Marijuana; also known as Cannabis, is a widely used drug all over the world. It is regarded as social and gives the user a sense of relaxation. Having said that, how does this drug act on the brain, and why does it affect users the way it does?
What is Cannabis?
Unlike many other drugs, cannabis contains molecules that are strikingly similar to chemicals made in our very own brains. These molecules are known as cannabinoids . Naturally, the quantity of cannabinoids in the brain are much less compared to when Cannabis is smoked. Smoking a joint causes a large increase of these chemicals.
Neurons and Neurotransmitters
The Brain is composed of billions of neurons. In fact, on average there are 100,000,000,000; one hundred billion, and each neuron transmits signals to other neurons using neurotransmitters. To discuss in depth the effects of Marijuana we must understand how neurons function. If unsure, please read the section ‘Neurons and Neurotransmitters’ on my previous ‘Drugspection’ article.
More on Cannabinoids
Cannabinoids are specialised neurotransmitters which pass on a signal from a neuron which has just fired, to the next neuron. After this signal is passed on, there is usually a refractory period which is a short amount of time where no more signals are passed on. This causes your brain to think in a calm and controlled manner. You will see the relevance of this later on.
The cannabinoid in Marijuana is known as THC, short for Tetrahydrocannabinol. This chemical resembles one naturally present in the brain called Anandamide.
THC is the active ingredient of cannabis. The active ingredient of any drug, is the ingredient that causes the desired effect in the body; for example, the active ingredient in Alcohol is ethanol, which is the chemical that makes you drunk. So how does THC affect the brain?
What does THC do?
When cannabis is smoked, an influx of these cannabinoids causes the neurons to behave differently . Remember when I said there is usually a refractory period between signals? THC removes this period in some parts of the brain causing them to fire constantly. This causes:
• Inflamed imagination
• Inflamed perception
• Complex thought processes
So, when you start thinking when high, your trail of thought eventually leads you to epiphany after epiphany, and you can’t even remember the last epiphany because one leads to the next and you get lost in your imagination! When you come up with a new thought, you start building on that and the process repeats. This occurs due to the constant firing of the neurons in your brain due to the cannabinoids.
Smoking pot also affects different chemicals in the brain such as dopamine and norepinephrine. This causes sensations of:
• Pain regulation
Although all these points enhance the experience, it is also worth noting that it can also cause anxiety.
If you have any questions, leave them below and until next time, take care.
Please note; no copyright infringement is intended. All images used have been labelled for re-use on Google Images. If any artist or designer has any issues with any of the content used in this article, please don’t hesitate to contact me to correct the issue.
Previous ‘Drugspection’ episodes:
Episode 1 | The Effects of Alcohol on the Body and Mind
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