What’s your favourite thing to do when using cannabis? For a lot of us, that depends on the strain, our mood that day, and whether we are with people, or just by ourselves. The commonality in all of that is the fact that we use cannabis to pursue some sort of positivity. Whether that means escaping the pressures of our daily lives, cutting loose with some friends, or elevating our mood, cannabis is ideal for such pursuits. Ever wonder how it all works? Let’s find out.
THC = Dopamine…right?
For a long time, the consensus within the scientific community was that tetrahydrocannibinol (THC), the active ingredient in most cannabis strains, activated dopamine receptors in the brain, giving people the rewarding feeling of being high. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter hormone that affects the brain by giving people a sense of accomplishment, similar to what we feel when we achieve something in life. That feeling you get after completing a big project, winning a game or money on a scratch ticket, climaxing during sex, its all thanks to dopamine.
Naturally, the longtime conclusion was that THC caused the release of dopamine in your brain, rewarding you with a high feeling. Lately, however, this conclusion has come under scrutiny, and as a result, we’ve learned more about the human brain and the impact of cannabis consumption. In other words, we know a lot more about what makes people ‘get high’.
Enter Anandamide: The ‘Bliss Molecule’
For centuries, humans have marvelled at the amazing things intoxicants like cannabis can do for our bodies. As mentioned above, the collective scientific wisdom for years suggested that weed and THC was the thing that activated dopamine receptors in the brain. This thinking is half right. Cannabis does activate something humans already have that makes us feel high, but it isn’t dopamine. Its actually another neurotransmitter called, anandamide, a name derived from Sanskrit which means “joy” or “bliss”. As it happens, anandamide is responsible for some of our brain’s memory functions, as well as appetite, motivation, fertility, pain, and yes, happiness.
Scientists have discovered that anandamide is something known as an endocannabinoid, meaning it exists within our bodies already. What’s incredible is the fact that THC is the phytocannabinoid twin of anandamide, which is why the two are so compatible as chemicals in our brain. Its as if humans were made to enjoy cannabis! Although there are other ways to activate anandamide receptors in your brain, such as exercise, yoga and eating chocolate.
There is still a lot we are learning about how and why cannabis gives most humans a positive, ‘high’ feeling, but the more we learn about things like THC, CBD and cannabis, the more we seem to learn about ourselves.
PS: We may not have Ph.D’s, but we bet some of these people do:
Written by: R