Sometimes feeling good is as simple as smoking some weed or eating your favorite edible. When you feel the euphoria from getting high, you may ponder deep existential questions or laugh louder than usual during your favorite Netflix show. THC may energize you, depending on the strain, and you end up cleaning your house until it shines like a new penny. Or, maybe it makes you more creative, and you spend hours painting your next masterpiece. The bottom line is, you feel good.
You might wonder how weed works its magic allowing you to feel peaceful, sublime, and even happy. The thing is, we’ve wondered the same thing. Below we unravel the weed mystery and give you a scientific download.
From Mouth to Mind: The Fast Track to Feeling Good
We used to believe that the feel-good high associated with marijuana was caused by a flood of dopamine released by the ingestion of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Researchers and scientists are now more inclined to credit the interaction with the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
We now know that THC may actually work on the same receptors as our bodies’ naturally occurring, pleasure-inducing endocannabinoid, anandamide. It’s this interaction that is one of the reasons we may feel happy after ingesting cannabis.
But let’s take a step back. First, when it comes to weed and feeling good, not only does it depend on what you take (a strain high in THC, for example) but how. If you smoke or inhale cannabis, it goes from your lungs to the bloodstream very quickly.
Within 20 minutes, your circulatory system delivers THC molecules to every tissue in the body, including the brain, where it can alter neural chemistry. (While marijuana has many cannabinoids, THC is the one most associated with psychoactive effects).
On the other hand, edibles take a more leisurely trip through the liver, where enzymes turn THC into a different compound that takes longer to exert its mind-bending effects. Edibles may take longer to work, but their effects may also last longer than smoking or vaping. One study reveals that oral ingestion of THC requires 30 to 90 minutes for effects to begin and reach their peak after two to three hours.
Weed can make watching your favorite Netflix show an absolute blast.
Tapping into the Endocannabinoid System
When smoking or vaping, THC molecules pierce the blood-brain barrier and fit snugly into receptors. These typically handle compounds called endocannabinoids, which your body produces itself. These receptors are part of the ECS, whose functions include, among others, stress, food intake, metabolism, pain, and pleasure.
The ECS controls the release of every neurotransmitter in the brain — these are molecules that the brain cells, or neurons, use to communicate with one another. One neuron sends a message to the next by releasing neurotransmitters, such as dopamine or serotonin, into a gap that separates one neuron from the next called the synapse.
When THC enters the brain, the molecules spread into the synapses, where they activate CB1 receptors. It decreases the likelihood that the presynaptic neurons it affects will temporarily stop sending the usual neurotransmitters. In effect, THC comes into the ECS like a mighty wave, flooding it with feel-good signals the postsynaptic neurons didn’t send — giving you a high and better outlook on life. We like that!
Not Everyone Feels Good With Weed
Not everyone’s experience ingesting cannabis is the same. While many people have good and pleasurable experiences, others, perhaps because of differences in their ECS, may wind up feeling anxious, afraid, or panicked. In high doses THC can make you paranoid and lose touch with reality.
THC can also cloud your perception and may give you poor judgment or lower mobility response time. The effects depend on how strong the marijuana was, how you’ve consumed it, and how much you’ve used in the past. There’s a chance it can:
- Heighten your senses
- Distort your sense of time
- Play havoc with your motor skills
- Lower your inhibitions
- Increase your depression
But Cannabis May Help With Depression and Anxiety
There’s evidence to suggest that medical marijuana can help with many conditions, including chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and treating nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy. Other potential benefits include help with:
- Involuntary movements associated with movement disorders
- Sleep disorders
- HIV-related weight loss
- Spasticity in people with multiple sclerosis
So the positive emotions and euphoria can help with feelings of anxiety and may help with depression as well, though this is not as well documented by research to date. But some evidence does show that medical marijuana can help stabilize the ECS, bringing back normal function and helping to improve depression.
Some studies show that stress can suppress the brain’s production of endocannabinoids, causing depressed behavior. Using cannabis can restore normal levels and functions, improving the symptoms of depression.
Get Your Medical Marijuana Card
If you live in a state where medical weed is legal, then you’ll need to obtain a medical marijuana card so you can buy products from a legal dispensary.
Depending on where you live, HelloMD can help you talk to a licensed practitioner and get your medical marijuana card in a process that is fast, easy and cost effective.
Sometimes the best high you can get is improving your health with the aid of an increasingly proven medical treatment.