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Delta-9-THC: Effects, Salivary and Urinary Tests, and Implications in Cannabis

Δ9-THC: The Pillar of the Effects of Cannabis on the Human Body

Δ9-THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannot be reduced to a simple scientific term; it is the key element found in its raw state in cannabis, whether in the form of compressed hashish or dried herb (marijuana). This molecule is at the heart of the psychotropic and therapeutic effects associated with this fascinating plant. Due to its chemical structure, Δ9-THC acts as a partial agonist of the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors present in the central and peripheral nervous system. This complex interaction is responsible for the varied effects of cannabis on the human body, ranging from euphoria to relaxation to modification of sensory perception. By understanding the central role of Δ9-THC, we are better able to understand the mechanisms of action of cannabis and its implications for human health.

Transformation and Disposal

After its consumption, the human body takes action to metabolize Δ9-THC. Once absorbed, it is transported to the liver, where it is metabolized by different liver enzymes. The major metabolite resulting from this transformation is 11-hydroxy-Δ9-THC (11-OH-THC), which is then converted to another metabolite, 11-nor-Δ9-THC-COOH, also known as THC-COOH. The latter is the most common form of THC detected in urine during cannabis use screening tests. Although this metabolite is primarily eliminated by the kidneys, it can also be excreted through other routes, such as sweat and bile. This transformation and elimination of Δ9-THC to THC-COOH plays a crucial role in the interpretation of cannabis drug test results.

Implications for Screening Tests

Understanding this molecular transformation is essential for interpreting the results of cannabis use screening tests. While Δ9-THC is the active component sought to assess the state of intoxication, its presence in urine in the form of THC-COOH may indicate past consumption, but not necessarily recent. This raises important questions about the relevance and accuracy of these tests, especially in contexts such as road safety or professional settings. Screening tests for cannabis consumption based on the detection of THC-COOH can therefore give positive results even if cannabis consumption dates back several days or even weeks, which does not necessarily reflect a state of intoxication at the time. of the test. This distinction between the presence of active Δ9-THC and its inactive metabolites is crucial for accurate interpretation of screening test results and to avoid erroneous conclusions. Additionally, it is important to note that tests based on THC-COOH detection can also result in false negatives, particularly in regular cannabis users whose metabolic rate may vary. These false negatives can give the false impression that a person has not used cannabis when they have, raising concerns about the accuracy and reliability of these tests in certain situations.


Δ9-THC is much more than just a molecule. It is the pivot around which all the effects and applications of cannabis revolve. Understanding its transformation into THC-COOH is essential to correctly interpret the results of drug tests, as well as to understand the legal and social implications of cannabis consumption. By continuing to explore and understand these biochemical processes, we are paving the way for safer and more informed use of cannabis, both medically and recreationally.

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