With its legalization in Canada in 2019, many people are starting to use marijuana recreationally. And some are growing more curious about the effects of weed on the human mind and body, wanting to know what will happen if they were to try it.
Though the science around marijuana’s effects on the brain and body is still relatively new, scientists do have a good understanding of why weed gives users its signature high. Let’s take a look.
THC, Dopamine, and the ECS
Before diving into how weed affects people, there are some key scientific terms that are important to know.
Cannabis consists of more than 100 different compounds called cannabinoids. The most prominent cannabinoid is THC or tetrahydrocannabinol. This particular compound has known psychoactive effects and is responsible for the high users typically associate with weed use.
Your body uses your nervous system to send messages between nerve cells. Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter and plays a role in transmitting the messages between cells. It also affects how humans feel pleasure. A large amount of dopamine released into the body would lead to increased feelings of euphoria and pleasure.
The endocannabinoid system (or ECS) consists of endocannabinoid receptors. This system helps regulate specific bodily functions such as sleep, appetite, and immune response. While marijuana is made up of cannabinoids, we also have them in our system. Our body produces the amount we need for the ECS to function.
How Marijuana Works
There are a few ways cannabis works and start to impact people’s body and minds.
First, cannabis triggers the brain to release extra dopamine. This partially gives users feelings of euphoria and relaxation – two effects weed is most known for producing. You may have heard of people working out and feeling high or just feeling good afterward. This is partly due to the body releasing dopamine when exercising. It also releases various other chemicals to help make you feel good.
In addition to causing the brain to produce more dopamine, marijuana (and THC in particular) also affects the ECS.
Once marijuana is consumed, it will enter the blood system and eventually make its way to the brain. Here, marijuana’s cannabinoids attach to our body’s endocannabinoid receptors, which are part of the ECS.
Since our bodies already produce the cannabinoids we need to function, these extra cannabinoids can overwhelm the ECS. In essence, the extra cannabinoids can act as a dimmer switch to our ECS.
What Effects Can Marijuana Have on the Human Brain and Body
The experience a person has while using marijuana will differ based on multiple different factors, including:
- The specific marijuana strain being ingested
- The strain’s THC level
- How much weed is ingested
- The user’s familiarity with using marijuana
More than 1,000 different marijuana strains are available, and that number is only growing with the continued creation of crossbreeds. Each marijuana strain has a different chemical makeup, which produces its distinct effects and affects each user differently.
Despite marijuana’s unique nature, there are some general effects users can expect.
Some common effects that stem from marijuana’s impact on the brain include:
- Heightened sensory perceptions (more vivid colours, etc.)
- Altered perception of time
- Feelings of paranoia
- Increased feelings of relaxation
- Increased energy levels
- Euphoria or happier moods
- Impaired or delayed response times
Some common physical effects of marijuana use include:
- Red, dry eyes
- Increased appetite (often referred to as “the munchies”)
- Dry mouth
Keep in mind most physical side effects such as dry eyes and mouth are short-term and can easily be remedied.
Marijuana’s more cerebral effects, such as feelings of relaxation and creativity, can be longer-lasting, based on the strength of the strain and the consumption method. Once the effects set in, some highs can last for hours.
Be sure to read reviews of the strain or product you are considering buying. These can give you a better idea of the effects that you may experience.
Reasons to Use Weed
There are many reasons people decide to use marijuana. Some people use it for its medicinal effects, while others enjoy using marijuana recreationally.
Marijuana could help relieve pain, encourage sleep, and ease anxiety, making it an appealing option for people suffering from chronic issues. It is also an option for those who need a little boost to get through the day.
Weed can also be used to enhance mundane tasks. Pairing a good cannabis strain with your favourite movie, for example, can improve your movie-watching experience. Just be sure to choose a strain that offers effects that will complement the movie’s genre.
Ways to Take Weed
No matter the reason for using weed, there are many cannabis products out there providing a plethora of ways to ingest it, including:
- Smoking and vaping (two of the most common methods)
- Edibles such as cookies and the famous “weed brownie”
- Gummies products, often available in THC and CBD varieties
- Drink mixes in various flavours
- Concentrates such as budder, wax, and oils
Whatever method of consumption you choose for marijuana, make sure to understand the effects it can offer and choose the right dose.
While marijuana is generally a way to relax for most people, too much of it (or using strains with a high THC content) can leave inexperienced users with feelings of anxiety and paranoia, often referred to as “a bad high.”
If you aren’t sure where to start your cannabis journey, feel free to reach out to the customer support team at the shop you are using. They can often recommend strains based on your experience and desired outcome.
Marijuana has a chemical effect on the human body. It reacts with our body’s ECS and encourages the brain to release extra dopamine. These reactions drive marijuana’s signature effects of relaxation and pleasure.
Research into marijuana’s bodily and brain effects is ongoing. With so many compounds making up cannabis, there is still much to study about each one’s effect. Though we have a decent understanding of the impact of THC, there is still more to learn.