Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the primary psychoactive compound found in cannabis, commonly referred to as weed, pot, or marijuana. When consumed, THC interacts with cannabinoid receptors in the brain, particularly the cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1). This interaction results in various effects, such as euphoria, relaxation, increased appetite, and impaired short-term memory. THC’s effects on these pathways account for its capacity to alter mood, motivation, anxiety, and hunger.

While THC is undeniably psychoactive, it isn’t technically a psychedelic. That’s because of the differing mechanisms by which these substances affect the brain and their resulting impacts on perception. THC primarily interacts with the endocannabinoid system, particularly the CB1 receptors. This interaction produces effects that do alter consciousness, but don’t typically induce the profound perceptual changes associated with psychedelics. On the other hand, classic psychedelics, such as LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, and DMT, work by stimulating serotonin receptors in the brain, leading to distorted sensory perceptions and hallucinations.

The fundamental differences between THC and psychedelics are evident in their effects and modes of action within the brain. Cannabis, through THC, induces relaxation, euphoria, and sometimes time distortion, among other effects. In contrast, psychedelics, due to their activation of serotonin receptors, can result in visual and auditory hallucinations, perceptual distortions, and experiences like ego death and depersonalization. While both can produce sensations of euphoria and altered perceptions of time, psychedelics generally present a more intense and prolonged experience. Hallucinations are the biggest difference: hallucinatory experiences are standard with psychedelics, but rare and less intense with cannabis.