Why Cannabis makes you high and why that’s a good thing to do for your brain

What is Cannabis: Cannabis is a genus of flowering plant that includes three species or subspecies, sativaindica, and ruderalis. The plant is indigenous to central Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

Cannabis has long been used for hemp fiber, for hemp oils, for medicinal purposes, and as a recreational drug. Industrial hemp products are made from cannabis plants selected to produce an abundance of fiber. To satisfy the UN Narcotics Convention, some cannabis strains have been bred to produce minimal levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal psychoactive constituent. Many plants have been selectively bred to produce a maximum of THC (cannabinoids), which is obtained by curing the flowers. Various compounds, including hashish and hash oil, are extracted from the plant.


Medical use:

Medical cannabis refers to the use of cannabis and its constituent cannabinoids, to treat disease or improve symptoms. Cannabis is used to reduce nausea and vomiting  during chemotherapy, to improve appetite in people with HIV/AIDS ,and to treat chronic pain and muscle spasms.          

THC, acting through cannabinoid receptors, also activates the brain’s reward system, which includes regions that govern the response to healthy pleasurable behaviors like sex and eating. THC stimulates neurons in the reward system to release the signaling chemical dopamine at levels higher than typically observed in response to natural stimuli. This flood of dopamine contributes to the pleasurable "high" that recreational marijuana users seek.

NIDA is not intentionally being deceptive. Through cannabinoid receptors, THC does likely activate the brain’s reward system, but it’s not likely that it does so by flooding the brain with dopamine. In fact, numerous human studies suggest that at best, consuming cannabis produces only a modest amount of dopamine, certainly nowhere near the five to ten times amount that's often quoted. Nonetheless, while robust evidence suggests stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines do, in fact, trigger a flood of dopamine, the same cannot be said about cannabis.


 How does it work:

Because anandamide is an endocannabinoid it has a phytocannabinoid twin .So anandamide is naturally occurring in the body, while THC, of course, is found in cannabis. Both of these cannabinoids demonstrate a strong affinity for binding to the endocannabinoid system’s receptors, CB1 and CB2. However, it’s the binding to CB1 that produces euphoric effects.

Given that THC and anandamide share similar properties, consuming cannabis can produce similar effects. When you ingest cannabis by smoking or vaping, within seconds THC hits your brain and goes to town on your brain’s neurons. Like a key in a lock, once a neurotransmitter binds to, or fits in the correct receptor, it signals to your body to do something. In this case, it creates that sense of “bliss.” Notably, chocolate, yoga, and running also affect anandamide, so you can get a similar high, although less powerful from these activities as well.. like “runner’s high”.

  THC has a biphasic effect meaning low and high doses can elicit opposite reactions in people. So while consuming just the right amount of THC can make you feel good, too much of it can be a bad thing, inducing anxiety and discomfort.

Nonetheless, for the majority of people, as long as they don’t consume too much, cannabis produces that sense of calm and peace they so appreciate.

  “Just as our bodies contain pleasure systems which reward us for sex; our brains contain neurocellular circuitry which can only be activated by substances with THC's molecular structure. This makes the marijuana high a unique constellation of feelings, and there are only two sources for the substances which activate THC's very own neuroreceptor. Our brain is one source: it generates a neurochemical very similar to THC, called anandamide...The only other source for this bliss-producing substance is the cannabis plant." (Terry Necco, author of the book (now tragically out of print), "Marijuana and Sex: A Classic Combination," describes it best:)



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