- 1. 11-OH-THC more potent than THC, metabolizes after taking edible cannabis-infused products
- 2. THC Metabolism and 11-OH-THC Formation
- 3. THC vs 11-OH-THC
11-OH-THC, more potent than THC, metabolizes after taking edibles infused with cannabis
Of the dozens of different cannabinoids, 11-OH-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (short for 11-OH-THC) is one of the most interesting. Why ? He is highly psychoactive. In fact, it is as psychoactive as the famous THC molecule, if not more… 11-OH-THC does not exist naturally in the cannabis plant, it is formed in the human body after ingestion of THC. Here is the story and science behind the discovery of the cannabinoid more potent than THC.
THC Metabolism and 11-OH-THC Formation
We all know that edibles offer a high high. After ingesting THC, your liver works, converting it into other molecules in order to eliminate it from your body. These other molecules are called metabolites. Usually the metabolites are less active than the parent drug, but sometimes you get one that's even more potent!
What is especially interesting about THC metabolites is that their level in your body can be over 10 times higher if you take cannabis in an edible form rather than through other routes (e.g. smoking or vape).
Why do edibles make so much more 11-OH-THC than when we smoke ”?
We know two factors. The first is that metabolized enzymes are present in your gastrointestinal tract. While you are digesting a cannabis brownie, these enzymes are creating 11-OH-THC.
The second factor is that all of the blood flow from your digestive tract goes to the liver before entering the general circulation. This phenomenon is the first pass metabolism. This is one more chance that 11-OH-THC is being created in large quantities.
On the other hand, when you smoke cannabis, THC is absorbed directly from the lungs, where the metabolism is low. THC distributes quickly to other tissues in the body and only a small fraction remains in the blood.
The THC left in your blood is available for your liver to convert to 11-OH-THC and other metabolites. However, the 11-OH-THC levels in your blood after smoking cannabis are only around 5% of the THC levels. This is probably not enough to feel the effects of 11-OH-THC.
A greatly increased THC variation
However, after taking oral cannabis, mean levels of 11-OH-THC vary from 25% THC to more than 300% THC. The table below shows the averages for a group of people. But the variations can vary greatly from one individual to another. Thus, some people will have more than 3 x more 11-OH-THC in their body after ingesting cannabis!
The psychoactive effects of 11-OH-THC
There seems to be a lot of misinformation about the effects of 11-OH-THC on the Internet. Some people claim that the effects of 11-OH-THC are 10 times stronger than THC. Let's see how accurate these statements are in his scientific history.
The History of 11-OH-THC Research
The early 70s were a heyday for cannabinoid research. Numerous studies conducted during this time have uncovered for the first time the details in which cannabis works. In 1970, radiolabelled THC was synthesized, they made radioactive THC… But that radioactive THC doesn't give you a superpower after you smoke it.
This radiolabeled THC behaves exactly like normal THC, except that it makes it easier for scientists to see how it is metabolized. This radiolabelled THC study was the first to demonstrate that 11-OH-THC was formed in humans. There was already controversy at the time about the relative activity of THC and 11-OH-THC. Some researchers even believed that THC was mainly inactive, and that the psychoactive effects were mainly due to 11-OH-THC… A few years later, three studies were carried out in humans to characterize the effects of 11-OH-THC.
THC vs 11-OH-THC
Round 1: 11-OH-THC enters the ring
Scientists went straight for the technical KO with this study by pumping 11-OH-THC directly into the bloodstream by intravenous infusion.
“Between 2 and 3 minutes after the intravenous administration of 11-OH-THC, the psychological peak reached its peak and was more intense than anything they had experienced before after taking marihuana. "
Interestingly, the psychoactive effects of intravenous 11-OH-THC appeared to occur much more rapidly than THC. This is because 11-OH-THC can cross the blood-brain barrier faster.
Round 2: THC stands firm
Round 1 wasn't completely fair, because THC wasn't even included in the study. In the next study, subjects received a slow infusion of 11-OH-THC or THC. We asked them to report their High moments, and when we should stop the infusion ...
On the one hand, subjects in the 11-OH-THC group stopped the infusion earlier than the THC group, saying they felt enough stone. On the other hand, the THC group felt higher overall. In short, there was no winner in this round.
Round 3: 11-OH-THC wins title
In this last studyscientists used a fixed dose of THC and 11-OH-THC (still intravenously). Thus, they administered both cannabinoids to the same subjects at different times, to decide the champion.
After administration of 1 mg, the ultimate winner was… 11-OH-THC! With this molecule, subjects peaked at 8 out of 10 on the High scale. Against only about 3 in 10 for THC.
The claim that 11-OH-THC is 10 times stronger than THC is not entirely correct. However, we can see that 11-OH-THC seems to be more powerful. But it is assumed that the high amount of edibles comes from a mixture of 11-OH-THC and THC. Additionally, the qualitative (psychedelic) aspects of the elevated 11-OH-THC concentration have not been evaluated in these scientific studies.