How Cannabis Is Metabolized in the Body

How Cannabis Is Metabolized in the Body- The cannabis plant contains over 500 different chemical compounds, including at least 100 cannabinoids.

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When cannabis is consumed, the body metabolizes it in a number of ways. The most common metabolites are THC-COOH and CBD-COOH. These metabolites are then excreted in the urine and feces.

The metabolism of cannabis occurs in the liver, where enzymes convert the THC-COOH into other compounds. The most common of these is 11-nor-9-carboxy-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC-COOH). This metabolite is then further metabolized into other compounds, including 11-hydroxy-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (11-OH-THC) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

The CBD-COOH metabolite is also converted into other compounds, including 7-OH-CBD and 6a-(hydroxyhexyl)-7, 8, 9, 10 -tetrahydrocannabinol (7aOH). These metabolites are then excreted in the urine and feces.

The Endocannabinoid System

When cannabinoids like THC and CBD are consumed, they interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system is responsible for maintaining homeostasis, or balance, in the body. The ECS does this by regulating things like mood, pain, appetite, and memory.

Cannabinoid Receptors

Cannabinoid receptors are a class of cell membrane receptors under the Endocannabinoid System found in all mammals, as well as other animals, plants and even bacteria. There are two primary types of cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, with CB1 receptors being the most abundant.

CB1 receptors are found mainly in the brain and nervous system, as well as in certain peripheral tissues, and are responsible for mediating the psychoactive effects of cannabis. The CB2 receptor, on the other hand, is mostly found in the immune system and appears to be involved in the anti-inflammatory effects of cannabis.

The body also produces its own cannabinoids, known as endocannabinoids, which bind to cannabinoid receptors to help regulate various physiological functions such as appetite, pain sensation and memory.


Endocannabinoids are substances that occur naturally in the body and bind to cannabinoid receptors. Phytocannabinoids are similar compounds found in cannabis plants. The best-known endocannabinoid is anandamide, which is produced by the body when we are happy or feeling pleasure.

Cannabinoid receptors are found throughout the body, but are most concentrated in the brain and nervous system. There are two types of cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, which are named for the chemicals that bind to them (THC and CBD, respectively).

The endocannabinoid system is responsible for a wide variety of functions, including mood, memory, appetite, pain perception, and inflammatory response. When cannabinoids bind to receptors in the brain, they can alter these functions. This is why cannabis can have such a wide range of effects on the body.

THC binds to CB1 receptors while CBD binds to both CB1 and CB2 receptors. THC produces its psychoactive effects by binding to CB1 receptors in the brain while CBD does not have any direct effect on these receptors. However, CBD can indirectly influence THC’s binding to CB1 receptors by reducing its ability to attach to these receptors. This is one reason why CBD is thought to reduce some of the adverse effects of THC such as paranoia and anxiety.

Cannabis Metabolism

When cannabis is consumed, the THC and other cannabinoids travel through the bloodstream to the liver where they are metabolized. The liver breaks down the THC into metabolites that are then excreted in the urine. The metabolite that is most responsible for the psychoactive effects of THC is 11-OH-THC.

Cannabinoids and Their Metabolites

Cannabinoids are derivatives of lipophilic compounds and their metabolites are stored in body fat. After smoking or eating cannabis, THC and its metabolites are detectable in plasma, urine, and hair. The most abundant metabolite excreted in urine is 11-nor-9-carboxy-THC (THC-COOH). Other metabolites include 11-hydroxy-THC (11-OH-THC) and 8-OH-THC.

These polar metabolites are insoluble in lipids and not reabsorbed by the body, so they are secreted in urine. The half-life of THC is about one week, but THC can be detectable in urine for up to eight weeks after last use.

Cannabis metabolism is complex and not fully understood. Various enzymes catalyze the hydroxylation, deamination, and decarboxylation of THC to form metabolites that are more polar and water soluble. These reactions occur primarily in the liver but also in other tissues such as the gut and lungs.

Enzymes that break down THC include:

· Cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes: CYP3A4, CYP2B6, CYP2C9, CYP2D6

· Fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH)

· Monoamine oxidase (MAO) enzymes: MAO-A, MAO-B

The primary enzyme responsible for metabolizing THC is CYP3A4. This enzyme is found in the liver but also in other tissues such as the gut and lungs. In general, cytochrome P450 enzymes are involved in drug metabolism and interactions. Drugs that inhibit or induce CYP3A4 can increase or decrease the metabolism of THC and other cannabinoids. Grapefruit juice inhibits CYP3A4 and can increase the blood levels of THC.

The First-Pass Effect

When marijuana is consumed orally, it must first be metabolized by the liver before it can enter the bloodstream and produce its psychoactive effects. This process is known as the “first-pass effect,” and it reduces the bioavailability of THC (the main psychoactive compound in cannabis) by as much as 70 percent. In other words, only 30 percent of the THC consumed orally will actually reach the bloodstream and produce its desired effects.

Factors Affecting Cannabis Metabolism

The metabolism of cannabis varies depending on a number of factors. These include the method of ingestion, the amount consumed, the THC content, the person’s weight, age, sex, and overall health. In general, though, cannabis is metabolized in the liver and then excreted in the urine.


Gender can affect how cannabis is metabolized in the body. Studies have found that men and women tend to metabolize THC at different rates. In general, women tend to metabolize THC more slowly than men. This difference may be due to differences in body fat percentage, since THC is stored in body fat.

Other factors that can affect how cannabis is metabolized include:

-Body fat percentage
-Metabolic rate
-Dietary intake of fatty acids

Body Fat Percentage

Body fat percentage is one of the most important factors affecting cannabis metabolism. The more body fat you have, the slower cannabis is metabolized and vice versa. A high body fat percentage means that there is more adipose tissue (fat) in the body to store cannabinoids, which can lead to a longer detection time.


Exercise can have a significant impact on how quickly cannabis is metabolized in the body. A study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that people who exercised regularly had higher levels of THC in their blood than those who didn’t exercise. The study’s authors suggested that exercise could increase THC levels by causing the body to release more of the drug from fat stores.


Diet can have a major impact on how quickly cannabis is metabolized in the body. A high-fat diet, for example, can delay the onset of effects and prolong their duration. A low-fat diet may do the opposite.

Certain foods and beverages, such as grapefruit juice, can also affect cannabis metabolism. Grapefruit juice inhibits an enzyme that breaks down many medications in the body, including THC. This can cause higher blood levels of THC and potentially increase its effects.


Cannabis is metabolized in the liver by enzymes that are produced by the cytochrome P450 system. These enzymes break down THC into its metabolites, which are then excreted in the urine. The metabolite that is most often detected in drug tests is THC-COOH.

The half-life of THC is about 24 hours, so it can be detected in the body for up to a week after use. However, this doesn’t mean that someone will feel the effects of THC for that entire time. The effects of THC peak within the first few hours after use and then diminish over time.

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