11-Hydroxy-THC (11-HXY THC) also known as 11-hydroxy thc 11-oh thc,is a psychoactive metabolite of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), the main psychoactive compound in cannabis.
Here we'll explore what 11-hydroxy-THC is, how it's produced in the body, and why it has potent psychoactive effects.
When cannabis is consumed through smoking, vaping, or eating, the delta-9 THC enters the bloodstream. It then rapidly binds with the CB1 receptors located in your endocannabinoid system. This produces the characteristic “high” associated with cannabis use. Vaping or smoke is a quick to pass metabolism and get the molecule's into your system.
However, delta 9 THC is also rapidly metabolized by your digestive system through a process of hydroxylation and oxidation into over 100 different metabolites, including 11-hydroxy-THC.
Studies show that 11-hydroxy-THC is the main active metabolite of THC and is equipotent or even more psychoactive than Δ9-THC itself.
How is 11-Hydroxy-THC Produced?
When you smoke cannabis, vape, or ingest cannabis edibles containing Δ9-THC, it travels through your bloodstream to your liver where it undergoes hydroxylation by the P450 enzyme system. A hydroxyl group (-OH) is added to the 11th carbon in the chemical structure, converting it from Δ9-THC to 11-HXY THC.
From there, 11-HXY THC passes back into blood circulation and easily crosses the blood-brain barrier where it binds with CB1 receptors just like Δ9-THC. However, 11-HXY THC has a faster onset of effects and is able to cross the barrier at a far more rapid rate.
Increased Psychoactive Potency
Although their chemical structures are very similar, studies consistently demonstrate that 11-HXY THC is more potent than Δ9-THC in terms of its psychoactive effects.
In blinded human studies, participants report that 11-HXY THC produces more intense subjective psychedelic effects like euphoria, visual alterations, and time distortion. PET imaging studies also show greater CB1 receptor binding in the brain after administration of 11-HXY THC compared to Δ9-THC.
Researchers believe 11-HXY THC can cross the blood-brain barrier up to 10 times faster than Δ9-THC. It also has a higher binding affinity for CB1 receptors. This combination of faster transport and higher receptor affinity makes the psychoactive effects of 11-hydroxy-THC manifest much more rapidly.
Some studies have found the potency of 11-hydroxy-THC to be almost 5 times more potent than Δ9-THC when administered intravenously. The exact psychoactive potency is difficult to measure and likely depends on route of administration. However, it's clear that 11-hydroxy-THC is a major player in creating the cannabis “high”.
Implications for Drug Testing
The rapid metabolism of Δ9-THC into 11-hydroxy-THC has important implications for cannabis drug testing. Urine drug tests do not actually look for Δ9-THC itself. Instead, they detect levels of the non-psychoactive 11-nor-9-carboxy-THC metabolite.
However, urine tests cannot determine whether someone is currently impaired or stoned. On the other hand, blood tests can detect recent use by measuring levels of Δ9-THC and 11-hydroxy-THC. Since 11-hydroxy-THC is longer-lasting in blood with more potent effects, it is an important biomarker of cannabis intoxication and impairment after recent use.
Other Active Metabolites
In addition to 11-hydroxy-THC, research has identified many other active metabolites of THC produced through metabolism in the liver. This includes 8-hydroxy-THC, 8,11-dihydroxy-THC, and 9-hydroxy-THC which also show psychoactive effects when administered.
However, none have demonstrated the same degree of potency and psychoactivity as 11-hydroxy-THC. The rapid formation, high brain penetration, and increased CB1 receptor binding make 11-hydroxy-THC the primary player responsible for the potent psychedelic effects of cannabis.
So in summary, 11-hydroxy-THC is an active metabolite produced when Δ9-THC is broken down in your liver after consuming cannabis. Due to its rapid transportation into the brain and high affinity for CB1 receptors, 11-hydroxy-THC produces powerful psychoactive effects that are equal or greater than Δ9-THC itself. Understanding this key metabolite provides insight into the mechanisms behind the unique pharmacological effects of cannabis on the brain and body.