of cannabinoids contained in the cannabis blossom, Δ9-THC is the most common cannabinoid in most varieties, as the black market has been breeding cannabis mainly for THC-rich genetics in the last decades. In March 2017, THC and THC-containing substances have been classified as prescription drugs within Appendix III of the narcotics law in Germany.
THC increases appetite, which can be exploited for the therapy of cachectic diseases, among others.3 For anorexic patients, THC seems to have at least positive psychological effects.4 THC can – especially in synergy with other phytocannabinoids – stop the growth of certain types of cancer cells, including the much-feared glioblastoma.5,6 Scientifically unconfirmed case reports that can be found on the internet even claim complete remissions.
Inflammation is responsible for a whole range of lifestyle diseases.
In the treatment of chronic pain, especially of the neuropathic spectrum, THC shows promising prospects. This is likely in part due to the anti-inflammatory effect of THC, (inflammation causes pain) and its influence on neuronal pain transmission. Furthermore, THC seems to increase individual pain tolerance (emotional evaluation of pain, limbic system), so that life with pain becomes practically more ‘bearable’ for the patient – cannabis may therefore at least increase quality of life.8
There are also clues for the effectiveness of THC in the treatment of glaucoma, this is recommended however only after careful consideration of the individual risk-benefit ratio.9
THC (also: dronabinol) has potentially numerous therapeutic benefits and is therefore utilised in the treatment of many diseases (including off-label), for example:
- Neuropathic pain
- Chronic pain
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Crohn’s disease
The known useful therapeutic effects of THC are:
- Appetite enhancing