Cannabis 101: What Does Weed Do to You?

How cannabis affects your body and mind
MarijuanaBreak Staff MarijuanaBreak Staff / Updated on November 26, 2018

What Does Weed Do to You?

How cannabis affects both body and mind is an issue which has dominated headlines, not only in the U.S., but globally. But how much of the information we receive daily about this controversial drug is correct? With many states legalising cannabis for both medicinal and recreational use, and a rise in popularity to do so, we are looking at both the physical and mental effects of cannabis and how they are still very much debated.

Biological Process

The easiest way to understand the effects of cannabis consumption and how it influences our endocannabinoid system is by looking at our biology. This system is found in the brain and controls aspects of our mind, including mood, appetite, memory and pain – many of the variables connected to cannabis. The endocannabinoid system contains neurons which release electrical charges; typically after firing signals they become unresponsive to prevent them from over reacting.

Both CBD and THC, two active compounds found in the plant Cannabis sativa, hijack this system. For example, Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, resembles a natural transmitter found in the system called anandamide, and causes the transmitters to over-fire. The over firing of the transmitters is what keeps us focused on one thought or idea, until another one that feels equally important, takes hold. In other words, it causes what is known as the high.

Let’s dive a little deeper and explore the two main compounds, THC and CBD.

How Does CBD Work?

Both CBD, or cannabidiol, and THC are 2 of at least 80 chemical compounds found in cannabis; they have an almost identical chemical structure, but they play different roles in the brain. While THC can fit easily into the CB1 receptor, the part of our brain that controls aspects of pleasure and motivation, CBD does not. The compound finds other receptors in the endocannabinoid system to fit into, which affects us in different ways. Because both compounds produce varying effects, it’s important to pick a product that suits your needs. Products that tend to contain high levels of CBD are:

Medicinal Use of CBD

CBD products are not thought to be psychoactive, which means the compound does not produce a high or feeling of euphoria. In fact, the national centre of biotechnology published a journal in 2005 supporting this claim and found that when the chemical was administered to their patients, it produced anti-inflammatory properties instead.

They also found evidence that the chemical is positively affecting a variety of other areas in our body, including:

  • Pain relief
  • Anticonvulsant activity
  • Muscle relaxant
  • Anxiety
  • Neuroprotection
  • Anti-oxidants
  • Anti-psychotic activity

CBD is also used as a treatment for other common issues such as; seizures, nausea, migraines and depression. Many studies have been conducted examining the effects of CBD in order to determine how safe it is to consume and how helpful it can be for a variety of disorders.

One study, conducted at the university of Sao Paulo in 2011, examined the use of CBD on one of the most common social disorders, anxiety. A disorder thought to affect roughly 18% of the United States population. In the study, Bergamaschi MM et al. gathered 24 patients who were asked to participate in a public speaking event, a task many of us would consider anxiety-producing. Before the event patients received either a single dose of CBD or placebo, and were tested on mood, blood pressure and heart rate. These tests were conducted before, during and after their bout of public speaking.

The study found that the placebo group suffered from much higher levels of anxiety, discomfort and cognitive impairment, whereas the CBD group showed reduced anxiety, discomfort and impairment in their speech.

Studies like this one show how CBD could have the potential to combat a variety of disorders and grievances. Not only is there evidence to suggest it may be an important tool to combat anxiety, but many scientists believe that it could help physical disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, insomnia, multiple sclerosis and diabetes.

Despite this, there are many anxieties about potential side effects of cannabis. However, research suggests that problems with CBD use tend to occur when used with other drugs rather than independently. It’s clear that more research needs to be conducted into CBD and its use as a long-term preventive action.

How Does THC Work?

THC is known to have psychoactive properties, and this means it affects us psychologically. When THC reacts to the endocannabinoid system it releases dopamine which creates the feeling of euphoria. We achieve dopamine release in several other common ways, such as by exercising or consuming proteins. However, a THC high can be known to induce hallucinations, which is why it is best known for recreational use.

THC levels in a product can vary depending on the desired effect. For instance, in hashish oil, it is typical to find 20 percent of THC in the product, whereas on average the concentration in marijuana is 1 to 5 percent. If used recreationally, this can vary dramatically depending on how quick the user wants to reach a high.

Different methods of intake can also affect how quickly the drug reaches the endocannabinoid system and how long the high lasts. The most common methods are:

  • Smoking
  • Gravity bong
  • Vaping
  • Dabbing
  • Oral ingestion
  • Sprays
  • Tinctures
  • Topical methods

While smoking cannabis is traditionally the most popular method, vaping has been increasingly favoured because it poses less health risks – a trend that mirrors the tobacco industry. Methods such as sprays and tinctures are often used as a way of controlling dosage and avoiding any smoke inhalation. On the other hand, oral ingestion, commonly associated with pot brownies, has a slightly different purpose.

Edibles that have high levels of THC can take up to two hours to take effect, with the consequent high not only producing a stronger effect but lasting for up to 8 hours. This occurs in edibles because THC travels through the digestive system and reaches the liver relatively quickly, where it turns into 11-hydroxy-THC. Although there are few modern studies investigating the potency of 11-hydroxy-THC, one study in 1973 noted this effect.

Lemberger et al. conducted an experiment with 9 men who were frequent users of cannabis. They injected each with 1mg of 11-hydroxy-THC and then they were injected with 1mg of THC. All the subjects claimed they experienced a high “more intense than that previously experienced after smoking marihuana.” They also noted intense psychological effects after the initial injection of 11-hydroxy-THC.

Because of this, it’s not surprising that the biggest problems edibles can pose is an overdose of cannabis, as people become impatient to receive a high and they tend to over-consume. This can lead to a temporary effect of dizziness and nausea, which often dissipates with water and rest.

Side Effects of THC

This is important to note, as some side effects of cannabis do weaken concentration and use of motor skills. It is also thought to heighten the effects of alcohol when consumed together. Unlike CBD, more is known about the temporary side effects of THC; these include:

  • Red eyes
  • Slower reaction times
  • Memory loss
  • Weakened motor skills
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased appetite and sense of smell

Despite this, the drug is still considered safe, but it’s important to stay in a secure environment when consuming it and be aware of the effect it may have on other medication you may be taking. Like CBD, little research has been done on the effect of long-term THC use, but as the drug becomes legalized in more states, there is no doubt that its popularity will influence research.

Medicinal Use of THC

Although we associate THC with recreational use, this compound has additional merits in the medical field. This is often overshadowed because of its negative side effects. THC is known to help with a variety of conditions, such as

  • Pain
  • Muscle Spasticity
  • Glaucoma
  • Insomnia
  • Low appetite
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety

One of the most common effects of consuming a high concentrate of THC is an increased appetite. Even after finishing a meal you can find you become hungry, but why is this? Scientists discovered that along with controlling aspects of pleasure, the chemical can turn off the switch that tells us we are full. Combined with an acute sense of smell, it can lead us feeling ravenous. Many scientists believe because of this it may be used to combat anorexia and other health related issues that cause either low appetite or extreme weight loss.

While no long-term study has been conclusive, Gerard et al. conducted a study for the Biological Psychiatry Journal in 2011. With an aim of finding a way to promote our chemical relationship with appetite, he used 16 female bulimia nervosa patients and 14 anorexia nervosa patients. The study investigated whether their endocannabinoid system was under performing and found that the CB1 receptor, which produces pleasure, was not as active as it should be. Because of the known relationship between the CB1 receptor and THC, the conclusion of the study was that it’s ‘possible’ that doses of THC may be helpful for both disorders.

As the most common illicit drug in North America, it’s not surprising that cannabis has become the center of a media storm. Pulled between those who fear the negative side effects and those who are excited about its potential in the medical community. In the future increased research into long-term recreational and medical use of cannabis will give us a much clearer idea of its effect on the endocannabinoid system and how that influences behaviour. It’s undeniable that cannabis has an interesting role to play in the medical world.

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18 comments
  1. Gary Mackler
    Cannabis Can Stop The Terror of Disease!! (And Addiction!!)

    I have just been diagnosed with ALS – that’s basically saying I’ve been given a premature death sentence. All of my doctors believe that Medical Marijuana would be helpful in slowing the progress of the disease and staving off some of the debilitating symptoms, such as fasciculations. My research has turned up positive testimonials from other ALS patients, and not one negative review.

    Why on God’s Good Earth is this not highly funded and publicized??

    If there were a way to thwart or prevent “terrorists” from ravaging and killing 30,000 Americans (the number who suffer from ALS in America), we would throw trillions of dollars at finding and stopping them. People, the is the same thing!!! Except you can’t see them coming!!!

    And imagine how many lives can be saved by reducing the addiction to Opiods!

    There is not one recorded Marijuana lethal overdose in modern history!

  2. Dylan
    I'm just the dude

    I agree with everyone here. Even the shamer and blamer lol.i have smoked for nearly 16 years, only about 6 months of abstinence since my first toke. I have always loved smoking herb and the way it made me feel as well as the good times shared with friends who also partake.i also agree that it is very helpful in a lot of medical treatment of more than a few ailments and disorders. it has always been a go to for a good time, or just something to do with friends or to relax. But…I also agree with the other guy who stirred up the pot with the negative review lol..I don’t think it deserves a shaming, but I do agree with the fact that it is a substance that sort of clouds the need to succeed so to say. I believe using thc makes you more content with not succeeding or being able to succeed, ultimately, kinda putting a damper on “doing more with yourself in life” and makes a lot of situations or circumstances more tolerable rather than people who do not use it at all.But hey, at the same time is that such a bad thing? But that has to be decided by the individual ingesting it. Furthermore,it’s also a a bad habit if your trying to save money or not waste it(unless you sell/grow it, then you probably smoke without financial consequences)because your money is literally going up in smoke. But as said previously, marijuana is to be consumed individually and also judged individually for it’s effects are not the same for everyone.i do agree that it should be legal for medical purposes as well as recreational being that more dangerous and toxic drugs are readily available to the public such as alcohol, prescription drugs, nicotine, caffeine, etc. All of which can be used or abused with numerous side effects and dangers to yourself or others.but all in all if it makes you happy or helps, use it. If it does the opposite, then don’t, it’s really that simple. Wether your stone cold sober or high as a fucking kite, have a wonderful day and thanks for reading

    1. Shana Eddy
      Just a mom-high asf and random

      Dude,
      I’m super high right now, but HOLY HELL. You are like awesome. You’re totally right. Everything was like I was saying it with you and at like an event, and I was clapping or shit🤣🤣. I’m just a Mom, but I smoke. Not expensive stuff. I also do not smoke around my children. I keep it locked in my room in a box. When I’m stressed I’ll just smoke.
      I’m almost 40 and hiding my stash from my teenagers 🤣 Wow. That’s role reversal!! I can’t picture my mom doing that!
      Totally off topic. I realized how it does help me now. Before, it was just for recklessness. I wonder if the younger the age of people, the different the effect. That would be a really cool study. At this age, I agree so much it should be legalized in every state. But if it did pose a more risk to those under age, it would be scary.
      Also I’m not one of those dumbass mom’s who doesn’t vaccinate their kids in case ur wondering, just curious.
      My mom signed me up for D.A.R.E. I had to sign my name at the bottom of a certificate that promised my parents “I will never do any drugs”. Ahhh!

  3. Ladytime
    They already broke the dam

    Andy B is right!! Alcohol killed my Daddy. Turned him into a raging man who would be so mean to his wife and kids. Then he just up and left when I was 2. My Mother actually divorced him because of this. I am the youngest of 7 and I am 43 yrs. old. After my mother’s death we continued to care for my alcoholic Father. I thought he was the weakest man(Although VERY intelligent) and swore I would NEVER marry a man with Alcohol problems. My 6 sisters swore the same. Some kept their word, my older sisters did marry men with Alcohol issues. Me and the sister before me DID NOT. None of us really drink because of this. Men who drink are more likely to beat their wives. Men who smoke marijuana Do NOT. That a fact! Women to!! Alcohol is the killer and the destroyer, not marijuana. But I understand people who need to have a glass of wine or whatever in the evening. No judgement here. I can’t drink. Alcohol does not agree with me at all. So I turned to marijuana in the evenings to calm me down after a hard day or hard weekend. I don’t need everyday but it sure would be nice for those of us who can’t drink(YES, THERE ARE MANY OF US WHO CAN’T DRINK) to have something natural to have. So to David Lindgren I don’t agree with you at ALL. You refuse to look at the real numbers. And should we do away with alcohol??? No because there are many people who drink at night and on weekends responsibly. It’s the same with the people who smoke weed. Most do it responsibly and some do not, just like with Alcohol. But the difference is those who can’t control their alcohol, like my Daddy(GOD rest his soul) don’t fare better. They fare worse. Marijuana is the better choice by far. I have 2 degrees and plan on getting another, 2 kids and a loving wonderful husband who is a great provider and Father, unlike my own, Thank GOD! We own our own house and have property that we pay property tax on. We are good citizens and teach our children to be likewise. We are your average American Family. We are good people. My husband even voted for Trump but I still love him! Ha ha So I hope you can open your heart and mind up a little more. And sorry it wasn’t for you but that doesn’t mean that others do not get something positive out of it. It is noteworthy to say that I did not try it until I was 19 and with my entire family. So I do think starting it older and less frequently as you age helps regulate your responsibility but that goes for anything in life.

  4. Claudia Cameron
    Great

    I have no experience, in my 67 years, having never had a cigarette to my lips and probably inhaling twice in college and having it feel like fire , I just know I don’t want to smoke it. I want to get it in food. So the info in this article was very helpful.

  5. David Lindgren
    The crack is widening in the dam.

    After many years of illegally using marijuana recreationally. I came to the realization that it is a deceptive drug that manipulates the user into believing that it’s wonderfully harmless. The truth of the matter is that it’s a feel good trap of selfish gratification & at the same time while giving the user an expansive imagination of future plans in life & effectively eliminating all the necessary influencing factors to accomplish the imagined future plans. In short, it makes it easy to do nothing about bettering your life. This is a sad & terrible mistake our country will suffer greatly from. I pray that this “harmless” drug will be made illegal everywhere. The proponents & advocates for legality are close-minded,delusional & selfish pleasure seekers. I hope they take responsibility when the downfall of our great nation is all around us.

    1. Curtis MJ
      The question is, did the weed make you work harder on your future plans then you would have otherwise?

      I have been smoking weed for fifty years. It has seen me thru 10 heart operations 3 major and prostrate cancer. I am now 80 and told I don’t look a day over 60, but I feel 60+. I admit it has given me “an expansive imagination of future plans in life” which I expected, would make me Rich.
      Needless to say it hasn’t happened yet but I’m still working on it. And when I look back and see the volume of semi-successful works that has gone into it and look around at peers who have accomplished a lot less, I have no complaints that I can lay to weed. Few who plain to be successful and rich get there.

      1. Bennette Roach
        Where is the benefit with all those bad experiences in your health

        What is the status of life with the others (non users)? Did they have three heart attacks and more? Did the stuff get you out of it or into it? And who paid for those expenses?

    2. Kay
      All elements have good and bad properties, one must have the ability to choose for themselves what works best

      Alcohol tops the list
      The truth of the matter is that Alcohol and opiates like Morphine(opium) are feel good traps of selfish gratification, effectively eliminating all the necessary influencing factors to accomplish the imagined future plans. In short, it makes it easy to do nothing about bettering your life. This is a sad & terrible mistake our country has suffered greatly from.
      Everything in excess Is not good for you. Caffeine is probably the most abused drug in our country, but I bet you enjoy your caffeine everyday.

    3. Juliet
      LoL

      Give me a break…….

    4. Reba
      legalize it

      You’re dramatizing, at least a little bit. Not everyone smokes, and for those who do, I know many ‘weekend tokers’ who partake mildly. The country is already in crisis mode; people are burnt out, depressed, angry. Sometimes the best solution is NOT pushing harder and doing more to make changes, the best move is to relax and just enjoy life. You should take a look at how fear plays a role in your life. You’re condemning others for things that haven’t even happened, while you spread your fears as if they are truths. Or maybe it is a control issue.
      About half the population is pro-weed for legalization. That means half is on your side. The thing is, people who are pro-legalizing it are often just voting for the choice to do so if they wish. There are plenty of people who believe all the bad news surrounding marijuana through history was clearly made up lies, promoted by money seekers who wanted to profit from non-hemp or from alcohol or what have you. Today marijuana and cannabis oil are proving they are valid for many medical ailments, with many less side effects than prescription drugs. Not to mention there’s an entire money hungry organization seeking profit in the pharmaceutical industry, as well as the medical complex which is a huge money making industry as well. The times are changing and with the age of information, the dark underbelly of the world is easily becoming exposed. It’s easy to be naive and trust that everything we’ve been told until now was truthful and to our benefit; unfortunately, some people want to think for themselves and be allowed to make their own choices. With wages having stagnated for the past 40-50 years, it’s no wonder many people want to make choices outside the incredibly costly, and not entirely miraculous, medical and pharmaceutical complexes. The natural world has much to offer and historically modern humans have ignored and killed nature. I believe legalization is a step in a very important direction for all of humanity and the earth we inhabit.

      1. Ted
        That's telling him!!!!

        Great answer!!!!

      2. Walt
        -

        like

  6. Ivanhoe
    Research "Data" Without Tangible Results

    THC , at particularl recreational levels, is a handicap in any real professional occupation. Go ahead philosophize and solve sone research problem, that is about the only high five with thought processes.

    Seriously though, if you practice medicine, the last thing you need is to make snap judgements, zone out, or profound decisions influenced by THC. For me after my teens, marijuana only exacerbated anxiety and self conciousness. Why even risk its use, (with psychoactive compound)short of terminal conditions?
    Gross.

    1. Kathie
      Leagal marijuana’ we need the gift god gave us!

      Well I have anxiety neck and back pain joint pain and when I smoke weed I feel great I still work never missed a day for thirty years!it should be legal!if you can’t handle it and it makes you lazy well your only one person!there are tons of people that it helps.me for one I never hardly eat but weed helps me gain weight!more people have died from drinking beer and drinking killing innocent people!thc never makes anyone anything but happy nice to everyone unlike drinking!i grew up with drunks in my family!not my mother she never drank or did anything!but my father had life threatening wrecks that he almost died from!the best thing god gave us is marijuana for all kinds of health issues!!i know I’m 60 and feel like I’m falling apart until I smoke flower.then I’m a completely a different person for the better!ill pray to get it leagal in all states!i like feeling great!

    2. Andy B.

      Ivanhoe my brother. You don’t use alcohol at work right? So why would you use Marijuana at work? It’s the same thing as any other drug. To do most jobs properly. Sobriety is an obvious requirement. But that certainly doesn’t mean you can’t go home, and unwind with either alcohol or Marijuana. The difference is one has many positives with few negatives, and the other is quite the opposite. Alcohol will kill you, and has been responsible for countless deaths. Marijuana not so much. And it just might help you think through a problem you’ve encountered at work, help you play an instrument for longer, thereby making you better, and it also might help you realize that you’re being a jerk to others. It also can help relieve many ailments when used properly. I’ve recently rediscovered Marijuana, and feel great. I’ve got a myriad of mental, and physical issues that it helps me with. And no nasty side effects, like pharmaceuticals or alcohol either.

      The best part of Marijuana to me anyway. It helps us see ourselves the way others do, and allows us to check ourselves without the embarrassment of a friend having to tell you. Rastafarians have been doing this for decades. They call it holding court. They smoke early in the day, and think about their own recent behavior, and try to adjust accordingly. Don’t knock it, until you try it my friend.

    3. Bianca Caltabiano
      You make a good point and

      Just as a responsible person wouldn’t go to their bus driving job under the influence of alcohol I would hope the same responsible person would not go to their bus driving job under the influence of thc.

  7. Le Roy Rathe

    I believe that this calumny is always fun and informative love it 😍

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