How Does Weed Actually Get You High? Here’s the Science
If you take a regular toke or two, you’ve probably heard that the thing that actually gets you high is the dopamine that cannabis floods your system with. What many don’t know is that this is actually a myth.
While it’s true that marijuana does work with our reward system, it doesn’t work by flooding us with a lot of dopamine.
So, how does weed get you high? We’ll talk more about that in this article, so read on.
The Dopamine Myth
For over four decades, scientists have said that everything that acts as an addictive substance works through flooding our brains with dopamine. Even the National Institute on Drug Abuse says that it works that way.
It’s not that they’re lying. THC does turn the brain’s reward system on. However, it doesn’t do it by hitting us with a ton of dopamine.
Studies in humans show that pot smoking only gives us a small amount of dopamine, nothing at all like what we thought before. (However, even if it did, dopamine is actually not the pleasure point that the media often portrays it as.)
While it’s true that cocaine and amphetamines will cause this dopamine rush, it’s just no the case for weed.
Anandamide, the Real Pleasure Point
So, if it’s not dopamine that gives us this burst of feel-good fun, what is it? Something has to be causing these good feelings, otherwise, weed wouldn’t be as popular as it is today.
That’s where anandamide comes in. A doctor first discovered this molecule in the early 1990s and saw that it created a “feel good” feeling.
And he was right. This molecule does a lot more than just make us feel good, though. It also helps our memory, our drive to do things, how well we can move, our pain receptors, our need to eat, our fertility, and some say it can even stop cancer cell growth.
This is because it works to help our bodies create new nerve cells while also uplifting us and decreasing our anxiety.
The only downside is that it breaks down quickly in the body, so we can’t keep these effects long-term.
How it Works
The endocannabinoid system is a system in our bodies that helps keep everything in balance. It’s comprised of cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids, and metabolic enzymes.
Cannabinoid receptors are little beacons that sit on top of our cells and pay attention to what’s going on around it. They use that information to tell the cell how to do its job.
Endocannabinoids are outside molecules that work to turn our receptors on. Endocannabinoids are found in our bodies, while phytocannabinoids (like THC) are external.
Metabolic enzymes work to break down the endocannabinoids once our bodies are done with them.
All three of these things work together to create homeostasis in our bodies. It pays attention to when things are in any extreme and works to bring them back to “just right”.
Anandamide is an endocannabinoid, which means that we can find it in our bodies. However, THC is it’s phytocannabinoid equal, and that’s found in cannabis.
Both anandamide and THC can bind to the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors. So, when you ingest weed, you’re giving your body the same effects as anandamide does.
As we mentioned, these receptors tell our body what to do. So when the THC hits those receptors, it tells them to give you the bliss and relaxation that comes with pot use.
The Other Side
Most people can use pot and be fine. However, a small group of people can feel the opposite effect.
Our bodies have an enzyme called fatty acid amide hydrolase. It deactivates the anandamide, and some people don’t create as much of it. This means that our bodies have to find other ways to break down the anandamide, so these people are usually more relaxed.
But when they consume pot, they experience the completely opposite effect. Instead of feeling calm and happy, they start to feel anxious and paranoid.
Also, just like with anything else, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. If you take too much THC, your body will start to feel the opposite reaction as well.
The Effects of Weed
Right after you smoke weed, you’ll start to feel the effects. It travels through the bloodstream at a face pace. But when you eat it, it can take upwards of an hour or more before you feel it.
There are two different strains of marijuana as well. (Well, some think there are more, and something that it’s all technically sativa, but that’s an argument for another day.) Sativa is better known for giving that euphoric feeling while indica is a great sleep aid.
However, there’s no hard science to back up the difference in the strains effects. Scientists can’t come to an agreement on the different species of marijuana, which makes it hard to have a peer-reviewed study.
How Does Weed Get You High?
So, how does weed get you high? It works with the cannabinoid receptors in your brain to produce a feeling of euphoria in the right circumstances. There’s a lot of science around weed that isn’t a sure bet, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be used as a tool to relax or manage your pain.
It’s also just a nice recreational activity if you’re so inclined.
For more information about legal ways to get high, visit our blog today.