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Researchers in Italy have discovered two new cannabinoids with a high binding affinity for brain receptors. Recently, an Italy-based research group published their discovery of two new cannabinoids, THCP and CBDP.  These molecules have very similar structures to THC and CBD, but with longer carbon+hydrogen (alkyl) side chains attached (“P” indicating the suffix “-phorol” from “sphaerophorol,” the common name for 5-heptyl-benzen-1,3-diol.)

Carbon chain length is partially responsible for the different effects of cannabinoids. THC and CBD both have 5 carbon chains attached, CBDB and TCHB have four, and CBDV and THCV have only three. Up to this point, no naturally occurring cannabinoids with greater than 5 carbon chains have been identified. THCP and CBDP are turning heads with a whopping seven. 

THCP, CBDP And Your Endocannabinoid Receptors 

THC and CBD molecules interact with the endocannabinoid system in brains by binding to the CB1 receptor. Just like glass joints come in different shapes and sizes for different pieces, molecules come in different shapes and sizes to fit specific receptors. The tighter the fit, the more “signal” is transmitted. The CB1 receptor has been shown to bind cannabinoids with as few as 3 carbons. As carbons increase, so does binding affinity. The highest activity from the CB1 receptor was found by binding a synthesized eight-carbon side-chain molecule. This explains why “synthetic THC” is often so much stronger than natural THC. Often these molecules are made with structures like natural cannabinoids but with longer carbon chains. 

Does THCP get you high? 

Until now, most cannabis users would tell you that THC is the only psychoactive molecule in cannabis. Researchers did not test THCP in humans, but they did investigate its effects on mice. The study utilized the Tetrad Test, a model to evaluate the effect of molecules on the CB1 receptors in rodents. Mice were subjected to 4 measurements to determine if they were high; hypolocomotion, hypothermia, catalepsy, and analgesia. Put simply, how much does the mouse move, how warm is the mouse, how much does the mouse resist being restrained, and how sensitive is the mouse to pain? Compare the responses of sober mice, to dosed mice, and you get a measurement of how high they are. 

What researchers found was that THCP got mice 30 times higher. This is congruent with findings in synthetic cannabinoid molecules with longer carbon chains. It seems that THC is not the only molecule contributing to consumer’s high. The presence of this second, psychoactive cannabinoid could explain the variability in how users experience different strains. Still, more research is needed to determine the effects of these new cannabinoids. 

CBDP and THCP; Phorol Cannabinoids In The Spotlight

Where To Find THCP 

Looking to try THCP for yourself? The two new cannabinoids in this study were isolated from a cultivar known as FM2. This is the only cannabis strain available in Italy and it’s grown by the military. At this time, the Italian government allows medical patients with qualifying conditions to purchase FM2 flower for about $7 per gram. 

On average it tests at 8% THC, but given that it contains THCP, those test results may be misleading. Without further testing, we won’t know if THCP is unique to this Italian strain, or if it’s found in other strains at your local dispensaries. Furthermore, without developing a standard solution, labs won’t be able to tell how much THCP is present. Unfortunately for U.S. consumers, regulations on cannabis research are still extremely restrictive, and our federal government grows terrible weed.

Be A Mindful Consumer Of Information 

As always, I advise you to read the primary literature for yourself and draw your own conclusions. One tool to use while reading research studies is the H-Index (Hirsch Index). This is a measure of both how productive a researcher or journal is, compared to how impactful the work is in science. For example, a researcher with a score of 25 has at least 25 papers cited at least 25 times.

To put that in perspective, my personal H-index is 7.02, and the H-index for the journal this paper was published in is 149. Compare those numbers to a well-known journal like Nature which has an H-index of 1096 and this paper seems more humble. There are many reasons why research like this would be published in a journal with a low H-Index, but it’s usually a good indication that more research needs to be conducted on this topic.

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