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What is THCa?

Aug 30, 2023

The availability of a form of cannabis known as THCa is on the rise across the United States, yet you may be unaware of its impact on your loved ones. Knowing how it’s acquired, its risk to consumers, and what dangers could come from consuming unregulated products will help you recognize emerging issues in someone you know. In this blog post, we’ll introduce you to THCa and explain its connection to THC.

THCa (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) is a naturally occurring cannabinoid that is abundant in raw cannabis buds, and does not have psychoactive qualities when consumed in its unprocessed form. THCa is converted into a psychoactive THC chemical when heated, smoked, or vaped. This form of the substance is far more threatening. The end result can be altered sensations, poor physical mobility, and, in high dosages, hallucinations. While THCa possession is legal in most U.S. states, unregulated products sold online present risks through potential contamination and unknown potency levels. If you know someone whose use has threatened their health and well-being, Hanley can provide solutions to help them get into recovery.

If you or a loved one need help, call our admissions team today at 561-841-1033.

What Is THCa?

THCa is an acronym for tetrahydrocannabinolic acid. It is a non-intoxicating chemical present in cannabis, and is the precursor of the well-known hallucinogenic chemical present in cannabis, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Cannabis plants generate THCa rather than THC in their natural state. THCa concentrations are often greater in fresh, undried cannabis plants.

What Happens When THCa Is Heated or Smoked?

THCa undergoes a chemical change and turns into THC when cannabis is heated or decarboxylated (for example, by smoking, vaping, or cooking). This conversion happens when a carboxyl group (COOH) is removed from THCa, resulting in the formation of THC. When THC forms, it gets inhaled or smoked and quickly absorbed through the lungs. It then goes to the brain and other regions of the body where it binds to cannabinoid receptors, especially CB1 receptors, causing a variety of effects. Effects differ from person to person and are impacted by factors such as dose, individual sensitivity, and strain potency.

Is THCa Legal to Use?

On a federal level, THCa is permitted as long as the acceptable delta-9 THC threshold of 0.3% is met. However, various state laws may take a different stance on this cannabinoid. Due to different interpretations of hemp laws, products may be more available than THC products in some jurisdictions, offering a possible legal loophole for people seeking cannabis’ euphoric effects. In Florida, only delta-9 THC is banned as part of the state’s medicinal marijuana laws, so there are currently no restrictions on consuming THCa generated from hemp there. Texas follows the federal cannabis policy, which means that Farm Bill-compliant THCa is lawful.

THCa Side Effects

On its own, THCa is not known to cause intoxication or psychoactive effects. Consuming raw THCa or ingesting gummies made from it will not produce a high, although it will show up in a drug test and could lead to failing that test. Without the high of THC, consuming THCa can lead to less appealing side effects, including nausea, indigestion or an upset stomach, allergic reactions in the form of skin rashes, itching, or respiratory symptoms, or unwanted drug interactions with prescription medications. However, the imminent risk of THCa comes from altering its properties. Cooking, heating, or vaping the legal version of the substance does turn it into the psychoactive compound THC.

Short-Term Side Effects of Heating/Smoking THCa:

  • Euphoria and relaxation
  • Altered perception
  • Impaired memory and cognition
  • Dry mouth and increased thirst
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Increased heart rate
  • Anxiety and paranoia

Long-Term Side Effects of Smoking THCa

Regular and excessive THC usage, particularly throughout the teenage years, has been linked with adverse consequences. Long-term THC usage can develop into an addiction, with individuals suffering withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it. Smoking THC, like smoking any chemical, can have significant impacts on lung health, such as respiratory issues and chronic bronchitis. While the relationship between THC and mental health is complicated, excessive or extended use of high-potency THC has been linked to an increased risk of mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and psychosis.

Dangers of Unregulated THCa

Regulated THCa may be available as a raw food supplement that’s sold in capsules. In this case, analysis conducted by an accredited third-party lab and compiled in a report can be used to prove a product is strictly THCa. Unregulated THCa coming from other sources presents a number of risks to users. These products may be sold online and contain other substances.

Six Risks of Unregulated THCa

1. Inconsistent Potency: Products that are not regulated may not be subjected to standardized testing for potency and quality control. Because there is no control, changes in THCa concentration can occur, making it difficult to establish the right dosage and perhaps resulting in unexpected results.

2. Contamination: There is an elevated danger of contamination in uncontrolled THCa products due to a lack of regulation. Pesticides, heavy metals, molds, and other potentially dangerous chemicals may be present, posing health hazards when consumed.

3. Lack of Labeling and Information: Unregulated goods may not have correct labeling or sufficient information on dose, potency, ingredients, and potential side effects. This lack of transparency might make it difficult for customers to make informed purchasing decisions.

4. Legal Implications: Unregulated products may be banned in your jurisdiction. Purchasing or possessing them may result in legal consequences, such as fines or criminal charges.

5. Safety Concerns: This lack of quality control in manufacturing raises the possibility of dangerous production practices, incorrect handling, and poor product quality, which may threaten your safety.

6. Lack of Consumer Protection: Unregulated products do not come with the same level of consumer protection as regulated marketplaces. There is no way to report adverse reactions, seek compensation for losses, and ensure product recalls when safety concerns emerge.

Getting Help for THCa Abuse

You can see the signs of abuse in a loved one who is showing feelings of euphoria, changes in mood, and alterations in their sensory perception. They may have dry, red eyes and a dry mouth. Their heart rate may be elevated after using, and they may appear anxious or paranoid. THC can affect memory and attention as well as affect coordination, motor skills, and reaction time.

Hanley provides personalized treatment programs for adults of all ages who have a history of cannabis abuse or addiction. Individual and group therapy is a core part of each program. For anyone whose unmet mental health needs have contributed to their substance use, co-occurring disorder treatment is available.

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