Why Does Cannabis Make You Feel Good?
Consuming cannabis, whether it is smoked, ingested, or vaped, is linked to making an individual feel ‘high.’ Cannabis affects each person differently. Some people have described feeling ‘high’ as euphoric, amused, creative, relaxed, or altered by time and perception. Users have also described a sensitivity to sound, touch, smell, taste, and light. Many variables will induce your effects to cannabis, such as the strain, dose, potency, and whether you are on any medications.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a vital, complex cell-signalling system which is responsible for maintaining bodily homeostasis. The ECS is composed of enzymes, receptors, and endocannabinoids, which are a family of neurotransmitters produced naturally by your body. Endocannabinoids interact with receptors found throughout your body, including the immune cells, brain, glands, and connective tissues. These molecules bind to cannabinoid receptors to regulate various functions such as inflammation regulation. Cannabinoids found in cannabis, such as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), function as endocannabinoids, by binding to receptors in your ECS to increase molecules that make you feel good.
Anandamide is known as the “bliss molecule” due to its correlation to feeling joy and happiness. THC interacts with the ECS to increase anandamide, which activates the brain’s reward system. You can achieve a similar feeling through yoga, running, and chocolate, but at a smaller degree.
This chemical is responsible for much more than feeling good. Anandamide is linked to playing significant roles in motivation, memory, fertility, movement, and potentially inhibiting cancer cell proliferation. Additionally, anandamide is an antidepressant and anti-anxiety agent. Anandamide is also involved in reducing the sensation of pain. Studies have shown that CBD and THC can relieve pain and make an individual feel good by interacting with specific receptors in the ECS to increase anandamide.
On the contrary, one out of five people experience an unpleasant effect after consuming cannabis. Studies have shown that some individuals are genetically predisposed to producing less fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), which is a naturally occurring enzyme responsible for deactivating anandamide. These people tend to naturally be more relaxed as anandamide does not break down the same way. As such, they experience a paradox effect after consuming cannabis; specifically, they become more anxious.
THC interacts with the ECS to activate the brain’s reward system, including regions of the brain which govern the response to pleasurable behaviours such as eating, sleep and intercourse. THC activates the release of the chemical dopamine at higher levels compared to natural stimuli. The surge of dopamine is associated with making consumers feel good. Dopamine regulates mood and emotional responses.
Cannabinoids do not directly interact with dopamine neurons since dopamine neurons do not contain cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoids indirectly increase dopamine levels in the brain by inhibiting GABA neurons, which are neurons responsible for limiting the dopamine neurons in the reward pathways. GABA neurons contain cannabinoid receptors; therefore, cannabinoids can inhibit them. This allows users of cannabis to experience the sensation of feeling good.
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