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HHC: 6 questions about this synthetic cannabis sold legally



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Subject to no legislation, HHC, derived from THC, the active substance of cannabis, has been sold legally for almost a year. Yet the warnings of specialists on its psychoactive effects are increasing. Should HHC be considered a drug?

What is HHC?

Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) is a hydrogenated derivative of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the natural cannabinoid mainly present in cannabis. Cannabinoids correspond to a family of molecules that activate the cannabinoid receptors present in the human body.

HHC is a cannabinoid synthesized from cannabidiol (CBD). It was developed in the laboratory and does not contain THC. It was first synthesized by American chemist Roger Adams in 1944.

Where is HHC found?

According to the ANSM, the first synthetic cannabinoids were identified in 2008, with a boom in 2013 and the popularization of electronic cigarettes.

HHC was identified in Europe in May 2022, reports the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction, riding the CBD boom. It is found legally, available in two clicks on merchant sites or by pushing the door of the many specialized shops that have opened their doors in recent years.

HHC is sold in flower, oil, candy, e-liquid or resin. It can be vaporized, smoked, vaped or ingested.

What are the effects of HHC?

“According to a small number of laboratory studies, HHC seems to have effects that are broadly similar to those of THC, the main psychoactive substance in cannabis”, develops the European observatory for drugs and drug addiction. “The pharmacological and behavioral effects of HHC in humans have not been studied, although recent anecdotal reports from users indicate that its effects may be similar to those of cannabis.”

What are the potentially toxic effects of HHC?

The effects of HHC would be similar to synthetic cannabinoids, described in the 2022 report of the interministerial mission for the fight against drugs and addictive behavior, relating to new synthetic products (Mildeca).

In the section on synthetic cannabinoids, Mildeca details acute psychiatric complications: vivid or unpleasant dreams, psychedelic manifestations, dissociative symptoms, hallucinations, paranoia, anxiety, agitation, memory problems, confusion.

And a severe clinical picture with: tachycardia, arterial hypertension, chest pain, electrocardiographic changes.

“Cases of death have been reported in particular in the event of a combination of substances”, adds Mildeca.

Addiction, withdrawal syndrome: what complications?

Here again, we have little hindsight, but it is estimated that the effects of HHC are close to other synthetic cannabinoids. These can create complications related to repeated exposure. “Increased risk of delusional decompensation, schizophrenic disorder, depressive disorder, suicidal risk, persistent hallucinations, cognitive alterations, addiction”, details Midelca.

HGH can also induce a withdrawal syndrome, responsible for several symptoms including pain, vomiting, spatial disorientation, etc.

What are the health authorities saying?

For the time being, HHC “has been monitored as a new psychoactive substance (NPS) by the EU’s early warning system (EWS) since October 2022”, notes the European Medicines Agency.

In France, although many synthetic cannabinoids have been added to the list of narcotics, HHC is still not included. Several countries have already banned it. Estonia, Austria and recently Finland.

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