Delta-9-THC and Delta-8-THC is probably a familiar term to anyone who has enjoyed the psychoactive effects of cannabis, but 11-hydroxy-THC may be a new term to some. With this blog you’ll learn what 11-hydroxy-THC is, how it works, and how to make sure you don’t overindulge in this potent psychoactive compound.
What is 11-hydroxy-THC?
11-OH-THC, also known as 11-hydroxy-THC, sometimes written as 11-OH-THC, is produced in the body when delta-9-THC, the one we usually think of as THC, or Delta-8-THC is broken down. After either has been swallowed, the body breaks down and metabolizes it, producing the metabolite 11-hydroxy-THC. The metabolite is generally considered much more potent than its precursor.
Our liver is responsible for this alteration, and specifically, the drug-metabolizing enzyme known as or CYP2C9 or fully named cytochrome P2C9. Even when you smoke, your liver still sees some delta-8 or delta-9 and turns it into 11-hydroxy-THC, but you get way more 11-OH when you eat cannabis.
First pass metabolism is the phenomenon that causes 11-OH-THC to exert such strong effects on the brain. Oral administration rather than inhalation leads to more potent and longer-lasting effects on the brain and body. In fact, 11-OH-THC can produce a more intense psychoactive experience than the cannabinoid THC.
The Science of 11-hydroxy-THC
Well, it starts when you eat Delta-8 or Delta-9 THC. This powerful and plentiful cannabinoid travels through your digestive system and eventually makes it to your liver where it’s broken down into other molecules called metabolites. While metabolites are usually more powerful than the compound being broken down, in some cases, they’re actually much more potent and powerful. This is the case with 11-hydroxy-THC.
When you smoke THC, your body does create some 11-hydroxy-THC, but it’s around 10 times less than what’s created when you eat THC.
Some believe this means 11-hydroxy-THC is as much as 10 times stronger than THC, but it isn’t quite as simple as that. While it’s much more portent, scientists say this estimate is too high based on their research, estimating anywhere from 1.5 to 7 times as strong instead.
As an example, in one study two groups of patients were intravenously given the same amount of either THC or 11-hydroxy-THC. Patients then reported on how high they felt afterwards. Subjects given THC reported on average a three out of 10 when asked how high they felt. Those who had 11-hydroxy-THC in their system reported an average of eight out of 10.
This suggests that 11-hydroxy-THC is more portent and powerful than THC is, although not quite 10 times. The effects of both are present in Delta-8 THC edibles, but 11-hydroxy-THC is much more plentiful, so it should account for the majority of the edible’s effects.
How does 11-hydroxy-THC work?
11-hydroxy-THC primarily produces its effects by binding to the CB1 receptor and mimicking all the known effects of delta-9. The peak concentration of 11-hydroxy-THC in the blood is about one and a half hours after ingestion, although, depending on the dose it can last up to eight hours or more.
This works wonders for patients that need the long lasting effects of 11-OH-THC, because it may aid in sleep and cause sedation effects.
The sedative effect of 11-hydroxy-THC may not always be desirable, especially when consuming a cannabis edible in the middle of the day. Fortunately, there are ways to limit consumption of 11-hydroxy-THC to avoid any unwanted psychoactive effects.
The Benefits of 11-Hydroxy-THC
While there hasn’t been nearly enough research on the specific medical effects of 11-hydroxy-THC, medical marijuana patients have been consuming edibles for their medical needs for thousands of years. There are benefits to taking edibles that keep patients coming back to them and to 11-hydroxy-THC. So, what makes this method different from the rest?
- Cannabis edibles last longer: For one thing, edibles have longer-lasting effects. While they take longer to start working—typically 60–120 minutes as opposed to 10–15 minutes with smoking—they can last much longer. A cannabis edible high usually lasts six to eight hours, while the high from smoking only lasts around two or three hours. For patients with medical conditions like chronic pain, anxiety or depression, it can be especially helpful to have a long- lasting medicine that doesn’t require medicating over and over again throughout the day.
- Marijuana-infused foods are more sedative and psychoactive: Folks have noted that the effects of edibles are slightly more sedative than when they smoke cannabis. This can make edibles a great choice for conditions like insomnia. A dose taken a few hours before bedtime can lead to a strong sense of sleepiness when it’s time for bed. Since it’s also long-lasting, the sedation can continue all the way through the night, fading just in time for morning.
How to avoid consuming too much 11-hydroxy-THC
To avoid over consuming 11-hydroxy-THC, go easy on the cannabis edibles and adjust recipes accordingly. If you’re making cannabis-infused treats at home, try halving the amount of cannabutter in a recipe and substituting regular butter to lower the potency. Whether your edibles are homemade or store-bought, go slowly and start with a small serving to see how your body and digestive system react. Wait two to four hours before consuming more. Preparing cannabutter with low-THC strains may also be helpful in minimizing psychoactive effects, including anxiety.
If you find that your body is sensitive to the effects of 11-hydroxy-THC, you can try other methods of cannabis consumption. It is also wise to consult with your healthcare practitioner who can advise you on the best ways for you to consume delta-8 THC products. Further, your doctor can help you understand how your body might react to different levels of 11-OH-THC, as well as varying THC concentrations.
Because 11-hydroxy-THC is made by the liver, and we all have different liver enzymes and genetic mutations in those enzymes, cannabis edibles can be entirely different in one person to the next. There is a huge range in how individuals metabolize delta-8 THC into 11-hydroxy-THC, varying from age, sex, past use, current medication, and many other factors.