Cannabis, a Complex Plant: Different Compounds and Different Effects on Individuals

Ther Adv Psychopharmacol. 2012 Dec;2(6):241-54. doi: 10.1177/2045125312457586.

Abstract

Cannabis is a complex plant, with major compounds such as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol, which have opposing effects. The discovery of its compounds has led to the further discovery of an important neurotransmitter system called the endocannabinoid system. This system is widely distributed in the brain and in the body, and is considered to be responsible for numerous significant functions. There has been a recent and consistent worldwide increase in cannabis potency, with increasing associated health concerns. A number of epidemiological research projects have shown links between dose-related cannabis use and an increased risk of development of an enduring psychotic illness. However, it is also known that not everyone who uses cannabis is affected adversely in the same way. What makes someone more susceptible to its negative effects is not yet known, however there are some emerging vulnerability factors, ranging from certain genes to personality characteristics. In this article we first provide an overview of the biochemical basis of cannabis research by examining the different effects of the two main compounds of the plant and the endocannabinoid system, and then go on to review available information on the possible factors explaining variation of its effects upon different individuals.

Keywords: Cannabis; cannabidiol; delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol; endocannabinoids; individual sensitivity to cannabis; tetrahydrocannabivarin.